Historical Figures

Charlotte Corday, political fanaticism

Murderer of Jean-Paul Marat, Marie-Anne-Charlotte de Corday d'Armont was guillotined in 1793 in Paris. She is a great figure of the French Revolution.

A strong character

Daughter of Charlotte-Marie-Jacqueline de Gautier des Authieux de Mesnival and Jacques-François de Corday d'Armont , Charlotte was born in 1768 into a noble but downgraded family. She is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Pierre Corneille.

When she was 13, her mother died and her father, finding himself in difficulty, tried to place his children. Charlotte thus finds herself placed, with her sister, at the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen, where she benefits from a quality education. She cultivates a conservative but sincere faith and studies philosophy, reading Rousseau and Montesquieu. Energetic and independent, Charlotte has a strong personality and is said to have a "man's character".

"Knock off Marat's head and the country is saved"

When she left the abbey, Charlotte Corday returned to her father's house for a while, then, at the beginning of 1791, she went to live with an aunt in Caen, in the midst of revolutionary fever. She defends her constitutional ideas there and learns of the king's arrest in Varennes. Between September 2 and 7, 1792, suspects, relatives and servants of the king were summarily executed and Charlotte, like the feminist Olympe de Gouges, was indignant to see that the Jacobin deputy Jean-Paul Marat approved of these massacres.

In Caen, Charlotte attended meetings organized by Girondin deputies on several occasions. Learning the circumstances of the days of rioting on May 31 and June 2, 1793, she convinced herself that it was legitimate to use illegal means in the struggle and that Marat was the enemy of France; the Girondin deputy Pezenas would indeed have explained:"Drop Marat's head and the country is saved". Making him her target, she is persuaded to deliver the people from a tyrant.

The assassination of Marat

Leaving Caen for Paris, Charlotte Corday seeks to be received for Marat on the morning of July 13, 1793, without success. She ends up sending him two notes, talking about conspiracies hatched in Caen to convince him to receive her, and goes directly to his house. She then manages to get introduced near Marat who, suffering, is in his bath. They talk for a few moments then Charlotte takes out a knife and stabs Marat, who dies in his bathtub, the blade going through his right lung and his heart.

Marat's mistress and the people of the house subdue Charlotte, who is taken to the Abbey prison. On July 16, she appeared before the Revolutionary Tribunal. She claimed her act there, was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to death. The execution takes place the next day. When she climbs the scaffold, calm, she wears, on court order, a red shirt usually reserved for parricides.

Here is the letter written to the people by Charlotte Corday before the assassination, and found on her during her search at the Abbey prison:

“How long, O wretched Frenchman, will you delight in trouble and division? Too long enough rebels, scoundrels, have put the interest of their ambition in place of the general interest; why, victims of their fury, annihilate yourselves, to establish the desire of their tyranny on the ruins of France?

"Factions are breaking out on all sides, the Mountain triumphs through crime and oppression, a few blood-soaked monsters are driving these hateful plots... We are working out our own ruin with more zeal and energy than any never put it to conquer freedom! O Frenchman, a little more time, and you will only be left with the memory of your existence!

“Already the indignant departments march on Paris, already the fire of discord and civil war kindles half of this vast empire; there is still a means of extinguishing it, but this means must be prompt. Already the vilest of villains, Marat, whose name alone presents the image of all crimes, by falling under the avenging iron, shakes the Mountain and makes Danton, Robespierre, those other brigands seated on this bloody throne, surrounded by the thunderbolt, which the avenging gods of humanity no doubt suspend only to make their fall more dazzling, and to frighten all those who would be tempted to establish their fortune on the ruins of deceived peoples!

" French ! you know your enemies, rise up! Walk! that the annihilated Mountain leaves no more brothers, friends! I don't know if heaven has a republican government in store for us, but it can only give us a Montagnard as a master in the excess of its vengeance […] O France! your rest depends on the execution of the laws; I do not harm it by killing Marat:condemned by the universe, he is outlawed. What court will try me? If I'm guilty, then Alcide was when he destroyed the monsters! […]

“O my homeland! Your misfortunes tear my heart; I can only offer you my life! and I thank heaven for the freedom I have to dispose of it; no one will lose by my death; I will not imitate Paris by killing myself. I want my last sigh to be useful to my fellow citizens, that my head carried in Paris be a rallying sign for all friends of the law! let the Shaking Mountain see its loss written in my blood! may I be their last victim, and may the avenged universe declare that I have deserved well of mankind! For the rest, if my conduct was seen in a different light, I worry little about it:May the universe surprise this great deed, Be it an object of horror or admiration My mind, little jealous of live in memory, Consider not reproach or glory. Always independent and always a citizen, My duty is enough for me, all the rest is nothing, Come on, think only of getting out of slavery!…

"My parents and my friends should not be worried, no one knew my plans. I attach my baptismal certificate to this address, to show what the weakest hand can be, led by complete devotion. If I don't succeed in my business, Frenchman! I showed you the way, you know your enemies; stand up ! Walk! Strike! »