Bastille Day : 14 July
The National Holiday
Bastille Day today
means, for all in France, the solemn military parade up the Champs Elysées in
the presence of the head of state.
It is also a holiday on which each commune holding its local dance and fireworks.
But above all, Bastille Day, or the Fourteenth of July, is the symbol of the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the Republic. The national holiday is a time when all citizens can feel themselves to be members of a republican nation. It is because this national holiday is rooted in the history of the birth of the Republic that it has such great significance.
The people storm the Bastille
On 5 May 1789, the King convened the Estates General to hear their complaints; but the assembly of the Third Estate, representing the citizens of the town, soon broke away and formed the Constituent National Assembly.
On 20 June 1789, the deputies of the Third Estate took the oath of the Jeu de Paume "to not separate until the Constitution had been established". The Deputies' opposition was echoed by public opinion. The people of Paris rose up and decided to march on the Bastille, a state prison that symbolized the absolutism and arbitrariness of the Ancien Regime.
The Nation marches towards the Republic
The storming of the Bastille, on 14 July 1789, immediately became a symbol of historical dimension; it was proof that power no longer resided in the King or in God, but in the people, in accordance with the theories developed by the Philosophes of the eighteenth century.
On 16 July, the King recognized the tricolor cockade: the Revolution had succeeded.
The storming of the Bastille symbolizes, for all citizens of France, liberty, democracy and the struggle against all forms of oppression.
The Tricolor Flag
The Constitution of the Fifth Republic stipulates, in Article 2, that the national emblem shall be the tricolor flag: blue, white and red. This tricolored flag, displayed on public buildings on commemorative occasions and at sporting events, is the result of a long process of evolution. It synthesizes the image of the Nation and is part of this image.
Three colors but no flag
The kings of France wore the three colors separately: blue, white, red.
The blue banner was flown for Charlemagne's coronation; it represented the cape Saint Martin shared with a pauper.
From Clovis to Charles X, the royal mantle was azure blue adorned with gold fleurs-de-lys, symbols of loyalty and fidelity.
Under the reign of Hugh Capet and his descendants, the royal standard was the red oriflamme of Saint Denis, protector of the kingdom.
From 1638 to 1790, white was the color of the flags of the king and the royal navy. And from 1814 to 1830 it was also the color of the banners of the king's army.
A tricolor flag for the French Revolution
It was the French Revolution that inaugurated the tricolor flag.
At the Federation celebrations, on 14 July 1790, the Champ de Mars was decked with the tricolor flags.
The tricolor and the cockade became the symbols of the living nation.
A decree of 27 Pluviôse, Year 2 of the Revolution (1794) stipulates that the national flag shall be made up of the three national colors disposed in three equal bands such that the blue strip is attached to the pole with the white in the middle and the red waving free.
The Restoration of 1815 attempted to bring back the white flag, symbol of continuity with the monarchy, and the 1848 uprising tried to impose the red flag as the standard of the Republic.
Since then, the Tricolor has gone uncontested: gradually, all political families and all opinions comprising the French nation have come to recognize themselves in it.
The Latin word Gallus means both "rooster" and "inhabitant of Gaul". Certain ancient coins bore a rooster, but the animal was not yet used as the emblem of the tribes of Gaul. Gradually the figure of the rooster became the most widely shared representation of the French people.
The French rooster In the Middle Ages, the Gallic Rooster was widely used as a religious symbol, the sign of hope and faith.
It was during the Renaissance that the rooster began to be associated with the emerging French nation.
Under the Valois and the Bourbon kings, the royal effigy was often accompanied by this animal, meant to stand for France, in engravings and on coins.
Although still a minor emblem, the rooster could be found at both the Louvre and Versailles.
The rooster and the Revolution The Revolution established the rooster as the representation of the Nation's identity. It featured on the écu coin, sporting the Phrygian bonnet, on the seal of the Premier Consul, and the allegorical figure Fraternity often carried a staff surmounted by a rooster.
Napoleon replaced the Republic with the Empire and the rooster with the eagle, for as the Emperor said: "The rooster has no power, he cannot be the image of an empire the likes of France."
The rooster and the Republic After a period of absence, the Trois Glorieuses of 1830 rehabilitated the image of the rooster, and the Duke of Orleans signed an order providing that the rooster should appear on the flags and uniform buttons of the National Guard.
