Bastille Day Parade [Défilé de la Bastille]
France commemorates both the Revolution and the Great War with the Bastille Day Parade [Défilé de la Bastille] on July 14th, or le quatorze juillet as it’s commonly known. Seeing and hearing a rumbling mass of military planes and helicopters in the Paris sky around July 11 is not an invasion but a rehearsal for the Bastille Day parade. Every year, the Champs-Elysées are the backdrop for major popular events: the Bastille Day parade, the arrival of the Tour de France, the Christmas lights and market.
Ten days after the United States marks Independence Day, France waves its tricolor flag to celebrate Bastille Day. The holiday commemorates a turning point in the French Revolution that took place on July 14, 1789, – the storming of the Paris prison that represented the authority of the monarchy. The largest celebration takes place in Paris, highlighted by a military parade and aerial show along the city’s grand boulevard, the Champs-Elysees.
The Avenue des Champs-Elysées is also notable for the presence of major museums such as the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. At 1.9 kilometers long, the Champs-Elysées, with its unique perspective, is a must-see walk through Paris. The Champs-Elysées is among the most beautiful avenues in the world. Known for exceptional buildings and luxury shops, the Champs-Elysées extends from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles-de-Gaulle. The roads running in parallel (the Promenade des Champs-Elysées) pass alongside gardens. This is the location of the official residence of the French president, the Palais de l'Élysée, and of the Grand Palais.
Trumpets and bugles herald the arrival of the President of the French Republic at the top of "the world’s most beautiful avenue". The drums ring out as elite units of the French army parade down the avenue lined with crowds of onlookers.
The July 14th parade along the Champs-Elysées is the highlight of the French national holiday celebrations. This historical event is the occasion to celebrate French nation and the different protective armies. After the French Revolution, the tradition of the July 14 military parade did not flourish until 1880, with the institutionalization of the French National Day. The parade then took place on the race-course of Longchamp, until 1914. It is at the end of the Great War that the national parade would take place each year on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The capture of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, is commemorated in France for more than a century. During the summer of 1789, the French were becoming increasingly angry over food shortages and the high taxes needed to fund King Louis XVI’s debt. People began rioting in the capital, whipped into a fury by revolutionary leaders. In these first months of the French Revolution, a great agitation reigns in Paris. In the spring of 1789, the States General refused to dissolve and became a National Constituent Assembly. In July, King Louis XVI brought in new troops and dismissed Necker, a popular minister.
On the morning of July 14, the people of Paris took weapons at the Invalides and then went to an old royal fortress, the Bastille. After a bloody shooting, they looted the fortress of ammunition and freed several prisoners. By this time, the Bastille was virtually empty, housing only seven prisoners: four forgers, two "lunatics" and one "deviant" aristocrat, the Comte de Solages (the Marquis de Sade had been transferred out ten days earlier).
The taking of the Bastille was a first victory of the people of Paris against a symbol of the Ancien Régime. Now viewed as the start of the French Revolution, the political turmoil culminated in the assassination of King Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette, and thousands of others. The building was completely demolished in the following months.
The "feast of the Federation", July 14, 1790, celebrated with great pomp the first anniversary of the insurrection. In Paris at the Champ de Mars, a mass was said by Talleyrand on the altar of the country. Subsequently, the commemoration of July 14, 1789 was abandoned.
The Pariser Einzugsmarsch ("Paris Entry-March") (Armeemarschsammlung AM II, 38) is a well-known German military march composed by Johann Heinrich Walch during the Napoleonic Wars. The Prussians entered Paris in July 1815.
Victor Hugo in 1852, in his “Napoleon the Little,” thus apocryphally described the entry of the allied troops into Paris after Waterloo: "The Russians entered Paris with their lances raised, and singing their wild songs, but Moscow had been burnt; the Prussians entered Paris, but Berlin had been taken; the Austrians entered Paris, but Vienna had been bombarded; the English entered Paris, but the Camp at Boulogne had menaced London; they came to our barriers, these men from every nation, with drums beating, trumpets sounding, colours flying, swords drawn, cannons rolling, matches lighted; they came drunk with excitement, as enemies, conquerors, instruments of vengeance, crying out with rage before the domes of Paris the names of their capitals,—-London, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow!"
On 01 March 1871, France was doubly humiliated: Prussian troops entered Paris and on the same day the French National Assembly, compelled to meet far away in a provincial city, ratified a treaty of peace which proclaims in every line the utterly prostrate and helpless state of the nation. The Prussians occupied the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees for three days. The capitulation to Prussia sparked the Paris Commune, a populist rebellion against the French government which was defeated three months later. Establishment of law and order in the capital was delayed by the Communard Insurrection (March 18th-May 29th, 1871), which compelled the removal of the seat of government to Versailles, and led to the destruction of many buildings. In 1879, however, the Legislature returned to Paris, and the city and the country shared in the general material prosperity of the later 19th century.
