France is a country of many significant dates, but only one is commemorated in both a street name and a Metro station in Paris. On this September 4th, I ask this question - what happened on the quatre septembre?
This particular date is not as well-known as July 14th, November 11th or May 8th in the country's history, but it is still a fondly remembered date in some circles. Of course though, there is also a certain controversy attached to its remembrance and celebration.
This particular September 4th was in 1870, and it marked the moment that a group of individuals in Paris proclaimed the beginning of a new Republic (the third) following the capture of Napoleon III by the Prussians in Sedan.
This proclamation brought to an end France's second empire, but as it also coincided with the invasion of France by the Prussians, its constitutional laws weren't actually voted until 1875. The September 4th date is therefore a purely symbolic one.
So why is it a controversial date to remember today? Firstly the third Republic ended in failure 70 years later in 1940, when once again France was invaded by a German army. Today France is under a 5th Republic, but nobody celebrates the date this one was proclaimed (October 4th 1958). More importantly, the third Republic began with the overthrowing of the Commune in Paris in 1871, when around 20,000 people were killed in Paris by Government forces. Many people today believe therefore that the country should not celebrate a date which is linked to such violent repression of a popular uprising.
However, given the fact that this date is known mostly today as being the name of a city-centre Metro station, it is unlikely to disappear from Paris street maps anytime soon!