Makes a million robes per year.

Who makes a million robes per year?

A Frenchman, who died a gruesome death after changing the course of French history. His name was Maximilien Robespierre and it’s doubtful he ever made a robe, let alone a million in one year. Robespierre’s significance reaches far beyond haute couture as he was a central player in the Reign of Terror, and a Jacobin leader during the French Revolution. His death was far more dramatic than anything that has graced a French catwalk.

Maximilien-François-Marie-Isidore de Robespierre was born on May 6, 1758 in Arras, France, and was described as intelligent, altruistic, frugal and well-groomed, but also as dictatorial, a bloodthirsty creature or a timid bourgeois. So how did such a man die such a gruesome death?

A weak voice

Robespierre is remembered for having a weak voice, but he gave voice to the voiceless. He is also remembered for once shooting his mouth off. During meetings of the National Assembly from 1789 onwards, he exhibited simple manners and a soft voice which was often drowned out by those who opposed his views. Nevertheless, in the 500 or so speeches that he made to this assembly angered the conservatives because he advocated universal suffrage and unrestricted admission to the national guard, public offices and the commissioned ranks of the army. He fought for the right to petition and he opposed the royal veto, as well as the abuses of ministerial power, and religious and racial discrimination. These were all burning issues in France at the time and underpinned the desire for revolution and change.

The lawyer

Robespierre also attracted attention after defending actors, Jews and black slaves while working as a lawyer. He entered the legal profession in 1781 after excelling at the college of Oratorians at Arras and then the college of Louis-le-Grand in Paris, where he studied on a scholarship. He won praise for his work in philosophy and law and was well versed in the writings of the French philosophers of the Enlightenment. He drew inspiration from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and these ideas informed his political thinking.

The law practice he established in Arras with his sister, Charlotte, quickly established a solid reputation, and it was not long before he was appointed a judge at the Salle Épiscopale, a court with jurisdiction over the provostship of the diocese. His legal firm followed in the footsteps of his lawyer father and earned Robespierre a comfortable income and the ability to pursue a life in politics.

It would also lead to his gruesome death.

The politician

Robespierre began his political career at the age of 30. His first office was deputy to the Estates General in 1789 as one of the representatives of the Artois region. In 1790 he was elected secretary of the National Assembly and he soon came to preside over the Jacobins, a political club promoting the ideas of the French Revolution. His involvement with the Jacobins would lead to controversy, attacks on his life and clashes with various sections of French society.

The Jacobins were famous for advocating liberty, and clashed with the royal family and their supporters. Robespierre was labelled a dangerous individual for his challenge to the status quo, and when King Louis XVI fled, threats against Robespierre and the Jacobins became violent. As a result, Robespierre hurriedly called for a vote on changes to the constitution. In the ensuing chaos, martial law was proclaimed in France and the national guard opened fire on a group of protestors at Champ-de-Mars who were demanding the abdication of the king.

Friends and enemies

The physical attacks on progressive thinkers placed Robespierre’s life in danger. He took refuge with the family of a cabinet maker, Maurice Duplay, where he considered his next move. The complication was that many of the Jacobins had since joined a rival club. Eventually, the National Assembly dissolved itself and the people of Paris organised a triumphal procession for Robespierre.

Robespierre would soon return to public life in the new Legislative Assembly. Even though he excluded himself and his colleagues from this assembly, he still spoke at the Jacobin Club where he delivered about 100 speeches until August 1792. One topic of his speeches was opposition to the European war that Jacque-Pierre Brissot was proposing in order to spread the aims of the Revolution. For Robespierre, there was still more work to be done in France.

Brissot and Robespierre were to clash repeatedly. Brissot disagreed with Robespierre’s denouncement of the secret intrigues of the court and of the royalists, and their collusion with Austria. Robespierre questioned the preparedness of the army, and suggested that some aristocratic officers had committed treason. At the same time, he defended patriotic soldiers, including those of the Châteauvieux regiment, who were imprisoned after a mutiny at Nancy.

In response to criticism from Brissot, Robespierre founded the newspaper Le Défenseur de la Constitution (“Defense of the Constitution”), in order to win more support from the people. Through the newspaper, Robespierre attacked Marquis de Lafayette, who was now commander of the French army. Robespierre suspected Lafayette of plotting to establish a military dictatorship but was unable to secure Lafayette’s dismissal.

Insurrection

Particular incidents which highlights the contrasting reputation of Robespierre occurred in 1792. Robespierre had long advocated insurrection “only with the sword of the law”, but on August 10 an attack was carried out on the Tuileries Palace, and even though Robespierre did not participate in the attack, he was nominated to the insurrectional commune. A month later, nobles and clergy were imprisoned and murdered during the September Massacres and, as a member of the electoral assembly of Paris, Robespierre exonerated the mob. Soon after, the people of Paris chose him to lead the delegation to the National Convention.

