Bastille Day, Frances most important national holiday, commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and was seen as a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th’s Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people warned France that the king’s power was no longer absolute: they thought power should be shared by the Nation and be limited by a separation of powers.
Although the Bastille only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, the storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression for all French citizens; like the Tricolore, the French national flag, it symbolized the Republic’s three main ideas: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity for all the people of France. It signified the end of absolute monarchy, the birth of the sovereign Nation, and, ultimately, the formation of the (First) Republic, in 1792.
Bastille Day was officially declared a national holiday on 6 July 1880 when the new Republic was firmly established. Bastille Day is very important for the French as it symbolizes the birth of the Republic. As in the US, where the signing of the Declaration of Independence heralded the start of the American Revolution, in France, the storming of the Bastille began the Great Revolution. In both countries, the national holiday thus symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government.
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