|Maximilian Robespierre (1758-1794)
Max Robespierre was born in a small town, called Arras, a few miles outside of Paris. He was born very poor, and he was the oldest brother in his family, with one younger sister and brother. His father was a poor peasant, and he died when Robespierre was very young. His mother remarried a very nice, but also very unsuccessful lawyer who was part of the French bourgeoisie (the French lower middle class). His new stepfather, though he was not wealthy at all, made enough money to send Robespierre to a private school where he learned Latin (a very old language, a mark of a good education). The school was not excellent, but it gave Robespierre a good solid foundation for his education, and the school was a place he could work up from. It was at this school that Robespierre fell in love with Roman history, especially an old Roman leader named Julius Caesar. He also fell in love with Enlightenment thinkers (like Rousseau & Wollstonecraft), especially philosophers who talked about the freedom individuals should have, democratic governments, and freedoms the poor should have.
When Robespierre graduated from this school, he took a job as a defense lawyer. He defended the poor people of Arras (the town where he was born), and later, Paris. He loved to defend people who were innocent and about to be convicted, and taken advantage of, by the corrupt court system. Robespierre felt like he was most alive while he was defending an innocent man. He worked very hard for the rights of poor people, and he never gave up. He always felt that someday the Third Estate, especially the peasants, would get rights and a life they deserved. Robespierre wrote hundreds of petitions and pamphlets to get the voices of the poor peasants heard. For a short time, Robespierre became a judge, but he resigned because he could not put his signature on a death warrant for convicted criminals. Robespierre tried, but at the end of the day, he could just not let the government put someone to death.
When King Louis XVI called the Estates General together in 1789, Robespierre ran for delegate of the 3rd Estate, and was elected.
Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793)
Olympe de Gouges was a remarkably beautiful woman born into a bourgeois family in Montauban, a small town in southwestern France. Her father was a butcher, and her mother, a washer-woman. She was married when she was 17 to a man she did not love who her parents made her marry. In her autobiography, she wrote: "I was married to a man I did not love and who was neither rich nor well-born. I was sacrificed for no reason that could make up for the repugnance (bitterness, a grossed-out feeling) I felt for this man. Fortunately for Olympe de Gouges, her husband died a year after their marriage and she was able to move to Paris with her young son.
In Paris, Olympe de Gouges became a playwright, journalist, and the voice of the women’s movement in France. She was loud, proud, and often insulting to the men and women of the “nobility,” or second estate. One of her plays was entitled, “The Necessity of Divorce.” This play outlines why women should be able to seek divorce (at the time, women were not allowed to divorce their husbands) and have sexual relations outside of marriage. She wrote this play at a time when not only did men have all the power in society, but also the Catholic church looked down on women in power. Olympe’s writings reached a huge audience, and her ideas about feminism (equal rights for women) and democracy (people’s right to make decisions about their government) spread like wildfire.
She wrote pamphlets demanding the destruction of King Louis XVI, the absolute monarch. She also wrote about why the 3rd Estate should have more power, saying that the peasants outnumber the nobles and clergy 40: 1. She demanded the same rights for French women that French men were demanding for themselves. When the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was written during the French Revolution, she wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in the same year. She fought against male authority and the idea of women’s inferiority.
Camille Desmoulins (1760-1794)
Camille went to school with Maximilian Robespierre. Like Max, Camille came from a poor family. He was a very tall, thin man. He was so skinny and pale that he looked like he was very sick for most of his life. Camille loved classic writings from Ancient Rome and Greece, such as Cicero, Tactitus and Livy. Camille’s father desperately wanted him to be a lawyer, so his father paved the way for him to be accepted as a lawyer in Paris in 1785. However, he did not do well, as he had a violent manner and a serious stammer/stutter. This prompted Camille to turn towards writing. His interest in public affairs led him to a career in politics. One of his very good friends was George Danton.
