Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville

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Antoine Quentin Fouquier de Tinville
Antoine Quentin Fouquier de Tinville.png
Prosecutor during the Reign of Terror
Died7 May 1795(1795-05-07) (aged 48–49)
Cause of death Guillotine

Antoine Quentin Fouquier de Tinville (10 June 1746 7 May 1795) was a French prosecutor during the Revolution and Reign of Terror periods.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Prosecutor supreme representative of the prosecution (of the state)

A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in countries with either the common law adversarial system, or the civil law inquisitorial system. The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the case in a criminal trial against an individual accused of breaking the law. Typically, the prosecutor represents the government in the case brought against the accused person.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.



Early career

Born in Herouël, a village in the département of the Aisne, he was the son of a seigneurial landowner. He studied law and in 1774 purchased a position as prosecutor procureur attached to the Châtelet in Paris. He sold his office in 1781 to pay off his debts and became a clerk under the lieutenant-general of police. [1]

Foreste Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Foreste is a commune in the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France in northern France.

Aisne Department of France

Aisne is a French department in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. It is named after the river Aisne.

Syndic officer of government with varying powers

Syndic is a term applied in certain countries to an officer of government with varying powers, and secondly to a representative or delegate of a university, institution or other corporation, entrusted with special functions or powers.

Little is known of the part he played at the outbreak of the Revolution. According to himself, he was part of the National Guard at its formation. [2] He was active in the politics of his section in 1789, and in August 1792, supported the sans culotte movement. Backed by his cousin Camille Desmoulins, Fouquier de Tinville became the foreman of a jury established to pass verdict on crimes of Royalists arrested after the journée du 10 août in 1792. [1]

National Guard (France) 1789–1872 military reserve and police branch of Frances military

The National Guard is a French military, gendarmerie, and police reserve force, active in its current form since 2016 but originally founded in 1789 after the French Revolution.

<i>Sans-culottes</i> radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes during French Revolution

The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, came in vogue in 1792, during the demonstration of 20 June 1792. The name sans-culottes refers to their clothing, and through that to their lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class sans-culottes wore pantaloons, or trousers, instead. The sans-culottes, most of them urban labourers, served as the driving popular force behind the revolution. They were judged by the other revolutionaries as "radicals" because they advocated a direct democracy, that is to say, without intermediaries such as members of parliament. Though ill-clad people and ill-equipped, with little or no support from the upper class, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Camille Desmoulins French politician

Lucie-Simplice-Camille-Benoît Desmoulins was a journalist and politician who played an important role in the French Revolution. Desmoulins was tried and executed alongside Danton when the Committee of Public Safety reacted against Dantonist opposition. He was a schoolmate of Maximilien Robespierre and a close friend and political ally of Georges Danton, who were influential figures in the French Revolution.

Public prosecutor

Act of death sentence signed by Fouquier Tinville, public prosecutor to the committee of public safety during the French Revolution Fouquier.jpg
Act of death sentence signed by Fouquier Tinville, public prosecutor to the committee of public safety during the French Revolution

When the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris was created by the National Convention on 10 March 1793, he was appointed its public prosecutor, an office that he filled until 1 August 1794. [1] His zeal in prosecution earned him the nickname Purveyor to the Guillotine. [3] On 26 September 1793 Martial Herman was appointed as president of the tribunal and René-François Dumas as vice president; Coffinhal as one of the judges.

Revolutionary Tribunal Tribunal during the French revolution

The Revolutionary Tribunal was a court instituted by the National Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders. It eventually became one of the most powerful engines of the Reign of Terror.

National Convention Single-chamber assembly in France from 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795

The National Convention was the first government of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the great insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French government organized as a republic, abandoning the monarchy altogether. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

Martial Joseph Armand Herman (guillotined), was a politician of the French Revolution, and temporary French Foreign Minister.

His activity during this time earned him the reputation of one of the most sinister figures of the Revolution. [4] His office as public prosecutor arguably reflected a need to display the appearance of legality during what was essentially political command, more than a need to establish actual guilt. Fouquier de Tinville, like Maximilien Robespierre, was known for his ruthless radicalism. [1]

Maximilien Robespierre French revolutionary lawyer and politician

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician, as well as one of the best known and most influential figures associated with the French Revolution. As a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to petition. He campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, abolition of celibacy and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. Robespierre played an important part in the agitation which brought about the fall of the French Legislative Assembly in August 1792 and the summoning of a National Convention.

One of the last groups he prosecuted included seven nuns, aged 3266, of the former convent of Carmelites, living in Paris, plus an eighth nun, of the Convent of the Visitation,

. . .who were charged with consorting together and scheming to trouble the State by provoking civil war with their fanaticism....Instead of living at peace within the bosom of the Republic, which had provided for their subsistence, and instead of obeying the laws, adopted the idea of residing together in this same house...and of making this house a refuge for refractory priests and counter-revolutionary fanatics, with whom they plotted against the Revolution and against the eternal principles of liberty and equality which are its basis. [3]

Apparently the nuns, whom he called criminal assassins, were corrupted by the ex-Jesuit Rousseau de Roseicquet, who led them in a conspiracy to poison minds and subvert the Republic. When the judge read this piece of Fouquier-Tinville's prose, he condemned them to be deported, as well as all those who had given them refuge. [3]


His career ended with the fall of Robespierre at the start of the Thermidorian Reaction. Although he was briefly kept as the new government's prosecutor, even helping in the arrest of Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just, and Georges Couthon, and being confirmed by Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac and the Convention on 28 July 1794, he was arrested after being denounced by Louis-Marie Stanislas Fréron. [1]

Imprisoned on 1 August, he was brought to trial in front of the Convention. His defense was that he had only obeyed the decrees of the Committee of Public Safety and the Convention:

It is not I who ought to be facing the tribunal, but the chiefs whose orders I have executed. I had only acted in the spirit of the laws passed by a Convention invested with all powers. Through the absence of its members [on trial], I find myself the head of a [political] conspiracy I have never been aware of. Here I am facing slander, [facing] a people always eager to find others responsible.

After a trial lasting forty-one days, he was sentenced to death and guillotined on 7 May 1795, together with 15 former functionaries of the Revolutionary Tribunal, who were sentenced as his accomplices. [5]

Personal life

Fouquier-Tinville married his first wife, Geneviève-Dorothée Saugnier, with whom he would have five children, in 1775. He was widowed seven years later. Four months after his wife's death, he married Henriette Jeanne Gérard d'Arcourt, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. They had three children together. [6]


Fiction and film


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Paul R. Hanson, The A-Z of the French Revolution: Fouquier-Tinville, Scarecrow Press, 2007, pp. 134134.
  2. Lenotre, G. Madame Fouquier-Tinville, Romances of the French Revolution, 1908. p. 20
  3. 1 2 3 Edwin Bannon, Refractory Men, Fanatical Women: Fidelity to Conscience During the French Revolution. Gracewing Publishing, 1992, pp. 101104.
  4. de Gramont, Sanche, The French, Portrait of a People, Putnam's, New York, 1969, p. 122
  5. Pièces original du procès du Fouquier-Tinville et de ses complices, 1795. p. 94
  6. Lenotre, p. 15-28

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Further reading