Femme of the Week: Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday et d'Armont | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Femme of the Week: Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday et d'Armont

March 06, 2009

Femme of the Week: Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday et d'Armont

"Great thoughts are always better nursed in the heart's solitude"
Marie-Anne Charlotte was born in 1768 to Jacques Francois de Croday et d'Armont and lady Marie Charlotte-Jacqueline of Gauthier des Authieux. Her parents had an ancient noble name, however any fortune the family once had had been lost to time and they lived by very modest means. She was born a fourth child and second daughter. One sister died young, and her brothers left for the army. She also lost her mother.

She and her last sister left for the Abbaye aux Dames, where religion made a deep impression on her. She remained there until she was 20, the revolution forced the abbaye to close.

"Her open forehead, dark and well-arched eyebrows, and eyes of a gray so deep that it was often mistaken for blue, added to her naturally grave and meditative appearance; her nose was straight and well-formed, her mouth serious but exquisitely beautiful...she had a complexion of transparent purity' enhanced by the rich brown hair which fell in thick curls around her neck, according to the fashion of the period."¹
She went to live with her aunt, an old royalist, and watched the Revolution develop, listening intently to all the politics but never participating. She learned all about the fall of the Girondists whom she understood Marat to be their prosecutor.

Charlotte received several offers of marriage at this time, all which she turned down, perhaps the most affected by her rejection was M. de Franquelin, a handsome fellow who worked for the cause of the Girondists. Marie-Anne Charlotte spent much time at her aunts thinking, and thinking about her falling country. Her aunt caught her several times dwelling on the topic, sometimes even crying over it.

Finally she gathered some money and a passport and paid a visit to her father to say she was going to England for safety. She gave her properties to her friends and left. She actually headed to Paris, and took up a room for a few days that was dark and shabby.

She sent Marat 2 letters requesting an interview, but was denied, so she called on him that evening anyway. His 'wife' answered the door and refused to let her in, but Marat recognized she was the lady that had written him twice and had her sent in. He was in the bath with his papers in front of him. She then related business about Girondists in her home town, which he took note of and assured her they would be at the guillotine soon enough. This upset her and she pulled a knife from under her fichu and stabbed him in the heart.

Portrait of Charlotte Corday, paintined while she was in prison by Hauer in 1793. Versailles. Photo via Elisabeth

Charlotte was interrogated in his living room later that evening. She wanted to go out in the style of 'Perfume' where the crowd ended her life instantly, but instead she was transferred to a prison. She was tried and promptly sent by cart to the guillotine.
¹ Corday, Charlotte, Kavanagh, Julia, Woman in France during the Eighteenth Century. New-York; London: Putnam's Sons, 1893. p. 144


  1. I have a deep interestin Charlotte.
    This is the only portrait, made when she was in life in jail, by Hauer:

  2. Oh my, what a life and what an ending. Thanks.

  3. Thank you, how interesting! She had quite a temper, didn't she?

    Does this mean you're back from London already?

    Elisabeth, I tried the link but it said I need a password to log in to that album.

  4. I'm sorry, here is another link:

    Or try "Hauer" and "corday" here: http://www.photo.rmn.fr/c/htm/Search_New.aspx

  5. Elisabeth, thanks, I was able to find it using that link. Wow, that's a haunting portrait!... And I really like her mob cap!

  6. An amazing story and an amazing woman. I recall seeing a special about the revolution, and her story absolutely riveted me.