- “Is this a revolt?” asked Louis XVI to the Duque of Rochefoucauld, to which he replied:
- “No Sire, this is a revolution.”
One of King Louis XVI’s most trusted counsellor pronounced those ominous words on July 12, 1789. Two days later, the royal fortress of Bastille — a symbol of despotism — was attacked.
The tide of patriotic fervour led to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.” Nations around the world modelled their bill of rights after this now universal sentence. No wonder France’s national holiday, le quatorze juillet*, is world famous.
Every year, since 1880*, Bastille Day’s notoriety is matched by festivities and pomp honouring the republic to the rhythm of the national anthem La Marseillaise.
The Grand Parade in Paris: A Spectacle of Colours and Rhythm
In Paris, celebrations start with Alpha Jets of La Patrouille de France (a division of France’s air force) in the morning. The powerful steel engines thunder past the capital trailing smoke in red, white, and blue of the national flag. The traditional military parade begins at 11 a. m. Some 4,000 soldiers, police officers, fire-fighters, including cadets of military academies begin rolling down Paris’ famed Champs-Elysées Avenue, as the flanked crowd cheers on.
The 14 juillet military parade is the oldest and arguably the largest in Europe: regiments in tight formation, the Garde Républicaine riding horses, traditional uniforms. The parade moves on close-order drills from place de l’Etoile to place de la Concorde.