At this stage, Robespierre had attracted many supporters, and many enemies.

The dictator

Robespierre was accused of a dictatorial leadership style on various occasions. In 1792, The Girondins accused him of dictatorship during his sessions with the National Convention. The Girondins were a political group which favoured political but not social democracy, and clashed with the ideals of the Jacobins. They also controlled the government and the civil service. To support their accusations, the Girdondins cited Robespierre’s call for the death of the king during his trial in December 1792.

Other critics point to Robespierre’s use of the phrase “une volonté une” or “one single will” as proof of his dictatorship. Robespierre adopted this phrase to unite all of the disparate forces of the revolution, including the warring factions in the Vendee region, the Montagnards and the federalists. Robespierre saw that the foundations of the revolution had been established, and he accepted responsibility for mobilising all of these forces in a combined effort.

The Committee of Public Safety

The Committee of Public Safety also prompted many people to question Robespierre’s legacy. The committee had been set up in April 1793 to essentially maintain public order during the revolution, but critics argued its methods were excessive. The committee utilised vigilance committees to maintain unity among revolutionaries, and Robespierre himself established a revolutionary militia to fight counterrevolutionaries and grain hoarders.

Conscription

Another aspect of Robespierre’s leaderhip which drew claims of dictatorship was conscription. Robespierre sought to mobilise the masses in order to defeat the counterrevolutionaries and conservatives. The policy of conscription, the management of the economy and the centralisation of power under Robespierre became known as the Reign of Terror.

Robespierre is often regarded as the architect of the Reign of Terror, but it is also accepted that he opposed pointless executions and opposed the arrest of deputies during the arrest of the Girondins, and even the arrest of the king’s sister. He also spoke out against various massacres and demanded that the perpetrators be recalled for “dishonouring the Revolution”.

Meanwhile, tensions were heightened, violence was increasing, and Robespierre’s enemies were circling.

Robespierre regularly justified the centralisation of power, and some interpreted this as a justification of dictatorship. He called for purges of local authorities and other factions which threatened the government, and he clashed with groups such as the Hebertists and the Cordeliers. Some of these groups called for radical actions to secure the revolution, and disagreed with Robespierre on the matter of religion.

The Christian

Defence of Christianity set Robespierre at odds with other revolutionaries. Various factions called for the de-Christianisation of government and society, but Robespierre modelled himself on the Deist Jean-Jacques Rousseau. A report to the National Convention in his name affirmed the existence of God and advocated a civic religion and support for the notion of a supreme being. This increased his popularity among some quarters, but it angered others, so much so that on May 22, Henri Admirat attempted to execute Robespierre. He survived this attempt and was soon elected president of the National Convention, in which capacity he led the festival of the Supreme Being (“Etre suprême”) in the Tuileries Gardens on June 8, further angering his detractors.

Accusations of dictatorship, support for Christianity, leaderhip of the Jacobins and calls for the king to be executed all contributed to a growing list of opponents, and Robespierre’s life was now under genuine threat.

Robespierre fell ill and disappeared from public life for about a month. He returned to denounce the radical leader Jacques-Rene Hebert, who along with foreign agents was executed. Other opponents such as Georges Danton criticised the policies of the Committee of Public Safety and launched violent attacks against Robespierre in order to halt the revolution and end the Reign of Terror. They were unsuccessful and faced the guillotine in April of that year.

More enemies

Opposition continued to grow. Critics disagreed with the reorganisation of the Revolutionary Tribunal, and they included people he had himself threatened, as well as Georges Couthon, Louis de Saint Just, Joseph Cambon, the minister of finance, and even members of the Committee of Public Safety.

How much longer could Robespierre survive?

The political and military battles and the threats on his life took their toll. Robespierre suffered ill health and he was said to be irritable and distant. Accusations of dictatorship affected him personally and he absented himself from the National Convention and the Committee of Public Safety, appearing only at the Jacobin club to denounce counterrevolutionaries.

At the same time, he began to lose the support of the people, whose hardships continued. From his partial retirement, Robespierre followed the unleashing of the Great Terror in the summer of 1794 and the progress of opposition.

In an attempt to win back public support and complete his patriotic work, he reappeared at the Committee of Public Safety on July 23 and at the National Convention on July 26. While his speech at the convention was first greeted with applause, this soon turned to disquiet, then majority opposition. On the same evening he attended a reception at the Jacobin Club where he was well received, but the next day he was prevented from speaking at the Convention. The situation worsened when Robespierre, his brother and three associates were taken to the Luxembourg prison. Even though the warden refused to jail them, the threat to Robespierre’s safety was growing by the day.

