Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anniversary of La Marseillaise

Can you listen to the French national anthem without wanting to jump out of your seat? When you hear its pulsing rhythms, you can picture the men and women at the barricades ala Les Miserables? How about Victor Lazlo singing La Marseillaise at Rick's Saloon incurring the wrath of the Germans? This song causes you to react, which was the point. Below is the history of the anthem taken in its entirety from Wikipedia. (I didn't even bother to paraphrase.)

de Lisle singing his composition
for Mayor of Strousbourg
On 25 April 1792, the mayor of Strasbourg requested his guest. Rouget de Lisle. compose a song “that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat.” That evening, de Lisle wrote Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham. The melody soon became the rallying call to the French Revolution and was adopted as La Marseillaise after the melody was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés) from Marseille. These fédérés were making their entryway into the city of Paris on 30 July 1792 after a young volunteer from Montpelier named Francois Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseille, and the troops adopted it as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille. A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoleon a nd died in Egypt at age 28.

The song’s lyrics reflect the invasion of France by foreign armies (from Prussia and Austria) that were underway when it was written. Strasbourg itself was attacked just a few days later. The invading forces were repulsed from France following their defeat in the Battle of Valmy.

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France’s first anthem. It later lost this status under Napoleon,* and the song was banned outright by Louis XVIII and Napoleon III, only being re-instated briefly after the July Revolution of 1830. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, “La Marseillaise” was recognized as the anthem of the international revolutionary movement; as such, it was adopted by the Paris Commune in 1871. Eight years later, in 1879, it was restored as France’s national anthem and has remained so ever since.

*I find this odd, especially when you consider that it ended up on the Arc de Triomphe, an arch celebrating Napoleon's victories.

Arc de Triomphe


  1. Interesting. I always knw I am going to learn something when I read one of your posts. Seeing the Arc de Triomphe makes me want to read Anna and the French kiss by Stephanie Perkins again.
    Enjoy your trip!

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