Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fall of Robespierre

Robespierre.

I love the French Revolution, and the historical figure that I love the most is Robespierre!!!  I wish I could find the words to describe my curiosity for this man.  He was not the best man, so I don't actually love him.  But his rise to power and fall is so fascinating.  He is the reason "The Reign of Terror" began in France, and thousands of people lost their head.  Ironically he will be the second to last person to lose their head.

Robespierre will be in power for just about a year.  He was dictator of France, and had absolute power.  There is much to say about him and his rule of France.  The most exciting moment was his last week alive, July 1794.  By this moment he got paranoid and isolated. Robespierre began to believe everyone was out to get him.  He trusted no one, and isolated himself.  He stopped going to meetings, and being seen. 

These actions will make people nervous and fearful.  They watched his every move, and prayed they would not be on his list.  By July Robespierre had to go to a meeting in front of the Convention and make a speech.  He arrived dressed as a King.  Which reveals to us how he felt about himself.  During his speech he discussed enemies of France.  This was the worst thing he could do.  People did not want to be on that list.  If they were - off with their head.  People began to shout at, "Who?  Who are the enemies?" 

Right then and there Robespierre should have named names, but instead he stalled.  He told the Convention he would come back the next day to name names.  After Robespierre went home unaware of what was brewing.  This was the moment the people of France were waiting for!  The opportunity to take him down.  They came up with a plan.  They went to the President of the Convention, and told him what they wanted to do.  The President agreed to help by not calling on Robespierre the next day.

Everyone but Robespierre knew something was up.  There was standing room only the next day at the Convention.  You can not talk unless you are called on by the President.  Even Robespierre.  He quickly became frustrated because he could not speak, and then it happened.  An unknown stood up and said, "Arrest Robespierre!"  And they did!  Robespierre had many friends - so the guards took him back home.  Robespierre was a dazed and confused.  He was being urged by his supporters to act, but he couldn't.  Reports say he was frozen in a chair.

Hours later he was finally convinced to act.  Right before he signed a declaration, Robespierre was shot in the mouth.  This is a mystery - did he shoot himself or did guards shoot him?  We may never know what actually happened, but we do know he was shot and taken into custody.  He was taken to his office, and the Convention allowed the People of France to come say goodbye to Robespierre.  People showed up to throw rotten food and not nice things at him.  While Robespierre endured this they had his trial - where he was found guilty. 

That morning Robespierre was carted to the guillotine.  He was good friends with the executioner.  This is unusual because when Robespierre came on to the scaffold, the executioner grabbed him and threw him onto the guillotine.  They had put a white cloth around Robespierre jaw to hold it together.  The executioner ripped off the cloth and exclaimed, "Your cloth will dull my blade!"  Then with one swoop, chopped off his head! 

Realistically Robespierre was most likely not thinking of anything.  He was probably in a world of pain.  But I like to think he was thinking about what happened?  How could this happen?  He had absolute power.  How quickly you can rise, but just as fast you can fall!

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