Tag Archive: Justice


Henry Cavendish was the greatest scholar of his time.

There is another Cavendish, more famous than John William, but just as mysterious as the fifth Duke of Portland.  This Cavendish died in 1810.  His fortune, inherited from his uncle, was fabulous and his mystery remains impenetrable.  He was the greatest scholar of his time, the first to have calculated with precision the density of the terrestrial globe.  In fundamental discoveries, he also formulated the composition of water and precisely gave that of air.  He is doubtless the discoverer of electricity, but he refused to publish the rest of his capital discoveries on energies.  It is safe to say that all modern Science comes from Henry Cavendish, who was born in Nice in 1731…

However, this ancestor of the underground Duke does not seem to have belonged to the human species.  Of maladive timidity, he had no contact with any living being, except for the members and correspondents of scholarly societies.  For ordinary relations with his fellow-men, he communicated only by signs or by written messages.  One day, he is shown through the window a couple making love inside a bedroom in the building opposite.  He asks to be told what it is that these people could possibly be doing.  Another day when he is served lamb shanks, he asks very seriously how many legs this race of animal has.  At the end of his life, he gives the day and time of his death, right to the minute.

When he enters into agony, one of the rare persons assisting him asks him if he wants any help from religion.  He asks what that means and what a priest is…

Henry Cavendish does not wear a mask;  but his face and his whole life is his mask.  A mask which, like his descendant, he never accepts to remove.

Are such strange destinies still those of human beings?  Those who hide themselves like this behind the Cavendish mask, are they something other than human beings?

***

The story of the fifth Duke of Portland holds two other mysteries.  John William Cavendish of Portland had a younger brother and never did two brothers resemble each other less than these two:  John William was, according to the little that we know of him, a very ugly man and his brother George Rentinck was endowed with all the seductions of the Earth. A dandy full of wit, who had Prime Minister Disraeli’s ear, his existence is a perpetual round of sporting and amorous exploits.

Women with the reputation for being the most inaccessible in High Society succumb, his jockeys win all of the big prizes and he himself excels in all physical exercises.  One day in Autumn 1848, when a local lord of the manor had invited him to stay for two days, he asks his groom to precede him in the cabriolet which is waiting in the courtyard of Welbeck Castle.  In his usual fashion, he intends walking the ten kilometres to work up an appetite.  As he hasn’t arrived at ten o’clock at night, they go to look for him…  He is found standing, leaning against a wooden fence, seeming to be looking at the great prairie beneath the moonlight.  He is dead.  The mystery of this death has never been elucidated…

***

He was probably assassinated by his brother John William, although there is no proof of it.

Before separating that evening, the two brothers had a violent argument.  Apparently over a question of money…  The official version is that George died from a cardiac spasm, which would be rather astonishing for a sportsman like him.

***

Remorse for having killed, voluntarily or not, his brother and also his physical disgrace seem to have encouraged John William to seek the obscurity of the tomb well before his death.

***

It seems that the fifth Duke of Portland had a really horrible physical appearance.  There is hesitation on whether it was leprosy or a cancer of the face…  Which explains the mask.  However, the mask is the cause of another complication in this story…

Did the Duke of Portland, who lived masked, accept to be photographed (left)? If so, except for the beard, his resemblance with Thomas-Charles Druce would be astonishing.

At his death, a lady came to claim his fabulous inheritance which would normally have gone to one of his distant cousins.  She was the widow of the owner of a London bazar.  And here is how she justified her pretensions before the tribunal, for the case was heard and was one of the longest and the most talked about of the XIXth Century.  She assured with great vehemence that in reality, John William Cavendish, Fifth Duke of Portland, came every day to London, in his closed berline with the curtains drawn, to transform himself into a certain Charles Druce, who held a bazar in Baker Street.  Charles Druce was now buried but his widow affirmed before the Court that the coffin was empty and that in reality Cavendish and the little London shopkeeper were one and the same person.  Assisted by a clever lawyer and several witnesses, she did not cease to demand from 1898 onwards the opening of coffin number 13160 in Highgate Cemetery, which, according to her, contained only a piece of lead removed, she said, from the roof of one of the Cavendish residences, Colcomb House…

This case lasted fifty years.  For half a century, the English newspapers gave an account of the evolution of the case.  After the widow’s death, then that of her son, one of his descendants, a modest carpenter, living in Australia, sets the case off again.  Lacking money to pay the lawyers, he creates a “Society with shares for the restitution of the inheritance of the Duke of Portland”.  A whole crowd of small subscribers rush to enter it, which creates a strong movement in favour of the carpenter in public opinion.  Soon, no-one in the kingdom has any doubt that the Duke and the shopkeeper would end up being one and the same Portland and that there would be people everywhere blessed by this good fortune.  A second hearing opens, documents of the first importance are stolen from a witness in the street, one day during a fog, and the newpapers relay subscribers’ and public opinion to demand that the coffin be finally opened.  On an icy-cold morning in 1907, the heavy stone which seals Charles Druce’s tomb is finally lifted…

When the undertaker raises the shroud, a horribly decomposed face appears.  Which does not prevent one of the witnesses, representing the public ministry, to recognize the shopkeeper’s cadaver.  From then on, the cause is finished and our carpenter returns to Australia crying over the dream which evaporated in the London fog.

A lot of people said that there had been substitution of the body and it must be admitted that the mystery of the life and death of the troglodyte Duke has never really been elucidated.

***

The other Cavendish, the scholar, is just as mysterious as his nephew.  Only one engraving represents him dressed in a worn, floating overcoat, a wide-brimmed hat which hides part of his face, and deformed trousers.  This Cavendish, the founder of Chemistry and Physics, is truly the creator of modern Science.  Curiously, he kept secret a certain number of his discoveries after having succeeded in isolating hydrogen and finding the synthesis of water.  At the same time, he pursues the first decisive works on electricity.  A laboratory, founded in 1870, shortly before an important part of his researches are found, bears his name.  This laboratory was the birthplace of atomic physics.

Cavendish remains, however, a human enigma and, according to the rare people who approached him, he appeared to be totally different in nature to common mortals.  Even while alive, his celebrity was immense.  However, almost no-one saw him.  He lived as a recluse, detached from all human contingencies, showing fear whenever one of his fellow humans approached him, dissimulating as best he could his physical appearance.  In his descendant, these characteristics are even more exaggerated and it is difficult to conceive a man more foreign to the human condition than his nephew John William.  The term “mutant” takes on all of its sense here, like Gaspar Hauser, for example, who was also a creature who was perfectly unclassable.

***

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Robespierre was presented as the new Messiah by a woman calling herself the "Mother of God".

Vadier would definitively condemn Robespierre by displaying a letter from a Geneva Notary, which proposes a supernatural Constitution to Robespierre.  It is the end.  After a three-hour battle, the High Priest of the Supreme Being is dead, killed by ridicule.

A few days later, on 9 Thermidor 1794, he who had wanted to bring back the Golden Age, via terror and the scaffold, perishes on the scaffold, amid songs, dances and cries of joy.

The day after this day when the Revolution falls, Catherine Theot is taken to the Petite Force Prison, and from there to the Plessis.  Robespierre had been opposed to her being harmed, and she now risks being persecuted as one of the tyrant’s accomplices.  Inside her gaol, covered in wounds, the origin of which cannot be explained, the Sibyl of the Rue Contrescarpe continues to prophesy…  She had vaticinated in her first prison:

“A great blow will strike me on the Pantheon hill, in a house next to the Ecole de Droit.  It will announce my rejuvenation and my transformation into an Immortal!”

Her prophecy as to the last place of her detention would reveal itself to be exact.  And what “great blow” does she mean?  To the questioners and gaolers who mock her, she says:

“Yes, I am going to die!  But not on the scaffold like you hope!  I shall die of my own death and unhappiness!  When I die, you will see!…  The ground will tremble, and it will collapse everywhere!…”

On 31 August, the visionary, surrounded by her faithful, enters into agony.  She dies peacefully at half-past seven.  At this precise instant, a formidable detonation shakes the walls of the prison.  The ground begins to tremble and all of the windows in Paris shatter while the doors of the prison next to the Luxembourg open on their own.

After the fall of Robespierre, Catherine Theot, considered as one of his admirers, was arrested and taken to the Petite Force Prison.

For a reason which was never elucidated, the Grenelle ammunition dump had just exploded, killing hundreds of people…

***

After this, the Mother of God’s gaolers took her prophecies seriously and, mad with terror, installed her body on a big parade bed, covered with flowers and surrounded by a thousand candles.  Of course, when they learned that it was the central ammunition dump which had exploded and that the Illuminated woman had nothing to do with it, they threw her body into the common grave and covered it with lime…

***

Robespierre had never seen her and didn’t even know that she existed.  The Atheist Party simply used her to ridicule Robespierre’s religious ideas.

