CommunityEmbassy Row

Ambassador Delaye delivering his Bastille Day speech

by Karen Blythe
Photos: Lola H. Robles


It’s cold. Winter seems to have dug its heels in and no amount of push and shove could dislodge it. For sure we won’t be getting those exciting golden days until it’s July and we’re well and truly into summer. Warm memories will just have to tide us over until then.

The storming of the Bastille, a prison that symbolized the tyranny of the French kings, on 14 July 1789, signaled the beginning of the French Revolution (liberté, egalité, fraternité), a revolution that would give birth to modern France. It marked the end of the ancien régime and its absolute monarchy. (Now what, magnificent Sun King?)

Unfailingly and lavishly as befits an old kingdom (turned proud republic) that had seen the height of grandeur, the French celebrate Bastille Day every year on the date. Back in France the climax of the celebration is the grand military parade down the Champs-Élysées, followed by the garden party at the Palais d´Elysée, and then the all-night parties across the nation.

The French embassy in Madrid led by the Ambassador, currently His Excellency Bruno Delaye, echoes these festivities.

We can still see the fête amidst the vivid colors of summer: the reception with diplomats of many embassies and dignitaries and luminaries from the public and the private sectors attending, and the garden party that swings on to the pulsating event of the night (no offence meant but being held during one of those typically vibrant nights in Madrid, the happening reminds us of a Spanish verbena!) where the young and the not-so-young dance till the wee hours. As it should be. Whether in France or outside, it’s after all La Fête Nationale.

The memory of the occasion is the kind that makes the bleak winter that much more bearable: as sure as France’s colors are red, white and blue, the sunny Bastille Day celebration will come around again. We do have the revolutionaries to thank for that and, infinitely more important of course, for the deeper meaning of it: the modernization of the Western political panorama.

Strictly speaking, what the 14th of July officially celebrates is the Fête de la Fédération heldon that day but in 1790 on account of the establishment of the constitutional monarchy. The Fête de la Fédération was about national reconciliation and unity under the new monarchy which, it was hoped, would put a Happy End to the French Revolution. (It, however, gave way all too soon to the First Republic.)


Distinguished guests
All-night dancing