The seal of the Second Republic shows Liberty holding a tiller adorned with a rooster, but this figure still ppeared alongside the symbol of the eagle, preferred by Napoleon II, as sign of an enduring Empire.
Under the Third Republic, the wrought-iron gates of the Elysée acquired a rooster, the "Rooster gate", which can still be visited. The twenty-franc gold piece struck in 1899 also bears a rooster.
During the First World War, rising patriotic feeling made the Gallic rooster the symbol of France's resistance and bravery in the face of the Prussian eagle. Use of this Manichean representation, in particular by political cartoonists, gained ground, and the rooster became the symbol of a France sprung from peasant origins, proud, opinionated, courageous and prolific. Abroad as well the rooster symbolized France, even if it was not an animal everyone attributed with purely positive features.
While the rooster is not an official symbol of the Republic, it still stands for a certain idea of France. In the collective imagination, particularly in the area of sports, it remains the best illustration of the Nation.
Marianne is the embodiment of the French Republic. Marianne represents the permanent values that found her citizens' attachment to the Republic: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". Employed alternately by opponents of the republican system and by its defenders, the name Marianne (Marie-Anne), popular with the working classes, is the symbol of a Republic constructed by the gradual adherence of all of its citizens to one motto. Little by little, Marianne became the most widely shared representation of the motherland, at times fiery and warlike, at times pacific and nurturing.
Distant origins The image of Marianne comes down from Antiquity. The Phrygian bonnet was worn under the Roman Empire by former slaves who had been emancipated by their master and whose descendants were therefore considered citizens of the Empire. Democracy was already represented as having a woman's face: at her feet a tiller and a sack of wheat, slumped on the ground and overflowing; having little regard for power, she is concerned above all with the aspirations of the people.
Marianne in the throes of the French Revolution From 1789, sculptures and paintings began to use female figures as vehicles for the values of the French Revolution, chief among which is Liberty. Liberty appears in the guise of a young woman dressed in a short robe, her right hand holds a pikestaff adorned with a Phrygian bonnet. She is a warrior symbolizing the idea that liberty is something that must be fought for. Sometimes the same figure of Liberty appears more thoughtful, grave, draped in a long tunic, in a more serene posture. In this case, several of her attributes are absent, among which the Phrygian bonnet worn by the revolutionists.
Equality also takes the form of a young woman, followed by children carrying the symbols of the three orders of the Ancien Regime: the agricultural tools of the Third Estate, the Bible of the Clergy and the crown of the Nobility : synthesis of the old and the new France. A l'origine, The original figure of Equality held a scale in equilibrium, the scales of the Last Judgement, but the artists of the Revolution preferred the builder's level, symbol of equality rather than equity.
Fraternity holds a staff surmounted by a Gallic rooster; following the figure are two children leading a lion and a sheep yoked together.
In 1792, the young Republic chose to be embodied in the features of Marianne, the motherland.
Marianne often appears wearing a helmet and bearing arms, like Athena of Greece. The Republic is warlike and protective, she will fight for her values, first among which is Liberty, as at Valmy, where she asserted her universal calling in the face of the reactionary monarchists. A decree of 1792 stipulated that the "state seal was to be changed and should henceforth bear the figure of France in the guise of a woman dressed after the fashion of Antiquity, standing upright, her right hand holding a pikestaff surmounted by a Phrygian bonnet, or Liberty bonnet, and her left hand resting on a bundle of arms: at her feet, a tiller."
Marianne has recovered her former attributes, in particular the lion and the throne, but in addition to the sword or the bundle of arms, she now holds the blue, white and red French flag. At her feet the code of law and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen are displayed.
At the same period, her enemies caricatured the Republic and gave it the popular name of Marie-Anne, saying, if the Republic wanted to look after the common people, it should bear their name.
A weakened Marianne: Empire and Restoration After 1799, the fall of the Republic and the institution of the Empire saw Marianne's representative value weakened, even though the theme of Liberty continued to thrive. Many artists perpetuated it in their work; one of the best known of these was Eugène Delacroix, in his Liberté Guidant le Peuple aux Barricades, painted in 1830.
The name Marianne reappears briefly with the Second Republic, but often in a pejorative sense. Partisans of the social republic, "the reds", adopted the name for their own cause. In 1848, a contest was organized to define a figure that would represent the new Republic, one which would once again extol the values defended by the Revolution.
