Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti de Mirabeau


August 14, 2022

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, also spelled Riquetti, "Count" of Mirabeau, more commonly known as Mirabeau, born March 9, 1749 in Bignon and died April 2, 1791 in Paris, was a French writer, diplomat, journalist and politician, figure of the Revolution. Nicknamed "the People's Speaker" and "the Torch of Provence", he remains the first symbol of parliamentary eloquence in France. Although a member of the nobility, he distinguished himself as a deputy of the Third Estate to the States General after being rejected by the order of the nobility. Much loved by the revolutionaries, his body was transported to the Pantheon upon his death, but the discovery of his secret relations with royalty turned public opinion, and his remains were removed from the mausoleum, of which he was the first occupant.



Fifth child and second son of Victor Riquetti de Mirabeau, a renowned economist, and Marie-Geneviève de Vassan (1725-1795), Mirabeau came from a family of Provençal nobility on his father's side and from a line of financiers dating back to Jacques de Vassan. He is the older brother of André Boniface Louis Riquetti de Mirabeau and Louise de Mirabeau, last Marquise de Cabris. According to Victor Hugo, born eleven years after Mirabeau's death, the latter was “grandiose and dazzlingly ugly”. He was born with a crooked foot, two large teeth and above all a huge head (which led to people saying that he was hydrocephalic). He also has his tongue chained by the net. Before presenting the child to his father, the nurse warns him: “Don't be frightened”. And the obstetrician adds: “He will have a lot of trouble expressing himself”. Mirabeau will admit his deformity, but will want to draw strength from it: "We don't know the full power of my ugliness", he will proclaim. At the age of three, he was disfigured by badly treated smallpox; his livid face bears deep scars. His childhood is marked by the severity of his father who has no affection for him. In 1754, his father wrote to his brother, the bailiff of Mirabeau: “Your nephew is ugly like the son of Satan”. He also used to call him "Monsieur l'hurricane" or "le comte de la Bourrasque". He was placed by his father with Abbé Choquard in Paris. Intended for a military career, he accumulates gambling debts, so much so that his father has him imprisoned on the Ile de Ré by letter of cachet.

Tumultuous Beginnings

He studied at the Faculty of Law of the University of Aix-en-Provence where he attended, in particular Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis, future editor of the Civil Code. In 1768, he was incorporated into a regiment, but contracted debts, which again angered his father. He gained a reputation for licentiousness: "But the world does not forgive Mirabeau this kind of ferocity, of physical exasperation which the lightness of fashionable libertinism replaced in him: a fiery nature burst forth in these vices, instead of the graceful corruption that we were accustomed to admire". He participated in the campaign of Corsica in 1768-1769, which he will repent. In November 1789, Mirabeau denounced the abuses that accompanied the conquest of Corsica: “I confess, gentlemen, that my early youth was sullied by my participation in the conquest of Corsica. » He married June 23, 1772 in the Church of the Holy Spirit of Aix-en-Provence Émilie de Covet-Marignane, daughter of the powerful Marquis de Marignane, who had refused his hand to the Count of Valbelle. They have a son, Victor, who died in infancy in 1778. In 1774, his father asked for his imprisonment in the Château d'If, off the coast of Marseille, to "put him back on the right track", an imprisonment which lasted almost a year. To save him from his creditors, his father had him locked up in the dungeon several times.