Honoré Gabriel Victor de Riqueti, the Marquis de Mirabeau, was one of the most dazzling figures in French history, which was rich in eccentric personalities.
He became famous for his exposed position during the chaos of the French Revolution. But even before that he led a richly eventful life, which included a prison sentence as well as a death sentence for adultery and years of exile in Switzerland and England.
At the outbreak of the revolution he returned back to Paris and became its most eloquent speaker, president of the Jacobin Club and finally chairman of the National Assembly.
But he was nothing less than a convinced revolutionary, for during all this time he stood in secret negotiations with the royal court, seeing a constitutional ruler as the only guarantor of a stable political system.
His sudden death has led to rumours of poisoning even today, although there is no evidence of it.
He went down in history with his reply to the Master of Ceremonies of Louis XVI, who wanted to dissolve the meeting of the national estates: “Yes, we have heard the king’s order. Yes, sir, we have heard him. But what justifies you to suggest orders to us here? We are the representatives of the nation. The nation gives orders and receives none. And so that I explain myself to them very clearly, tell your king that we will not leave our places other than on the violence of the bayonets.”