Things I’ve just learned: the Marquis de Sade played an important role in Bastille Day. Also, it’s not Bastille Day.
But, first, the Marquis. Apparently, the Marquis de Sade was one of eight prisoners in the Bastille in early July of 1789. (He had been imprisoned several times before but was currently behind bars due to his mother-in-law, who was furious that he had seduced his sister-in-law.) From the Writer’s Almanac:
The Marquis was annoyed because the threat of revolution meant that he was not allowed to walk freely along the ramparts of the Bastille. So he converted his urine funnel into a megaphone and shouted provoking statements through the windows of his cell — he claimed that his fellow prisoners were being brutally massacred, and called on the people to come rescue them. He made it all up, but he riled up the crowd and made the guards nervous, so on July 4th they had him transferred to an insane asylum. Ten days later, hundreds of revolutionaries stormed the Bastille. The seven remaining prisoners were freed, and Governor de Launy, who was in charge of the prison, was murdered and his head was paraded around Paris on a pike.
In fairness, I go a little insane when I’m deprived of my daily constitutional too.
Anyway, just when I was delighting over the absurdity of France’s national holiday, when I read (via Reihan) that France’s holiday is not actually that absurd. According to the Business Insider (Europe), “The National Holiday celebrates the Fête de la Fédération, which occured on July 14th 1790.” The article’s author sounded pretty irritated by the common error. “It’s like if we French people referred to your Independence Day as “Constitution Day” or “Football Day.” It’s not! It’s Independence Day!” Fair enough. But Independence Day is also the fourth of July.
(Miscellany’s first hint of color! Exciting.) A couple of years ago, I wrote about my friend David Mahfouda’s giant flag, and about his civic project. Maybe it’s not on point–but I think it is. (One of the casualties of the Newsweek/Daily Beast merge was the photographs–a real loss! They’re wonderful. One is above.) I end the piece by talking about carrying the flag from my grandfather’s landing craft at D Day. I seem to be writing about my grandfather a lot lately.
Bastille Day–I mean the Fête de la Fédération–was also my grandfather’s birthday.