MIDLAND, MICHIGAN | She arrived just in time. On Wednesday night, Celine Boutier, the 28-year-old two-time LPGA Tour winner from Paris, flew to France to spend a few days near home before the next major, the Amundi Evian Championship. She landed on July 14, a date that means little to the rest of the world but one that holds a special place in the hearts of the French.
July 14 is the day France celebrates independence, the start of the revolution that overthrew the monarchy and instituted what we now know as a modern Western republic. In the English-speaking world, it’s known as Bastille Day. It is a day of celebrations and parades, picnics and fireworks. The Tour de France is underway, and throngs of cycling fans line the route waving flags. Others look forward to a day off from work to stroll the streets and enjoy one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating,” said Boutier. “I celebrated it more when I was still living in France because it’s the national holiday there and here (in the U.S.) it’s not celebrated at all. We always took the day off in France and there is always big shows and celebrations, especially Paris. It’s just a nice holiday for us.”
In Midland during a Wednesday rain delay at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, Pauline Roussin, the 22-year-old Frenchwoman and LPGA Tour rookie who was the No.1-ranked amateur in the world, was asked how she celebrates Bastille Day.
The look she gave said it all. She has no idea. “What is that?” she asked.
Even after “Bastille Day” was repeated, she looked like she’d been asked a chemistry question. Then it hit her. “Oh, Fête Nationale,” she said, which is how the French refer to the day. “Oh yeah, it’s a big deal in France, a celebration of French culture and an honor to the military. The parades are really special. They are something to see.”
Boutier agreed. “Here (in the States) the Fourth of July is a little more intense, but it’s the same idea. The celebrations are bigger in Paris, but they take place everywhere in the countryside. You can go anywhere and see the fireworks.”
Like Paul Revere’s ride, the Boston Tea Party, and the battles of Lexington and Concord, the events of Fête Nationale or Bastille Day read like many 18th-century uprisings - a smoke-filled hell marred by confusion and miscommunication. On July 14, 1789, amid rampant inflation and political turmoil, a group of citizens, fearful that King Louis XVI was about to unleash the royal army on his political opponents, staged an insurrection, storming a prison (the Bastille) known for housing the king’s critics as well as an armory (the Hôtel des Invalides) to seize muskets and cannons. It turned out that the Bastille held only seven prisoners that day, none of any political significance. Still, a pitch battle ensued, one where 200 rebels perished as well as Bernard René Jourdan, the governor (or commanding officer) of the Bastille and Jacques de Flesselles, the mayor of the area and a man considered the first official government casualty of the French Revolution.
Three weeks later, the French general assembly formally abolished feudalism. And on August 26 of that year, the Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (Declaration of the Rights of Man as a Citizen) were proclaimed.
Turmoil followed. A little more than five years later, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette (who never actually said “let them eat cake”) were beheaded. In the ensuing months, revolutionaries experimented with everything from year-zero collectivism to anarchy. During the period known as the Reign of Terror, the machine named after Joseph-Ignace Guillotine got a workout with thousands of beheadings ultimately ending with the crowning of an emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.
But the French people never forgot the feelings inspired by the storming of the Bastille, the longing to throw off the shackles of feudalism and embrace republicanism.
“It is part of our history, and we look at it with pride,” Boutier said. “When I was younger growing up, I didn’t appreciate the day and what it represented until I got older.
“Then in my time in college, I saw Americans celebrating the Fourth of July and it made me a little sad. It made me realize that I should celebrate being from France. It’s a huge day in our history and it should definitely be celebrated and remembered accordingly.
“You think about how we live today and it’s easy to believe that the freedoms you have are normal and the way things should be. But we have definitely come a long way (from the days of the monarchy).
“I think it’s nice to celebrate each country’s independence. (Bastille Day) is special to me because France is where I’m from. But it’s nice to celebrate this sort of holiday with everyone.”