A stunning narrative of the year 1848, when Europe burst aflame with revolution
On February 24, 1848, in the midst of the mob violence that brought the abdication of Louis-Philippe and the birth of France's Second Republic, the famed actress Rachel appeared on the stage of Paris's Comédie-Française, dressed in a plain tunic and carrying the tricolor flag. She recited the words of the "Marseillaise," dropping to her knees and wrapping herself in the flag as she began the penultimate verse:
Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Lead and support our avenging arms.
Liberty, cherished liberty
Fight with your defenders.
Rachel was 28, at the height of her popularity, and her much-repeated performance revived the popularity of the "Marseillaise." It became a rallying cry of the continent-wide insurrections of 1848, representing the brotherhood of man that, for a few short months, liberal intellectuals thought was flowering.