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Living in the Languedoc:   Central Government:   French National Symbols:   Bastille (not Bastile) Day

Bastille Day (not Bastile Day) is the the French national day, (Fête nationale des Français), 14th July each year.

Paris was unstable during the early months of the French revolution.   Every move by the Ancien Regime seemed to make matters worse.   In Spring 1789, the Estates-General refused to dissolve itself, instead transforming itself into a constituent National Assembly.  

In July Louis XVI called in troops and dismissed his popular Minister, Necker.   On the morning of July 14, the people of Paris seized weapons from the armoury at Les Invalides and marched off in the direction of the Bastille, an ancient Royal fortress.  

After some shooting, the crowd stormed the Bastille, apparently intending to release huge numbers of political prisoners.   They found only a handful of insignificant prisoners, the Marquis de Sade having been moved out a few days earlier.   The storming of the Bastille signalled the first victory of the people of Paris over the Ancien Régime, and won them access to a large amount of gunpowder.   The bastille itself was razed a little while later.  

The Fête de la Fédération ("Feast of the Federation") held on the 14th July, 1790, celebrated the first anniversary of the insurrection.   In Paris, Talleyrand, who had been a Catholic Bishop, said Mass at the Altar of the Fatherland on the Champ de Mars.   The commemoration of 14th July was abandoned in subsequent years.   Under the Third Republic, however, leaders looked for ways to celebrate the foundations of the regime.   A Deputy for the Seine Department, Benjamin Raspail, moved that 14th July be named the national holiday of the Republic, and Parliament passed an act to that effect on July 6, 1880.  

Emphasis was on the patriotic and military character of the event.   Communes held their own celebrations, starting with a torchlight parade on the evening of the 13th.   The next morning, church bells or gun salutes announced a military parade, followed by a meal, spectacles and games, with dancing and fireworks to end the day.   The date took on special significance in times of rejoicing, most notably 14th of July 1919 and 14th July 1945.   Today, the festivities of July 14 are still popular.   In Paris a military parade on the Champs-Elysées precedes dancing and fireworks displays, similar activities are organised all over the country - and everyone avoids mentioning the Marquis de Sade and his fellow prisoners.  

The Bastille is one of the gererally recognised symbols of sovereignty not mentioned in article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958, which refers only to le drapeau tricolore, bleu, blanc, rouge: The French Flag , L'hymne national, the national anthem, The Marseillaise and La devise de la République; the motto . "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité".


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The French Tricolour
French National Symbols:
The bastille