Vadier would definitively condemn Robespierre by displaying a letter from a Geneva Notary, which proposes a supernatural Constitution to Robespierre. It is the end. After a three-hour battle, the High Priest of the Supreme Being is dead, killed by ridicule.
A few days later, on 9 Thermidor 1794, he who had wanted to bring back the Golden Age, via terror and the scaffold, perishes on the scaffold, amid songs, dances and cries of joy.
The day after this day when the Revolution falls, Catherine Theot is taken to the Petite Force Prison, and from there to the Plessis. Robespierre had been opposed to her being harmed, and she now risks being persecuted as one of the tyrant’s accomplices. Inside her gaol, covered in wounds, the origin of which cannot be explained, the Sibyl of the Rue Contrescarpe continues to prophesy… She had vaticinated in her first prison:
“A great blow will strike me on the Pantheon hill, in a house next to the Ecole de Droit. It will announce my rejuvenation and my transformation into an Immortal!”
Her prophecy as to the last place of her detention would reveal itself to be exact. And what “great blow” does she mean? To the questioners and gaolers who mock her, she says:
“Yes, I am going to die! But not on the scaffold like you hope! I shall die of my own death and unhappiness! When I die, you will see!… The ground will tremble, and it will collapse everywhere!…”
On 31 August, the visionary, surrounded by her faithful, enters into agony. She dies peacefully at half-past seven. At this precise instant, a formidable detonation shakes the walls of the prison. The ground begins to tremble and all of the windows in Paris shatter while the doors of the prison next to the Luxembourg open on their own.
For a reason which was never elucidated, the Grenelle ammunition dump had just exploded, killing hundreds of people…
After this, the Mother of God’s gaolers took her prophecies seriously and, mad with terror, installed her body on a big parade bed, covered with flowers and surrounded by a thousand candles. Of course, when they learned that it was the central ammunition dump which had exploded and that the Illuminated woman had nothing to do with it, they threw her body into the common grave and covered it with lime…
Robespierre had never seen her and didn’t even know that she existed. The Atheist Party simply used her to ridicule Robespierre’s religious ideas.
This former pupil of the Oratorians, who owed to the Bishop of Arras his Bursary of Collegian and Student, lived right to the end surrounded by priests. A fervent disciple of Rousseau, whom he had perhaps met in his Ermenonville retreat, he attacked Voltaire in all of his speeches, which caused great scandal among the Atheists. At the Convention tribunal, where he purposely smattered his interventions with many resounding : “May it not displease God!” he said:
“To attack the cult, is to attack the morality of the People!”
Just before and at the beginning of the Revolution, the good God was never in better health. When the churches start to be closed, people turn in frenzy to all forms of mysticism. The most naive, or the craziest, revelations of somnambulists and necromancians, tarots and horoscopes, those of Mademoiselle Lenormand in particular, who has among her clients Saint-Just, Barere and Robespierre himself, who faints every time that he touches the Nine of Spades. When in 1793, Saint Genevieve’s shrine is profaned, the Sans-Culottes of the neighbourhood want to raise in the church an “altar, where pious vestals would maintain a perpetual fire”. In the families, Chaumette’s portrait placed between two candles is adored, and Petion, the President of the Convention, has his sect which finds him “very superior to Our Lord Jesus-Christ”.
In the good aristocratic society, things are not much better. The Duchess de Bourbon welcomes all that Paris counts in somnambulists, wizards, cabbalists and augures. Every day, the prophet Elie holds conferences which are followed by a lot of people in the Tuileries garden. People believe that they are followed by their guardian angel or persecuted by their guardian devil and those who do not give themselves up to magnetism, follow the prophetess Jeanne Labrousse, as far as Rome, where she goes to convert the Pope.
Catherine Theot also has success, as we have seen, with an imagination even more fertile than the others. The Police find in her home a recipe for making a magical sword which renders invincible, but above all numerous rough copies of letters, all addressed to her “dear son” Robespierre in which she gratifies him with the name of “Guide des milices celestes” and “angel of the Lord”.
The only element which is in any way compromising for the Incorruptible, is the presence in the Theot’s home of Dom Gerle, the man in the white coat.
This strange person, a former Deputy of the Constituante, who had launched the visionary Suzanne Labrousse in Paris, would furnish Vadier with the only political element of his report. It is a letter from Robespierre to the former Chartreux, in which he guarantees his patriotism and his revolutionary convictions and gives him as well “une carte de Surete”, a precious talisman, without which the slightest movement inside Paris can end at the Conciergerie.
In the Summer of 1794, anything was good for bringing down the Angel of Death who was only hanging on by public pressure. The absolute Reign of Terror had arrived and anybody in France could be arrested at night, judged at noon and guillotined at four o’clock in the afternoon, without even having opened his or her mouth. Atrocious times, when the Deputies didn’t dare sleep in their beds, continually changed places in the chamber during a sitting, spent their day running around in the streets and slipping into buildings with two entrances, to uncover spies. Barras, in his Memoires, recounts that a Deputy, drunk with fatigue, was at his place, his forehead resting on his hand. Suddenly he is seen to jump on his seat as if stung by a scorpion. Simply because the Dictator had stared at him. Trembling, decomposed, he turns to one of his colleagues and stammers:
“He’s going to believe that I’m thinking something!”
Inside, as well as outside, Robespierre had acquired immense prestige, to the point that he personified, all on his own, the Revolution. And the Terror. It was said at the Convention:
“If Robespierre asks for blood, blood will flow; if he doesn’t, no-one else will dare ask for it!”
Women in particular added to it. Widow Jaquin from Nantes, endowed with 40,000 pounds of rent, writes to him:
“You are my supreme divinity, I see you as my tutelary angel”
The Municipalities write to him that they throw themselves at his feet and that they sing Te Deums in his honour…
Until his death in 1828, the former Conventionnel Vadier would not cease to repeat in his Brussels exile the story of Catherine Theot and what he had been able to do with it. He said with his inimitable Ariege accent:
“Robespierre, I annihilated him, I sank him, I struck him down in one blow… Can you imagine it?! He was saying that Atheism is aristocratic!”
The implacable Voltairian, who had brought down a man whose power surpassed by a great deal that of the Sun-King [Louis XIV] himself, died piously on the day of the Pentecost in 1828 and his body was presented at the Sainte-Gudule Cathedral, where the high clergy assembled to celebrate a solemn service for the repose of his soul…