Off with his head! How the architect of the French Revolution ended with his own neck on the block


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The Fall Of Robespierre: 24 Hrs In Groundbreaking Paris 

by Colin Jones (OUP £25, 592pp)  

Sitting down in a Paris prison cell in 1794, halfway by the French Revolution, the stunning younger aristocrat Theresa Cabarrus wrote a despairing — and bitter — letter to her lover, telling him she would shortly be despatched to the guillotine.

The former evening she had dreamed that Robespierre — the country’s most feared chief, who experienced engineered her arrest as an ‘enemy of the Republic’ — was gone and that the country’s prisons ended up open up.

‘But thanks to your apparent cowardice, there soon will be no just one remaining in France capable of producing my desire come correct,’ she wrote. However by the next working day, after a single of the most remarkable 24 hrs in the background of the French Revolution, the all-highly effective Robespierre had been deposed in a rebellion led by Theresa’s lover.

Maximilien Robespierre an obscure provincial law firm, had savored a dizzying rise since the early days of the Revolution in 1789. Common riots, sparked by higher foodstuff costs, unemployment and crippling social inequality, experienced led to a series of radical new regulations together with state manage of the Catholic Church and the abolition of feudalism.

The Tumble Of Robespierre: 24 Hours In Revolutionary Paris explores how the architect of French Revolution, Maximilien Robespierre  — the country’s most feared leader — finished with his neck on the guillotine

The Initial French Republic was recognized in 1792, and the next 12 months the king, Louis XVI, and his queen, Marie Antoinette, have been executed.

Within a few a long time of his arrival in Paris, Robespierre had come to be the top member of a tiny legislative committee which exerted nearly full regulate over the French government. 

However not a natural orator, he had the means to thrill and encourage his listeners although also striking terror into those who opposed him. His stony expression and silent stare could ‘stop developed gentlemen in their tracks and induce devastating despair’, in accordance to historian Colin Jones.

Robespierre savored movie star position in Paris and had a particularly solid subsequent amongst gals, despite the fact that it was rumoured that he was even now a virgin. 

He lodged with a carpenter and his spouse and children, taking pleasure in a cosy domesticity completely at odds with his chilly and distant personality, normally likely for walks with his landlord’s daughters and savoring picnics in the park with them.

Even though he felt excellent affinity with the sans-culottes, the working class revolutionaries in their shabby outfits, he was a dandy who wore silk stockings and powdered his hair. Like quite a few a tyrant, Robespierre was prickly and slim-skinned about criticism.

In the Revolution’s early times he experienced been an ardent advocate of flexibility of the Push, but as quickly as he received into electrical power his sights modified.

Maximilien Robespierre (pictured), an obscure provincial lawyer, had enjoyed a dizzying rise since the early days of the Revolution in 1789 and although he felt great affinity with the working class revolutionaries, he was a dandy who wore silk stockings and powdered his hair

Maximilien Robespierre (pictured), an obscure provincial law firm, had savored a dizzying rise considering the fact that the early days of the Revolution in 1789 and even though he felt excellent affinity with the doing work class revolutionaries, he was a dandy who wore silk stockings and powdered his hair

‘Freedom of the Press is only for times of tranquillity,’ he declared. ‘We should proscribe writers, as the most perilous enemies of the people.’

In an echo of 21st century politics, he regularly fulminated versus ‘false news’ most of which, he was persuaded, was being stirred up by the English.

Formerly opposed to the loss of life penalty, he soon turned its biggest fanatic and personally signed more than 500 arrest warrants. He had driven through a law which permitted juries to pass sentences based mostly on ‘moral conviction’ fairly than evidence, and defendants no for a longer period had the right to a law firm.

This ushered in the blood-soaked period of The Terror, the place perceived enemies of the Revolution — mostly aristocrats, priests and these accused of hoarding — faced severe summary justice.

Whilst large quantities continue to turned out to check out executions, by July 1794 unease more than the number of fatalities was intensifying, in particular as it was no more time just aristocrats who were being guillotined. Now men and women from humble backgrounds, this sort of as grocers and chambermaids, had been getting loaded into the tumbrils.

