French National Anthem

The french national anthem is the song “ La Marseillaise”, written in 1792 in Strasbourg by a French army engineer by the name of Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle. Originally entitled “War Song of the Rhine” it began to be referred to as “La Marseillaise” during the height of the French revolution when troops from Marseille were provided written copies of the song and sang it in the streets during the storming of the Tuileries.  Although it was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1795, “La Marseillaise” was later banned by Napoleon I, Louis XVIII and Napoleon III  who declared other songs as the french national anthem during their time in power.

The controversy which surrounded “La Marseillaise” as the french national anthem stemmed from it’s lyrics which are a rally cry against tyranny and a call to citizens to take up arms against those who threaten  their safety and liberty. Among these lyrics is the chorus “To arms citizens! Form your battalions! Let us march! Let us march! May tainted blood water our fields.” Viewed as inflammatory and an overt call to revolution, it was banned by those regimes who feared an uprising against absolute rule.  Declared as the permanent french national anthem in 1879, “La Marseillaise” remains the national anthem and a great source of national pride for modern day France.

Perhaps one of the more recognizable national anthems, ‘La Marseillaise” has been showcased in classic films such as Casablanca as well as  pop culture mediums such as the American animated television show “The Simpsons”.

Sometimes referred to as the “goriest” national anthem, “La Marseillaise” contains graphic lyrics which describe real violence. For example, the first verse states, “They are coming into our midst to cut the throats of your sons, your wives”. Recently, petitions have been made to modify some of the more violent lyrics contained in the french national anthem. The wife of  Francois Mitterrand, who was President of France from 1981-1995, proposed making slight lyrical changes such as calling citizens to “march hand in hand” rather than calling them “to arms”, among others. Most of the French citizens adamantly refuse any changes and the original lyrics to the french national anthem can still be heard in the official version today.