History of Europe

Charlotte Corday, the swaddle who assassinated Marat

Charlotte Corday (1768-1793) is a French aristocrat known for having assassinated the revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat. “I killed a man to save a hundred thousand.” she will say. By this very symbolic act, accomplished by herself and in the name of the principles of 1789, she became the most famous woman of the French Revolution, later nicknamed "angel of assassination" by Lamartine. Arrested and imprisoned, Charlotte Corday was brought before the Revolutionary Court, which sentenced her to capital punishment. His gesture did not appease France, which sank into the murderous madness of the Terror.

1793:revolutionary France in turmoil

1793:France revolutionary is torn between the Girondin moderates and the mountain extremists. The country faces an economic crisis, aggravated by the internal troubles which followed the death of Louis XVI, guillotined on January 20, and the military failures against the close and hostile monarchies. It was in these conditions of great national excitement that the mountain dwellers ended up pushing the Girondins aside by force, under the leadership of Danton, Robespierre and Marat.

Before proclaiming himself torchbearer of the revolution and "friend of the people", Jean Paul Marat was a royalist, working as a doctor to Louis XVI's own brother. His career not having had the success he had hoped for, he embraced the cause of the revolution, was elected deputy and made it his mission to educate the people through his newspaper. Megalomaniac and paranoid, but popular and talented, he quickly turns into a bloodthirsty monster, calling for the death of aristocrats, the rich, profiteers... to the murder of pseudo traitors to the revolution, with alas some success.

Charlotte Corday and the assassination of Marat

In June 1793, Marie-Anne Charlotte Corday d'Armont met several Girondin refugees in Normandy after their proscription and became friends with them. Born on July 27, 1768, from a family of Norman aristocrats, and above all great-grand-niece of Pierre Corneille, Charlotte Corday has since her childhood been very influenced by tragic literature and ancient heroes, as well as by the romantic ideal of the honor and duty. She is a woman of spirit, a convinced republican and an idealist, deeply repugnant to the bloodthirsty madness of the Marats and their associates. Noting the inaction of her Girondin friends, she suddenly decided to take action.

Charlotte Corday leaves Caen to go to Paris, without it being known whether she had already intended to 'murder Marat . Yet this is the outcome that she imagines, hoping by this act to put an end to the murderous frenzy that has seized the revolutionaries. Once the decision is made, she hopes to be able to kill Marat on the podium of the Convention to make his gesture even more spectacular, unaware that he no longer leaves his home. After writing her will to explain and justify her act, she goes to see Marat, thwarting the vigilance of those close to her. She ends up meeting him at his home under the pretext of revealing to him what is going on in Caen. Without a shadow of hesitation, she stabs him in the chest while he is in his bath.

Charlotte Corday's trial and the beginning of the Terror

Immediately apprehended, she does not seek to escape her destiny . before the revolutionary court, she faces her judges with great courage and dignity, accepting her death sentence in advance. “You only die once . she will say. At the bar she castigates the executioners who assassinate freedom, including the infamous Fouquier-Tinville who faces her. She was condemned on July 17, 1793 and taken to the guillotine, facing popular condemnation which celebrated her revolutionary martyrdom. She climbs the scaffold without weakening, quoting her illustrious ancestor "To die for the country is not a sad fate, it is to be immortalized by a beautiful death . »

His gesture will not have the expected result. The assassination of Marat provokes a wave of violence and repression which preludes the establishment of the Terror. Like a lyrical heroine , it was in the name of republican principles that Charlotte Corday assassinated Marat. The latter also said one day "It is through violence that we must establish freedom . It was heard by a brave and perhaps a little naive woman who felt that freedom was well worth its own sacrifice.

Non-exhaustive bibliography

- By Jean-Denis Bredin, "You only die once:Charlotte Corday". Fayard, 2006.

- Memoirs of Charlotte Corday:Written in the days before her execution of Catherine Decours. Plon, 2009.

To go further

- DVD:Charlotte Corday:The Assassination of Marat. 2009.