When Napoleon III proclaimed the Empire in 1852, he replaced the figure of Marianne that was displayed on the coins and postage stamps with his own effigy. But the emerging opposition groups, desirous of reestablishing the Republic, rallied around the figure of Marianne.
Marianne returns, the Paris Commune and the Third Republic With the institution of the new Republic, the Paris Commune encouraged the cult of the bare-breasted freedom fighter coifed with the red Phrygian bonnet of the sans-culotte. Paris never called her Marianne, however, this was the name given her outside the Capital. Every town and village had its statue or bell bearing the name that recalled the great revolutionary moments: 1789, 1830, 1848.
In 1871, after the fall of the Commune, the founders of the Third Republic sought a means of reviving the symbols of the Republic without at the same time encouraging revolutionary movements. They therefore shunned the Phrygian bonnet for the crown of ripened wheat, taken from the sunburst crown on the 1848 coins. But the model was only partially adopted, and throughout France, crowned statue vied with bonneted statue. The name given these statues varied with the social category: the working-class republican called her "Marianne", the bourgeois republican spoke of "the Republic", and the anti-republican, when he eschewed the insulting "la gueuse" (the beggar-girl), used "Marie-Anne", in its pejorative sense.
Gradually the number of busts in town halls and schools grew. In 1880, the Paris City Hall commissioned a sculpture wearing a Phrygian bonnet, and gradually the model became standardized: the bust of a young woman with placid features, some wearing a crown of wheat, but more often the Phrygian bonnet. The Republic had settled in.
Marianne in place, a bust in every town hall Gradually over the twentieth century, every town hall acquired a bust of Marianne, now systematically wearing the Phrygian bonnet and stripped of her other attributes (bundle of arms, builder's level or scales). Marianne now appears in an expurgated version. The latest figures most popular with today's town halls are modeled on the features of Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Alongside the official imagery, there is also a growing number of private representations; and political cartoonists have seized upon Marianne as the image of the Nation.
The assimilation of the French Republic to La Marianne is now a fact. Marianne has survived five republics and the vicissitudes of history, and her symbolic capacity has increased as the idea of the French Nation has become more firmly established.
Product of the Revolution, the French national anthem survived two Empires, the Restoration and the Occupation before finally being officialized by the Republic in 1946.
Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, captain in the Engineering corps garrisoned in Strasbourg, composed this air during the night of 24 to 25 April 1792 at the behest of the city's mayor, Baron de Dietrich. The song, entitled Chant de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin, was taken up throughout the country. A general in the Egypt Corps, François Mireur, in Marseille for the purpose of concluding plans for the joint march by the Montpellier and Marseille volunteers, had it printed under the title Chant de Guerre pour les Armées aux Frontières. The Marseille troops adopted it as a marching song; they were singing it as they entered Paris on 30 July 1792, and the Parisians dubbed it the Marseillaise.
Under the First Republic, the anthem was one of the civic songs that contributed to the success of the Revolution. Both Empires, the Restoration and the Second Republic passed over it in favor of occasional songs. Not until the Third Republic was the Marseillaise restored to its rank of national anthem on all occasions at which military bands were called upon to play an official air. The French State retained it and the Free French Government once more gave it pride of place alongside Le Chant des Partisans, customarily sung as the anthem. At last the Marseillaise was made the official national anthem by the constitutions of the Fourth and Fifth Republics (Article 2 of the Constitution of 4 October 1958). In 1974, President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing had it modified in accordance with earlier scores and slowed the tempo. Since 1981 however, the anthem has once again been performed according to the scores and tempo in use until 1974.
1. Allons enfants
de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé (bis)
Entendez vous dans les campagnes mugir ces féroces soldats
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras, égorger vos fils, vos compagnes
Aux armes citoyens ! Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons, marchons, qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons
2. Que veut cette
De traîtres, de Rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français ! pour nous, ah ! quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à I 'antique esclavage !
3. Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
4. Tremblez, tyrans ! et vous, perfides,
L'opprobe de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leur prix (bis).
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre
5. Français ! en guerriers magnanimes
Portez ou retenez vos coups.
Epargnez ces tristes victimes
A regret s'armant contre nous (bis).
Mais le despote sanguinaire,
Mais les complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui sans pitié
Déchirent le sein de leur mère
6. Nous entrerons dans la carrière,
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et les traces de leurs vertus. (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre.
7. Amour sacré
de la Patrie
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie !
Combats avec tes défenseurs (bis).
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents,
Que tes ennemis expirant
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !