Bastille Day
The French celebrate their Fourth of July

by Ricco Villanueva Siasoco

Photo of Maire Antoinette
Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI, is often mistakenly credited with the quote, "Let them eat cake!"

Americans have The 4th of July; the French have Bastille Day. On July 14, 1789, an outraged group of Parisians stormed the Bastille, a fortress and prison in France where prisoners of influence were held, in hopes of capturing ammunition.

Shortly thereafter, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette took refuge in Versailles as the violent peasants pillaged and burned châteaux, and destroyed records of feudal dues—this reaction is known as the grande peur (great fear).

For the peasant class, the Bastille stood as a symbol of the hypocrisy and corruption of the aristocratic government - controlled mostly by nobility and clergy. This important event marked the entry of the popular class into the French Revolution.

The French recognize Bastille Day as the end of the monarchy and beginning of the modern republic. The lasting significance of the event was in its recognition that power could be held by ordinary citizens, not in the king or in God.

Today, Parisians celebrate this national holiday with a grand military parade up the Champs Elysées, colorful arts festivals, and raucous parties marking the holiday. Uncork a bottle of wine, pop in a Jacques Dutronc CD, and join the celebration!



RELATED LINKS
Almanac: France

Atlas: France

Encyclopedia: France

French Revolution

Marie Antoinette

Facts on Fireworks

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