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View of the Siege and Storming of the Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houel.

(Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris)

I would have to admit that before I started studying up on Bastille Day for this page, I didn't have a clue as to what it was. I think that's probably true of most people. They see it on a calendar and just overlook it.

It is probably one of the more important dates in French history. It's the day that the common people overthrew the monarchy and declared France a democratic society.

The Bastille was a major part of the defenses built by Charles V in France and later, under the rule of Louis XIV, the ramparts were demolished, but the building was kept as a luxury prison for the people of quality.

On May 5, 1789, the King convened the Estates General to hear their complaints. But the people of the Third Estate had grown tired of this system. They represented the common people in Paris and weren't willing to put up with this anymore. So they broke away and formed the Constituent National Assembly.

On June 20, 1789, the Deputies of the Third Estate took an oath that they would not separate until the Constitution had been established. This oath was supported by the people. The Bastille became a symbol of the arbitrariness of the old system and so on July 14, 1789, the Parisians rose up and attacked the prison.

The Bastille was later torn down to the ground and in its place they built a tower to commemorate the July, 1830 revolution when the "Citizen King" Louis Phillippe took the throne.

In 1888, the French ship, S.S. Marseille, came slowly up the Mississippi river to the port of Orleans. On board was a young Frenchman named Eugene Eleazar. He had a military background, which assured that he would celebrate every Bastille Day. He was to leave his mark on his new homeland.

In 1906, after having moved his family from France to America, he started a tradition of throwing parties every July 14th. Eleazar and his wife had six children who in turn passed on these traditions to their children and so Bastille Day traditions were born in America.

France's flag is a tricolor with red and blue (the colors of Paris) being separated in the middle by white (the color of royalty) and except for a short time in the middle 1800's, it has always flown over France.



There's no bread, let them eat cake
There's no end to what they'll take
Flaunt the fruits of noble birth
Wash the salt into the earth
But they're marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Free the dungeons of the innocent
The king will kneel, and let his kingdom rise

Bloodstained velvet, dirty lace
Naked fear on every face
See them bow their heads to die
As we would bow as they rode by

And we're marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Sing, o choirs of cacophony
The king has kneeled, to let his kingdom rise.

Lessons taught but never learned
All around us anger burns
Guide the future by the past
Long ago the mould was cast

For they marched up to Bastille Day
La guillotine claimed her bloody prize
Hear the echoes of the centuries
Power isn't all that money buys

Today, on July 14th, there will be parties, dancing, and fireworks. French people everywhere celebrate the day that the old Regime was torn apart.