Thursday, 14 July 2011

‘Les Vainqueurs de la Bastille?’ - Just blame Britain & the birth of the U.S. of A.

Just 222 years ago today on the 14th July 1789 at around 1.03pm – a little under 1000 angry, desperate & hungry citizens of pre 'Gay Paris' gathered outside the walls of the formidable multi towered Bastille prison with its tall and imposing five foot thick walls, and thus in the bloody events that were to unfold there in a matter of just a few short hours time, these Vainqueurs de la Bastille’, led mostly by one Amaria Cahila were to become permanently etched into French folklore as a direct result of their brave, sacrificial and impassioned actions during the now famous ‘Storming of the Bastille’ episode.

This watershed event in French 18th century history signaled the beginning of the end of the ruling Monarchy of King Louise XVI and his celebrated but infamous wife Marie Antoinette, the igniting of the French Revolution and later the fearsome 'la Terreur'…and thence within a short space of time, heralded the very birth of the modern French Republic and their national motto:

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité " - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Brotherhood)
Today is therefore 'La Fête Nationale' (The National Celebration) - 'Bastille Day'

In the summer of 1789 Monarchist France was economically on its knees, and ordinary French men and women were by then, impoverished, weary and starving. Much of this had been fuelled by France’s recent money haemorrhaging intervention in the American War of Independence and a similarly colossal amount of expenditure wasted on Louis XVI unrealised plans to bring about a mass military invasion of Britain. Add to this now fast melting pot, a regressive taxation system coupled with a hopelessly outdated set of protocols and governing rules, under the control of the woefully indifferent aristocracy and noble classes of the second estate, and you have a country sized powder keg of a crisis just waiting for a spark to explode it all to Hades.

To cut a much longer historical story short here - come the morning of 14th July that year, a growing mob of buoyed up third estate common citizens and a military contingent of French Guards, sympathetic to the peoples cause, had already elected to meet a call to arms and a very real and impending threat of massacre from the defiant Kings army camped just over the River Seine, which itself was largely made up of dispassionate German and Swiss mercenaries who had no care or affections for the peoples plight.

Images courtesy - Flickr
   Led by Amaria Cahila, the Vainqueurs de la Bastille stormed into the Hôtel des Invalides to gather up some 29 - 32,000 muskets, but unfortunately missing the critical powder and shot to render them of any use. The next stage in the day’s proceedings was to march on the Bastille prison itself, as it was known that a sizable store of gunpowder, shot and other weaponry were encased within the cellars below. In fact, there were some 13,600 kilograms of gun powder alone being kept under close guard in the bowels of the prison fortress and yet only about 550 kilograms of prisoners - all seven of them in fact, one of whom was so loopy froggy loo that he truly believed he was Julias Caesar.

Imagine their collective surprise and bewilderment then as the victorious Vainqueurs later stumbled across this crazy long haired old man ranting out the Bards imortal lines, having just been freed from his cell - 

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!" 

One of the elements I love about this particular video is the way the performer briefly pops back into frame right at the very give the salute. Marvelous stuff.

"Aux armes, citoyens, To arms, citizens, Formez vos bataillons, Form your battalions, Marchons, marchons ! Let's march, let's march! Qu'un sang impur That a tainted blood Abreuve nos sillons ! Water our furrows!"

The crowd gathered outside the Bastille walls around mid-morning, calling for the surrender of the prison, the removal of the canon guns and the release of the arms and gunpowder to the Vainqueurs. The Governor of the prison – the arrogant Bernard-René de Launay – said “Non!” but agreed to parlez with a couple of the peoples representatives inside the Bastille itself. At about 1.13pm the Vainqueurs patience had reached expiry point and thus with no sign of emergence from their compatriots within the walls, they presumed they’d been royally duped…and so kicked off, properly and noisily by scaling the outer perimeter walls. 

The subsequent fighting and heavy losses to the peoples army continued, until at around 3.09pm the attackers were reinforced by mutinous ‘Gardes Françaises’ and other deserters from among the regular troops, along with two field cannon. The substantial force of Royal Army troops encamped on the nearby Champs de Mars did not intervene as had been expected from the previous day. 

With the possibility of a massacre now all too apparent,  Governor de Launay ordered a cease fire at approx 5.05pm. A letter offering his terms was handed out to the besiegers through a gap in the inner gate. His demands were refused and so de Launay capitulated, as he realised his troops could not hold out for much longer. On opening the gates to the inner courtyard, the Vainqueurs de la Bastille swept in to liberate the fortress at around 5:31pm that same afternoon. Game set and match. Grab the keys to the castle. Job done.

