France Virtuelle,  French Revolution

France Virtuelle July 2022: Month of Revolution

It’s Bastille Day 2022!!  To celebrate July, aka Revolution Month, France Virtuelle takes us back to the French Revolution.  Steer clear of the guillotine and join us as we go back to 18th Century France!

Every July I like to reflect on the French Revolution: what happened, how it happened, what was it like?  As an American, it’s easy to see that we have so many ties to the French Revolution, especially through our own revolution.  Both were based on the same philosophical and Enlightenment ideas.  Without France, we most likely would not have won against Britain.  And without the cost of that support, France would not have been so badly in debt—weakening the crown and hurting the French people. To say nothing of our failure to pay back our debts. 😐 Even our earliest diplomatic triumph was the French monarchy recognizing the U.S. as an independent state! 

And, of course, we both started our revolutions in the month of July.  Vive juillet!

The Path To Revolution

How did France get to the point of revolution?  This wonderful documentary, with gorgeous location filming at Versailles, shows us the POV of the nobility and especially of Louis XVI.  We have the combination of a well-meaning but weak-willed king, profound national debt, and increasing hardship on the regular people coming together to create a deadly and violent revolution. 

WARNING:  The video contains graphic sexual images. The Ancien Regime was not a prudish time—at least for the nobility and in graphic political satire!

Do you have any new sympathy for Louis and Marie Antoinette? Or is it “off with their heads!” in your opinion? I don’t think they deserved to die. They were largely the victims of inherited baggage and good intentions gone wrong. But, if they had survived there would have been endless coups and possibly civil war. The other crowned heads of Europe and the royalists inside France would have endlessly attempted to restore Louis to the throne. Though maybe the National Assembly would have taken a constitutional monarchy over 100 years of hot mess if they had only known?

Want more? This video is part of an excellent three-part series on Versailles and the Louises (what is the plural of Louis?!).  Watch Louis XIV and Louis XV in these truly stunning and informative videos!  Same warning applies, naturellement.

Robespierre:  Architect of Terror

Even if you only have a passing knowledge of the French Revolution, you probably know that one of the leaders was fond of striped waistcoats.  That smirky stripe-loving revolutionary was Maximilien Robespierre.  In addition to his wardrobe, Robespierre is most famous for his prominent role in the darkest part of the Revolution, fittingly known as The Reign of Terror.  Because The Terror was so incredibly, well, terrible, we tend to only see Maximilien as a one-dimensional bad guy whose eventual execution was well deserved. 

But who was Robespierre?  How did he become one of the most feared revolutionaries in a very scary revolution?  The folks at The People Profiles have given us a very well-done documentary on one of the most notorious men in French history.  Check it out!

Experiencing The Revolution

Only the most ardent of revolutionaries wouldn’t need a break after the documentaries! To take it down to just a little civil unrest, let’s see how we can experience the Revolution from our own homes.

Revolutionary Potatoes

Of course, we need a snack at this point!  Max Miller of Tasting History has brought us this delightful look at the history of the potato in France, culminating in the liberation of the potato for the French people.   All while making a tasty looking dish.  🥔

I’m so glad that potatoes are back on the menu in France.  Like most things food-related, the French really know what to do with a potato! 

I haven’t had a chance to make this yet.  Please let us know if you make the recipe! 

Finding La Bastille

After La Bastille Prison/Fortress was stormed on July 14, 1789, it was pretty much promptly torn down. It is now what Rick Steves calls one of Europe’s most famous non-sights.  But if you know where to look, you can still find little bits and pieces of the Bastille Fortress around Paris and even around France.  The always entertaining Tim Traveller shows us where we can find these vestiges of the past!

Note that this is also a vestige of the past, as it was filmed during a period of 2020 restrictions in Paris.

Have you ever noticed any of these remnants of the Bastille? Even though we know it was huge from historic drawings, it is still incredible to see the scale of it outlined on the ground. It would have dominated that part of Paris!

If you would like to see the miniature Bastille carved from a stone of the Bastille, the Musée Carnavalet is now back open after it’s pandemic-delayed remodel. Even better than baby Bastilles? It’s free to the public!

Getting Ready For Bastille Day

Now that you are in the proper mood, here’s a sneak peak at the Eiffel Tower’s preparation for the big celebration!

I hope you enjoyed this look at the French Revolution, from the (hopefully) mob-free comfort of your own home! Did you prefer learning about the food, the revolutionary, or the fall of the monarchy best? And will you celebrate Bastille Day? How?

I’ll be trying to stay cool, finally getting the next podcast done (my computer has enacted its own rebellion this month!), and maybe singing a revolutionary song or two while I’m at it. 😁

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

À bientôt!


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