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A Patriotic Murder

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Charlotte Corday, painted simply earlier than her execution, by Jean-Jacques Hauer, 1793. Wiki Commons.

She had deliberate to kill him in public. However the Parisian summer season of 1793 was exceptionally sizzling and Jean-Paul Marat’s painful pores and skin situation – a type of psoriatic arthritis – compelled him to spend lengthy hours in his tub at house within the Rue des Cordeliers. It was there, round 7pm on 13 July, that 24-year-old Charlotte Corday got here to see him.

Marat was a 50-year-old physician-turned-revolutionary whose newspaper, L’Ami du peuple, pursued its trigger with reliably violent and incendiary rhetoric. In a single 1790 broadside Marat wrote: ‘A 12 months in the past by chopping off 5 or 6 hundred heads you’d have set yourselves free and completely happy endlessly. Right now it could want ten thousand; inside a couple of months maybe you have to to chop off 100 thousand.’

Corday was no reactionary; she had been a republican lengthy earlier than the revolution. However France had descended into anarchy, she thought, and Marat was its anarchist in-chief. And so right here she was, in his home, in his lavatory, with a five-inch kitchen knife hidden in her costume.

Why did he let her in? His spouse had been reluctant. She had turned Corday away as soon as already that day. However Corday promised Marat the names of traitors in Normandy. He couldn’t resist. ‘I’ll have all of them guillotined’, he stated.

She solely needed to stab him as soon as. At her trial, she was challenged about that. Absolutely she should have practised, the tribunal president requested. ‘Oh the monster’, Corday cried. ‘He takes me for an murderer!’ 

In Corday’s eyes, she was a patriot. ‘I killed one man to save lots of 100 thousand’, she stated. Maybe it was a determine of speech. Maybe she recalled Marat’s 1790 declaration. The tribunal tried to make her confess she was a part of a conspiracy. In spite of everything, how might a girl devise and act on such a factor alone? Who had taught her to hate Marat, they requested. ‘I didn’t want the hate of others’, she replied. ‘I had sufficient of my very own.’

Corday had hoped to flee to England after the killing – her brothers have been there – however she approached the guillotine with equanimity. Her one request: that somebody paint her portrait earlier than she died.

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