Images courtesy - Flickr
Ninety-eight attackers and one defender had died during the actual fighting. De Launay was immediately seized and dragged towards the Hôtel de Ville in a storm of spitting abuse and harsh language. Outside the Hôtel a discussion as to his fate began. The badly beaten de Launay shouted "Enough! Let me die!" and then quite inexplicably kicked a respected pastry cook named 'Dulait' smack in his jolly old chestnuts.

 Oh dear merde Bernard! Not a good moment to have a bad knee jerk reaction like that one, mon soon to be ex ami. What on 'Bastille Day' were you thinking?!! He was a pastry chef for goodness sake. Duhhh. I would have definitely come up with a better plan than that one bloke! Jeeeze. Bernard-Rene de Launay was then stabbed repeatedly by Dulait's Mother, eight sisters and fourteen cousins, till he finally stopped complaining and lay down on the cobblestone street to take better stock of his predicament. While mulling it over and trying vainly to contrive a better way out, his head was carefully sawn off, kicked rudely around the alleys like a football for a while, before being skewered onto a pike and triumphantly paraded through the streets of the now newly, liberated, Paris. Bernie had clearly shot his last and final bolt then, and is rumoured to have eventually passed away quietly, sometime later that evening.

And so as the flies and dust settled around the Bastille that sultry afternoon, the newly liberated proletariat of France's third estate, together with their numerous representatives from the middle class bourgeoisie, reconstituted themselves as the National Assembly and began a long and eventually even bloodier five year journey away from 100 years of Monarchic French rule and costly feudalism. The foundations of the ‘Republique Francaise’ had been set in stone, a brand new French Constitution would be written, and an awful lot of heads would roll off the guillotines blade, including even those of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette themselves during 1793, before the arrival of yet another keen and highly ambitious dictator nicknamed ‘The little corporal’…during 1799.  

Note: The above video is the whole 30 minute firework display of the Paris 'Bastille Day'
celebrations, as they played out on 14th July 2011.  Spectacular stuff and well worth a view,
as well as a listen, to the lively orchestral soundtrack that accompanies this freshly baked
from 'La Boulangerie' video. Don't forget to click on the 'Full Screen' video button.

Funny that, although in truth it’s not in the least bit funny at all –but what is it about all these young ‘corporals’ that end up bringing Europe to its knees for generations. About 130 years later, didn’t Herr Hindenburg refer to Hitler as "der bohmische Freiter,"… the Bohemian Corporal?

'La Colonne de Juillet' -  'The July Column'  
The commercial memento potential and publicity
 value of the Bastille was quickly seized upon by the entrepreneur Pierre-François Palloy who didn't waste any time at all in establishing a claim to the site, by organising a labour force of some 500 men on the 15th July 1789 – the very next day. Now that’s what I call keen. He then managed to procure a demolition license from the Permanent Committee at the Hotel de Ville, along with a sizable fund of Francs to enable him to secure complete control of the now famous site, as well as hire another 500 or so labourers to speed up the daunting task of dismantling the Bastille altogether.

During the four months that followed, 'Boy Palloy' profited well from the steady and sizable hordes of visitors who flocked in increasing numbers to see the building, having turned the whole area into a paying attraction show, with a vast array of souvenirs on sale as well as the selling of pieces of Bastille rubble, each with an official certificate of authenticity. This guy was clearly one very shrewd chestnut. Imagine if they’d had EBay back then. The site would have crashed with the weight of about 10,000 tonnes of rubble being auctioned off during the following couple of weeks.

The area where the Bastille prison used to stand is now a square called La Place De La Bastille, at the center of which stands the Bastille monument - 'La Colonne de Juillet'

Thinks?   You know…that’s not a bad idea. I mean does anyone actually know of anyone who claims to still have a pile of Bastille rubble locked away in their safety vaults?

Thought not.

Let’s try another one then – Anyone know precisely what a pile of aged and seasoned Bastille rubble actually looks like now?

Take that as a big ‘no’ then too.


Now I know that they used a lot of the Bastille stone to help construct the Pont de la Concorde, just over the Seine River, but I bet there’s not that many French Hawkeyes that could tell you precisely where they actually used it anymore.

So…what’s to stop someone – like me – sneaking down the local quarry at night for the next few months and bish bosh bashing up a few big lorry loads of….

