Bonjour! Je m'appelle Delphine. Je suis française.
J'ai dix ans.
Voici ma page de La Fête Nationale de la France.
C'est une date très importante. Pourquoi? Lisons......
One of the most important dates in France is the 14th July. In French, this date is le quatorze juillet or La Fête Nationale Française. In English, it is called Bastille Day.
Why is it called Bastille Day? Well, a long time ago, there was a prison in Paris called Bastille Saint-Antoine.
(Image of the Bastille, from Wikimedia Commons.)
Every year, on le 14 juillet (the 14th July) France celebrates the moment when the angry people of Paris broke into the prison and set the prisoners free. This event is called
'the storming of the Bastille' and in French it is
La Prise de la Bastille.
It happened on 14 July, 1789. It was the beginning of what became known as The French Revolution, or in French:-
So, what happened exactly?
On that day, the angry, poor people of Paris invaded the building and released the prisoners. Then, they stole the weapons stored inside the prison.
(Painting by Jean-Pierre Houël, 1789. It can be seen in the Bibliothèque de France.)
was a symbol of oppression and injustice.
By destroying it, the poor people felt that they were destroying the unfair rules that they hated so much.
In fact, after the storming of the Bastille
, people made bracelets and brooches from the old stones of the fallen prison! They also wore buckles and hats in the shape of the towers of the destroyed Bastille.
These fashions were known as à la Bastille
and by wearing them the people were declaring that they had found freedom and justice.
People began to wear the blue, white and red colours of the tricolour flag (le drapeau tricolore
Why were the people so angry?
The poor people had always hated the Bastille. Too many poor people had been imprisoned there without having a fair trial. The rich people had all the power and could do anything they liked. It just wasn't fair!
AND....the poor people were suffering from terrible hunger. There wasn't enough food to go around and yet, the King of France and the royal family and their friends were all having a luxurious life, eating too much and spending enormous amounts of money on clothes and jewels and everything that they wanted.
Ça va très bien!
The poor people of Paris decided that things had to change. They were going to teach the greedy and selfish rich people a lesson!
At the moment when the prison was invaded, the poor people looked very scary and fierce. They shouted, waving their weapons. Lots of the protestors waved the tools that they would normally use in the fields, for example, spades and forks.
Nous avons faim!Nous ne sommes pas contents!
What happened next?
The poor people were now in charge!
Eventually, the king and queen of France and their friends and relatives were arrested because they did not seem to care about the poor people's hunger.
Now the royal family and their rich friends were in prison!
Ça va très mal!
Later, the king and queen were executed. Anyone who was a friend or supporter of the royal family was also executed.
If you were a supporter of the royal family then you were called 'an enemy of the French people' (un ennemi du peuple.)
The guillotine was the method of execution developed during the French Revolution. It was invented with the help of surgeon, Dr. Guillotin. In Paris, it was used regularly in an area called La Place de la Concorde.
(Images from Wikimedia Commons)
During the French Revolution, the King of France was
Louis XVI. The queen was Marie-Antoinette and she was Austrian. She was only fourteen years old when she married Louis. In the portrait below, painted by Martin Van Meytins, she is just twelve years old.
Delphine's opinion:- "I think that twelve-year-old girls look quite different nowadays."
(Images from Wikimedia Commons)
At first, it must have been very frightening for
Marie-Antoinette to leave her family in Austria. She was just a young teenager who had to live in a foreign country with her new husband and people who were complete strangers.
They lived in the magnificent palace of Versailles.
In French it is called Le Château de Versailles.
The palace of Versailles. Photo by Eric Pouhier.
At the time of the storming of the Bastille,
Marie-Antoinette was thirty-four years old. Her three children were the heirs to the French throne.
One of her children had died whilst a baby. Below is a portrait of Marie Antoinette with her three children and an empty cradle to show that one baby is missing.
(Painting by Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun, 1787. It is kept at the Palace of Versailles.)
Why does France celebrate the storming of the Bastille?
Every year on the 14th July, France remembers the brave people who fought for freedom and justice for everybody in French society. As a result of their bravery, the selfish monarchy was abolished and everybody, no matter how poor, was given importance and rights. That is why the motto of France is Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood).
The woman in the image above is called Marianne. She is the French symbol of liberty.
A message from Delphine: "Because I am a girl, I really like Marianne. She is my favourite French symbol.
À mon avis, les filles sont magnifiques!
To print out my special Marianne sign click HERE."
How do French people celebrate Bastille Day?
The first Bastille Day celebrations took place on 14 July, 1790, on the very first anniversary of the storming of
This first celebration took place on the ground where the Eiffel Tower now stands. This piece of land is known as Champ-de-Mars.
In the photo above, you can see people dancing in a Paris street to celebrate Bastille Day. The dance is called
un bal populaire. This photo was taken on 14 July, 1912.
Nowadays, every year on 14th July, there are big parades in Paris, especially on the famous road called L'Avenue des Champs-Elysées. The French word for parade is défilé.
The French flag flies everywhere and there are celebrations and fireworks all over France.
The President of France holds a garden party at his residence in Paris. This residence is called
Le Palais de l'Élysée.
People take the day off work because it is an official holiday. It is a great time for children and families.
Hourra! C'est magnifique!
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bastille Day, the Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel) was built on the ground of the very first Bastille day celebrations. It was officially opened in 1889.
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day, a big glass pyramid was built outside the Louvre Museum (Le Musée du Louvre) in 1989. This pyramid is called La Pyramide du Louvre.
And what will be built in 2089 to celebrate the 300th anniversary?
Delphine says:- "I wish I had a time machine to travel into the future! J'aimerais voyager dans le temps!"
Delphine's notebook of interesting things.
1. There were only seven prisoners inside the Bastille when the people broke in.
2. During the French Revolution, the traditional 'king cake' eaten in France on 6 January was not allowed to be called by that name. 'King' was not a popular word at that time. Instead of being called la galette des Rois (as it is still known today) it was renamed le gâteau de l' égalité, meaning 'the equality cake.'
3. Only some stones exist from the Bastille prison. The area where the prison used to stand is now a square called La Place De La Bastille. In the middle of the square there is a column called 'The July Column' (La Colonne de Juillet). There is also a train station called Bastille and it belongs to the Paris underground network of railway lines (Le Métro de Paris.)
(Can you see the July Column in this photo?)
4. Bastille Day takes place during the famous French cycling race called Le Tour de France. On the 14 July, the French cyclists always ride extra fast to score points for their team on such an important day!
On y va!
Chante La Marseillaise avec Delphine!
(Click above if you want to sing the national anthem of France.)
"I hope you have enjoyed reading my page about Bastille Day.
Vive la France!
(For Delphine's Bastille Day quiz, click HERE)
(For Delphine's quiz on the Eiffel Tower, click HERE.)
Related Resources in our Online Shop