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.
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
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".