Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (10 May 1760, Montaigu, Jura – 26 June 1836), was a French Army officer of the Revolutionary Wars. He is known for writing the words and music of the Champs de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin in 1792, which would later be known as La Marseillaise and become the French national anthem.
Rouget de Lisle was born in Montaigu, Jura. He entered the army as an engineer and attained the rank of captain. The song that has immortalised him, La Marseillaise (based on Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25), was composed at Strasbourg, where Rouget de Lisle was quartered in April 1792. He wrote the words in a fit of patriotic excitement after a public dinner. The piece was at first called Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin ("War Song for the Army of the Rhine") and only received its name of Marseillaise from its adoption by the Provençal volunteers whom Barbaroux introduced into Paris and who were prominent in the storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10 August. Rouget de Lisle was a royalist and was cashiered and thrown into prison in 1793, narrowly escaping the guillotine. He was freed during the Thermidorian Reaction.
Rouget de Lisle sining La Marseillaise for the first time. 19th century lithography by Wenzel.
Rouget de Lisle chantant la Marseillaise, by Isidore Pils (1813-1875) (Musée historique de Strasbourg)
Rouget de Lisle wrote a few other songs of the same kind as the Marseillaise and in 1825 he published Chants français (French Songs) in which he set to music fifty songs by various authors. His Essais en vers et en prose (Attempts in Verse and Prose, 1797) contains the Marseillaise; a prose tale Adelaide et Monville of the sentimental kind; and some occasional poems.
He died in poverty in Choisy-le-Roi, Seine-et-Oise. His ashes were transferred from Choisy-le-Roi cemetery to the Invalides on 14 July 1915, during World War I. A monument was erected to his memory in Lons-Le-Saunier.
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