The 14th of July is annually celebrated as French National Day, also known as Bastille Day. In France, it is known as National Day (fête nationale) or, more commonly, le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July), commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. The Bastille was a medieval fortress and in the center of Paris. It contained just seven inmates at the time of its storming but was a symbol of the abuse of the monarchy: its fall was the flashpoint of the French Revolution.
Interestingly, the reason for the attack on the Bastille was not the hope of freeing prisoners but the hunt for gunpowder following the looting of firearms and cannons at the Hôtel des Invalides. The few prisoners that remained were freed but a deadly battle ensued including the brutal beheading of the prison governor and his officers. This was more of a side effect of chaotic uprising rather than the original intent. Upon hearing of the attack that evening, Louis XVI asked a French duke “Is this a revolt?” to which the duke famously replied, “No, sire, this is a revolution.”
France hosted the Fête de la Fédération on the July 14, 1790, to celebrate the France’s constitutional monarchy and to honor France’s newfound unity. It wasn’t until 1880 that the date became a national holiday. Since that year, a military parade had been held in Paris and has passed down the Champs-Élysées every year since 1918 except during the years of German occupation (1940 to 1944) when the ceremony took place in London under the command of General Charles de Gaulle. The parade passes down the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.
To many people around the world, the Eiffel Tower is the symbol not only of Paris but of France as well. Built as the entrance to the Exposition Universelle, a world’s fair held in Paris from May to October 1889 commemorating the centennial of the French Revolution, the tower has been featured on numerous stamps over the years. I have chosen Scott #2148 to represent this year’s Bastille Day as I find it rather festive. The 2.20 franc multicolored stamp, engraved and perforated 13×12½, was issued as part of a set of five stamps released on April 21, 1989, portraying various historic sights in Paris.