Bastille Day is often called one of the primary triggers of the French Revolution. Why did the French Revolution occur? What were the most prominent causes of the French Revolution? These are some questions that will be answered when we study this historic day in detail.
History of Bastille Day
If you look at the timeline of the French Revolution carefully, you will realize that the storming of the Bastille was actually quite unavoidable. There is only so much oppression that people can handle and this was proved by this historic event. The Bastille Prison was seen by the French as a mark of the authoritarianism of King Louis XVI and the subjugation that was meted out to the French people, especially the lower and middle classes. The corruption levels among the clergy, the nobles, and the king had reached an unbearable peak. All the people wanted was that the power and wealth of France be shared among the people and not be pillaged by the so-called 'stately' people. The middle and lower classes had no right to own land. Neither did they have the right to vote. With this extreme and outrageous usurpation, the people decided to take matters into their own hands. Thus dawned the 14th of July, a day that would go down in history as one of the starting points of the French Revolution.
Storming of the Bastille
As mentioned earlier, the people of France were discomfited with the absolutism that they were being treated with. What they did on the 14th of July, 1789, was one of the bravest, and one of the most important actions that would transform the history of France and the world. A group of peasants, craftsmen, farmers, etc., formed and decided to loot weapons from Les Invalides, a compound of military buildings. They stole a lot of ammunition but did not have enough gun powder for it. They knew that the Bastille was a stock-house of arms and ammunition. So they proceeded towards Bastille to procure the gunpowder. Bastille prison, though at that moment had only seven prisoners, was the ultimate symbol of the despotic rule of the King.
Initially, the Governor, Marquis Bernard-Rene de Launay, attempted a negotiation with the mob, but this proved unsuccessful when the re-enforcements he was awaiting turned on him and began to fight with the mob instead of against it. It stormed the prison, freeing the prisoners and looting the prison. The governor was beheaded and the people began to demolish the prison. This incident scared King Louis XVI, and he, along with his wife, Marie Antoinette, fled to Versailles. Thus began the French Revolution, which would lead to the guillotine of Marie Antoinette, the abolishment of the feudal system and an extremist transformation in the rationale of the governance.
Bastille Day Traditions
Bastille day is a national holiday in France. People gather to watch the parade, on Champs-Élysées. Dance and costume balls are held in Paris with different themes. The President of France has a (by invitation only) lunch party and he also addresses the press. A spectacular display of fireworks at Trocadéro follows in the evening. Apart from these, people have their own parties and celebrations, with special foods like French fries, crêpes, potato coins, wines, crème brulee, etc. They sing songs of the French Revolution and make merry till the wee hours of the night.
Bastille Day is celebrated not only in France, but also in other parts of the world like London, Hungary, etc. They commemorate this tremendous event that molded France into what it is today.