Headless Folks of the French Revolution
First: Hi, welcome to Veritable Hokum.
Second: I’m not a historian, or even a history expert. I’m just a really enthusiastic amateur. I’ll try to be as accurate as I can, but I’m sorry in advance for any mistakes.
Third: Let me tell you about those heads up there.
King Louis XVI (1754-1793) was beheaded because of the obvious.
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) apparently didn’t offer anyone cake, but was beheaded anyway.
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) invented oxygen. And by invented, I mean worked out that it was a chemical element. He also invented hydrogen and the periodic table of the elements, so he’s a pretty big deal, chemically speaking. Unfortunately, he was *also* a pretty big deal in a private tax collection company (imagine if the IRS subcontracted their work out to Goldman Sachs and let them pay themselves with whatever extra taxes they managed to collect). So off with his head.
John-Baptiste-Joseph Gobel (1727-1794) isn’t as historically relevant as some of the others here, but I like the irony of his death. He was pro-revolution enough to be elected as archbishop of revolutionary Paris, which the church didn’t like because bishops are appointed, not elected. The revolutionaries had some disagreements over religion, with major split between the sorta-catholics, the mostly-atheists, and the deist Cult of the Supreme Being. The atheists claimed Gobel was their friend, the non-atheists killed him for it.
Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-1794) is a fascinating figure who is kinda-sorta-mostly responsible for The Terror, which is what the French call it when you behead everyone you see for half a decade. Eventually someone beheaded him back.
Anacharsis Cloots (1755-1794) is my favorite of the bunch. Like, if Wes Anderson made a film about the French Revolution, Cloots would be the lead. He’s the 18th century version of a hipster photobombing an actual revolution. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For most of his life he was Jean-Baptiste du Val-de-Grâce, Baron de Cloots, a nobleman and heir to a hefty fortune in one of the many small countries that used to be where Germany is today. In 1791 he got together a delegation of 36 non-french people, called them the “Embassy of the Human Race,” and marched them into the National Assembly to declare the whole world in favor of the revolution. And I guess it went well? Because at that point he renamed himself “Anacharsis Cloots, Orator of Mankind” and within a few years he’d managed to get himself a seat on the National Convention. But easy come, easy go. A while later Robespierre started accusing people of being involved in a foreign plot against France. There were two problems with that: first, there was not plot, and second, everyone he accused was french. Anacharsis was clearly innocent, but he wasn’t french. So they beheaded him to prove that regardless of whether the foreign plot existed, it was foreign.