***

This former pupil of the Oratorians, who owed to the Bishop of Arras his Bursary of Collegian and Student, lived right to the end surrounded by priests.  A fervent disciple of Rousseau, whom he had perhaps met in his Ermenonville retreat, he attacked Voltaire in all of his speeches, which caused great scandal among the Atheists.  At the Convention tribunal, where he purposely smattered his interventions with many resounding :  “May it not displease God!”  he said:

“To attack the cult, is to attack the morality of the People!”

Just before and at the beginning of the Revolution, the good God was never in better health.  When the churches start to be closed, people turn in frenzy to all forms of mysticism.  The most naive, or the craziest, revelations of somnambulists and necromancians, tarots and horoscopes, those of Mademoiselle Lenormand in particular, who has among her clients Saint-Just, Barere and Robespierre himself, who faints every time that he touches the Nine of Spades.  When in 1793, Saint Genevieve’s shrine is profaned, the Sans-Culottes of the neighbourhood want to raise in the church an “altar, where pious vestals would maintain a perpetual fire”.  In the families, Chaumette’s portrait placed between two candles is adored, and Petion, the President of the Convention, has his sect which finds him “very superior to Our Lord Jesus-Christ”.

At the precise moment that Catherine Theot breathed her last breath, the Grenelle ammunition dump exploded.

In the good aristocratic society, things are not much better.  The Duchess de Bourbon welcomes all that Paris counts in somnambulists, wizards, cabbalists and augures.  Every day, the prophet Elie holds conferences which are followed by a lot of people in the Tuileries garden.  People believe that they are followed by their guardian angel or persecuted by their guardian devil and those who do not give themselves up to magnetism, follow the prophetess Jeanne Labrousse, as far as Rome, where she goes to convert the Pope.

Catherine Theot also has success, as we have seen, with an imagination even more fertile than the others.  The Police find in her home a recipe for making a magical sword which renders invincible, but above all numerous rough copies of letters, all addressed to her “dear son” Robespierre in which she gratifies him with the name of “Guide des milices celestes” and “angel of the Lord”.

***

The only element which is in any way compromising for the Incorruptible, is the presence in the Theot’s home of Dom Gerle, the man in the white coat.

This strange person, a former Deputy of the Constituante, who had launched the visionary Suzanne Labrousse in Paris, would furnish Vadier with the only political element of his report.  It is a letter from Robespierre to the former Chartreux, in which he guarantees his patriotism and his revolutionary convictions and gives him as well “une carte de Surete”, a precious talisman, without which the slightest movement inside Paris can end at the Conciergerie.

***

In the Summer of 1794, anything was good for bringing down the Angel of Death who was only hanging on by public pressure.  The absolute Reign of Terror had arrived and anybody in France could be arrested at night, judged at noon and guillotined at four o’clock in the afternoon, without even having opened his or her mouth.  Atrocious times, when the Deputies didn’t dare sleep in their beds, continually changed places in the chamber during a sitting, spent their day running around in the streets and slipping into buildings with two entrances, to uncover spies.  Barras, in his Memoires, recounts that a Deputy, drunk with fatigue, was at his place, his forehead resting on his hand.  Suddenly he is seen to jump on his seat as if stung by a scorpion.  Simply because the Dictator had stared at him.  Trembling, decomposed, he turns to one of his colleagues and stammers:

“He’s going to believe that I’m thinking something!”

***

Inside, as well as outside, Robespierre had acquired immense prestige, to the point that he personified, all on his own, the Revolution.  And the Terror.  It was said at the Convention:

“If Robespierre asks for blood, blood will flow;  if he doesn’t, no-one else will dare ask for it!”

Women in particular added to it.  Widow Jaquin from Nantes, endowed with 40,000 pounds of rent, writes to him:

“You are my supreme divinity, I see you as my tutelary angel”

The Municipalities write to him that they throw themselves at his feet and that they sing Te Deums in his honour…

***

Until his death in 1828, the former Conventionnel Vadier would not cease to repeat in his Brussels exile the story of Catherine Theot and what he had been able to do with it.  He said with his inimitable Ariege accent:

“Robespierre, I annihilated him, I sank him, I struck him down in one blow…  Can you imagine it?!  He was saying that Atheism is aristocratic!”

