In Caen, however, the riots were intensifying and the guillotine had been delivered and installed. Charlotte Corday’s brothers had managed to leave France, and her father had returned to Caen, where he was trying to survive as discreetly as possible.
Two events seem to have spurred Charlotte Corday to action: the announcement of the death of Louis XVI on 21st January 1793 in Paris, and of that in Caen, almost under her window, of the Abbé Gombault, savagely guillotined on 5th April 1793, and to whom she had been very close during her time as boarder at the royal abbey of Saint-Trinité in Caen.
Charlotte Corday, overcome by so much violence committed on the people, was thus convinced that Marat was largely to blame. On 8th April she asked for a passport to travel from Caen to Argentan on the pretext of seeing her father again, and then asked for an extension to Paris on 23rd April.
She was 24 years old and had decided to travel alone in a stagecoach, which was against the custom for a young aristocratic lady; during her trial, her opponents did not hesitate to express their surprise at such a course of action. The journey was difficult, consisting of sixteen post-houses via Lisieux and Evreux, where there was a change of coach.
Charlotte Corday took the coach for Paris on 9th July 1793 with one idea in mind: killing Marat. Here she was following the ideas of one Charles-Jean-Marie Barbaroux from Marseilles, a member of parliament who was removed from office by force and took refuge in Caen where he strove to unite the Normans to march on Paris, putting up posters which she could not have read. Corday had, however, been received by him on two or three occasions, but obviously on some other pretext (a letter of recommendation from a distant relative), and when she asked him to deal with her mail whilst she was away in Paris, he did not take her seriously. He simply gave her a letter for Duperret, a member of parliament, which was produced at her trial.