Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d’Armont 1768 - 1793

Charlotte Corday was born on July 27, 1768 at Saint-Saturnin, France. She received her education in the Roman Catholic convent in Caen. She was an exceptionally beautiful young woman. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789 she was a staunch supporter of the monarchy. Certain national factions came into existence. Corday sided with the Girondins, a more moderate group, and avoided groups aligned with Marat and Robespierre who wanted to destroy the monarchy.

In 1793, the Girondins were expelled from the national convention, so they gathered at Caen to organize against their opponents. Passionate about their cause, Corday joined them in Caen. She firmly believed that Marat was a most onerous enemy. So she plotted to find a way to meet him. On July 13, 1793, was able to gain an audience with Marat on the pretence of revealing the secrets of the Girondins at Caen. While he was in his bath, she stabbed him through the heart.

Corday was immediately apprehended.

During her trial, Corday remained insistent that she had solely concieved and carried out the assasination. In her own words: "It's only in Paris that people have eyes for Marat. In the other departments, he is regarded as a monster."

She was sentenced to death.

A detailed account of Marat's murder and the subsequent trial and execution can be found in the book "Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution" by Simon Schama.

In the final days of her life as she awaited her execution, Charlotte penned a letter to her father and begged his forgiveness for "having disposed of my existence without your permission."

On the eve of her execution, she wrote that "there are so few patriots who know how to die for their country; everything is egoism; what a sorry people to found a Republic."

On the day of her execution, she refused a priest. Rather, she requested that Hauer, an officer of the National Guard, paint her portrait. The only way she could reward him was with a lock of her hair. She told him it was a souvenir of a poor dying woman.

A man named Pierre Notelet witnessed the execution and described it in writtenf form:

"Her beautiful face was so calm, that one would have said she was a statue. Behind her, young girls held each other's hands as they danced. For eight days I was in love with Charlotte Corday."

As she faced her death, she remained convinced that she had avenged many innocent victims and prevented many other disasters by her act of assasination. She was twenty-five when guillotined on July 17, 1793.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Medieval Torture

For the past several weeks, I've been re-writing a chapter in my novel, A Scarlet Mantle. The chapter deals with a nun who has an affair with a monk, not a rare occurrence in medieval times. In trying to do the chapter historical justice, I also wanted to portray the punishment that would follow such a transgression.

So I delved into the dark world of medieval punishments. What I learned is too harsh to portray in my novel, at least if I want a publisher to one day accept it. Basically, the punishments for fornication back then ranged from castration for the men, to being buried alive or stoned for the women. I even found true circumstances where these punishments were used on specific persons.

When I originally submitted the novel, agents and publishers rejected because the content was far too offensive. I agree wholeheartedly. I feared I would offend too many readers. So now that I'm rewriting the novel, I have settled for severe whippings and expulsions, punishments less offensive for today's readers.

In my research I stumbled upon the following video which depicts some of the methods of torture regularly used back then. I found it on You Tube and it appears to be a high school project. Although the two ladies who narrate the video have pleasing voices and sometime break out into nervous giggles, the subject matter is very dark and disturbing. So please be warned before viewing it. Medieval torture is a very dark subject, definitely not for the faint of heart. If you're interested, I encourage you to view the video. If you're easily offended, please visit my archives section for topics you may find more pleasing.

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