July 28 - 1794 - The Execution of Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre was in many ways the embodiment of the French Revolution, as he led the nation towards a Republic, oversaw the Reign of Terror, and, eventually, met his death at the guillotine. Robespierre was never the official head of the French government. Instead, he emerged as the most influential of the Jacobins, the Republican society and early political party. After the deposition and then execution of King Louis XVI, Robespierre came into his own. Eloquent and persuasive, Robespierre believed in the ideal of a "Republic of Virtue" that would produce a truly revolutionary government. This led him to lead the Montagnard faction, and then placed him on the Committee of Public Safety. From there, he was so obsessed with the enemies of the Republic that he helped put thousands to death in the Reign of Terror. Any political enemy, even if they had usually been allies like Georges Danton. Finally, a speech to the National Convention warning about secret conspiracies was too much. So the Convention turned on him, and almost instantly arrested him and put his own neck on the guillotine, as he had done to so many people.