Bastille Day!

Edith here, enjoying full summer north of Boston. Today is the day when, well, I’ll let tell you:

“Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed.”

The famous Prise-de-la-Bastille painting by by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

However, another history site gives a rather different take on the storming. “Back in July of 1789, France had already experienced a rough summer that included food shortages, high taxes (as a solution to King Louis XVI’s debts) and the militarization of Paris. Sensing distress, the king called upon the Estates-General—an assembly that hadn’t met in more than a century—to deliver a new tax plan. That resulted in the Third Estate, the non-noble/non-clergy portion of the assembly, breaking from the clergy and nobility, and demanding a written constitution from France….Weeks later, … fears that Louis XVI was attempting to quash any political revolution began to boil.

“That fear culminated on July 14 in a march to the Hôtel des Invalides to loot firearms and cannons, and a resulting (and far more famous) trip to the Bastille for proper ammunition. That hunt for gunpowder—not the hope of freeing prisoners—was the main reason for the storming of the Bastille. The events that followed—the freeing of the few prisoners that remained at the Bastille, but also a deadly battle and the brutal beheading of the prison governor and his officers—were more of a side effect of chaotic uprising, rather than its intent….A year later, France would host the Fête de la Fédération on July 14 to celebrate the France’s constitutional monarchy and to honor France’s newfound unity. “

Vive la Resistance! Every year two widely traveled friends of mine throw a Bastille Day party. They fill their back yard with tables and chairs and decorate with red and blue. They make a big Coq au Vin and all the guests bring French-themed side dishes or desserts. At the end of the evening we all stand to sing the “Marseilles” – yes, they pass out the words to the song.

My salade composée from last year

This year I’m bringing Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis – the party is tomorrow.

Readers: Do you celebrate Bastille Day? If not, what’s your favorite revolution?



27 Thoughts

  1. I was in Angers in France for Bastille Day, many years ago. It’s a lovely medieval town, with a Norman castle and a river running through the center of the town. I was surprised that they held fireworks for the event, more surprised that instead of just going BANG!, the fireworks also whistled as they exploded over the river. Memorable!

  2. I celebrated Bastille Day in France one year in a town where many of my French ancestors came from. I got the impression it was not a big deal there, but Americans seemed to like it! It was also the day when the Tour de France went through the area. It was fun, although I couldn’t make myself eat the boudin. I liked it as a small child, but once I learned what it was, I never ate it again. We went to a new and wonderful creperie opening that very day for the first time. It was across the street from the church where many of my ancestors attended and were baptised. It was very moving to walk through and see the church and the baptismal font where my 10th great grandparents and other ancestors attended. There was a plaque with names of les cent associés that included 4 of my ancestors who left France to settle Quebec. We happened also to be there on a day the people were celebrating US soldiers entering the town in WWII and saving it from being overcome by German soldiers. It was serendipitous the way that all worked out.

  3. I celebrate Bastille Day by celebrating the my son’s birthday – my Bastille Day Baby. This year, he wants cheesecake. I’m not sure that’s very French, but it IS his birthday. 🙂

  4. My mom was a French teacher, so it was always acknowledged! Sometimes that meant going out to local ‘French’ restaurants for their idea of a spread for the holiday!

  5. I do celebrate July 14th because it’s my birthday! But I always like to watch the Tour on this day as well. It’s funny, because Canada has a very French influence, especially Quebec and parts of the Maritimes and Northern Ontario, and yet, no one every talks about Bastille Day. It’s just not on the radar.

  6. My favorite revolution would be the American one. Your salad looks delicious, Edith. Iove Salade Nicoise and may have to make a run to the store. Have fun at your party.

  7. In Louisiana, it was a celebratory day with food and dancing, but that applied to most days anyway.

    As an adult, I am always a bit torn about Bastille Day. Of course it was a monumental day in history and an important step in freeing French people from the cruelty and excesses of royal rule, but the French Revolution became so brutal and bloody, it can serve as a cautionary tale as well. However, any day that includes singing “La Marseilles” is a good one, so I can join in in that spirit.

    1. It’s a lot of fun. Many of us at the party are already a bit sloshed by then, and we all know a degree of tipsy greatly increases fluency in a foreign language! The woman who leads the singing is a (well recently retired) professor and dean of a local college, as well as town meeting moderator in West Newbury (I memorialized her in Murder Most Fowl…).

  8. During my ill-spent youth, I used to celebrate Bastille Day with a drinking buddy of mine. We’d drink champagne of course. And because when we woke up on the west coast 5 or so hours behind France where it was already lunch, it was OK to start celebrating immediately. I want that salad right now.

  9. So what is it about July that makes it revolution month? While I’ve never celebrated Bastille Day, I do celebrate the 4th of July every year.

  10. American History major so the American Revolution is mine. Your salad is gorgeous and looks like a great meal in itself!

  11. Your friend’s party sounds like lots of fun. Viva La France!

  12. No, I don’t celebrate Bastille Day. My favorite revolution is of the earth around the sun.

  13. I don’t celebrate Bastille Day — it never occurred to me. My favorite revolution, aside from the American Revolution, is the Industrial Revolution. I can’t imagine life without the mod. cons. Or at least some of them.

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