The implacable Voltairian, who had brought down a man whose power surpassed by a great deal that of the Sun-King [Louis XIV] himself, died piously on the day of the Pentecost in 1828 and his body was presented at the Sainte-Gudule Cathedral, where the high clergy assembled to celebrate a solemn service for the repose of his soul…

***

Robespierre was presented as the new Messiah by a woman calling herself the "Mother of God".

A little while ago, at the bottom of the staircase, Senart had consulted his Police File for the last time.  In it, it is said that she, who is called “the Mother of God” by adepts that are more numerous every day, is 69 years old, that she is the daughter of a poor Norman labourer, hired on a daily basis, and that she was a servant for a very long time.  When, in her 50’s, she suddenly has her “Revelation”, she hurries to a merchant of “instruments of penitence” and invests the savings of a lifetime in an incredible collection of cilices, iron belts, bracelets “a picquais” and metallic garters, lined with horsehair.  At night she sleeps on a cross which is a veritable torture rack, also garnished with steel spikes.  Although completely illiterate, she starts to cathechise.  Not without success, since the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor de Beaumont, becomes worried and asks her in writing to tell him about the lights that she thinks to have received.  A letter from her Archbishop!  The little good sense which remains in Catherine Theot abandons her and here she is running around the streets, stirring up the passers-by, interrupting sermons and cornering predicators on their way out, to accuse them of being heretics…  One of them sues and the visionary finds herself for three years at the Salpetriere in the  non-dangerous mentally deranged sector.  She is then taken in by a dressmaker, who is just as mad as she is, and for ten years, living a retired life, the two good women will pass the time retouching their sulphurous visions…  When the revolutionary hurricane is unleashed, they re-surface and set up their mirage offices on the Sainte-Genevievre mountain, where we now find them…  The Eclaireuse exclaims:

“Kneel, mortals!  You are going to receive the seven gifts of God!”

The two sheep drop to their knees.  They are asked if they can read.  They reply “a little”.

L'hopital de la Salpetriere, where Catherine Theot was interned for three years in the "mystically mad" quarter.

The Theot passes behind Senart and seizes his head which she presses strongly.  He feels the elderly woman’s mouth touch his forehead, eyelids, the back of an ear and his chin twice.  The beautiful Eclaireuse demands:

“Your turn!”

A rough ordeal!  But as a zealous policeman, Senart obeys and embraces the old woman everywhere.  The Chanteuse then asks:

“Son and Mother, kiss each other on the mouth!”

There, heroism is needed, but on we go, for the Republic!

Heron is inflicted with the same touching and, as soon as he has finished, everyone enters into a trance, kneels, prays, and begins canticles.  A beautiful young woman keeps her mouth pressed against that of Catherine for long minutes.  She doesn’t even stop when the Colombe appears in a panic, crying out:

“We have been betrayed!  There are soldiers everywhere in the street!…  They are climbing the stairs!”

The man in the white riding cloak, a former Chartreux by the name of Dom Gerle, now defrocked, also a former member of the Assemblee constituante, wants to flee.  Heron points one of his guns on his face, while Senart, more dead than alive, finds the strength to open the window and call out:

“The Guard!  Help, Gendarmes!…”

A few instants later, a strange cortege goes down the Rue de l’Estrapade:  the “Mother of God”, her head wobbling, trots gently between two Gendarmes, followed by her flock of Illuminated surrounded by National Guards.

In front, walk the two sycophants, Heron radiant, rattling his artillery, Senart shifty, his head invisible under his bicorn.

They arrive in front of the former College Louis le Grand, transformed into a Police Room and a Prison.  In this corridor, less than fifteen years before, Robespierre, then a Law student, was ruminating his dreams of grandeur, sombre and solitary.  Vadier occupies a little office there, where the Accused will be interrogated soon.

He will learn that the Mother teaches that the Incorruptible is the new Messiah, the incarnation of the Supreme Being, sent to Earth to transform France into Paradise…

That’s all that he wants to know.

***

A few days later, it is the incredible Festival of the Supreme Being, the most astonishing day in the History of Paris. 

