The radical French journalist Jean-Paul Marat was stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday.
Marat was a well-respected doctor who, despite his wealth and privilege, had a passion for social justice. In the late 1780s he put his career on hold and dedicated his time to writing in favour of political, economic and social reform in his own radical newspaper. This soon adopted the name L’Ami du Peuple (“The People’s Friend”).
Marat’s writings often called for violence against the upper class, members of the government, and enemies of the people. As a result he occasionally had to hide in Paris’ extensive sewer network, where he may have developed the skin condition that saw him confined to a medicinal bath for hours on end.
On the 13th July 1793 Marat granted an audience to the 24-year old Charlotte Corday from Normandy while he soaked in his medicinal bath. Corday presented Marat with a list of names of supposed traitors, but she was actually a moderate Girondin sympathiser. After Marat told her that he would arrange for the execution of the traitors, she pulled out a five-inch kitchen knife and stabbed him once in the chest, severing a major artery and causing him to die almost immediately of massive blood loss.
Corday was guillotined in Paris just four days after killing Marat. She claimed in her trial to be a supporter of Republicanism, and said that she had ‘killed one man to save 100,000’. However, the assassination raised fears of counter-revolution and contributed to the subsequent Terror in which thousands of Frenchmen and women were guillotined on charges of treason.
Marat’s bathtub, and the knife that he was killed with, are now on display at the Musée Grévin waxworks in Paris.