Republican marriage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Republican marriage (French: mariage républicain) was a form of execution practiced in in the city of Nantes in Revolutionary France, "which involved tying a naked man and woman together and drowning them". (Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity: Robespierre And the French Revolution (2006) p. 305.) Most accounts indicate that the victims were drowned in the Loire River, although a few sources describe an alternative means of execution in which the bound couple is run through with a sword, either before, or instead of drowning.

Descriptions of the practice

This form of execution is attributed to French Revolutionary Jean-Baptiste Carrier, who was sent to Nantes to suppress the counterrevolutionary forces and to appoint a Revolutionary Committee. One historian described the use of the practice as follows:

A Revolutionary Tribunal was established [at Nantes], of which Carrier was the presiding demon—Carrier, known in all nations as the inventor of that last of barbarous atrocities, the Republican Marriage, in which two persons of different genders, generally an old man and an old woman, or a young man and a young woman, bereft of every kind of clothing, were bound together before the multitude, exposed in a boat in that situation for half an hour or more, and then thrown into the river.

Details of the practice vary slightly, but are generally consistent with the description offered above. One author described how "marriages Républicains... consisted in binding together a man and woman, back to back, stripped naked, keeping them exposed for an hour, and then hurling them into the current of "la Baignoire Nationale", as the bloodhounds termed the Loire". British radical and Girondist sympathizer Helen Maria Williams, in her Sketch of the Politics of France, 1793–94, wrote that "innocent young women were unclothed in the presence of the monsters; and, to add a deeper horror to this infernal act of cruelty, were tied to young men, and both were cut down with sabers, or thrown into the river; and this kind of murder was called a republican marriage".

According to literary scholar Steven Blakemore, Williams seems to have regarded this as a form of "terrorist misogynism". Williams' description of the women as "innocent", in his view, "not only suggests that they were not guilty of aiding the rebels, but that they were young 'virgins'". He argues that in Williams' text, the male Jacobin executioners are portrayed as "sadistic, public voyeurs who delight in tying 'counter-revolutionary' men and women into forced positions of sterile intercourse, in a grotesque 'marriage' of the soon-to-be dead." Thus, "if the Old Regime, for Williams, represents the forced confinement of female beauty, the Terror represents beauty's degrading death."

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Republican marriage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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