Charlotte Corday

(Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d'Armont)


Charlotte Corday was a young woman who sacrificed her life to kill Reign of Terror tyrant Jean-Paul Marat, a fanatic responsible for the September Massacres of 1792. Charlotte had been a sympathizer to the Girondins, a political party during the French Revolution, and after their defeat by Marat, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Born in Normandy, France, Charlotte was sent to a convent in Caen when her mother and older sister passed away. There she had access to the writings of Plutarch, Rousseau, and Voltaire, which she studied religiously. In 1791, she moved in with her cousin, and the two became so close that Charlotte was made sole heir to her relative’s estate. She left her cousin two years later and went to live in Paris, armed with a copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and a plan to take down Marat at all costs. She purchased a kitchen knife with a six-inch blade and wrote an “Address to the French People,” which explained her motives for killing the aging radical. Corday traveled first to the National Assembly but soon learned that Marat no longer attended meetings, as a worsening skin disease had confined him to his bathtub. She immediately went to his home, claiming to have information on several escaped Girondists. She fed him several lies before plunging her knife into his chest, piercing his heart and killing him within seconds.

At her trial, Charlotte took full blame for the assassination, claiming that she alone had planned the murder. Four days later, the young woman was executed under the guillotine. Marat’s death did not end the Revolution or the Reign of Terror; instead, he became a martyr, and his likeness replaced crucifixes and religious statues.

Key events during the life of Charlotte Corday:

Mother and older sister died; was sent to a convent in Caen
Moved in with her cousin
Moved to France
Assassinated Jean-Paul Marat
Executed by guillotine

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Crime of Charlotte Corday  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
Reign of Terror and Rise of Napoleon in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore

Image Links

Charlotte Corday.
 in  Stories of the French Revolution

Short Biography
Jean-Paul Marat Radical Doctor who became Leader of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
Robespierre Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.