Camille screamed for change in France, for Revolution NOW!!! Change could never come quickly enough for Camille. Camille demanded a pure democracy for France and demanded the execution of the King. Camille demanded pure freedom for the peasants and other members of the 3rd Estate. Camille helped to begin the event that started the French Revolution. This event was the Storming of the Bastille, on July 14th, 1789. This was the same day that the Third Estate got locked out of the Estates General and swore the Tennis Court Oath. On this day, he overcame his stammer, and gave a powerful speech to Paris’s poor and hungry. The crowds became so angry that they stormed the streets, gathering more and more people. Camille led people to attack an ancient prison in the center of Paris called the Bastille, where they stole guns and ammunition to fuel the revolution.
After this day, Camille continued to write and he became a newspaper journalist who worked for Comte Mirabeau. He called for the nobles to be hanged by their necks from the lamp posts throughout Paris. He started to be called the “Lamp Post Lawyer.” Historians are unsure if Camille really believed in what he was saying, or if he just wanted to fame and attention. Eventually, he became a Girondin in the National Assembly.
Comte Mirabeau was born a noble near a town called Nemours. His father was an economist who hated him as he grew up, mostly because of how Comte reminded him of his mother. When Comte was three years old, he had a terrible case of smallpox, which left his face disfigured and very ugly. As he grew up, he was very unattractive. Comte was born into the Second Estate and was destined to be a military officer. This dream faded when Comte fell in love with his Colonel’s lover, “Sophie,” and he was imprisoned. Comte is famous for bribing his way into the rooms of fine ladies through their houseservants, sometimes marrying them in order to receive a financial allowance from her parents. He occasionally tried to abduct women. He was imprisoned several times for his violent and inappropriate behavior.
After being imprisoned, he ran for Estates General, as a delegate for the Third Estate. He did not have enough social standing to become a delegate for the Second Estate, as he had often been imprisoned in his life. Comte believed in a limited monarchy because he felt that the tradition of the absolute monarch was too strong. He did not favor a democracy because he felt that the king could never be fully pulled from power. He felt that in order to have any rights at all, the Third Estate and others would have to work with King Louis XVI. As he lay on his deathbed later in his life, people found out that he was paid by the royalty to spy on the revolution.
Bailly was born and raised in Paris. He came from the Third Estate, but he wasn’t as poor as the peasants. His father was a member of the bourgeoisie (the upper class Third Estate). Bailly’s father and mother ran a small store that did quite well. His father made enough money to send Bailly, his only son, to a small private school. There, Bailly fell in love with science and philosophy. He loved to study the stars and he could not stop reading Enlightenment thinkers, especially Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Baron de Montesquieu. He did SO well that he because a professor in the Paris Academy of the Sciences, a very wealthy and well-known university. He was working as a professor when the Estates General was called.
Bailly decided to run for office for the Third Estate, and he gave up his career in astronomy. He was elected to the Estates General and led the Tennis Court Oath when the Third Estate lost both votes. He became the first President of the National Assembly and eventually the first mayor of Paris. Everyone from the Third Estate hoped that Bailly would help the poor in France, but he did not.
In fact, Bailly became so afraid of the anger and the power of the Third Estate, that he and his friend Marquis de Lafayette, declared martial law (setting curfews in the streets, arresting anyone they thought was suspicious, putting soldiers in the streets). Martial law meant that members of the Third Estate could only leave their homes at certain hours. It made it illegal for the Third Estate to protest or speak badly about the government.
Bailly thought it would be too dangerous to allow the Third Estate to have control over the government in France. He wanted a constitutional monarchy, and maybe a new king, but that was as far as he would go.
Marat was born in Switzerland, and worked as a doctor and philosopher. He gave up his medical practice, which served the Third Estate, in order to demand a revolution! He was one of the most revolutionary fighters on the side of the Third Estate. Marat demanded CHANGE NOW!!! He would not wait. He wrote countless articles he published in newspapers for the Third Estate (called pamphlets) and he even started his own newspaper called the “Friend of the People.” In his newspaper, he called for the destruction of the King’s power, the death of the nobles, and the death of all of the clergy.