In 1794, midway through the French Revolution, the beautiful young aristocrat Theresa Cabarrus (pictured) wrote a despairing — and bitter — letter to her lover, Jean-Lambert Tallien, from a Paris prison cell, telling him she would soon be sent to the guillotine

In 1794, midway as a result of the French Revolution, the beautiful youthful aristocrat Theresa Cabarrus (pictured) wrote a despairing — and bitter — letter to her lover, Jean-Lambert Tallien, from a Paris prison mobile, telling him she would shortly be sent to the guillotine

The execution of 16 nuns earlier in the month experienced caused individual disquiet. Crowds viewed in awe as ‘they prayed collectively at the foot of the scaffold and marched up courageously to the guillotine, just one at a time, chanting the Veni Creator as a result of to the remaining swish of the blade’.

The executioners observed that girls have been specially courageous, often smiling as they went to their loss of life.

‘On the highway to the guillotine, the smile experienced come to be a silent weapon of symbolic resistance,’ Jones suggests.

On July 26, 1794, Robespierre designed a extended, psychological speech to the assembly of deputies, recognized as the Convention, criticising the govt and demanding that traitors be rooted out. When challenged, he refused to name names, which was to verify a lethal mistake it intended practically all of the deputies felt threatened.

His enemies seized their possibility to strike the next working day. Chief among the them was Jean-Lambert Tallien, an ambitious young deputy who was opposed to Robespierre for political motives and also loathed him for the reason that Robespierre experienced been liable for the arrest of his lover, the soon-to-be-executed Theresa Cabarrus.

The following day, after one of the most dramatic 24 hours in the history of the French Revolution, the all-powerful Robespierre had been deposed in a rebellion led by Theresa’s lover. Pictured: The arrest of Maximilien Robespierre

The next working day, after just one of the most dramatic 24 several hours in the history of the French Revolution, the all-strong Robespierre had been deposed in a insurrection led by Theresa’s lover. Pictured: The arrest of Maximilien Robespierre

With a dagger concealed under his coat, Tallien stormed into the assembly and accused users of the governing administration of functioning in opposition to France, ‘to aggravate its difficulties, to hurl it into the abyss’. While he didn’t name Robespierre, it was clear to everyone who he intended. A number of deputies, primed by Tallien, cheered loudly shortly others joined in.

In a thrilling chapter, Jones shows how the harmony of electric power ebbed and flowed in the chamber. Robespierre consistently attempted to discuss, but was shouted down, his enemies having revenge for the moments he experienced denied other individuals the ideal to discuss.

The most highly effective guy in the nation was seeing his guidance draining away prior to his pretty eyes.

He, his young brother, Augustin, and 3 other supporters were being arrested. In the next chaotic hours, they had been moved all-around Paris, and at a person place even managed to escape from their prison. Although this was heading on Robespierre, who was additional of a back again-space plotter than a male of motion, dithered above regardless of whether to test to mount an insurrection.

In the early hours of the following morning, he was shot in the jaw. Some accounts manage he was hoping to dedicate suicide, other individuals that he was shot by a policeman.

Continue to alive, nevertheless in agony from his wound, Robespierre was taken to the Place de la Revolution where by a ‘huge, enthusiastic crowd’ viewed his execution. As he was thrust ahead in the direction of the guillotine he emitted a ‘blood-curdling animalistic shriek’.

And the following yr the Revolutionary Tribunal, which experienced sentenced so quite a few individuals to dying, was abolished and liberty of the Push was restored, primary to the publication of a lot of coronary heart-rending accounts of what persons experienced endured in jail.

Two centuries later on, on the other hand, people today are nevertheless arguing around Robespierre’s legacy.

The Fall Of Robespierre: 24 Hours In Revolutionary Paris by Colin Jones (OUP £25, 592pp)

The Fall Of Robespierre: 24 Hrs In Innovative Paris by Colin Jones (OUP £25, 592pp)

Colin Jones, a professor of record at Queen Mary College of London, handles a massive amount of product with ability and verve. 

He makes an terribly vivid moment-by-moment portrait of Paris and its folks on that pivotal working day, while the prosperity of depth can feel mind-boggling for anyone who is not entirely immersed in the historical past of the French Revolution.

Strangely adequate, Professor Jones hardly ever reveals what occurred to the aristocratic Theresa Cabarrus, whose prison letter was a person of the sparks for Robespierre’s overthrow.

A spot of investigation reveals that, in the nick of time, Tallien succeeded in obtaining her unveiled — together with yet another renowned magnificence, Josephine de Beauharnais, who was to turn into Napoleon’s Empress Josephine — and they married.

The marriage did not previous extended, but when it did she was well regarded as a moderating impact on her husband, always ready to plead the result in of those who, like her, had been imprisoned and feared the blade of the guillotine.



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