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Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle and “La Marseillaise”

Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (May 10, 1760–June 26, 1836), was a French Army officer of the Revolutionary Wars who is best known for writing the words and music of the “Chant 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 at Montaigu in Jura, the eldest son of Claude Ignace Rouget and Jeanne Madeleine Gaillande. He entered the army as an engineer and attained the rank of captain.

The song that has immortalized Rouget de Lisle, “La Marseillaise,” was composed at Strasbourg, where Rouget de Lisle was quartered in April of 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 “La Marseillaise” after its adoption by the Provençal volunteers whom Barbaroux introduced into Paris and who were prominent in the storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10th of August.

Rouget de Lisle was a royalist and was thrown into prison in 1793, narrowly escaping the guillotine. He was freed during the Thermidorian Reaction. He wrote a few other songs of the same kind as the “La 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 “La 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 July 14, 1915, during World War I. A monument was erected to his memory in Lons-Le-Saunier.

The only song in my collection by Rouget de Lisle is:
La Marseillaise.


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