Marat called for the immediate destruction of the monarchy, and the immediate development of a pure democracy.
Marat wanted a total revolution and did not want to compromise. He and Max Robespierre shared similar ideas, but Robespierre was too “nice” for Marat’s taste. Marat wrote in nasty language that the peasants of the Third Estate loved. He wrote about shopping off heads, slitting nobles’ throats, and giving people what he thought they deserved.
Marat’s writings made Bailly, the mayor of Paris, SO angry, that the police tried to imprison him several times. Each time, Marat escaped. Because he escaped, police burned Marat’s printing press (the machine that made his newspaper). Bailly and the Marquis de Lafayette, the commander of police, tried so hard to get Marat that he was forced to hide in the sewers of Paris for years. While Marat was living in the sewers, he contracted a skin disease that ate at his flesh and made him smell bad for the rest of his life. The only time he felt comfortable was when he was taking a bath because the rest of the time, his skin itched horribly. It was in his bathtub that he was murdered by Charlotte Corday, a Girondin seeking revenge.
Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834)
Marquis de Lafayette was born into a very wealthy noble family. Unfortunately, his father was killed when he was very young by a British cannon. This forced Marquis to take over his father’s lands, care for his mother, and take care of his younger brothers and sisters. When he took over his father’s lands, he began working more closely with the peasants. He began to feel very sorry for them, and he wanted to help them.
Marquis followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the French military. During the American Revolution, Lafayette was one of the French soldiers to go to America. He helped Americans to gain their freedom. It was in America that he fell in love with freedom and the idea of equality. He became very close friends with George Washington, and came to see him as a father figure.
When he returned to France from the US, he wanted to fight for new freedoms. He ran for the Estates General and was elected as a representative for the Second Estate. When the Third Estate left the Estates General, Marquis walked out with them to take the Tennis Court Oath. When the Third Estate formed a new government, they gave Marquis the control of the National Guard, which was Paris’ police force.
Marquis de Lafayette tried his best to keep order in the National Guard. It was extremely difficult for him because there was so much chaos around him that the peasants were causing. He questioned himself for joining the peasants and did not want to give away any of his money or noble heritage. Lafayette started to feel that the peasants and their supporters could not handle the freedom they asked for. They could not make their own decisions as they promised. They did not have enough education and they had WAY too much anger.
You began to feel that a democracy would not work. You started to feel like all France needed was a new king, someone other than King Louis XVI. You wanted a king that honored the rights of the 3rd Estate but didn’t give them too much power. You want a king who could save France from it’s financial crisis but still remain in control of the people. The form of government you want is a Constitutional Monarchy. During the French Revolution you realized that sometimes too much power & too much freedom is bad for people.
You don’t like people like Marat and his friends. They are bad for change and reform. The crazed revolutionaries want too much to kill the nobles, slit their throats and cut off their heads. You began to chase Marat around, forcing him to hide in sewers to escape you. Even though you chased him, Marat was still very popular with other revolutionaries of the time. You became less and less popular over time, and eventually tried to escape to America.
You were born Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes, into a middle class family in France. You were the son of a Bourgeoisie so you were able to attend school and receive an education. After graduation, you decided you wanted to have a career in the church. You are very intelligent, very articulate (speak well), and very interested in God and religion. Your brilliance and good education caused you to reach higher and higher levels in your career in the church. Very young in your career, you reached and held a very high position in the Catholic Church.
Even though your job was very good, you felt held back because you were just from a middle-class bourgeoisie family. You never had enough money to BUY yourself a better job like other people in the clergy. You saw an opportunity to create more equality when the French Revolution began. You wanted to end the special benefits and privileges the wealthy nobles and clergy get so that EVERY estate could have an equal chance.
