Raoul Villain (1885 – 1936) was a French nationalist. He is primarily remembered for his assassination of the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès on July 31, 1914, in Paris. Villain was acquitted by popular jury in 1919 and later fled to the Balearic island of Ibiza, where he was killed during the Spanish Civil War.
Early life and background
Villain was born in Reims, Marne, France on September 19, 1885. As a 29-year-old student in archeology at the École du Louvre, he was a member of the Ligue des jeunes amis de l'Alsace-Lorraine ("League of Young Friends of Alsace-Lorraine"), a nationalist student group.
After France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by Germany. This was a source of anger and resentment in France, causing many to feel that a new war with Germany was in order to recover both territories and French pride. Therefore, many like Villain were opposed to the pacifist policies of Jean Jaurès. Villain lived for some time in England, at Loughton, where he stayed with Mrs Annie Francis, who described him, according to The Observer on 6 June 1915, as "a gentle and very kind man".
Attack on Jaurès and result
Villain focused on Jaurès, bought a revolver and began stalking him, scribbling incoherent notes about the socialist leader's habits into his pocket-book. At about 21:40 on Friday, July 31, 1914, Villain fired two bullets through a window embrasure into Jaurès' head while his victim was having supper with his contributors in Le Croissant at the corner of Rue Montmartre and Rue du Croissant.
The next day, posters went up all over France announcing the general mobilization, and war was declared three days after Jaurès's death. What would be World War I began.
Incarcerated for the duration of the war, Villain was brought to trial in 1919. He was acquitted by a popular jury on March 29, 1919, and Anatole France wrote in L'Humanité: "Workers! A monstrous verdict brings in that assassinating Jaurès is not a crime...". Jaurès's wife, plaintiff, was convicted in costs.
After being acquitted
After having briefly been arrested in 1920 in Paris after trying to pass some false currency, Villain fled to Cala de Sant Vicent, Ibiza in the Balearic Islands off Spain. Receiving some money through a legacy, he fled France and arrived in Ibiza via Mexico. Villain thought that, by hiding up in the remote northeastern corner of Ibiza, he could live anonymously and be forgotten. In 1933, the Bay of Cala de San Vicent was a very quiet backwater with no development, there was not even a road into the valley. Villain decided to make his home there. Using local labour and help from Paul René Gauguin, the grandson of Paul Gauguin, he built a house from concrete and had almost finished the building by August 1936. On September 13, a small detachment of soldiers arrived on the beach of Cala de San Vicent by rowing boat. Eyewitness reported that they thought that they may have been anarchists of the FAI. These soldiers were part of a larger detachment. The force had arrived on the island to re-secure the island following the mini-coup which had been orchestrated by the Nationalists under the command of Infantry Commander Juli Mestre. Villain had been away visiting a French lady in Santa Eulària des Riu when the soldiers arrived, but quickly returned home when he had heard of their arrival. Feeling vulnerable, he feared that the soldiers would steal his valuables, which he had stashed in the unfinished house. Despite being repeatedly warned by his neighbours not to go back down to the cove, he still went home.
The officer and troops who arrived on the beach that day seemed very suspicious of this Frenchman, who also antagonised the officer with his explanation of why he had set a crucifix on the hill behind his house. Apart from this outward show of religious zeal, the officer was also suspicious of where Villain had been that day, and decided to confine him to his house. He was considered to be a fascist and a spy and, as such, a threat to their plans to reoccupy the island.
The details of what happened next are sketchy, but what is certain is that Villain ended the day with a bullet wound which eventually killed him. That afternoon, three bombers from the Italian air force had flown along the coast over Cala de Sant Vicent and bombed Ibiza town, which could be heard even this far up the coast. It is thought that the troops, on hearing the attack, decided to return to the capital and tried to take Villain and his valuables with them. He reacted violently to this, and as a consequence was shot in the back, with the bullet exiting via his throat. Unfortunately for Villain, he had only been wounded. The officer in charge warned the villagers that had come down to see what had happened, not to assist or disturb the mortally wounded man. Villain lay alone on the sand for two days until he died. The locals then placed his body in a makeshift coffin, draped it in a French tricolour they found in his house, and buried him in the cemetery at nearby Sant Vicent de sa Cala.
- Vilain, Isabelle. Les Vilain célèbres: Raoul Villain, 3 January 2002. It seems the family name can be written either with one or two 'l'.
- In the center of Paris, not on the Butte Montmartre (Montmartre Mound)
- Vovelle, Michel. "1914: Jaurès est assassiné", L'Humanité (archived at waybackmachine.org), 24 April 2004.
- The White Island, The Colourful History of the Original Fantasy Island, Ibiza. Author: Stephen Armstrong. Published:Corgi. ISBN 0-552-77189-9
- Title: The Road to San Vicente. Author: Leif Borthen. Published: Barbury Press. ISBN 9788461181193
- Combes, A. "Casimir Combes (la guerre de 1914)"
Media related to Raoul Villain at Wikimedia Commons
- Jean Jaurès School project. Student-created webpages about Jaurès that include a portrait photograph and sketch of Villain, which may not yet be in the public domain