French Language Blog

Marianne Posted by on Jul 4, 2017 in Culture, Music

Le 14 juillet (July 14th), Bastille Day, is the French national holiday commemorating the start of the French revolution in 1789. The end of the French revolution led to a series of Republics (more below) one of the symbols of which is la Marianne.


Named for the two most common woman’s names at the time, Marie and Anne, Marianne is a national symbol of France representing liberty and the importance of reason. Her image appears on stamps, on government documents, and a bust of her appears in les mairies (the town / city halls) of France.

Early images of Marianne were based on anonymous models, however since 1969 they have been based on the features of famous woman including Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, the model Inès de La Fressange, and more.

The song below by French singer Michel Delpech celebrates her place in France and her role as mère des cinq Républiques* (mother of the five French Republics).

Elle est née dans le Paris, mille-sept-cent quatre-vingt-dix She was born in Paris, seventeen hundred and ninety
Comme une rose épanouie Like a fresh opened rose
Au jardin des fleurs de lys** In a garden of lily flowers
Marianne a cinq enfants Marianne has five children
Qu’elle élève de son mieux That she raises as best she can
Marianne a maintenant Marianne now has
Quelques rides au coin des yeux A few wrinkles in the corners of / around her eyes
Dieu God
Mais que Marianne était jolie How pretty she was, Marianne
Quand elle marchait dans les rues de Paris When she marched in the streets of Paris
En chantant à pleine voix Singing out (loud)
“Ça ira, ça ira***, toute la vie” “All will be well, all will be fine, all life long”
Dieu God
Mais que Marianne était jolie How pretty she was, Marianne
Quand elle embrasait le cœur de Paris When she embraced the heart of Paris
En criant dessus les toits Shouting over the roofs / rooftops
“Ça ira, ça ira, toute la vie” “All will be well, all will be fine, all life long”
Il n’y a pas si longtemps It wasn’t so long ago
Que l’on se battait pour elle That one fought for her
On a connu des printemps And new springs / spring times
Qui brillaient sous son soleil That shone under her sun
Marianne a cinq enfants Marianne has five children
Quatre fils qu’elle a perdus Four sons that she has lost
Le cinquième à présent The fifth now
Qu’elle ne reconnaît plus She no longer recognizes
Refrain x2 Refrain x2

* At key moments in the history of the last 200 and more years, major events have shaken France and led the people to dissolve the existing government (following further revolutions, or wars) and rewrite the governing documents of the country. Since the Revolution, France has had five different consitutions or five Republics.
** The fleur-de-lys is a stylized lily flower symbol used in heraldry and closely associated with the French monarchy. The allusion here of course is to the French revolution and the end of the monarchy.
*** Ça ira, ça ira! is another symbol of the French Revolution featured in a song popularized at the time and attributed at least by some to the American Benjamin Franklin and his assurances when asked about the state of the American Revolution was known to say “Ça ira, ça ira.”

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.