You also believed very strongly that the common man should be equal. This belief made you very popular and you achieved fame and glory as a result. You were not a member of the 3rd Estate but you wrote a powerful letter called “What is the 3rd Estate?” In this letter, you argued that without the peasants and the bourgeoisie, France would be nothing. You wrote that the 3rd Estate is made up of the most important people in France and that it is unfair that they have no power to make their own decisions. You wrote that it is TIME for the 3rd Estate to have power.
After the 3rd Estate took the Tennis Court Oath and created the National Assembly, you were elected into their government. You vote for the execution and murder of King Louis XVI when he is put on trial. Like your friend Marat, you are very rude and very argumentative. Because of this, you slowly lose your political power. Even though you eventually become unpopular, you are remembered for pointing out some of the most important ideas during the Revolution: #1. The 3rd Estate should own the government. #2: The government should NOT own the 3rd Estate.
You were born in Switzerland and you work as an accountant (in charge of $$$ and finances). You were hired by King Louis XVI to help reform, change, and rescue France’s financial and economic crisis. Even though you are a VERY good accountant, there IS NO WAY for you to rescue the economy. It is way too late.
You are a calm man that doesn’t lose your temper. You are calm, cool, and collected, at least most of the time. You know how important your job is to the King and to the people of France. You stay up late into the night most of the time, worrying and wondering about how to do the impossible.
You never speak without first making sure each word is right and you will be heard the way you want to be. You are afraid that anything you say might be misunderstood and lead to the collapse and downfall of France once and for all. Mostly, you are under A LOT of pressure.
You were fired several times by King Louis XVI but he always hired you back on because France’s people loved you so much. The people loved you, not because you were making life better for them but because you tried your hardest and best to keep the price of bread from rising when the people of France were starving to death. Many people in the 3rd Estate saw you as their savior. They believed that the King simply refused to listen to your good advice.
Although the 3rd Estate loved you dearly, the Nobles did not trust you AT ALL. They felt like you were planning to take away their money as soon as you could. They stopped all the changes you tried to make in France.
You are a very old man, very careful and cautious. You didn’t believe change should happen too fast, just slowly and wisely. Many of the revolutionary members of the 3rd Estate, like Robespierre and Marat, felt like you were TOO careful and that you were not really supportive of their revolutionary government.
Georges Danton (1759 – 1794)
You were born in Champagne, France. Your father died when you were young, but your mother remarried. Your step-father was a very happy lawyer, not rich, but had enough money to be considered bourgeoisie. Because your step-father had some money, you were able to attend school and become a lawyer too.
You are basically a very lazy person. You are great a telling stories, you have a deep, strong voice, and you have a gift for speaking. You are very good at thinking on your feet and coming up with answers very quickly. You were never truly interested in doing anything good or working for the rights of the 3rd Estate.
When you became a lawyer, you moved to Paris where you began to work for rich peasants. You wanted to prove that the bourgeoisie could become nobles. If the bourgeoisie could become a noble, you would have the chance to get a better job and earn more money. You only really cared about improving your life and the lives of your family members. As a lawyer, you wanted to prove that bourgeosie should really be considered nobles and this way, you would all have more power.
You never really took your law practice seriously. You were always in it to make a few bucks. When the 3rd Estate walked out of the Estates General, you began to smell a money-making opportunity. You made sure that you were elected to the National Assembly and other positions of power by speaking loudly and passionately about the problems of the 3rd Estate. Even though you did feel sorry for the 3rd Estate, your real interest was in making money and gaining power.
You embarrassed the Marquis de Lafayette while he was leading the National Guard in a search for Marat and then Lafayette began to hate you for it. You went from Lafayette’s friend and supported to his bitter enemy. You didn’t like Marat much either, but you pretended like you did because Marat was so popular with the common people. You didn’t like Marat because you felt like he was too extreme and he couldn’t control himself. You also took bribes from anyone who would give you one. Even though you took their money, you never truly changed your mind on any issue.
