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.

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