Robespierre and his closest allies sought refuge at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), where he was expected to lead an insurrection utilising the armed contingents from some of the sections of the city who had been summoned by the Paris Commune and were awaiting orders. Robespierre refused, however, and then something strange happened. After being declared an outlaw by the National Convention, Robespierre severely wounded himself by a pistol shot in the jaw.

Chaos reigned as his supporters and allies were thrown into confusion and soldiers of the National Convention attacked the Hôtel de Ville, easily seizing Robespierre and his followers. What had been anticipated for months would finally eventuate.

On the evening of July 28, Robespierre and the first 22 of his condemned supporters were guillotined before a cheering mob on the Place de la Revolution, (now the Place de la Concorde). In total, 108 people would die for their support of Robespierre’s cause.

Maximilien Robespierre left a lasting impression of France. He presided over political organisations which attracted many supporters and just as many critics, and his ideas and actions led to the overthrow of existing power structures, and prompted attacks on his own life. His actions will forever be debated, but his influence of France is undeniable, and is far greater than that of any fashion designer.

Images: http://www.onthisday.com, http://www.histhrill.com

Which is your favourite national anthem?

National anthems stir emotions in us all. They evoke national pride and a sense of belonging. They can inspire international athletes, and persuade patriots to lay down their lives. Anthems can make grown men cry and create incomparable life-long memories.

So which is your favourite anthem? Is it the anthem of your nation of birth, or the nation you now call home? Does your country have an anthem, and what does it mean to you? Perhaps your favourite anthem belongs to a foreign country.

I have heard a number of national anthems during my travels and I’ve listed the songs which created the strongest impression on me.

Multilingual anthems

I like multilingual anthems. I like the interchange between the languages and the recognition of the multicultural composition of the country. Multilingual anthems acknowledge the indigenous inhabitants of the country and attempt to unite every citizen, at least symbolically.

South Africa – Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica

Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica translates as God Bless Africa. The anthem features Zulu, which is the most commonly spoken language in South Africa, as well as Xhosa, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English. The anthem moves seamlessly from one language to another and encompasses the contrasting cultures which make up the rainbow nation, which actually has 11 official languages.

New Zealand – God Defend New Zealand

God Defend New Zealand is another bilingual anthem, which is sung in English and Maori. Now, as an Australian, I’m not supposed to like the New Zealand anthem, nor their Rugby Union team, nor their cricket team. I’m also not supposed to admit that anything from Aotearoa is better than anything in Australia, but NZ gave women the vote before Australia, signed a treaty with their indigenous population, and gave us Sir Edmund Hillary, the All Blacks…

A national song featuring Maori lyrics is also a perfect precursor to the Haka, performed by many New Zealand sporting teams. Needless to say, I enjoy watching rubgy games between the Springboks and the All Blacks.

Ireland – Ireland’s Call – Amhran na bhFiann

Ireland does not have a bilingual anthem, it has two. Amhran na bhFiann is the official anthem, with Irish Gaelic lyrics, while Ireland’s Call is sung for the Irish Rugby Union team, because the team is comprised of players from the Republic of Ireland and from Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Ireland’s Call is said to promote a greater sense of unity.

Scandal

Spain – La Marcha Real

The Spanish national anthem, La Marcha Real, sparked a social media meltdown during the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The Spanish players did not sing to their anthem before their first game against Portugal, and people blasted them for being unpatriotic, pampered, unworthy and disloyal, and demanded the entire team be dropped before the next game. People unleashed their own fury on La Furia Roja until one informed user explained;

The Spanish national anthem has no words.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and San Marino also have no words to their anthems.

Sport, religion and war

A pattern exists in national anthems. Most of them reference war and religion, and they provide an effective backdrop to sporting contests. Most anthems pay tribute to the country’s most prominent deity, and encourage loyal citizens to give their heart, their soul or their lives for their country. Anthems of colonised peoples honour battles against oppression, and anthems of the colonisers praise the might of the nation, normally referred to as the Fatherland.

Was any national anthem written by a woman?

Sporting competitions are obviously the most visible expressions of nationalism, and anthems are central to that expression.

Australia – Advance Australia Fair

You’ve already realised that I’m not very patriotic; after all, I extolled the virtues of New Zealand. And no, I don’t love my own anthem. The tune is boring and uninspiring, and the words are equally tepid, as well as being problematic.

