It’s that time of year – Bastille Day. I know many people celebrate today, but I feel torn.
On the one hand I am no monarchist: much as I enjoy reading about the lives of historical Queens and researching and making clothes of the nobility, I’m not into that kind of class system. (Especially when aristos are wasting flour on powdering their hair while normal people starve!) So, huzzah for liberté, égalité, fraternité!
But – and I’m sure you knew there would be a but – going around murdering people left, right and centre, well, that’s not really the way to go about it! So, less of a huzzah for liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la mort.
The violence of the French Revolution may seem like some story from 200 years ago, but I can’t help but remember that it was real life for thousands of people – there was blood, tears and cheers, sweat, muck and lies. Lives ended, some perhaps justly, others less so, all violently and horribly; people like you and I suffered.
And that is why I find it slightly harder to say ‘Happy Bastille Day’ – for today was the start of it all and however dashing that Pimpernell was or however dastardly Robspierre, there was death and cruelty and misery on both sides.
On a lighter note – liberty, equality, fraternity or death does remind me of the Eddie Izzard sketch: Cake or Death? Alternatively, you may prefer Blackadder’s le Pimpernelle Scarlett. Enjoy: