Archive for February, 2013


The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise’s death did not bring any financial gain to her two brothers-in-law.  They must have known before they killed her that she would not have mentioned them in her Will, considering their behaviour toward her.  Even if they had hoped for her money, they certainly couldn’t have passed off her death as natural.

***

The Abbot and the Knight fled.  The Knight took up service with the Venetians who were at war with the Turks at the time.  He fought bravely everywhere he went.  Even with temerity, to the point that his companions in arms became certain that he wanted to die in combat.  He did in fact die under the walls of Candia in 1659 after a battle lost by the Venetians.

The Abbot changed his name and managed to flee to Holland where he started a new life.  For many years, he consecrated himself to piety, expiating his faults by extraordinary mortifications.  He finally converted to protestantism and died very old, highly respected by all.  As for the husband, he was arrested as an accomplice and condemned to perpetual banishment.  He went to the Venaissin County, which was then papal territory and a haven for many a cutthroat, then died soon afterwards, unknown and forgotten.

***

The most guilty in this sad story is the husband who, from start to finish, kept a cool head and cooked up the plan which would allow him to get his hands on his wife’s money.  The comportment of his two brothers is different.  In the opinion of Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, it was of a pathological and paranormal nature…

Their whole comportment was absurd.  Any specialist of mental disorders would recognize morbid behaviour here.  Whether the origine of it was in hate, jealousy, powerlessness, a death wish or erotic delirium…  The Abbot’s comportment, coming back to fire on the young woman in front of ten witnesses is characteristic.  Just like his brother, he is under the influence of something or someone who has entered his mind like a parasite and is making him act like a sleepwalker.  Louis Pauwels is sure that the next day, this man would remember absolutely nothing of what he had done during the night.  This is what Roman Catholic theology calls “lucid somnambulist possession”.  Under its influence the individual loses conscienceness of himself and allows a foreign spirit (or mind) to take possession of his soul a bit like a parasite in a body…

***

The History of criminology and psychiatry is full of cases where individuals have “acted out” after one of these personality splits.  In L’Obsession, Jules Claretie describes the story of a painter, at the end of the XIXth Century, who was obsessed by the idea that his second personality takes over his body at certain times, without him ever being able to foresee what misdeed his other self will commit.  The painter is finally cured by an Alsatian doctor who suggests to him that he is witnessing the death and burial of the “other one”.

To write his novel, Claretie spent months gathering information at the Salpetriere mental asylum.  In the same way, in La Somnambule, Mintorn recounts the story of a pastor, an exemplary husband and father who, in a somnambulist state seduces and rapes women and kills children, without his normal personality being conscious of it…

These stories obviously bring to mind the chef-d’oeuvre of Robert Louis Stevenson, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde

***

Such states enter into the genesis of many crimes.  In particular, crimes of passion.  Trances, split personalities and also “hypnotic states” have been the subject of resounding judicial controversies for well over a century.  In January 1888, in a little Algerian town, the body of Madame Grille is discovered in a luxurious colonial villa, lying naked on a bed beside a young man of 22, Henri Chambige, whose face had been smashed by a shot from a firearm.  Saved, the young man declared that he and this married woman were passionately in love, but that the woman did not have enough courage to flee with him, and had proposed that they end it all with a double suicide.  The victim’s husband assured that his wife had been hypnotized.  This gave rise to a long battle of experts, which opposed the Nancy school, with Bernheim maintaining that crimes under hypnosis were perfectly possible, to the Salpetriere school which, with Charcot, savagely denied it…

***

So, who could have hypnotized the two assassins?  Their brother, an accomplice, or in a manner of speaking, the Marquise herself…

Diane, Marquise de Ganges, painted by Mignard as Saint Roseline (Hospice de Villeneuve-les-Avignon).

Diane, Marquise de Ganges, painted by Mignard as Saint Roseline (Hospice de Villeneuve-les-Avignon).

