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Roland Jeanne Marie

Roland Jeanne Marie (1754—1793)

Vicountess Jeanne Marie Roland de la Platiere nee Manon Jeanne Phlipon born on March 17, 1754 - November 8, 1793, became the wife of Jean Marie Roland de la Platiere and is better known simply as Madame Roland. Both she and her husband were famous figures of the French Revolution.

She was the daughter of Gratien Phlipon (alternatively spelt Philippon), a Paris engraver, who was ambitious, speculative and nearly always poor. From her early years she showed great aptitude for study, an ardent and enthusiastic spirit, and unquestionable talent. She was largely self-taught; and her love of reading acquainted her with Plutarch — a passion for which author she continued to cherish throughout her life — thereafter with Bossuet, Massillon, and authors of a like stamp, and finally with Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. As her mind matured, she abandoned the idea of entering a convent, and added to the enthusiasm for a republic which she had imbibed from her earlier studies, she was inspired by her reading with cynicism and daring. She married Jean Marie Roland in 1781, and was his equal in intellect and character. Through and with him she exercised a singularly powerful influence over the destinies of France from the outbreak of the French Revolution till her death by guillotine.

In the early days of their marriage, Madame Roland wrote political articles for the Courrier de Lyon. When the couple moved to Paris, she began to take an even more active role. Her salon on the rue Guenegaud in Paris became the rendezvous of Brissot, Petion, Robespierre and other leaders of the popular movement, and especially Buzot, whom she loved with platonic enthusiasm. In person Madame Roland is said to have been attractive but not beautiful; her ideas were clear and far-reaching, her manner calm, and her power of observation extremely acute. It was almost inevitable that she should find herself in the centre of political aspirations and presiding over a company of the most talented men of progress. The rupture between the Girondist party and that section still more extreme, that of the Mountain, had not yet occurred. For a time the whole left united in forcing the resignation of the ministers.

However, after Roland had made a stand against the worst excesses of the Revolution, the couple became very unpopular. Once Madame Roland appeared personally in the Assembly to repel the falsehoods of an accuser, and her ease and dignity evoked enthusiasm and compelled acquittal.

However, the accusations continued. On the morning of June 1 1793 she was arrested and thrown into the prison of the Abbaye. Her husband escaped to Rouen. Released for an hour from the Abbaye, she was again arrested and placed in Sainte-Pelagie. Finally, she was transferred to the Conciergerie. In prison she was respected by the guards, and was allowed the privilege of writing materials and occasional visits from devoted friends. There she wrote her Appel а l'impartiale posterite, those memoirs which display a strange alternation between self-laudation and patriotism, between the trivial and the sublime. She was tried on trumped up charges of harbouring royalist sympathies; the plain fact was that she was to be expunged as part of the purge by Robespierre of the Girondist opposition, and was duly convicted.

On November 8, 1793, she was conveyed to the guillotine. Before placing her head on the block, she bowed before the clay statue of Liberty in the Place de la Revolution, uttering the famous remark for which she is remembered:

O Liberte, que de crimes on commet en ton nom! (O Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!)

Shortly after her execution, her husband, Jean Marie Roland, committed suicide.

France, 1989, Madam Roland

Great Britain. Grunay, 1982, Mme Roland

France, 1989.06.24, Paris. Madam Roland


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