”And I’m afraid that’s all we have time for tonight folks, so it’s ‘Goodnight from Him’…and a big ‘Bon Nuit from me’

"Ta Tahh !!"

Images courtesy - Flickr

P.S. - As an interesting historical footnote to this story:

France is America's oldest ally. It was only through French military intervention, led by the Marquis de Lafayette and Count de Rochambeau, that General George Washington's troops were able to eventually defeat the British. The key to the one time Bastille now resides in George Washington's residence of Mount Vernon.

It was sent to him by Lafayette in 1790…as a peace offering.


"Go on then Mme Fly, I double dan dare you...lash out a few modern references to that then? !!

Saturday, 9 July 2011


Guess what this 'post haste' is all about then??

“…Four red lights…Five red lights……No red lights!!...AND ITS GO GO GO!!!!!..”








EEEEEEEEOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww  www ww w… uhhh w..uh uh uh uhhhhhhhhhhh bish bosh bonky wonky smash…….


Still a big nope?

Okay - give you a clue – It starts when all the lights go out and it ends at a waved chequered flag?

And it’s got naff all to do with a cats choir.

Great bunch of F1 music montage videos below here.

And if you enjoyed the haunting 'deep down south' ballad by Johnny Cash that 
accompanied the above video, you might want to take a look at his original 
video version here. The video visuals & image slide show alone are a work of art.
Seriously not floating your boat still?…no problemo – try this one then …

And if you kinda liked the soundtrack to this short 're-mix' video...well here is the link
                     to the original Kanye West stunning ballet scene  music video which promotes an
 excerpt from his visually sensual film... 'Runaway'.

 Annnddd! - if  you want to fast forward to the 'ballet scene in full' ...
it begins around 10.52 on the video slider bar. 
Open your mind a little.  Enjoy...

Very seriously still not getting your boat there even a little bit wet?....Well try this one too then...

And if you're still not entirely convinced at this point, well "Boo Suck" to you then, cos it's that July month megga event thing that has always rocked my universe, and my much anticipated annual pilgrimage to my own personal Mecca & Medina in a pretty rural part of middle England is nigh on nigh and now only one more night away !!

 Allah is Good, Allah is Good…but if it rains at Silverstone this weekend, well, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will probably prove to be just as divine & spiritual as he is, assuming their respective home GP luck holds out. I hope so anyway, even if this little tome ends up costing me a bit of a Fatwa with my neighbours from downtown Aqaba.

More on me, racing cars and a great many associated adventures and misadventures another time perhaps.

And now for a much needed beer commercial  break – If you’re a bit of a Geezer, you really, really, need to take a gawp at this. No...I mean you really really really really need to - Capiche?!

"...and the Oscar for 'best celebrity blonde in a completely unpretentious role'......
Goes to..."
Okay...that's the end of the commercial break part - where was I ??

Oh yup, here I was…So if you really really really absolutely detest the sound of F1 racing cars, then stick your headphones on, turn up the volume and click to listen to this beautiful selection of birdsong I recorded sometime earlier.

Don’t worry in the slightest about the misleading image of an F1 racing car on the cover of this YouTube video, I just don’t happen to have any images of birds and fluffy baby kittens in my extensive photo collection. Just ‘relax’ put your head back and...delight in the natural sounds of the Northamptonshire countryside in July. I lied a bit.

So if you’re a Brit…’Hoist the Colours’, nail them to the mast, and in the bestest of very patriotic nods to the undying spirit of the British Admiralty’s onetime terms of engagement with the enemy and thus, ‘articles of war’, to all serving warship Captains and Commanders of the British fleet during the earliest days of our 19th century’s Royal Naval history…

”Sir - You are hereby ordered, from this day forward, to pursue and bring to battle, all enemies of his most honorable and glorious Majesty – HRH. King George, wherever, or who so ever they may be, and thence sink, burn, or take them prize. This will remain your most sworn and solemn duty, in the name of the King.”

And so for all those who are about to live right out there on the edge this Sunday afternoon at the much revived and hugely revered Silverstone Race Circuit – I most respectfully and humbly salute you.

Advanced Warning: This is just a little filler ‘postette’ for today. I’m still trying to finish painting and decorating another slightly longer blog post to nail up over the weekend.

No really !

P.S.   Don’t waste your time blogging me on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, cos there’s absolutely no chance in hell what so ever that I’ll ever hear you for all the racket the F1 race cars will be making on my Tv. And anyway…I’d only completely ignore you anways.

No matter what your fancy and in spite of me and one of mine this weekend – have a good one…seriously - Phil.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Tips