[see https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/robespierres-one-day-religion/ and https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/robespierres-one-day-religion-part-2/ and https://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/robespierres-one-day-religion-part-3/ ]

On this day, the aim is to abolish two thousand years of christianism and go back to the great celebrations of Antiquity, with Liberty floats drawn by the People of Paris, the cremation of the Statue of Atheism, and the sermon by Robespierre, who is already no more than the fanatical priest of the great cult of Death.  However, while France is panting and agonizing in the blue shadow of the Machine, this day marks the pinnacle of the man who had concentrated into his hands more power than any other in France, before or after him.  It will precipitate him also toward a vertiginous and absurd end which would occur less than two months later.

***

At the Convention, eight days later, Barere explodes his bomb:  Robespierre was the disciple of an old, mad, mystical woman!  It is Catherine Theot, the Mother of God, who invented the Supreme Being and who persuaded the Incorruptible that he was the new Messiah!  To perfect the trap, Vadier gives it vaudeville colours.  He lets it be understood that Robespierre was effectively one of the sect’s Initiates and that he was the first to suck the chin of the old witch!

All of this is false, of course.  It is all just a diabolical machination, served by lucky coincidence.  The Convention doesn’t care.  On the benches of the famous long room of the Tuileries, the Deputies roll around with laughter, and an immense dream crumbles…

“Is it really true that you knew about the Theot’s doings, Comrade Citizen?  What did it feel like, to embrace the Mother of God on the mouth?…”

Stunned at first, Robespierre becomes indignant.  Lengthily, as usual, he confides to his colleagues his astonishement and his pain, before this indecent buffoonery.  Vadier retorts:

“What?  This female conspirator, who sacrifices to superstition and old idols, is only a ‘woman worthy of contempt’?”

Robespierre interrupts:

“I didn’t say that!  You must understand…”

The embarrassment of the man, who had so many times pulverised much more serious arguments, is an irreparable error.  He is booed, his speech will not be printed and sent to the departements.  The Incorruptible will fall back down onto his bench.  He knows what this failure means.  His white, feline face closes up a little more and he murmurs:

“I am finished!”

***

To be continued.

Robespierre was presented as the new Messiah by a woman calling herself the "Mother of God".

If Robespierre was finally defeated, it was perhaps because of a woman, an obscure prophetess, whose name History has not even retained.  In 1793, the “enrages”, assembled around the bloody Hebert, resolved to put an end to the Church.  Their spokesman, Chaumette, a philanthropist, the inventor of a guillotine on wheels which greatly facilitated the choppers’ work, is seized with a veritable anti-Catholic frenzy.  In the cemeteries, he has the crosses replaced by statues of Sleep, since the soul cannot be immortal, and he asks the “swearing” bishops to throw away the mitre, crook and ring, and to proclaim:

“All the titles of the charlatanism are deposited at the People’s Tribunal, we are regenerated!”

In Notre-Dame’s choir, he has an immense mountain in cardboard constructed.  On its slopes, women with naked breasts suckle babies to make them good little soldiers of Liberty.  One would look in vain for an effigy of saints.  In their place, there is a monumental statue which represents the People, brandishing a club.  A temple of political philosophy replaces the main-altar.  One distinguishes there the busts of all of the Fathers of the Revolution…

And it’s the same thing, often more laughable, in the cathedrals of Bourges, Le Mans, Limoges, Pau and elsewhere, where prostitutes organize mad Bacchanalias.

The Festival of the Goddess Reason, which degenerated into an appalling Bacchanalia, was replaced, at Robespierre's request, by the Festival of the Supreme Being.

Robespierre has more taste and spirit than these people.  And a higher ambition.  He doesn’t want to extirpate religious sentiment from the hearts of the French.  But he wants them to embrace a new religion.  That they replace the adoration of the Church God by the cult of the Supreme Being, founded on reason and fraternity.

