Bastille Day – 14 July 2011

Today is the National Day of France which commemorates the storming of the now-demolished Bastille fortress by the people of Paris on 14 July 1789 and the Fête de la Fédération which was celebrated on the same day in 1790 on occasion of the constitutional monarchy in France which precedes the French First Republic. Both of these watershed events had a profound effect on the history of France and in shaping its course to be reborn as a republic. 

Claude Monet -  Rue Montorgueil (Bastille Day) 

(I’ve always had warm admiration for this painting by Claude Monet for the preparation of Bastille Day festivities in 1878. French flags at almost every window as far as your eyes could see)


The storming of the ancient prison was symbolic because of the Parisians’ open rebellion against the highly unpopular ancien régime and that the Bastille fortress stored vital ammunition and arms which would be invaluable in providing an additional boost to the uprising against the unpopular King Louis XVI of France. We understood that the Bastille is intrinsically insignificant otherwise since at the time of the storming, the prison held seven inmates who held little political impact on the entire course of events. The Fête de la Fédération, which was celebrated one year later with large feasts and plenty of fireworks, primarily concerns the reconciliation and unity of the French people during the moribund and turbulent period between 1789 and 1790. However, the festivities of 1790 were ultimately negated by the unaddressed underlying problems which France was facing in 1790 – a severely depleted national treasury and a large national debt owing to the American Revolutionary War against the Kingdom of Great Britain, unstable politics stemming from a largely ineffective government and an autocratic king incapable of ruthlessness and decisive action; which culminated in the eventual execution of the King in 1792 who had been reduced to the status of a commoner and then officially known as ‘Citoyen Louis Capet’.

I don’t have the privilege yet to personally witness the Bastille Day festivities (though I’ve been to Paris in February 2004 and would love to visit France again) but that wouldn’t stop me from commemorating France’s national day privately on this space.         

Vive la France! Vive la patrie!

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