The Third Republic, including Gambetta, seeks to celebrate the foundations of the regime. On the proposal of the deputy of the Seine, Benjamin Raspail, the law of July 6, 1880 makes July 14 the national holiday of the Republic.
From the beginning, the emphasis was on the patriotic and military character of the demonstration, in order to testify to the recovery of France after the defeat of 1870. All the communes are concerned. The party begins with a torchlight retreat on the evening of the 13th. The next day, the church bells or bursts announce the parade, followed by a lunch, shows and games. Balls and fireworks ended the day.
After a campaign of only a month, on 14 June 1940 the Germans entered Paris, the city in which Frenchmen had eaten rats before succumbing to the Prussian conquerors of 1870-71. They were a distasteful presence to the French for more than four years. Their ubiquitous street signs were constant reminders of the nuisances, difficulties, and eventual horrors they inflicted. They took and executed hostages. They imposed a curfew. They forbade the playing of jazz. Because of their restraints, petty and otherwise, the inhabitants looked forward with longing to see the Germans go.
Germany did not have the military manpower to occupy all of France and had to rely on a high degree of collaboration, a fact that greatly influenced the nature of the occupation and life in wartime Paris. As the war progressed, Parisians dealt with increasingly harrowing circumstances including forced labor conscription, Nazi retribution killings, deportations of the (mostly foreign) Jewish population, as well as increasingly effective Allied bombings in and around Paris. Creating a uniform post-World War II narrative for France is highly complex.
Paris in August 1944 was the prize of a contest for power among various factions of the French Resistance. De Gaulle had organized the Resistance outside France to support his Provisional Government. Inside France, a large and vociferous group on the left competed with De Gaulle for overall leadership. Leclerc was to penetrate into Paris first, as Bradley said, "to help the French recapture their pride after four years of occupation."
The liberation of Paris was a foregone conclusion after the Allied breakout from Normandy in the last days of July 1944. On 26 August - after more than four years of German occupation of France - De Gaulle, Leclerc, and members of the Provisional Government walked from the Etoile down the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde. The British refrained from taking part.
On August 29, 1944 the U.S. Army 28th Infantry Division paraded from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Élysées as the final act of the liberation of Paris. The German military governor surrendered the city on August 25th after the 2nd French Armored Division and the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division entered the city a few days earlier. To the French, the Americans spoiled the occasion by intruding. The Americans felt their participation was small repayment for the dead soldiers lost between the Normandy beaches and the gates of the capital. They expected gratitude, but instead garnered resentment.
In 1945, following the occupation period, the first parade took place after the liberation of Paris and France. It took place at the Bastille, but motorized vehicles traveled Paris from the Champs-Elysees. With a declared desire to reconnect with the "revolutionary tradition" associated with the taking of the Bastille, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (President of the Republic from 1974 to 1981) moved the parade in Paris every year, with all the same a frequent return to the Champs Elysees.
Since the presidency of François Mitterrand, the military parade of July 14 definitely resumed place on the Champs-Elysees. Under the presidency of François Mitterrand, July 14, 1989 was a highlight of the celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Many foreign heads of state were able to attend in particular "the Marseillaise", show of Jean-Paul Goude. In 1994, German soldiers of the Eurocorps participate in the parade on the Champs-Elysees as a sign of reconciliation.
Since the election of President Chirac, many young people from all over France, and soldiers are invited to the reception that is given in the park of the Elysée Palace after the parade. Beyond the national parade, there are military parades in several cities in France, where local troops are parading.
The traditional Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysées starts at 10 AM sharp! Every year in the morning, the spotlight is on the French military regiments as they parade down the avenue. Later in the day, the focus shifts to the eagerly-awaited fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower.
In 2016, some 55 aircraft, 30 helicopters and 212 armored vehicles made their way down the Champs Elysées to Place de la Concorde, where French President François Hollande surveyed the troops joined by New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key and US Secretary of State John Kerry. Troops from Australia and New Zealand were the guests of honor this year, to commemorate their participation in the 1916 Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest of the Great War. The highlight of this year's ceremony was the six Maori warriors from New Zealand who paraded in traditional dress and bare feet.
As part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into the Great War, in 2017 the President of the United States of America Donald Trump accepted the invitation of the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron to attend the parade July 14th. On this occasion, American soldiers participated in this parade alongside their French comrades.
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