Charlotte Corday: Heroic Killer Of Marat
Heroic martryr for a cause?
The bloody French Revolution was one of the worst reigns of terror ever suffered by the French and Jacobian leader Jean-Paul Marat was partially responsible for its inception. You have probably seen John Louis David's famous painting of the death of Marat. But just who was responsible for the bloody bathtub murder of this infamous leader? Her name was Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont or Charlotte Corday also known as: the "Angel of Assassination".
Charlotte was educated in the Enlightenment writers of her day:: Voltaire and Rousseau and was also a reader of the Greek writer Plutarch. Both Voltaire and Rousseau were prolific writers and philosophers of the day encouraging people to break out of their ignorance and rise to meet the challenge of thinking for themselves. During the time period Salons were held to discuss these subjects and were attended by men, but the hostess of the salons would always be women. They were not allowed to talk, except to keep the conversation under control.
Charlotte lived a very short life in the scheme of things. Executed for her murder of Marat at the age of 24, her legacy might go unnoticed in some World History Books. Wanting to end the violence that was taking many live sin her country, she believed killing him would lead to peace within the region. Marat was a very influential businessman and journalist in Paris. Marat was said to have a horrible skin condition and spent much of his time in the bathtub, hence the reason behind the bathtub killing. Corday went to the assembly to allegedly give him the name of some people who were to be involved in an uprising and was allowed into his home. It is here that she murdered him with a fatal knife wound to his chest.
Believing her actions would save thousands Corday admitted to her murder of Marat and was guillotined as many others had been at the time. Believing she was really a man, it was ordered she be autopsied and also determined that she was a virgin. Authorities soon discovered she was no man and was a virgin when she died. Instead of being martyred for her part in reducing the violence at the time, it was Marat who was the martyr for the revolution.
By the 1860s another painter took up his brush and created his version of Charlotte Corday, his name was Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry. Baudry painted his famous work entitled "Charlotte Corday" and depicted her as the heroine she was destined to be lauded . Painting Charlotte as a strong woman she became the rightful martyr for the cause of liberty and peace in France.
What is important to note here is how history is written from differing perspectives at all times. John Louis David was a friend of Marat and it would only be fitting that he paint a picture that reflects his friend's demise in the way it was done. As we had no photographs at the time, we can only know one man's view of this event. But what if we did have pictures? Would be still be able to see the story from an unprejudiced view? Not likely.
So much time passed between the painting David made in the late 18th century and the one by Baudry in 1860. Logically, we know people revise history as they look at the facts, or at least a semblance of them and make their decisions based upon their findings. But the question that also needs to be asked is just how many other historical stories and events have this revisionist view so many years later?
Such fascinating tales of average people who sacrifice their lives for a cause are what makes the finding so valuable to me and other people who wish to understand the value of a liberal arts education. Art, history, philosophy, essay, and sociology all come together and ask us to view the world from a whole different set of eyes. By learning of those who have gone before us, and juxtaposing them with those heroes and heroines who find their causes worthy enough to risk their very lives, we see the deeply ingrained humanity in us all.
Bravo Charlotte Corday. You were one gutsy woman. I place you in the same category with Ann Frank, Hypatia of Alexandria and others who worked to restore peace and harmony in a world run amok. Going to the gallows it was said she offered these words to those awaiting her death: "All true patriots will meet in heaven".
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