Honoré Gabriel de Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau

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Gabriel de Riqueti Count von Mirabeau, portrait by Joseph Boze , 1789.
Mirabeau's signature:
Signature Honoré Gabriel de Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau.PNG
The Fort de Joux , one of his detention centers
The house in Paris where Mirabeau died

Honoré Gabriel Victor de Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau since July 13, 1789 Marquis de Mirabeau (born March 9, 1749 in Le Bignon near Nemours , Département Loiret , †  April 2, 1791 in Paris ) was a French politician , physiocrat , writer and Publicist during the Enlightenment . He took part in the French Revolution and held influential positions until his sudden death.


Mirabeau's father was the French economist ( physiocrat ) and writer Victor Riquetti , Marquis de Mirabeau . His younger brother André Boniface Louis Riquetti de Mirabeau was a loyal colonel and an opponent of the revolution. When he was three years old, Mirabeau contracted smallpox , and he wore the scars on his face all his life. He received neither donation nor financial support from his father and joined the military as a young man.

During his legal studies at the University of Aix-en-Provence , Mirabeau made the acquaintance of Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis , one of the future editors of the Civil Code . He lived in Paris from 1771, where he married Marie Emilie de Marignane in 1772. At the announcement of his father he was of Louis XV. banished from his possessions.

In 1774, his father demanded his imprisonment in the Château d'If near Marseille, where he was imprisoned for almost a year , in order to “put him on the right path” . In order to remove him from the control of his creditors, his father had him installed several times in the donjon of Vincennes Castle and finally spent him in the Château de Joux in the Jura. Here Mirabeau asked the governor several times for leave of detention and on these occasions went to Pontarlier , where he, on the occasion of the celebrations for the coronation of Louis XVI. Marie Thérèse de Monnier, who was married to a marquis fifty years her senior . Mirabeau and de Monnier fell in love and fled to Switzerland . He was sentenced to death in absentia for kidnapping and adultery and arrested again in 1777. He managed to have his death sentence annulled. However, he soon had to go back into exile after intervening in a lawsuit between his parents. From January 1786 to January 1787 he stayed twice in Potsdam and Berlin for several months . In Braunschweig he is said to have become a member of the Illuminati Order with the order name Adramelech / Leonidas , but this is not clearly proven. He then stayed in Holland , where he became a Freemason in Amsterdam . He later moved to London .

During the early days of the French Revolution , Mirabeau was a deputy and spokesman for the Third Estate in the Estates General and a member of the Society of Thirty . The nobility assembly of Provence had refused to allow him to be elected as a member of the second estate, as he lacked a fiefdom, so that he stood for election in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille for the third estate. When the Estates General opened, he published his own uncensored newspaper, the Journal des Etats-Généraux . In 1790 he became president of the Jacobin Club and in 1791 held the presidential chairmanship of the constituent national assembly .


Mirabeau died suddenly on April 2, 1791, so that one suspected poisoning. He was buried in a state funeral in the Panthéon after a ceremony in the Saint-Eustache church. After further evidence of his connections to the royal court of Louis XVI. had been found, his body was removed from the Panthéon on September 21, 1794, replaced by the Jean Paul Marats and buried in the cemetery of St-Étienne-du-Mont . In 1798 Mirabeau's sister obtained his exhumation and had him buried in a mass grave in Paris. Despite research in 1889 to mark the centenary of the revolution, the body has not yet been found.

The political and literary work

Like other enlighteners , Mirabeau presented the British constitutional monarchy with the Bill of Rights as a model for a model of society to be striven for. Jewish emancipation also belonged to his ideas of a civilized society . This was particularly evident in his essay, published in 1786, “About Moses Mendelssohn and the betterment of the Jews” . In it, the atheist Mirabeau used himself on behalf of the devout Jew and German enlightener Mendelssohn in order to make him known in France. He discusses his career and merits, goes into the persecution of Jews in Europe and castigates racial hatred as a perversion of the spirit. The quintessence of his human rights plea:

“Are there no natural rights that are older and more sacred than all social conventions? It could only bring salvation to the human race if one finally forgot the difference between citizens and strangers and saw people first and foremost in all. "

In the elections to the Estates General in May 1789, Mirabeau was a member of the Third Estate. From the new perspective after his stay in England he saw the nobility and the church as the main obstacles to freedom. He was instrumental in the abolition of the privileges of the nobility and in the confiscation of church property. However, he continued to regard a king bound by the constitution as a necessary part of the political system. On January 29, 1791, the deputies elected him President of the National Assembly . Mirabeau's popularity suffered a setback when his close ties with the king, whom he had secretly advised and from whom he had funded his lifestyle with considerable sums, became known posthumously.

