Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (May 6, 1758 – July 28, 1794) is one of the best-known figures of the French Revolution. He studied at College of Louis-le-Grand in Paris and became a lawyer. His supporters called him "The Incorruptible." He was an influential member of the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror that ended with his arrest and execution in 1794.
Politically, Robespierre was a disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, among other Enlightenment philosophes, and a capable articulator of the beliefs of the left-wing bourgeoisie. He was described as physically unimposing and immaculate in attire and personal manners.
His paternal grandfather, Maximilien de Robespierre, established himself in Arras as a lawyer. His father, Maximilien Barthélémy François de Robespierre, also a lawyer at Conseil d'Artois, married Jacqueline Marguerite Carrault, the daughter of a brewer, in 1758. Maximilien was the oldest of four children, and was conceived out of wedlock. To hide the deed as best they could, his father and mother had a rushed wedding (which the grandfather refused to attend). In 1764 Madame de Robespierre, as the name was then spelled, died in childbirth. Her husband left Arras and wandered around Europe until his death in Munich in 1777, leaving the children to be raised by their maternal grandfather and aunts.
Maximilien attended the collège (middle school) of Arras when he was eight years old, already knowing how to read and write. In October of 1769, on the recommendation of the bishop, he obtained a scholarship at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Here he learned to admire the idealized Roman Republic and the rhetoric of Cicero, Cato, and other classic figures. His fellow pupils included Camille Desmoulins and Stanislas Fréron. He also was exposed to Rousseau during this time and adopted many of the same principles. Robespierre became more intrigued by the idea of a virtuous self, a man who stands alone accompanied only by his conscience.
Shortly after his coronation, Louis XVI visited Louis-le-Grand. Robespierre, then 17 years old, had been chosen out of five hundred pupils to deliver a speech to welcome the king; as a prize-winning student, the choice had been clear. On the day of speech, Robespierre and the crowd waited for the king and queen for several hours in the rain. Upon arrival, the royal couple remained in their coach for the ceremony and immediately left thereafter. Later, Robespierre would be one of those who would eventually work towards the death of the king, though it is not clear whether he or others bore animosity as a result of this particular incident.
- ↑ (1972) Robespierre: the force of circumstance.