Feb 222012
 

On July 14th the French celebrate Bastille Day. This day marks the end of monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution.

Several factors led to the Revolution. The country was led by a King and Queen, whose governing was less than desirable. France had the largest population in Europe and not nearly enough food to feed it. The wealthy and growing bourgeoisie (the middle-class, merchants, and businessmen) were allowed no political input or power. The poor were in a bad situation and it was getting worse. The country was nearing bankrupt. By the late 1780s the people of France were fed up and began speaking out. Assemblies were held and demands of a constitution were made. When King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, tried to quiet the unrest the people rebelled.

On July 14, 1789 the masses banded together and stormed the Bastille prison, a symbol of the corrupt political system. This began the Revolution. The following year on July 14th delegates from all regions of France gathered in Paris to celebrate the Fête de la Fédération and proclaim their allegiance to one national community. This made France a paragon for the rest of Europe and established them as a nation of liberty.

The First Republic was established in 1792. During this period, known as the Reign of Terror, leaders like Maximilien Robespierre rejected the idea of federalism and enforced their own ideas upon the people. They held mass executions by guillotine, closed churches, and repressed religious freedoms among other things. They claimed their acts were justified because of the European monarchy allegiances just outside of France and the growing number of uprisings within the borders. In the end, in an ironic twist of fate, the leaders of The First Republic found themselves under the blade of the guillotine.

The Revolution lead to the tricolor flag of blue, red, and white. Blue and red are the colors of Paris and white is the color of royalty.

Bastille Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1880 and in 1848 the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was reinstated. In France, most folks take Bastille Eve off and celebrate with festive balls and brilliant displays of fireworks. The day that follows is filled with parades, bands, dancing, and general good times.

Louis XVI

Louis XVI, 1754-1793
After the death of his grandfather, Louis XVI became King of France. He was 19. He preferred hunting and tinkering to leading the country. In his desire to be accepted he allied himself with the nobility and ignored his duties as king. Unfortunately, the country was already facing monetary problems when Louis became king and rather than economize he continued to spend money wastefully. His lack of involvement in the court allowed the minister, A.R.J. Turgot, to make reforms that Parliament and the court firmly rejected. Louis was forced to dismiss him and find a replacement. He chose Jacques Necker but Necker resigned shortly after his appointment as the debt of France rose steadily with its involvement in the American Revolution. Bankruptcy was inevitable and the French Revolution began. In 1789 Versailles was overtaken and the royal family was forced to move into the Tuileries palace. He and his family attempted to escape, but they were caught at Varennes. This was considered an act of treason and Louis was condemned to death. He was guillotined on January 21, 1793.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette, 1755-93
Marie was born to the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. She was the Queen of France and wife to Louis XVI. The marriage was made to strengthen the allegiance with Austria when she was only 14 and Louis 15. The marriage remained unconsummated for seven years. The queen was unpopular with the people of France and was regarded as a foreign sympathizer. She was unhappy and became extravagant, wasting money on frivolous pleasures which earned her the nickname “Madame Deficit”. She became involved in several scandals making her the most despised person in France. Her most memorable act, the response to the bread famine with the quote “Let them eat cake” probably never happened. In 1793 she was charge with treason for trying to escape and met her fate with the guillotine.

Maximilien Robespierre,

Maximilien Robespierre, 1758-94
Known as the Incorruptible, he was one of the leaders of the French Revolution. He was a lawyer and a political activist. He was elected to the States-General in 1789 and to the National Convention in 1792. In 1793, he was selected to head the Committee of Public Safety, a position he held throughout the Reign of Terror. Robespierre overthrew many powers in the Convention and gave rise to a new civic religion. The Convention began to fear his leadership as the Reign of Terror continued and in 1794 Robespierre was arrested, tried, and guillotined.

Today
Bastille Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1880 and in 1848 the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was reinstated. In France, most folks take Bastille Eve off and celebrate with festive balls and brilliant displays of fireworks. The day that follows is filled with parades, bands, dancing, and general good times.

Crafts for Bastille Day

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 February 22, 2012  Posted by at 11:12 am July Tagged with: ,