Friday, July 13, 2012
Jean Paul Marat is Murdered (1793) & Last Woman Executed in Great Britain (1955)
On this date in 1793, Jean Paul Marat, one of the most outspoken leaders of the French Revolution, is stabbed to death in his bath by Charlotte Corday, a Royalist sympathizer.
Originally a doctor, Marat founded the journal L'Ami du Peuple in 1789, and its fiery criticism of those in power was a contributing factor to the bloody turn of the Revolution in 1792. With the arrest of the king in August of that year, Marat was elected as a deputy of Paris to the Convention. In France's revolutionary legislature, Marat opposed the Girondists--a faction made up of moderate republicans who advocated a constitutional government and continental war. By 1793, Charlotte Corday, the daughter of an impoverished aristocrat and an ally of the Girondists in Normandy, came to regard Marat as the unholy enemy of France and plotted his assassination. Leaving her native Caen for Paris, she had planned to kill Marat at the Bastille Day parade on July 14 but was forced to seek him out in his home when the festivities were canceled. On July 13, she gained an audience with Marat by promising to betray the Caen Girondists. Marat, who had a persistent skin disease, was working as usual in his bath when Corday pulled a knife from her bodice and stabbed him in his chest. He died almost immediately, and Corday waited calmly for the police to come and arrest her. She was guillotined four days later.
Ellis was born in Rhyl, Wales, in 1926. She left school as a young teenager, had a child and worked a variety of jobs, eventually becoming a nightclub hostess. In 1950, she married dentist George Ellis, with whom she had a second child. The marriage was short-lived and Ruth Ellis returned to working in nightclubs. She then became involved in a tempestuous relationship with David Blakely, a playboy race-car driver. Ellis became pregnant but miscarried several days after a fight during which Blakely hit her in the stomach. She later became obsessed with Blakely when he failed to come see her as promised. On April 10, 1955, she shot him to death outside the Magdala pub in Hampstead, North London. During her trial, which began in June 1955, Ellis stated “It was obvious that when I shot him I intended to kill him.” This was a critical statement, as British law required demonstration of clear intent in order to convict someone of murder. It reportedly took the jury less than half an hour to find Ellis guilty and she automatically received the death penalty. Thousands of people signed petitions protesting her punishment; however, on July 13, 1955, the 28-year-old Ellis was hanged at Holloway Prison, a women’s institution in Islington, London. She was the last woman executed for murder in Great Britain. On August 13, 1964, Peter Anthony Allen and John Alan West became the last people to be executed for murder in England. In 1965, the death penalty for murder was banned in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland outlawed capital punishment in 1973. However, several crimes, including treason, remained punishable by death in Great Britain until 1998. In 1985, a movie titled Dance With a Stranger chronicled Ellis’ life. In December 2003, a British court dismissed an appeal filed by Ellis’s sister asking for Ruth’s conviction to be reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of “provocation and/or diminished responsibility.”
On this date in 1955, nightclub owner Ruth Ellis who was convicted of murdering boyfriend David Blakely is executed. She was the last woman in Great Britain to be put to death.