Bastille Day is celebrated on 14th July. In France it is known as La Fête Nationale or Le quatorze juillet. It is a bank holiday in France, celebrated with a military parade on the Champs-Elysées in the morning, and a big firework display after dark. It is commonly believed to commemorate the storming of the Bastille Prison, which signalled the start of the French revolution, but this probably isn’t true, as I shall explain later.
Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were on the throne, and their lavish lifestyle was not popular with the common people of France who were starving. Louis and Marie-Antoinette were “absolute monarchs”, which means that they could do whatever they wanted, and nobody had the right to stop them. Anybody who criticised them was thrown into prison, and one of the most famous prisons used was La Bastille.
On 14th July 1789 the French people stormed the Bastille and in just three days they had torn it down. Lots of people think that the prison was stormed to free the prisoners being held there, but this probably isn’t true as on that particular day there were only 7 people imprisoned there! It is far more likely that the people were after the weapons which were also held there.
King Louis was not deposed as the monarch straight away, although he was stripped of most of his powers, and for a time it looked as though there could be a peaceful solution. This was not to be, and Lois XVI and Marie-Antoinette were eventually executed in 1794.
To read a good explanation from the BBC as to why Le 14 juillet probably doesn’t really celebrate the storming of La Bastille, click here.