Bastille Day in pictures: 100 years of France's national celebration

Bastille Day in 2019 and 1944
Bastille Day in 2019 and 1944 Copyright AP Photo
By Natalia Liubchenkova
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Milestones of history revealed through photographs of Bastille Day, from 1919 to the present.


Bastille Day or Fête Nationale is celebrated across France on 14 July. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 by a mob of Parisians during the opening stages of the French Revolution.

On this day, the French capital, Paris, holds its famous 14 July military parade, called 'Défilé militaire', and traditional firework displays across the country are very popular.

The collection of photographs from as early as 1919 to the present day witness the transformation of France as well as the world. Post-war rebuilding and changes in power as well as fashion.

Browse through the photo selection to see how France and its national day of celebration has evolved through history.


The US Army parades in Paris on Bastille Day, July 14, 1919AP
Thousands of people march at Place de la Nation to celebrate Bastille Day, the victory of the Popular Front at the elections and the achievement of the May-June strikes. 1936AFP
A massive demonstration in Paris celebrating the spring strikes that have come to the labour satisfaction, including paid holidays and a 40 hours week. 14 July 1936AFP
King Carol of Romania and the Sultan of Morocco watching the military review in Paris. July 14, 1937AP
A big military parade is held in Paris on July 14, 1939, the 150th anniversary of the fall of the Bastille during the French RevolutionAP


Children join the march past ruined homes in Isigny, France, to participate in ceremonies marking Bastille Day at the village war memorial. July 14, 1944AP
British troops play a football match against the local French team. The liberated towns are able to openly celebrate July 14th, without fear of German reprisals. 1944AP
B.I. Sanders/AP
Winston Churchill greets the inhabitants of Metz, as he rides through the streets, en route to a civic banquet held in his honour during July 14 celebrations in 1944B.I. Sanders/AP


The flag-decorated top of the Eiffel Tower is illuminated by searchlights during Paris’ Bastille Day celebrations on July 14, 1951AP
French General Charles de Gaulle and French President Rene Coty wave to the crowd during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris. July 14, 1958AFP


Fireworks light up the skies above the Sacre Coeur in the French capital Paris as part of France's annual Bastille Day celebrations. July 14, 1967AFP
The annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris. July 14, 1968AFP


First lady Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing (R) and Emperess Farah Diba of Iran (L) attend the military parade, as part of France's annual July 14 celebrations in Paris. 1977AFP


Frenchman Bernard Hinault is encouraged by the public, on July 14, 1981, during the 17th stage of the Tour de France cycling between Morzine and Alpe d'HuezAFP
President Francois Mitterrand and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac reviewing the troops on the Champs-Elysées. July 14, 1987AFP


Jacques Brinon/AP
Fireworks behind the Eiffel Tower on the eve of the Bastille Day in Paris. More than 100,000 people attended the traditional fireworks from the Champ de Mars garden in 1994Jacques Brinon/AP
Guests at the traditional Bastille Day garden party rush to welcome Nelson Mandela and Jacques Chirac in the gardens of the Élysée Palace following the military parade. 1996GERARD FOUET/POOL/AFP
French Alpha Jets sweep over the Arc de Triomphe during the July 14 military parade. July 14, 1994THOMAS COEX/AFP
French President Jacques Chirac responds to the questions of journalists during a television interview in the gardens of the Elysee Palace during a traditional party. 1998JEAN-CHRISTOPHE KAHN/AFP


A child is photographed on an armoured vehicle parked next to the Champs Elysees in Paris before the Bastille Day parade. July 14, 2007THIBAULT CAMUS/AP
Jacques Brinon/AP
Spectators use periscopes to view the parade on the Champs Elysees during Bastille day ceremonies in Paris. July 14, 2008Jacques Brinon/AP


July 14, 2010 - Eric Feferberg/AP
Watched by Cameroon's first lady, Chantal Biya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy kisses the hand of his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, during the annual July 14 military paradeJuly 14, 2010 - Eric Feferberg/AP
A French Special Forces paratrooper lands in the Place de la Concorde during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Elysee Avenue in Paris. July 14, 2010FRANCOIS MORI/AP
France's President Francois Hollande shakes hands with the crowd on the Place de la Concorde after the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris. July 14, 2012BENOIT TESSIER/AFP
People pay tribute to the victims of an attack in Nice, on July 15, 2016, a day after a man rammed a truck through a crowd celebrating France's national holidayVALERY HACHE/AFP
Army officers gather before the start of the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP
Firefighters lift a barricade as protestors linked to the Yellow Vests movement take part in a demonstration in Paris during France’s national day celebrationsKENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP


Seats covered in plastic are ready for guests in Paris. This year the July 14 parade is being replaced with a tribute to health workers fighting the pandemic. July 12, 2020THOMAS SAMSON/AFP
Ludovic Marin/AP
President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex wore face masks at the end of 2020 military parade. July 14, 2020.Ludovic Marin/AP
Francois Mori/AP
France's marine soldiers observe a 1m social distance as they wait before the start of the Bastille Day military parade. July 14, 2020.Francois Mori/AP
Fireworks explode above the Eiffel Tower as part of the annual Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on July 14, 2020ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP
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