Saturday, 14 July 2018

Paris in July 2018 - French National Day

The Content Reader

Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, and it is the French National Day. For a short historical note, here is what it says on Wikipedia:

"Bastille Day is the common name given in English-speaking countries/lands to the French National Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. In France, it is formally called la Fête nationale; and commonly and legally le 14 Juillet.  
The French National Day is the anniversary of Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a turning point of the French Revolution, as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. Celebrations are held throughout France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, along with other French officials and foreign guests."
The Bastille (Wikipedia)

My present 'breakfast reading' is "365 dagar" (365 days collected by Anders Bergman & Emelie Perland) and is a collection of diary notes from known and unknown people. It is quite interesting, and suitable enough, I found some references to 1789. On 14 July 1789, king Louis XVI noted: "Nothing" in his hunting diary at Versailles. That at the same time as the storming of the Bastille took place! 

Dr. Edward Rigby (Wikipedia)

Edward Rigby (1747-1821), a British doctor saw himself in Paris in 1789, witnessing the storming of the Bastille. Below and extract from his letters.

"...This disarming the populace and establish-ing a well-armed military body of citizens, may be considered as one of the most important steps which could have been taken by
the Parisians at this period of the revolution, and the extraordinary address and temper they discovered in doing it will probably ever be mentioned with admiration. 

The following morning (July 14) sufficiently exhibited the good effects of it. By means of public criers and by handbills (placards), fixed in different parts of the city, the magistrates informed the inhabitants of the important arrangements that had been made ; that there was a very ample supply of provisions in the city ; that the great corn hall (Halle de blé(?)) was well stored with flour and wheat ; that a sufficient quantity of arms and ammunition had been obtained ; and that the number of persons who had taken up arms was fully sufficient for the defence of the city. It was therefore recommended that the citizens should pursue their usual occupations, and that the shops should be opened ; the country people and gardeners immediately without the city being encouraged to bring in. provisions without fears of molestation. In the streets were no longer seen a rude and threatening populace ; it had given place to the citizen soldiers, who became every hour more organised and better prepared, not only to defend the city, but even to undertake an enterprise of no/ trifling magnitude.  
We had intended leaving Paris this day at ten o'clock, but were informed at the Poste royale that no persons were permitted to leave the city until the commotion had subsided, and the following note, most beautifully written, was given us. // n'est permis de sortir de la ville, ni avec chevaux de pastes, ni d'autres! We also applied to the directors of the post, and to the president and magistrates at the Hôtel de Ville for leave to depart, but were refused. In the course of the forenoon we had been several times into the Palais Royal, which was still filled with the most popular persons who took an active part in the revolution. A Canadian Frenchman, whom we found in the crowd and who spoke good English, was the first who intimated to us that it had been resolved to attack the Bastille. We smiled at the gentleman, and suggested the improbability of undisciplined citizens taking a citadel which had held out against the most experienced troops in Europe ;  little thinking it would be actually in the hands of the people before night. 
From the commencement of the struggle on Sunday evening there had been scarcely any time in which the firing of guns had not been heard in all quarters of the city, and, as this was principally produced by exercising the citizens in the use of the musket, in trying cannon, &c., it excited, except at first, but little alarm. Another sound equally incessant was produced by the ringing of bells to call together the inhabitants in different parts of the city. These joint sounds being constantly iterated, the additional noise produced by the attack on the Bastille was so little distinguished that I doubt not it had begun a considerable time, and even been completed, before it was known to many thousands of the inhabitants as well as to ourselves. 
So little indeed did we expect such an event, and such was the apparent security of the streets, that, with a part of my companions, I was induced in the early part of the afternoon to visit the celebrated gardens of the Duke of Orleans, called Monceaux, and this happened to lead us to a part of the city very distant from the Bastille. In our way thither we found, indeed, a regiment of soldiers who had joined the popular party, in a state of considerable agitation — occasioned by an absurd report that an attempt had been made to destroy the whole regiment by poisoning their bread. On our return two hours later (about five o'clock), we found the same regiment again in motion — the drums were beating to arms, the men were forming, and began a hasty march. On enquiring of some of the soldiers, as well as of the surrounding people, we found that the Bastille had been attacked and that they were going to assist the brave citizens. We felt a desire to get as near the scene of action as was consistent with our personal safety. 
It was but a little out of our way to call at the hotel, and we were induced to do it because one of our companions had remained there. We had just found him and were preparing to go, when an unusual noise in the Rue St. Honoré and an agitation all around us
announced something new. Our servant, who had been in the street, came to us with great haste and eagerness, calling on us to come down. We followed him into the street, and with crowds of all descriptions of persons, summoned by the same circumstances, we ran to the end of the Rue St. Honoré. We here soon perceived an immense crowd proceeding towards the Palais Royal with acclamations of an extraordinary kind, but which sufficiently indicated a joyful event, and, as it approached we saw a flag, some large keys, and a paper elevated on a pole above the crowd, on which was inscribed * La Bastille est prise et les portes sont ouvertes!  
The intelligence of this extraordinary event thus communicated, produced an impression upon the crowd really indescribable. A sudden burst of the most frantic joy instantaneously took place; every possible "mode in which the most rapturous feelings of joy could be expressed, were everywhere exhibited. Shouts and shrieks, leaping and embracing, laughter and tears, every sound and every gesture,\including even what approached to nervous and hysterical affection, manifested, among the promiscuous crowd, such an instantaneous and unanimous emotion of extreme gladness as I should suppose was never before experienced by human beings. 
We were recognised as Englishmen; we were embraced as freemen, ' for Frenchmen/ said they, are now free as well as yourselves ; henceforward no longer enemies, we are brothers, and war shall nevermore divide us/ We caught the general enthusiasm, we joined in the joyful shouts of liberty ; we shook hands most cordially with freed Frenchmen.  
For myself I shall ever be proud to remember the emotion that was raised in me at the time ; never was a scene more intensely interesting, never were my feelings so truly delightful. The crowd passed on to the Palais Royal, and in a few minutes another succeeded. Its approach was also announced by loud and triumphant acclamations, but, as it came nearer, we soon perceived a different character, and though bearing additional testimony to the fact reported by the first crowd, the impression by it on the people was of a very different kind. "
Quite a personal report on a very big event. For those of you interested in more of this, you find Rigby's letters under the link.


  1. Lisbeth, this is a fascinating post and I'm so glad you recommended the book. I will probably read this again to digest it more thoroughly. During times like the ones we are seeing in the U.S., the thought of a mass of angry citizens storming a government building is not completely unappealing -- perhaps a little hard to organize on such a scale and we certainly not there yet, nor do I hope we will be. But to see the courage of the French during this time do what they felt they must to build their country is inspiring.

    1. Yes, it was quite a struggle at the time. Things must have gone very far before people raise up like that.