Akin to the United State’s 4th of July, 14th July 1789 marked in France the beginning of Republican Democracy and the end of tyrannical rule.
The Bastille, a medieval fortress and prison, was a symbol of the tyrannical Bourbon authority (who have been reigning in France every now and then since Henri IV in 1553) and had held many political dissidents.
Following the king’s dismissal of the progressive minister of finance, Jacques Necker, and the concentration of Royalist troops in the capital, liberal Parisians feared a coup against the National Constitutional Assembly.
As a result, violent conflict between Royalist and anti-Monarchist elements broke out across Paris, with the Bastille’s garrison eventually finding themselves surrounded by an armed mob on the morning of 14 July.
After hours of negotiation and increasing frustration, the mob numbering just under 1,000 broke into the fortress. Following hours of fighting, they took the castle at the cost of nearly 100 assailants’ lives and one defender’s.
What were the consequences?
The storming of the Bastille proved to revolutionaries across Paris and France that the power of King Louis and his control over his armed forces was almost insignificant.
It became the flash point for the revolution to spread and eventually lead to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and the execution of Louis XVI and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette.
On 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was proclaimed.
How it is celebrated?
Rather than commemorating the storming of the Bastille itself, it is a day to celebrate the three tenets of the republican national motto: “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity“. The French flag and national anthem are symbolic of both the revolution and Bastille Day celebrations.
As a public holiday, the event is usually opened by the French president, who addresses the troops, and attended by world leaders. Along the historic Champs-Elysee avenue, a military parade takes place where French troops march, ride and drive with world leaders in attendance. It is the oldest military parade in the world.
Why is it similar to the US’s 4th of July?
4th of July is also the national date of independence for the US. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
The United States of American used to be Thirteen Colonies, run by the British. In 1765, the settlers asked for ‘no taxation without representation’ which basically means they wanted a voice in Parliament. The British and settlers didn’t settle the issue and the disagreement often erupted into fights.
When things reached a head a meeting was called by the Continental Congress – the delegates from the Thirteen Colonies. At the second meeting the group decided to declare war against the British – it was 1775.
It was the next year, still during the American Revolution that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain rule.
As a public holiday, the day is now commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues and picnics, family reunions and baseball games.
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