You are King Louis XVI’s cousin and you detest the Queen. You hate Marie Antoinette SO MUCH that the king believes that you want to steal his throne just to get rid of her. Also, you are a very young, attractive, lively, and exciting man during the early days of the French Revolution. You are a ladies’ man (a lover of all women), a partier, and a noble. You are used to being very wealthy, as wealthy as the king.
You were elected to the Estates General as a representative of the 2nd Estate. When you were at the Estates General, you decided to join the 3rd Estate when they walk out to say the Tennis Court Oath. You believed deeply that the 3rd Estate should be allowed to have more rights, but you did not believe that there should be a democracy. Instead, you believe in the form of government called Constitutional Monarchy, which means there is a king who must govern based on a constitution.
You truly believe that there should still be a king, but that it SHOULD NOT be King Louis XVI. At his trial, you vote for his execution and public death. You believe there should be a new king, maybe even you. You felt that you could do a much better job of leading the country than King Louis XVI ever did.
You are Pierre Vergniaud, a lawyer in Bordeaux, France. Like Maximilian Robespierre, you fight very hard for the rights of the poor and the oppressed. When people are starving and the French economy is failing, you feel that you can do the most good in Paris where all of the important decisions are made.
In 1791, you are elected to represent Bordeaux in the National Assembly. Because you are such an amazing public speaker (called an orator), you were elected to be the leader of a group called the Girondins. You believe that revolutionary change can only come slowly with much hard work. You do not believe that true change is won through violence.
Throughout the early days of the French Revolution, you were well known as a clear minded and passionate leader. You spoke in a way that all people listened and your powerful voice made the windows shake. It was because of your speeches that the king lost his throne.
Even though you no longer wanted King Louis XVI to serve as France’s king, you could not bear to see him executed. You spoke for his life and the beliefs of the Girondins. Although you fought hard for the rights of the people and their freedom, you were later killed because of your dislike for violence.
Marie-Therese-Charlotte of France
You are the first child of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. After nearly nine years without having a child, there was a lot of curiosity about the Royal pregnancy of your parents. When the time came for your mother to give birth to you, it was a tradition for the Queen to give birth in the presence of members of both the Royal family and the court. You are this long awaited child. Your mom’s bedroom became overly crowded during your birth, causing the Queen to faint.
Although the court might have been disappointed with the birth of a Princess rather than the long awaited male heir, when she woke back up, the Queen greeted your birth with delight. She said to you: “Poor little thing; you are not what they wanted, but we will love you nonetheless. A son would have belonged to the State; you shall be mine, and have all my care; you shall share in my happiness and soften my sorrows.”
You were named after your grandmother, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. As the eldest daughter of the French king, you were officially given the title Madame Royale.
King Louis XVI was an affectionate father, who delighted in spoiling his daughter and giving you anything you wanted. You appreciated him much more than your mother. Your mom was stricter and determined that you should not grow up to be as conceited as some of your aunts. Your mom often invited poor children from working-class districts to come and eat dinner with you, encouraging you to give your toys to the poor. Your mom wanted to teach you about the sufferings of others.
You knew things might be getting bad when your dad had to call the Estates General together. You were afraid that your way of life might end. After you saw the 3rd Estate and how ignorant, filthy, and angry they were, you started to become VERY frightened.
When the 3rd Estate walked out of the Estates General and declared they had a new government called the National Assembly, you began to realize that your way of life might be over. You started to write letters to friends in Austria and Prussia. You told them stories of how the 3rd Estate was stupidly trying to take over the government. You were so afraid of the idea of the 3rd Estate trying to create a democracy with your country.
The letters you wrote began to frighten the kings and queens of other countries close to France. They became afraid of losing their crowns. This made them decide to prepare to invade France so they could restore your father’s power. You began to make plans to leave France and become an émigré (rich person who takes their money and runs to another country). You CANNOT believe that all of this has happened.