I’m not the only Aussie who doesn’t love their anthem. In fact, custom dictates that any Australian who knows all the words to the anthem is UnAustralian. Anyone who sings with their hand on heir heart is pretentious and trying to be American. The phrase ‘girt by sea’ confuses most citizens and even the most patriotic locals sing ‘let us ring Joyce’ instead of ‘let us rejoice’. No one knows who Joyce is and why we should call her – maybe she knows what girt means.

Advance Australia Fair is problematic. The opening lyrics tell us that ‘we are young and free’. Calling Australia young ignores the indigenous history of the country. Aboriginal Australians are the world’s oldest living civilisation, having occupied this land for about 60,000 years. Calling Australia young recognises only the history of the country since colonisation in the late 1700s – i.e. White Australia.

Using the word ‘free’ also ignores Australian history, and the fact that Aboriginal people were enslaved (yes, slavery existed in Australia) were stolen from their families, were denied the right to vote and were not even counted as people until 1967. For these reasons, and the ongoing disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, many indigenous people disapprove of the anthem, and many indigenous athletes refuse to sing it while representing their country.

Many Australians find little inspiration in Advance Australia Fair, and often look to pop songs for patriotic stimulus. I am Australian by The Seekers is a popular substitute.

I’m also not a fan of God Save the Queen, because England is ‘The Old Enemy’, and because I despise royalty. I also dislike the Star Spangled Banner because the only thing worse than losing to England is losing to The United States of America, and because the anthem usually accompanies chants of “USA!!, USA!!…” I found the national anthem of Brunei so uninspiring that after three years of living and teaching in the ‘Abode of Peace’, I don’t remember a single word.

Cyprus

I’ve never heard the national anthem of Cyprus, but not because I’ve never been there. Cyprus has no official national anthem.

Mexico – Himno Nacional Mexicano

Invoking war and warriors is a common theme in anthems, and this is true of Himno Nacional Mexicano. The stirring tune begins with:

“Mexicanos al grito de guerra…” which translates as “Mexicans to the cry of war”. It ends with “un soldado en cada hijo te dio,”, a promise that every son or daughter is a soldier for Mexico. It is one of the more passionate anthems, expect when mumbled by a bunch of teenagers at 7am on a Monday morning.

A legend also accompanies the creation of the hymn. According to historical accounts, Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra wrote the lyrics after being locked in a room. His girlfriend encouraged him to enter the competition to devise the lyrics and when he refused, she locked him in a room full of patriotic images and only released him once he slid the ten-verse piece under the door.

France – La Marseillaise

I nominate La Marseillaise as my favourite national anthem. I know I’m not alone in this choice. I’m not French, I wouldn’t call myself a Francophile and I don’t speak French, but I was moved most by this national anthem.

I experienced a rousing rendition of the anthem on two occasions at the Stade de France in Paris in 2003. After Eunice Barber won the long jump, and her compatriots won the Women’s 4 x 100m relay at the World Championships in Athletics, I witnessed a stadium full of French patriots belting out their anthem with unbridled passion and raw emotion. I felt goose bumps and the hairs stood on my neck. It was so moving that I stopped working. Most reporters at international Athletics competitions don’t stop working during medal presentations because they’re too busy. When the French filled the stadium with their patriotic fervour, however, we all savoured the sound of thousands of patriots singing one of the world’s most inspirational anthems.

Image: Anders Kelto

The Daily Double: Surf and Ski in one day.

Where in the world is it possible to surf and ski/snowboard in the same day?

I almost did it once, in Australia, but I can’t genuinely lay claim to having experienced this rare privilege of outdoor sports. I enjoyed a bodysurf somewhere on the far south coast of NSW, Australia, then drove with friends to the snowy mountains and hiked for a few hours that afternoon through patches of summer snow.

I know it doesn’t count but it made me curious and very keen to experience the real thing – a surf in the morning and a ski in the afternoon, or vice versa, as long as you see foam and powder before the sun sets. That said, with so many ski resorts offering night skiing under lights, you could ski in far away lands, or take your time in the waves before heading to the slopes.

California, USA

Southern California is home to great surfing beaches and snow-capped mountains. So blessed are the locals in this part of the world that surfing and skiing on the same day is known as the California Double or the Twofer.

One combo is Huntington Beach and Mountain High, which are about 90 minutes apart. Another popular double is Lower Trestles (San Clemente) to Bear Mountain. They are both enticing options on their own, and are just two hours apart – enough time to grab some tasty Mexican food on your way to the powder. You could also opt for Santa Monica to Mount Baldy, or Ocean Beach to Boreal Mountain Resort.

While you’re in Cali, you might be lucky enough to meet The Governator, or be discovered by a director and appear in a Hollywood blockbuster. The question is, are you cool enough to visit SoCal?