This is where the paranormal enters the picture.  In the beginning, even before her marriage, the Marquise did not seem very sure of herself:  strong-willed people do not visit fortune-tellers to find out whether the man they have chosen is the right one.  Louis Pauwels is reminded of a story recounted by Paul Bourget in L’Irreparable.  Perfectly relaxed and happy before her marriage, a young woman changes radically, as soon as the ring is on her finger, into a being who is perpetually depressed and worried.  In the Marquise’s case, the clairvoyants could have played the role of fixing this anguish, being “catalysts”, convincing her that someone wants to kill her.  Gradually, her fear becomes so strong – particularly as the prediction is made a second time – that it creates a sort of psychosis of assassination in her two brothers-in-law.  According to the schema described by many mental illness specialists and psychiatrists, which consists in projecting one’s own ideas and tendencies onto those of other people.  To the classical:  “I love her, therefore she loves me” is substituted here “I don’t love them therefore they hate me, and therefore they want to kill me”…  And this fear is projected with such force onto the two men, who are themselves weak-minded, that it finishes by completely destroying their personalities.  Doubtless helped along by the husband as well, they finish by acting like hallucinated, irresponsible beings.  “Someone possesses my soul and governs it!  I am only a slavish, terrified spectator of all the things that I accomplish”, says the hero of the Horia, Maupassant’s short story.

There are cases like this where it is the victim who plays the role of the executioner…

***

As for the clairvoyants, the first one is La Voisin who was to become the sinister heroine of the Affair of the Poisons which provoked a real crisis under the reign of Louis XIV, with the effacement of La Montespan and the discovery by the Lieutenant of Police of Paris, Gabriel de La Reynie, that the greatest names of the kingdom were implicated.  History has not remembered the name of the second one.  But both predict to the Marquise that she will be assassinated in a family affair.  And it is there that the paranormal intervenes a second time.  Louis Pauwels thinks that the clairvoyants only read, by telepathy, the young woman’s fear.  The force of her obsession was such that she managed to transmit their prediction to them…

They are greatly responsible for having formulated this prediction.  When clairvoyants read death in cards or via other mancies, they usually abstain from saying so.  For either they are telling the truth and then, many examples prove it, nothing can stop the wheel of Destiny, or they are mistaken and the result can be identical.  Louis Pauwels says that he knows two people who died on the exact date that had been predicted to them.  One in a car accident, the other from a heart attack.  Because it was their destiny or because they died of panic?

***

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The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

Three months go by, then the Marquise’s husband, during one of his rare visits, invites her to travel to his marquisate of Ganges, tucked in between the Cevennes and the deep gorges of the Herault.  Until then, the Marquis had always gone alone to this ancient, fortified town, but this time the Abbot and the Knight go with them.

Despite his bad behaviour, she still has confidence in her husband.  She is sure that he still loves her a little and that he particularly loves the beautiful children that she has given him.  Still, she is so worried that, before leaving, she goes to a notary to make a secret Will.  If something happens to her, she wants to leave her estate to her children, and only to them.  Anything that she might write later would be false and dictated under constraint.  This alone must be her Last Will and Testament…

Here she is at Ganges where the arrival of her caleche has drawn a few townspeople into the street.  Then the heavy doors of the manor house close behind her.  Her husband is there to welcome her under the porch.  Coldly, he announces that he has to leave almost immediately, called to Toulouse for important political business.  He will leave his wife in the care of his two brothers and will return as quickly as he can…  The young woman understands everything.  She now knows that they want to kill her, and that her brothers-in-law are criminals.  They are readying themselves and the whole empty house vibrates with the terror which descends inside her.  The poor thing guesses that she has a few hours respite;  until nighttime perhaps or the next day.  They have all the time in the world anyway and the walled house is so big that no-one would even hear her cry out.  She is in her bedchamber and looks around her.  Her windows open onto a deep ravine and there are three doors, none of which can be locked.  So, trembling, she sits down on her bed and waits.  Already, night is falling and no servant comes to bring her clothes, or lights.  What are her dear children doing now, in Avignon?  And, above all, what will become of them?

Diane's bedchamber in the Chateau de Ganges.

Diane’s bedchamber in the Chateau de Ganges.

When it is dark, she sees, as if in a nightmare, the Abbot and the Knight enter.  But the nightmare is real.  They both approach.  They are dreadfully pale and look hallucinated.  The Knight draws his sword and the Abbot holds a pistol in one hand and a glass in the other.

The Marquise screams, she begs and asks to be allowed to live.  In the name of her children.  In vain.  The two monsters close in on her and say that she has to die.  So, sensing that there is nothing more that she can do, that she has been abandoned by both God and men, she seizes the glass and swallows its contents in one gulp.  There remains a deposit at the bottom.  The Abbot, who is the most determined one, tells her to swallow it all.  The liquid burns her throat and stomach atrociously.  She throws herself onto the bed, twists her body and furtively spits the liquid onto the sheets.  She tells them that they are cursed because she is going to die without having been able to confess herself.  Finally, something which seems to touch them…  Eternal hellfire.  Like automatons, they go to find the chaplain, who is under their orders.  During their short absence, the Marquise makes herself vomit, then slips, dishevelled, stumbling, through a window on the ground floor.  In the deserted streets, she runs and arrives before a house that she thinks she recognizes.  It is that of the Maugirons, notables who came to visit her once at Saint-Andre.  She begs for water.

Diane, who had taken refuge with friends, was wounded five times by her brother-in-law's sword.

Diane, who had taken refuge with friends, was wounded five times by her brother-in-law’s sword.

The Maugirons, very upset, do what they can.  But already the Knight has arrived, looking like a mad somnambulist.  He pushes everyone away and plunges his sword five times into the young woman’s body.  At the fifth blow, the sword breaks in the middle.  He flees, running to join his brother who is waiting outside.  Everything has happened so fast that the Maugirons have been unable to stop it.  The two brothers have returned to their manor and the Knight wipes the blood off his boots and jacket.  He sees, through the window, one of the Maugirons’ domestics passing by, followed by a doctor.  The Abbot realizes that, if they have sent for the doctor, the Marquise is not yet dead.  He rushes outside and runs towards his sister-in-law’s house of refuge.  He manages to force a passage to her bed and, there, he presses a pistol to her heart and fires.

The Marquise was in fact still alive, and she survived her horrible wounds for another nineteen days…

The clairvoyant had told her that she would die three times.  The poison, the sword, the pistol.  Three weapons and so much determination to put an end to her life…

But who really killed her?  The Marquis’ two brothers of course.  But why?  Violence of unrequited desire?  Obtuse hate from two good-for-nothings?  Sordid interest, exalted by the husband’s complicity?

Surely.  But in this strange crime, of a cruelty perhaps without example in this century which counts however some terrifying ones, there was also the Marquise’s haunting certainty that she was going to be killed.  Contagious terror of assassination with which the clairvoyants had inoculated her, fear of being killed which engendered the assassins.

Vertigo in fact, which can wrap itself around everybody:  he who thinks himself to be persecuted and those who become persecutors.  Banal, sordid story of an inheritance, too?  Doubtless.  But, above all, murderous folly unleashed by a prediction.  When one believes that all is fated, all is then fated.  And he who believes the worst attracts the worst…

***

To be continued.

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

Back in Avignon, the future Marquise de Ganges tells her fiance about the gruesome prediction of her death.  The Marquis de Ganges is twenty years old.  He bursts out laughing.  Their wedding takes place in January 1658, followed by memorable festivities.  The young woman is now the Marquise de Ganges, an adorable creature of whom Saint-Simon has just said that her eyes “are a miracle of tenderness and vivacity”

The Marquis de Ganges has two brothers.  One fancies himself to be a great lover, and is a spendthrift.  So much so that, in two seasons, he has managed to go through all of his inheritance.  The other is a priest.  A strange priest who gambles, runs after women and drinks too much.  The two brothers, who don’t get along, are at least in agreement on one point:  they find their sister-in-law excessively desirable and their attendance at her home is assiduous.

The Marquis de Ganges is there a lot less.  He is often in Paris, attempting to make a career for himself by being present at Court and, very soon after his wedding, indulging in love affairs.  He is still just as charming, and his wife, who is delighted to see him whenever he cares to return home, consoles herself in his absence by looking after their two children…

In the XVIIth Century, Avignon, which belonged to the Pope, was ruled by Roman Law which forbade a husband administering his wife's possessions.  Diane was therefore sole mistress of her fortune.

In the XVIIth Century, Avignon, which belonged to the Pope, was ruled by Roman Law which forbade a husband administering his wife’s possessions. Diane was therefore sole mistress of her fortune.

Until the day when she learns – there is always some kind soul to tell you these things – that her husband is unfaithful to her and that he is spending enormous amounts of money.  Her money, in fact, for she is a lot richer than he.  So the poor little Marquise begins to worry.  Even more so because she is unable to confide in anyone.  Particularly not her two brothers-in-law, who continually look her over with concupiscent eyes and are waiting only for a moment’s weakness to throw themselves on her.  And what does an unhappy woman do?  She goes to consult fortune-tellers.  Not La Voisin this time, of course.  This time it is another who is installed in Avignon, which allows her to visit her parents at the same time.  This fortune-teller is very good too because at the moment that she turns over the first tarot cards, she sighs:

“Jesus Mary!  You will die young…”

The Marquise asks whether there is no way to escape this fate.  The fortune-teller studies the cards for a long time, then finally says:

“Give everything that you own to your husband!”

The unhappy Marquise knows that this is practically done already, for she has just had word from Versailles.  The clairvoyant insists.

“Give him everything and retire quickly to a convent…  Sweet Jesus!  I see death everywhere!  The convent, I see only that to lengthen your life…  The death of someone close to you will soon announce your own!”

The Marquise asks how she will die.

The fortune-teller hesitates, then, as livid as the Marquise, she finally reveals:

“I still see death…  But I have never seen it like this.  My cards tell me that you will die three times!”

Neither the clairvoyant, nor the Marquise, knows what this means.

***

Her children are now a bit older and her brothers-in-law are pressing her each day to go hunting with them.  Finally, she agrees to go with them.  But they have barely entered the garrigue than the priest tells her that she is driving him crazy with desire and that he wants her immediately.  She resists him and, with difficulty, manages to flee.  He calls after her that he is going to get her anyway and that he will tell the Marquis that she has lots of lovers, and that he will believe him and is a violent man.

Another day, when they are alone in the big house, the other brother-in-law, the knight, attempts to rape her.  She manages to escape, leaving her pretty pink tulle corset behind.  The perverse priest and the disgusting knight hate her terribly from then on.  Meanwhile, the husband drifts from place to place, travelling, gallant at Versailles, gambler in Paris…

Joannis de Nochere, the Marquise de Ganges’ grandfather, has just died.  He leaves a colossal fortune to his granddaughter.  One of the biggest fortunes in France.  The marriage contract clearly states that these riches are not part of the dowry.  They belong to the Marquise alone, and she can dispose of them as she wishes, either by donation, or by Will.  Is it the repeated predictions, the increased hate of her brothers-in-law or the more and more revolting behaviour of her husband?  The little Marquise is now filled with fear which throws shadows at night on the walls of her bedchamber, which infiltrates in daylight the long corridors of her home and even appears to rise from the fountains and cypress trees in her vast garden.  She tells her governess:

“I am sure now, Nanette.  They want to kill me.  Yesterday, the priest gave me a cream dessert which had a bad taste.”

***

To be continued.

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

It is 1656, in the ancient quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, whose narrow alley ways and high houses, the tops of which touch each other above the street, have always favourized the most equivocal fermentings of the mind.  In this sombre XVIIth Century, throughout which flames regularly devour witches, the little Rue d’Hautefeuille, bordered on one side by a disused Jewish cemetery and on the other by student lodgings, is no exception.  It could even be said that inside the few houses with little towers in this street, magi and fortune-tellers, adept in all types of mancies, are in charge of Paris.

