BBC History Magazine

ANNIVERSARIES

24 APRIL 1792

War-torn France is spurred by song

The “Marseillaise” inspires the revolutionary nation to fight another day

In the late spring of 1792, revolutionary France had declared war on Austria. A coalition of enemies would soon be at the country’s frontiers, and thousands of men were marching to battle.

In Strasbourg, two men were having dinner at the local Masonic lodge, a magnet for reformers and free thinkers. One was the city’s mayor, Baron de Dietrich. The other was an officer in the local corps of military engineers, one Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle. Their talk turned to the best way to inspire the troops in France’s hour of need, and the mayor had an idea. “Mr de Lisle, write us a song that

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