Parallel to his political activities, Mirabeau, a gifted writer, secretly produced some erotic works that are still very popular today. When “Le Rideau levé, ou l'Education de Laure” (The Lifted Curtain or Laura's Upbringing) appeared anonymously in 1786, Mirabeau had already had an adventurous life behind him that saw him several times either behind bars or as a celebrated speaker in the courtroom when it did was to defend one's own, allegedly improper way of life. As a result, he could not afford any more trouble and decided not to publish his erotic books under his own name. Laura's upbringing leads the reader into the still intact world of the better classes on the eve of the French Revolution. The book describes the upbringing and life of a young girl from the first erotic encounter to orgies, which are described in detail. The novel is one of the most revealing erotic books of the Enlightenment , with which Mirabeau pleads for sexual freedom and self-determination of the sexes as well as for the need for a connection between spiritual and physical love. In his opinion, this is the only way to achieve perfect happiness. This worldview fits into the philosophical self-understanding of the Enlightenment, which saw the greatest possible happiness of people as an ideal. Laura's upbringing has been translated into several languages ​​and has been re-published to this day - also in Germany. "Hic-et-Haec" (1798) became another classic of the erotic literature of the Enlightenment .

Mirabeau's "Thunderbolt"

Mirabeau's reply to the master of ceremonies on June 23, 1789, Alphonse Lamotte after Jules Dalou

Mirabeau is known, among other things, for the answer with which he rejected the royal master of ceremonies on June 23, 1789 when he wanted to dissolve the meeting of the Estates-General.

Heinrich von Kleist describes Mirabeau's appearance very clearly in his essay On the Gradual Production of Thoughts While Talking :

(...) I remember that “thunderbolt” of Mirabeau, with which he dispatched the master of ceremonies, who after the last monarchical meeting of the king on June 23rd, in which he had ordered the estates to separate, in the meeting room in which the estates lingered, returned, and asked whether they had heard the king's command? "Yes," replied Mirabeau, "we have heard the king's orders" - I am certain that, with this humane beginning, he did not yet think of the bayonets with which he closed: "Yes, sir," he repeated, “We heard him” - you can see that he still doesn't quite know what he wants. “But what entitles you” - he continued, and now suddenly a source of tremendous ideas dawns on him - “to imply orders to us here? We are the representatives of the nation. ”- That was what he needed! “The nation gives orders and receives none” - to jump straight to the top of presumptuousness. “And so that I can explain myself to you very clearly” - and only now does he find what expresses the whole resistance to which his soul stands ready: “So tell your king that we have no other places than to the violence of the Bayonets are abandoned. "- Whereupon he sat down on a chair, complacent. (...)


  • Essai sur le despotisme (1776)
  • Histoire sécrète de la cour de Berlin (1786–1787)
  • De la monarchie prussienne sous Frédéric le Grand , Vol. 1–7 (1788). Digital copies: Vol. 1/1 (PDF, 15.3 MB) , Vol. 1/2 (PDF, 7.2 MB) . All volumes 1–7 are online at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
  • Lettres de cachet
  • Ma Conversion ou le Libertin de qualité (1783)
  • Considérations sur l'ordre de Cinncinatus ou imitation d'un pamphlet anglo-américain (1784)
  • Le rideau levé ( Eng .: the raised curtain or Laura's education ), (1786)
  • Histoire secrète de la cour de Berlin (1787)
  • Denonciation de l'agiotage (1787)
  • Lettres à Sophie (1792)
  • Hic-et-Haec (1798)


  • Ursula M. Disch: The speaker Mirabeau . A journalistic study, Hamburg / Berlin (diss.) 1965.
  • Ursula M. Disch: Der Redner Mirabeau , in: Publizistik 11 (1966), pp. 57–98.
  • Gradnauer, Georg : Mirabeau's thoughts on the renewal of the French state system (diss.), Niemeyer, Halle (Saale) 1889.
  • Horst Heintze: eloquence and rhetoric in the French Revolution . In: Horst Heintze / Erwin Silzer (eds.): In the service of language . Festschrift for Victor Klemperer's 75th birthday on October 9, 1956, Halle (Saale) 1958, pp. 276–297.
  • Aurelio Principato: Mirabeau orator comme exemple privilégié dans la formation de l'idée romantique d'éloquence . In: Rhetorik 12 (1993), pp. 40-49.
  • Karl von Schumacher: Mirabeau, aristocrat and tribune of the people , Scherz & Goverts Verlag, Stuttgart 1954.
  • Bernhard Erdmannsdörffer: Mirabeau , Hoof, Berlin 2015 (first published in 1900 in the series "Monographs on World History").
  • Johannes Willms: Mirabeau or The Dawn of the Revolution , CH Beck, Munich 2017.

Web links

Commons : Honoré Mirabeau  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Le château d'If Science et magie
  2. Reinhard Markner: Imakoromazypziloniakus. Mirabeau and the decline of the Berlin Rosicrucianism (2003; PDF; 283 kB)
  3. ^ Justus Franz Wittkop "Count Mirabeau
  4. Marie-Christine Penin: MIRABEAU Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de
  5. Quoted from: Josef Rattner / Gerhard Danzer / Irmgard Fuchs: Splendor and greatness of French culture in the 18th century. Würzburg 2001, p. 239.
predecessor Office successor
Henri Grégoire President of the National Assembly
January 29, 1791 - February 14, 1791
Adrien Duport