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“Oh, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!”- Madame Roland

Posted in Famous Last Words, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Revolution on Wednesday, 26 June 2013

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This edited article about Madame Roland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 304 published on 11 November 1967.

Madame Roland, picture, image, illustration

The famous last words of Madame Roland

It is not for her work as a revolutionary, nor for her bravery when she became a victim of the revolution which she had helped to start, that Madame Marie Jeanne Roland is specially remembered today. Her claim to popular fame is based on a few words she spoke before she was executed in Paris. “Oh, Liberty,” she cried, “what crimes are committed in thy name!”

Perhaps these words are remembered because they so exactly summed up the darker side of the French Revolution.

Marie Jeanne Roland, who was born in Paris on 18th March, 1754, passionately believed in liberty and the idea of founding a new and just State in France. In 1780, she married a government official who shared her views. Together they worked for a revolution which would bring equality to all, and to this end they became leaders in the Girondist movement.

The Girondists – so-called because many of their members were from the Gironde district of Bordeaux – were opposed to the revolutionary leader Marat. In May, 1793, Marat won the struggle for power and the Girondists were persecuted in the following Reign of Terror. Among the victims was Marie Roland. On 8th November, 1793, she was taken to the guillotine, where she met her end with great bravery.

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