Charlotte Corday Haiku

Don’t stab fanatics,

Ladies, lest you’re guillotined,

Called ‘mannish’, ‘ugly.’

Charlotte Corday stabbed Jean-Paul Marat 225 ago, making for the least relaxing bath ever.

It was 1793. The French Revolution was in full swing and the radical Jacobin faction was in control. An important part of the Jacobin platform was ‘let’s kill everyone who disagrees with us in the slightest,’ as shown by the September Massacres of the previous year. Jean-Paul Marat, through his role as a Jacobin leader and editor of the ‘L’ami du people’ periodical, was all about this.

Enter Charlotte Corday, a young woman from Normandy. Sent to a convent to be educated after her mother and eldest sister died (her father couldn’t deal), she was well-read and had strong political opinions, like ‘democracy is good’ and ‘killing everyone is bad.’ This put her in the more moderate Girondist camp.

Consequently, she decided Marat was a damned monster and that she should shank him. She traveled to Paris and bought a kitchen knife to do just that. And yes, he was in the bath when the deed was done. Marat did conducted business there on account of a skin condition.

Corday was promptly arrested and guillotined four days later. The Jacobin response was to ramp up the Terror and put out pamphlets spreading shit about her looks and personality to discourage women from getting such ideas again.

After being guillotined, a carpenter snatched her head of the basket and gave it a slap. Corday’s head, according to witnesses, responded with an expression of indignation. The guillotine had been designed as a relatively quick and painless method of execution (especially compared to beheadings in centuries past, such as the one experienced by Mary Queen of Scots). But this incident added to the pile of anecdotal evidence that death by guillotine wasn’t as quick as advertised.

“I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand.” Shame that didn’t work out.

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