One October afternoon, a young woman who is barely twenty years old, wearing deep mourning, has her carriage stop at the entrance to this little street.  If she wasn’t completely veiled, it could be seen that she is very beautiful.   So beautiful that the whole of the Court of the young Sun-King [Louis XIV] is ecstatic about it.  So beautiful that the Queen of Sweden, visiting Versailles, cannot refrain from saying:

“In all of the kingdoms that I have crossed, I have never met a woman who can compare to this beautiful Provencale!”

This beauty had been married at thirteen to an amiable officer fifteen years her senior.  She had very much loved him.  But he had recently died at sea after seven years of a happy union.  Now, his young widow is about to remarry, in obedience to her parents’ wishes.  This time her husband will be a gentleman of her own age, the Marquis de Ganges, Governor of Saint-Andre-de-Majencoules, an advanced post in the Cevennes.  The Marquis is also very beautiful, and so joyful!  Always dressed in the latest fashion, frequenting the best Parisian tailors, he is to be seen at Versailles at both the Petit and the Grand Risings.  He is always hunting, often in the King’s company.  He is exactly the same age as Louis XIV.  To resume, he is a perfect cavalier, who will go magnificently with this young, rich heiress…

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

A high oak door, flanked by torches, a flight of marble steps, and the young woman is at the lodgings of Catherine Deshayes, the wife of Monvoisin, whose profession is fortune-teller.  Upon entering the vestibule of the one whom the Greats, her clients, call La Voisin, the future Marquise has a moment’s hesitation.  She is shown a sinister hallway all hung in black and constellated with cabalistic signs.  But the maid leads her smilingly towards the magician’s lair.  The place has obviously been decorated by a succubus with refined taste and everything is intended to put the visitor in the right mood.  Between the standing statue of Belzebuth and a set of mirrors which allow people from the Past and from the Future to be seen, La Voisin lolls in an Egyptian armchair.  Fascinated, the young woman contemplates behind her a very crude allegory representing lust…

Draped in dark taffeta studded with little green dragons, her face hidden under a sort of nun’s cornette, La Voisin appears wary at first, and wants to know why the young woman has come to her.

“In a few days, I will have to make a capital decision.  I would like your spirits to advise me.”

The magician relaxes and tells her that she will ask them to answer her.  She asks her not to say anything but to write down, on the piece of paper that she hands to her, the questions that she wants to ask the spirits.  The young woman does not want to write anything down, fearing that the paper could be used against her.  La Voisin assures her that she will burn the paper before her eyes.

The young woman takes the pen which is being held out to her, backs away and writes two lines on the paper, which she then gives to the clairvoyant, who rolls it into a ball and drops it immediately into the mouth of a furnace where aromatic herbs are burning.  Using an elementary sleight-of-hand, La Voisin has of course hidden the paper on which is written:

“Am I young?  Am I beautiful?  Am I a girl, a woman, or a widow?  Should I marry or remarry?  Will I live a long life, will I soon die?”

She leaves, having made an appointment to return in three days.  The time needed by the spirits to come up with the answers.  The time needed by La Voisin to gather information from one of her many spies who investigate for her around Paris…

When the future Marquise returns, she hears this:

“You are young, you are beautiful, you are a widow.  Soon you will remarry…”

Then, touching the head of a stuffed salamander with big orange spots, she concentrates for a moment then says this, which is true clairvoyance:

“I have to tell you…  yes… I have to tell you, that you are going to die young!”

The young woman wants to know whether the cards ever make a mistake.  La Voisin replies that they rarely do.  The young woman begs her to try again.  The fortune-teller slowly rises and goes towards her oven.  In a recipient she takes a pinch of resin which she rolls in what appears to be incense, then throws the little ball into the fire.

A green and blue flame rises, which she carefully inspects.  She turns back toward the young woman.

“There is little hope…  You will die young from a violent death!”

***

To be continued.

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