A fatal blow

Once in Paris, Charlotte Corday settled into the Hôtel de la Providence where one evening she wrote her Adresse aux Français, amis des lois et de la paix [Address to the French people, friends of the law and peace], a profession of faith which she carried with her on the day of the murder. She did not hesitate to justify her action by this now famous phrase that could have been taken from one of Corneille’s tragedies: I killed one man to save 100,000.
Charlotte Corday reproached Marat for inciting murder, and hence civil war, and for proclaiming himself dictator, thus trampling on the sovereignty of the people. She did not change her opinion.

In the meantime, Duperret had come under suspicion and his house sealed. Charlotte Corday was thus alone in Paris.

She rose early on the morning of 13th July 1793 and bought an ordinary kitchen knife with a leather sheath that she put in her pocket. Marat lived at 30, rue des Cordeliers, at the Hôtel de Cahors. Entry to the apartment was fiercely defended by his companion, Simone Evrard, her sister Catherine Evrard, the cook Jeannette Maréchal, and Marat’s sister Albertine, who often visited him.

The first attempt failed and Charlotte Corday quickly realised that she needed a real reason for calling. She decided to write to him: I come from Caen. Your love for France must make you desirous of knowing of all the plots that are being hatched against you. I await your reply. The letter was posted. At the time the post was delivered every two hours within Paris.

The hours passed with no reply. A new letter: to Citizen Marat, rue des Cordeliers, Paris. I wrote to you this morning, Marat - did you receive my letter? May I hope for a brief audience? If you did receive it, I hope you will not refuse to see me, given the importance of the matter. Suffice it to say that I will be unfortunate to have the right to your protection. This time she kept the letter so that she could give it to him personally. She went to see Marat once again, and again had to confront the female guard. In the end, her knocking was probably heard by Marat, who, as per usual, was working in his bath to soothe his eczema.

There were no witnesses to the conversation between Marat and Charlotte Corday, but from the transcript of the interrogation conserved in the Archives Nationales, a great deal of what was said is known. It seems that Charlotte Corday’s convictions were strengthened when Marat replied that he would send the Girondin members of parliament to the guillotine, along with those who wanted to save Paris from anarchy, including Barbaroux. So without hesitation, she delivered the fatal blow.