[1793] - Marat murdered in his bath by Charlotte Corday, heralding the Terror

Jean-Paul Marat (1743–93) was a Prussian-born physician who rose to prominence as a radical journalist and politician during the French Revolution. A champion of the sans-culottes, he came to power alongside fellow Jacobin leaders Robespierre and Danton, before being murdered in his bathtub by the Girondist supporter Charlotte Corday.

Born in Bourdy, now part of Switzerland, he spent time working as a private tutor before moving to Paris to study medicine. In 1765 he moved to England where he published several works of philosophy, political science and medicine. He returned to Paris in 1776 and developed a reputation as a scientist and court physician. From 1788 he devoted himself to politics. His attacks on the more conservative leaders of the revolution led him to spend much of his time in hiding. He was elected to the National Convention in September 1792 and subsequently engaged in bitter battles with the Girondists, whom he believed to be the enemies of the revolution. With the help of François Hanriot, he successfully brought about the fall of the Girondists from power on 2 June 1793. Marat, however, subsequently lost the support of the leading Jacobins and was further distanced from the centres of power due to a worsening skin disease, which forced him to spend much of his time soaked in the bath.

On 13 July 1793 the 24-year-old Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont was admitted to Marat’s presence on the pretence of offering him information about the activities of escaped Girondist leaders in Normandy. After a fifteen-minute interview, Corday stabbed Marat through the chest as he lay in his bath: he died within minutes. After a four-day trial Corday was guillotined on 17 July 1793, claiming to have committed the murder to avenge the death of her Girondist friends.

Marat’s death worked to augment the sense of suspicion and distrust which inspired the Reign of Terror. The event, however, was immortalized by Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting, ‘The Death of Marat’ (see link below).

Useful Links and Further Reading