New Zealand

New Zealand is another nation blessed with a long coastline near steep mountains.

If you can handle wild and woolly weather and big swells, check out Raglan and Piha on the north island, as well as Boulders Bay, before driving for about an hour to Mt. Taranaki and the Manganui Ski Area. The South Island Twofer is doable at Taylor’s Mistake, a beach break near Christchurch, and Mt Hutt, just two hours away. At Mt Hutt, get ready to get vertical.

Chile

The thin mountainous nation of Chile offers quality waves and snow from June to October. When the temperature drops in the Southern Hemisphere, the Andes catch snow and the coast catches a swell.

Head to Valparaiso for a surf then up to Valle Nevado. The three-hour drive rewards you with waves and ski slopes. An extra hour in the car lets you ski at Nevado and surf at one of Chile’s most famous breaks, Pichilemu. For off-piste skiing and heli-skiing, try Nevado or La Parva, El Colorado and Farellones.

If you pack your passport, you could surf in Chile and ski in Argentina. Ski resorts such as Bariloche, Las Lenas and La Hoya share the same mountain range as the Chilean resorts. They are located near airports, so you could fly to the slopes from Santiago after a morning surf and a 1-2 hr bus ride from the coast.

For a real challenge, and a story to dine out on, ski at Cerro Castor, right at the southern tip of Argentina, and find some waves at the end of the world. You might need a dry suit and a rescue party on standby, because you’re almost surfing in Antarctica. Has this been done?

France

France is famous for elite skiers and wonderful ski resorts, and every surfer knows the name Biarritz. Fortunately, the surf beaches and the mountains are not too far apart.

When snow blankets the Alps and Pyrenees, the big swells arrive at breaks like Belharra. If you don’t want to stare death in the face at Belharra, or get lost in the crowds at Biarritz, pop over to the Basque Country to beaches such as Anglet, Hossegor or Guethary.

Australia

In theory, it’s possible.

Go for an early at a beach on the far south coast of NSW, or even into Victoria, then across to the snowy mountains which straddle the border between NSW and Victoria, for a late afternoon ski. It would be a very long day, and one destination where night skiing is an advantage.

Algeria

Algeria is an off-the-beaten track destination for both skiing and surfing, and an even more surprising destination for people looking to do both. It is possible. Surf break Decaplage is less than two hours drive from the ski resort of Chrea. This could be the best magical mystery tour of any of the destinations listed in this article – why not give it a go?

Morocco

Still in North Africa, Morocco has both surf and snow. Between January and late March consistent swell hits the North Atlantic along Morocco’s beach breaks and reef breaks, throwing up all kinds of waves.

Distance is the killer in the Moroccan daily double. The ski resort at Oukaimeden is a four-hour drive from the nearest beach at Essaouira, and about 5 hours from the most famous surf spot in Morocco, Taghazout. But, if you like long drives through the countryside, you can surf and ski in the same day in Morocco.

South Africa

At the other end of the continent, South Africa offers a daily double. Get in the green room at breaks such as Dunes, Crans, The Hoek and Pebbles near Cape Town, then travel for about 2 hours to the small ski resort of Matroosberg. On the Eastern Cape, be prepared for more driving, because the ski resort of Tiffindell is 6hrs from the coast. If you’re going to travel that far, why not cross a border and visit Afriski Mountain Resort in Lesotho, which is just a little bit further. It’s a tiny resort but it might be worth the passport stamp, and you could say that you completed the Twofer in a landlocked nation.

If your wish is to surf and see snow on the same day, you could do it in Taiwan. Taiwan catches snow in Taroko Gorge, Hehuanshan, Yushan and Xueshan, and most of these mountains are reachable by road and /or hiking. At some of them, you can sit in a hot spring instead of skiing. Is this also possible in Japan, Norway, Sweden or Iceland?

If you’re lucky enough to experience this double, it’s up to you where to go. It’s also up to you whether you ski or snowboard, or whether you ride a surf board, a body board or a SUP. You could don some skins and ski the back country if time permits, or spend hours showing off at the park with your selfie stick.

I don’t really think you qualify for a Twofer if you ride a goat boat through the waves before sliding down the snow on a toboggan. Personally, I also think it doesn’t count if you surf at a man-made wave pool, even if Kelly personally invites you, or ski at an indoor man-made slope.

To get back to the roots of surfing, grab some fins and enjoy body surfing – pure surfing.

If anyone has achieved this double, or knows of another place in the world where it is possible to surf and ski on the same day, let us know. Maybe one day in the future we will all be able to travel again and fill our days with surf and snow.

Images: Anton Repponen, Alex Lange