Everything 18th Century | A Column by Fiona Reichers
The master of the Guillotine. The most influential architect of the Reign of Terror. Maximilien Robespierre was one of the most powerful men of the French Revolution. He overthrew the Aristocrats and created a more democratic system in France. Unfortunately, he went too far and was overthrown, and ironically guillotined. This we know. However, the real intrigue lies in the woman at his side. Who was she?
Éléonore Duplay, called Cornélie, was the daughter of Maurice Duplay – carpenter, French revolutionary, and landlord of Robespierre. She was born in 1768 in Paris, living with Maximilien Robespierre until his death in 1794. After his death, she wore all black, never married and was known as la Veuve Robespierre (the Widow Robespierre). Later, she was imprisoned with her sister and her six-week old nephew without cause. Duplay died on July 26th, 1832 and was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
Many people question the two’s relationship. Some speculate that Éléonore was Robespierre’s fianceé. Nobody knows. Many historians believe that Duplay was Robespierre’s mistress. Others believe that she was Robespierre’s wife. Skeptics argue Robespierre wasn't interested in love or anything outside of politics.
According to Vilate, a juror of the Revolutionary Tribunal (a court created for the trial of political offenders), Robespierre “lived maritally with the eldest daughter of his hosts”; according to Éléonore’s sister, she “was ‘promised’ to Robespierre, whose political opinions she shared.” Though this is a possibility, historians are still unsure of its accuracy.