Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about Bastille Day that you might not know…
1. You won’t hear anybody in France referring to this day as ‘Bastille Day’
‘Bastille Day’ is purely the name for it in English Speaking countries. Whilst of course the French are aware of this name, you will not hear it referred to this within French borders (well, maybe by tourists). Instead, it’s most commonly referred to as ‘Fête Nationale’ but you will sometimes hear it called ‘The National Holiday’ too.
2. The storming of the Bastille didn’t rescue too many prisoners
As well as know, the storming of the Bastille is a very significant event in history. This is why it’s a very common misconception that a large number of prisoners were freed that faithful day. But in fact, there were only 7 prisoners found and freed! The prison was almost empty. The French Revolutionaries who broke into it definitely expected to find more.
3. Two prisoners escape so quickly that they were never identified
Two out of the seven prisoners freed, ran away so quick that no one could identify them. To this day, no one knows who they were and what crimes they committed.
4. The famous French philosopher Marquis de Sade would have been freed, but was transferred 10 days before
If you haven’t heard of Marquis de Sade before, he was a man of great importance – a philosopher, writer, politician and nobleman. However, he was without a doubt known mostly for his erotic writings. He was the man that gave birth to the term ”sadism”. He was arrested for allegations of sexual abuse. Just 10 days before the storming of Bastille, he was transferred to a different prison outside Paris. This was because he was constantly shouting crazy things to passersby beneath his window. If he stayed, he would have undoubtedly been the 8th prisoner freed on that day.
5. There were several dates consider to mark the Bastille Day national holiday
Choosing a date for this national holiday was a huge ordeal amongst the French Statemen. Many of them were against July the 14th because they believed the event was too ”bloody” to gain a celebration. However, they still wanted to celebrate this historic event, just with a different date. Therefore, many other dates were thrown around, such as September the 21st, the day the French Republic was created. But July the 14th won the vote in the end!
6. If you head to the fire departments, you’ll get to see firemen busting out some moves on Bastille Day
Needless to say, not everyone can take a day off for this national holiday. The firefighters are an emergency service, so they are in the category of people that still need to work. However, they don’t let this stop them from having fun (in between calls). It’s a tradition for firemen in France to throw public dances on Bastille Day. They host huge dance parties that are usually open to everyone in the neighbourhood. Typically, you will have to pay a fee but if not there will always be a donation pot.
7. The Bastille was not orginally designed to be a prison
Construction started on the Bastille in 1357. It was built with the intention that it would stop invasions and keep armies out. This was when England and France were in a huge war that last over 100 years. It had many great attributes, such as high walls and massive gates. Therefore, King Louis XIII decided it would become a prison once the war was over.
8. Thomas Jefferson donated to the families of the revolutionaries
Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd U.S president took a lot of interest in the storming of Bastille. So much so, that he decided to get involved by donating money to the families of the revolutionaries. He gave this money mostly to widows of those killed in Bastille.