Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilian Robespierre

Robespierre has been described by many as the voice of the French Revolution and was active during one of the most violent and bloody parts of it known as “The Reign of Terror”. He was also a major figure in the Committee of Public Safety which was responsible for ordering thousands of executions during The Reign of Terror. For his extreme actions during The Reign of Terror he was executed by the Guillotine just as everyone else he had condemned had been because, “his ideals went beyond the needs and wants of the people of France and he became a threat to what he represented”. He has been called “ The incorruptible” and “a blood thirsty dictator”. He his a cultural icon of France because he represents one of the most significant periods in french history.
Robespierre was born in Arras, France. His mother died giving birth to him so he was brought up by his grandfather and aunts. He went to middle school when he was just eight years old and amazingly enough, he already knew how to read and write. He was highly influenced by Rousseau at a young age and became very interested in the ideas of “Virtuous Self”, which is the idea that man stands alone accompanied only by his conscience. His great intellect made it possible for him to be chosen out of five hundred students  to deliver a speech to the king who ironically, he would seek to have killed.

In 1792, he was becoming a very powerful figure in the revolution, he made the decision that Louis XVI needed to be executed to save the revolution. He said that since Louis had tried to flee the country, he was detrimental to the state and had betrayed his people. He had him beheaded in front of all his people and subjects which has become very famous. As the reign of terror raged on, Robespierre would pick out any person he thought was preventing the revolution (or anything he believed in for that matter) and have them beheaded. Execution became very quick and easy with the introduction of the Guillotine. The Guillotine was essentially a huge blade that with a pull of a string, would cut threw someones neck like a razor. It is known as the instrument of the Reign of Terror.
He eventually became so powerful that he founded an official religion called The cult of supreme being which was heavily based on Rousseau’s theory of deism. He also became so violent that he had an average of 28 people executed per day between july 12th and 28th. It was nothing short of a blood bath. However this didn’t last forever, in 1794 he was accused of tyranny and was arrested. He tried to kill himself but ended up suffering a bullet wound to his jaw. He was executed the next day face up with out a trial, thus ending The Reign of Terror. His last words were “Merci, monsieur,” to a man that had kindly given him a handkerchief to sop up some of the blood from his face and his clothing.
Robespierre’s cultural impact is very hard to exaggerate. He is mentioned in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and he has also been featured in many television shows and movies. He wanted sovereignty for the people of France and it was only gained because of him. He was also extremely controversial which is why he’s so infamous. Even though he took his cause way to far and killed hundreds of people, he still helped build France into the great and prosperous nation it is today and that is why he is considered a cultural icon.

Report by RJ

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About mlleminor

Instructor in MCL French Division at the University of Kentucky
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