Bastille Day celebrations begin: What is the history behind Bastille Day?

Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14 each year. It is called la Fête nationale (meaning ‘The National Celebration’) in France, and is a day of major celebrations each year. A bank holiday, Bastille Day sees most businesses shut their doors so everyone can take to the streets for the parades and festivities.

What is the history behind Bastille Day?

Bastille was a state prison where political dissidents were held in the 18th Century.

At the time, French citizens were subject to the harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy.

The reign of King Louis XVI brought about food shortages and huge taxes for thousands of the working class.

The Bastille was seen as a symbol of the brutality of the monarchy.

The fortress-prison in Paris held people jailed on the basis of lettres de cachet (“signet letters”), arbitrary royal indictments that could not be appealed and did not indicate the reason for the imprisonment.

The Bastille also held a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder.

On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille, seeking to gain ammunition and gunpowder and free the prisoners.

The storming gave rise to the French Revolution.

The monarchy was overthrown and King Louis and his wife Marie Antoinette were executed.

Just one year after the Storming of the Bastille, the French began celebrating the Fête de la Federation.

The day came to symbolise peace and solidarity during times of revolution.

Today, the message of Bastille Day remains.

It is common for the phrase “liberty, equality and fraternity” to be used during celebrations.

And Bastille Day festivities are not just held in France but around the world where French nationals live.

Large events are usually held in South Africa, the USA, Belgium and Hungary.

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