Bastille Day – July 14th

The storming of the Bastille in France.

Bastille Day
France celebrates Bastille Day on July 14th. It’s like Independence Day in the US but this day remembers the end of the French monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution. This is when a large group of people in France rebelled against their king and queen.

Behind the French Revolution

The French had good reason to rebel. The corrupt king and queen’s actions were causing the poor to go hungry and the wealthy, middle-class merchants and businessmen were tired of not having their concerns heard. By the late 1780s, people in France were fed up and so they began speaking out and met in groups to demand that new laws be made. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette tried to quiet everyone, but the citizens eventually rebelled.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette is commonly misattributed to the phrase, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” aka “Let Them Eat Cake.”

Prison Storming

The Bastille was a prison in Paris where the king and queen usually locked up people who didn’t agree with their decisions. To a lot of French, the Bastille prison was a symbol of the corrupt system run by the monarchy. On July 14, 1789 the French Revolution began when a large group stormed the Bastille. The Revolution lasted for 10 years and brought some great changes (along with many deaths). While democracy wasn’t established for several decades, the Revolution served as a turning point for how France was governed. In 1880, nearly 100 years after the storming, Bastille Day became a national holiday. Today, most locals in France have festive dances and big firework displays on Bastille Eve and on Bastille Day there are parades, bands and more dancing!

Did You Know?

  • Bastille comes from the French word bastide, which means stronghold.
  • France’s tricolor flag (blue, red and white) was introduced during the Revolution. The three colors represent the ideals of the French people – liberty, equality and fraternity for all citizens.
  • When the prison was stormed on July 14th there were only seven prisoners left in the Bastille.
  • Have you heard about the Man in the Iron Mask? He was a Bastille prisoner from 1698 to 1703.
  • The famous philosopher and writer, Voltaire, was also a prisoner of the Bastille
  • Bastille Day happens every year on July 14th
  • The date is based on the storming of the “bastille”, which happened July 14th, 1789
  • During the storming of the bastille, political prisoners were released
  • France was ruled by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the time
  • Louis and Marie were forced to hide at the palace of Versailles because of the angry mobs
  • Bastille Day is also celebrated in many french-speaking countries
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a large Bastille Day celebration that lasts four days – they even have a 43 foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower
  • Much like July 4th in the states, all over France people celebrate with fireworks, dances, and musical performances
  • There were only 7 prisoners in the bastille when it was stormed (it was only big enough to hold 50)
  • The mob that stormed the Bastille didn’t just set prisoners free, they also armed themselves with weapons
  • Bastille Day became a national holiday in France in 1880
  • Bastille Day is recognized as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution
  • The French Republic was formed in 1792
  • Before the republic was established, France went through a period called “The Reign of Terror,” where many people of the aristocratic class were executed.
  • At the end of the parade in Paris the French President usually gives a speech
  • The oldest military parade in Europe is held in Paris on this day, starting at the Champs Elysées and ending at the Arc de Triomphe
Leonardo DiCaprio as the Man in the Iron Mask

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in 1998 film The Man in the Iron Mask

Read more about Bastille Day on Kidz World.com

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