Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Origins of Bastille Day

À bas la Bastille!

So what’s all this talk about Bastille Day?

Bastille Day was the day the French peasantry got to have their cake and eat it too.

The “Bastille” was a medieval fortress with 100-foot high walls. Charles V had it erected in 1370 as a “bastide” or fortification, originally a wall built around Paris to defend it from English attack. Chuck the VI turned it into a fort by walling up the openings and surrounding it with an 80-foot wide moat.

Eventually it becomes a prison and a symbol of the King’s authority. On the morning of July 14, 1789, enraged peasants stormed the Bastille. They were in a thither over the fact that the King had cancelled the Jerry Lewis Film festival at the local Cineplex. It marked the beginning of the French Revolution. (But if you ask me, the French have always been revolting.)

In fact, Revolution was an American import. The French were encouraged by Les Americains who had recently shucked off their King. 1789 was also the year George Washington was sworn in as our first Prez.

Bastille Day, celebrated annually on July 14, was chosen as a French National holiday in 1880. It is typically celebrated with parades, speeches, fireworks and with such slogans as Vive le 14 juillet! (“Long live the 14th of July!”) and À bas la Bastille! (“Down with the Bastille!”). And of course there are the omnipresent marathon showings of Jerry Lewis movies.

And that is all there is to say about the fourteen day of juillet.

C’est ca. Au revoir.


No comments:

Post a Comment