French Revolution: Maximilien de Robespierre

Maximilien de Robespierre was born on the 6th May 1758, in Arras, France.  His mother died in 1764, and his distraught father just wandered off, leaving him to be raised by his grandparent, along with his brothers and sisters.  He learnt at an early age, what it meant to be poor, when attending school as a charity boy.  These early years, proved to be grounding for his life in later years.

Robespierre won a scholarship to the Louis le Grand College in Paris when he was eleven, and in 1775 was selected to deliver his address in Latin, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette visited the school.

Having graduated with a law degree, Robespierre practised law in Arras, and his sister Charlotte kept house for him.  He gained a reputation, for representing poor clients against the rich, in his eyes justice was available for all.

It wasn’t long before he took on a public role, where he could express his views; calling for political change in the French Monarchy.  He was elected to the Estates General of the French Legislature in 1788, aged 30.

He became the people’s voice, attacking the French Monarchy and calling for democratic reforms, and opposed the death penalty and slavery.

To promote his agenda, he left government and in April of 1789 was elected to the post of President of the Jacobin political faction.  In 1790 assisted in the creation of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen;” this was the foundation to the French Constitution.

In August of 1792, the people of Paris rose up against King Louis XVI, and Robespierre became head of the Paris delegation of the National Convention.

With his new found post, Robespierre encouraged the Parisians to rise up against the aristocracy, whilst he called for the execution of the King of France.

On the 27th July 1793, Robespierre was elected to the Committee of Public Safety, with virtual dictorial control over the government.

The Revolutionary government was responsible for the Reign of Terror, which would see some 300,000 enemies of the revolution arrested, and more than 17,000 executed by guillotine.  Political opponents to Robespierre found themselves sent to the guillotine.

Robespierre had the power over life and death, as he continued his reign of terror.  It wasn’t long before the Revolutionary government questioned his motives…  A coalition was formed in 1794, by those revolutionaries who once believed in him, who now question his moves, and those of his immediate followers.

On the 27th July 1794, Robespierre and his followers were arrested, he escaped, and the National Convention declared him an outlaw.  He was re-captured at the “Hotel de Ville” in Paris.

On the 28th July 1794, Maximilien de Robespierre a leading voice of the French Revolution, and instigator of the Reign of Terror was executed by guillotine.

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