On 18 Floreal Year II, more prosaically 7 May 1794, he has voted by the Convention, where no-one dares to contradict him any more, the Act of the birth of a religion, of which, by divine right, it could be said, he will be the High Priest.  For  a little more than a month.  This is already much too much for the partisans of absolute atheism.  Of course Hebert has just been cut in two, but his friends, among the Jacobins and even in the Convention, are searching and agitating.  While Robespierre is establishing with the painter David and the poet Chenier the rites and canticles of the new religion, they are seeking how to knock this Being off its altars along with its infernal pontiff.  They search with the desperate obstination of those for whom the path from the tribunal to the blade is becoming shorter every day.  In the end, they will find what they are looking for…

This same day in May 1794, two men discretely climb the six storeys of a miserable-looking house in the Rue de la Contrescarpe.  They are secret agents, or rather Comite de Salut Public informers.  Their names are Heron and Senart, and they have been sent there by Vadier, a Montagnard Deputy who execrates Robespierre just as much as his divinity, and Barere, nicknamed “l’Anacreon de la guillotine”, because the sight of its well-filled basket inspires him to spout exquisite literary flowers.  As for the two spies, you might as well say that they are frankly scoundrels:  Heron is a former long-haul sailor whose men call him simply “le Chef”.  Perhaps he takes his authority from the fact that he never goes anywhere without a very complete artillery:  under his jacket he carries two espingoles, small pistols, and a second belt with other pistols of a more considerable calibre, plus a large dagger and a little tiny styletto.  His wife, a beautiful Cancalaise to whom he is very attached, cheats on him with a First Lieutenant of the Beauce Regiment and flees with 800,000 pounds, a fortune which must surely owe nothing to his sailor’s pay.  He has just introduced a request with his influent friends that has a good chance of coming to something:  that of having his wife guillotined very urgently…

Senart, on the other hand, is a scrupulous person.  The son of a Prosecutor of Chatellerault, he passes for noble and has even married a goddaughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.  Never does he ever assemble his military Commissions, which comb the provinces, without making them attend Mass first.  He is meticulous in everything:  elected Prosecutor of Tours, he establishes the guillotine there without delay “on a solid base in masonry”.

Heron advises his acolyte to look pious as he knocks twice, then three times, with one knuckle on the landing door.

After a fairly long moment, a servant shows her nose and asks if they have come for the Mother of God.  If so, they’ll have to wait, because she isn’t up yet.

It is eleven o’clock;  the two fellows take root in the dark, cramped entry.  Heron reminds Senart that he is supposed to have just come from the country.

Then, a man dressed in an immense white riding-coat and carrying a toque in petit-gris fur appears.  He raises an oil lamp toward the visitors’ faces and traces a sign of recognition on his forehead which Heron hastens to repeat.  Before he can say a word, the servant-girl reappears and says emphatically:

“Come!  Mortal men, towards immortality!  The Mother of God permits you to enter!”

She precedes them into a chamber which is fairly vast, but just as dark, where she lights a triple chandelier and arranges, on some low steps, three blue and red armchairs.  Then she says:

“Time advances!  The Mother of God is going to appear to receive her children!”

At this moment, a military man arrives carrying his bonnet under his arm, a long blade at his side, followed by a female citizen that the man with the toque greets as being “l’Eclaireuse”.  Another one comes from the rooms at the end and is called “la Chanteuse”, and again another, who is singularly beautiful and is called “la Colombe”.  The “Eclaireuse” rings a bell.

“Brothers, here is your Mother!”

The curtains of an alcove open and a tall, dry, diaphanous person appears.  Her head and hands are of phenomenal thinness and are shaking with senile trembling…

Senart, who has remained prudently behind, now counts a good ten people who are taking their places on stools and types of chaises longues.  Those present rush to kiss Catherine Theot’s slipper with fervour, crying out:

“Glory be to the Mother of God!”

In his corner, Senart is having trouble not to laugh.

A collation is served, but only for the prophetess.  Two pretty girls tenderly wipe her face and lips afterwards.  In a sour, broken voice, she then pronounces these words:

“Children of God, Your Mother is among you.  I am now going to purify the two profanes!…

To be continued.

Frontispiece of "L'Ariane", one of a dozen exceptionally bad tragedies written and presented by Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin.

Simon Morin is even more assured of his mission, as a man of quality, a truly superior mind – an Academician no less – has just joined his busy little crowd of disciples.  His name is Jean Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin.  Morin effusively welcomes this spiritual brother to his hovel.  He informs him that he, Desmaret, will be the Saint Paul to the new Christ that Morin, himself, is.  He promises to reveal all his secrets to him soon.

In vain, Morin’s wife tries to warn him.  She finds Saint-Sorlin highly suspicious.  After a few days, Morin puts him in contact with “spirits” that he evokes during seances, and exposes the new religion to him.  That of the “Inner Circle of the Holy Spirit” that Louis XIV must install as quickly as possible.  If he doesn’t, he will die that same year.  These mind wanderings are heard by an attentive Desmaret who, hands joined and eyes lowered, appears to be listening to the Sermon on the Mount.

