For France, July 14 is Bastille Day also known as French National Day. The day commemorates a turning point in the French Revolution back in 1789 and is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.
However, for most of the French, it marks the anniversary of the storming of a grand fortress that was infamous for holding political prisoners, during the first moments of the French Revolution in Paris.
History of Bastille Day:
The Bastille was a political prison in the center of Paris that represented royal authority, and was viewed by revolutionaries as a symbol of the monarchy’s corruption.
During that time, Louis XVI was the King of France and the country was going through a severe economic crisis. France was in debt partly due to intervening in the American Revolution and was trying to recoup the costs with high taxes which angered the people. This anger led to the food shortages throughout the summer and the militarisation of Paris.
King Louis fired finance minister Jacques Necker, whom the third estate approved. They took this as his attempt to cancel any incoming revolution, and those fears boiled over on 14 July, when revolutionaries stormed the Bastille to steal projectiles, and also free the few remaining prisoners being kept there.
The revolt led King Louis to restore Necker, while Jean-Sylvain Bailly, the leader of the Third Estate, was made Paris’ mayor.
Facts about the French National Day:
- Originally, the Bastille wasn’t designed to be a prison.
- In France, no one calls it Bastille Day. The day is referred to as la Fête Nationale, or “the National Holiday.”
- Thomas Jefferson donated money to the families of the revolutionaries.
- Many different dates were confirmed for the French National Holiday.
- Bastille Day features the oldest and largest regular military parade in Western Europe.
- A huge solar flare once took place on Bastille Day.