A very public case brought about the abolition of the congress.  It was the case of the Marquis de Langey.

The Marquis had married, at the age of twenty-five, the daughter of the Marquis de Courtaumer, Marie de Saint-Simon, aged fourteen.

For four years, the spouses got along well.  Then, during a short absence, and at the instigation of one of her aunts and of her grandfather, the Marquise de Langey sued her husband for impotence.

The Marquis, completely surprised by this, tried to discuss it with his wife, who was kept from his sight, and whom he was unable to contact.

Langey, desperate, spoke to a protestant minister, and gave him the task of  proposing, in his name, the “private congress”, that is to say, outside of all legal forms, under the eyes of the parents themselves.  The proposal was rejected, the case was called before the Civil Lieutenant of Le Chatelet, who ordered the visit of the parties in his presence, then an expertise.

At the request of the Marquise’s aunt, who had invoked the procedure followed in the case of Mademoiselle de Soubise against the Baron du Pont, the jury was composed of five doctors, five surgeons and five matrons, as well as ten or twelve other people:  judges, procurators, lawyers… and two protestant ministers.

After two years of procedure, the congress is finally ordered, by parliamentary sentence.  During these two years, Paris talked about nothing else.

The experts’ report was discussed by everyone, at court and in town.  A family member of the Marquise said, speaking of Langey:  “It was found that the part was well-formed, but not animated.”.

The place where the congress was to be held, had been designatd by the tribunal.  It was the house of a bather of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.  Neutral territory was preferred to the conjugal home, so as to avoid any moral influences resulting from memories, or preoccupations at the sight of certain objects.  The meeting of the parties must not take place either, at the home of a friend or of the family.

On her way to the congress, the Marquise de Langey had said to her aunt:  “Rest assured that I will be victorious;  I know with whom I’m dealing.”.

The Marquis had taken all possible precautions.  He had asked that his wife be bathed beforehand, to destroy the effect of any astringents;  that she have her hair down, so as not to be able to hide any talisman or amulet in her hair-do, for Langey suspected his wife of using magic.

A memorialist of the time wrote:

“As he was going to bed, the Marquis said:  “Bring me ten fresh eggs, so that I make her a boy first go.”  But he had not the least emotion there, where he should have, he sweated though and twice changed his shirt:  the drugs which he had taken heated him.  In rage, he began to pray. – “You are not here for that!” his wife said to him, and she reproached him with the hardness which he had had for her, he who knew that he was not capable of marriage.

“Among the matrons, there was old Mme Peze, aged eighty, appointed by the court, who was very busy ;  she went from time to time to see in what state he was, and came back to say to the experts:  “It’s a great pity:  He is not naturing.”  At last, the time expired, and he was removed from the bed.  “I am ruined!”  he cried, as he rose.  His people dared not raise their eyes, and most of them left.”

The Marquise had neglected nothing to win the game, having used in turn both force and ruse.  The scene has been preserved by a lawyer, Jean Roux, who appears to have had the details from a good source.

“The Marquise threw herself at her husband’s neck, when he was preparing to tenderly embrace her, and rubbed herself against him with such rage, that all of the Bacchants of the ancient orgies, the Eumenides of Orestus and the Thracians of Orpheus, would have been simple novices compared to her in loss of control and fury.”

The charming person used in turn her feet, her teeth and her nails.

When the time fixed for the test had finished, the Marquise and the Marquis left the bed, the first triumphant, the other ashamed of his misadventure.

Pamphlets and songs did not spare the vanquished, and there was a procession to the door of the Marquise’s aunt, who received congratulations and compliments in her niece’s name, excusing her absence because of her great fatigue after the test.

In spite of the wise advice of a doctor friend, who had told him crudely:  “Think that, to succeed in such an attempt, you have to be a horse or a dog”, the Marquis raged aloud against his wife, whom he accused of using trickery, and against the bather who, he said, had served him a debilitating drink.  He raged also against himself for having succumbed to an inexplicable movement of shame.

The Parliament did not consider any of these reasons valid, and declared, by order of 8 February 1659, the marriage null, condemned Langey to return the dowry, and forbade him to re-marry, while the Marquise was permitted to contract another union immediately, if she wanted to do it.  She didn’t have to be told twice.  She married a few months later.

Three daughters were born of this marriage.

The Marquis, after many legal actions, also obtained the right to re-marry.  Nine months later, he was a father.  His second wife gave him seven children.

The Marquis attacked the order which had annulled his marriage.  Twelve hearings studied the case.

The First President, Guillaume de Lamoignon, wanted to preside the Grand-Chambre himself.  The Public Ministry was occupied by the Avocat general Bignon.

Lamoignon exclaimed:

“… the events have shown that Lord Langey could be a father, because he has seven children…  He was the husband of Mlle de Courtaumer and it was not in the judge’s power to take that away from him.  On the other hand, if the order which declares the Lord Marquis of Langey impotent is to be executed, the children who appear here at this hearing are not his children, their mother is not his wife, and he is seven times a father and impotent.”

The First President pronounced an order, dated 18 February, 1677,

“forbidding all judges, even those of the officialities, to order, in marriage cases, the congress test”.

To be continued.

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