After France declared war on Austria on April 20, 1792, the mayor of Strasbourg expressed the need for a marching song that would rally troops to “defend their homeland that is under threat”. When Rouget de Lisle stationed at Strasbourg, this lowly army officer has responded to the call by composing both the words and music of “La Marseillaise” (April 24, 1792). Originally this song was entitled “Chant de guerre de l’armée du Rhin” (“War Song of the Army of the Rhine”); it gained its familiar title “La Marseillaise” because of its popularity with volunteer army units from Marseille.
It was made France’s anthem in 1795 but lost its status under Napoleon I and was suppressed during the Bourbon restoration. However, La Marseillaise was reinstated in 1879 and has remained as the national anthem since then.
The message of defiance and resistance have proven incredibly potent at key history moments in France’s history. Nevertheless, La Marseillaise’s martial theme has been controversial due to the “fairly bloodthirsty” lyrics. The anthem contains lines about “ferocious soldiers” who are “coming to cut the throats of your sons, your women”. Considering it too warlike, Valery Giscard d’Esta, the president of France from 1974 to 1981, slowed the rhythm. La Marseillaise today is less warlike but still inspiring.
Vive La France!!