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Maximilien Robespierre, one of the most controversial figures of the French Revolution.
Born in 1758 in Arras, France.
A member of the Jacobin club, Robespierre became one of the most significant voices of the Revolution; a member of the first National & Constituent Assembly, later the National Convention, and eventually one of the members of the CPS (Committee of Public Safety) which, in effect, controlled France alongside the Convention and CGS after the fall of the Monarchy and the expulsion of the Girondins.
Robespierre began as a provincial lawyer in Arras; a passionate campaigner for equal rights, universal male suffrage, popular liberty, the abolition of slavery and the end of the death penalty in France. He was the 'champion' of the Sans-Culottes; the 'Incorruptible Legislator' of the Revolution and enlightenment, despite his own relatively comfortable bourgeoisie upbringing and Ancien Regime appearance.
Robespierre seemed to have a change of heart, however, as during 1794 he was one
(that is, not the only, as some history books would have you believe
) of the architects of 'The Great Terror', in which those who did not put 'virtue' first, or were seen as a potential threat to the revolution, were executed. 16,594 people were executed by guillotine, and another 25,000 were executed in other ways throughout France.
Robespierre himself, along with his brother, Augustin, and several more of his closest friends and allies were soon to fall victims to the Terror that had been created. On the 27th July (9th Thermidor) Robespierre and his supporters were arrested and imprisoned in the Hôtel de Ville. They were declared outlaws; meaning that they could be executed without trial within 24 hours. The next morning, guards found Robespierre slumped semi-conscious at a desk in a pool of blood; his jaw shattered. Some say he had attempted to commit suicide, but had failed; others claim he was shot by a Gendarme, but regardless of the means, the bullet had crushed his lower jaw. Two other radicals had committed suicide, and Augustin (his brother) had jumped from a window and broken both of his legs in the fall.
Two doctors were called to patch the wounded revolutionary up. They gave him no anaesthetic, harshly bandaging his jaw with a piece of cloth as onlookers jeered and insulted him. He is said to have 'made not even a whimper, but one could see the agony in his eyes.'
The next day, 28 July 1794, Robespierre was guillotined without trial in the Place de la Révolution. He was made to watch his friends die before him - his brother Augustin, Couthon, Saint-Just, Hanriot and seventeen other followers were executed before Robespierre was finally pushed onto the scaffold. When clearing Robespierre's neck the executioner tore off the bandage that was holding his shattered jaw in place, producing an agonised cry until the fall of the blade silenced him.
This is only a very brief history - let me know if I can answer any questions! I'm no expert but he's one of the most interesting figures of the Revolution I've come across, and have studied him quite a bit. I realise I've missed out the Cult of the Supreme Being and his 'disagreements' with Danton & co, but hey, it's lunchtime, and I need to go eat! Team