Morin adds that, at a certain degree of purity, carnal excesses, with whichever sex they are performed, are cleansed in advance of any stain.  Desmaret pudically lowers his eyes and manages to extort a few other insanities from the fellow.  Then, while these redoubtable confidences are still fresh in his mind, he rushes off to give an account of them to the ecclesiastical judge.

He clamours:

“Lese-majeste, sorcery, sodomy!”

He receives the retort:

“In intention, only!”

So what?  Is one less culpable of only wishing the death of the King than of killing him?

Simon is therefore arrested again.  Confronted with the Academician, he denies nothing of these platitudes.  This time, he even assures that he is ready to die for them.  And what does the stake matter to him, since the angels would come to snatch him from the flames and consecrate his glory?  From the hearing room, he goes directly to the torture chamber.  There, before a Doctor in Sorbonne and a clerk of the Criminal Chamber to whom a Confessor is added, he has to suffer the Extraordinary Question.  Do they even listen to what he screams in his abominable torments?  He is condemned to be burnt alive in front of the Notre-Dame porch, the next day at Dawn.  At four o’clock, he leaves the torture chamber broken, is thrown panting onto a tumbril, with a few books and a few sheets of his vaticinations.  When the lamentable cortege arrives Place de Greve, he contains his atrocious sufferings and cries out:

Simon Morin's atrociously mutilated body was delivered to the flames before an hilarious crowd of onlookers.

“I am innocent!  It is not permitted to shed the blood of the just!”

A great crowd is assembled Place de Greve.  It had already enjoyed seeing one of Morin’s mistresses whipped and marked with a red-hot brand.  The executioner then drags the broken body of the unfortunate man onto the faggots and between two screams of pain, just before the flames and smoke rise, the dying man’s voice can again be heard:

“Jesus!  Mary!  My God!…  Give me misericord!”

The Confessor turns toward the good people of Paris and invites it to pray…

In his Hotel du Marais, Saint-Sorlin has also recited his Matins.  A messenger has kept him informed of the good result of his work.  Instead of taking a bit of rest, he immediately calls his secretary and dictates for La Gazette rimee seven lines of poetry on “the imposter” and his death.

***

The Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement was a secret society founded in 1627, under the devout Louis XIII, to restore Catholicism after the upheavals of the Renaissance.  It was open to monks, nuns, priests as well as laics, and counted at one time nearly 60 centres throughout Paris and in the provinces.  In the beginning, its members were above all devoted to charitable enterprises, the improvement of the lot of those condemned to hard labour, notably, but always with the idea of wiping out “immorality” everywhere.  They also went to war against gallant rendez-vous inside churches, the “nudities of the throat“, “dishonest or abominable paintings or almanachs” and prostitutes [filles publiques]

Little by little, the repressive aspect, the occult denunciation and spying, on the Protestants in particular, take over from all of the other activities.  To the point that the clergy itself becomes worried about it, and supports in 1660 a request for its dissolution by the Paris Parliament.  Thanks to the intervention of Lamoignou, its First President, and of Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV, who was very religious at the end of her life, the dissolution is not total.  But by the action of Mazarin, whose joyous life was discretely criticized by the Company, and the immense success of Moliere’s Tartuffe in 1669, its influence is gradually reduced to nothing.

***

Simon Morin was a poor devil who earned his living by copying official documents for illiterate people or by writing their letters.  He represents a heresy which goes right back to the XIIth Century.  It prophesies that, after the time of the Father and of the Son, will come the time of the Holy Spirit, when all the sacraments will be abolished and when each would be able to save himself by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  There will be no more sins, and therefore no more reason to not commit as many as possible, say its sectaries, who do not deprive themselves of doing it…  In 1281, a nun named Guillelmine dies in Milan, in odour of sanctity.  Shortly after her death, the Inquisition sets off an Enquiry which permits to establish that “the saint” had frenetically fallen into this heresy.  Her cadaver is dug up and is taken in great pomp to the stake.

This belief in a Holy Spirit carrying away on his wings all the conventions of established morality would last for a very long time, and Simon Morin is only one of the last links in a long heretical chain which causes talk for half a millenium in the Catholic world.

***

Saint-Sorlin was very proud of what he had done…  Starting from there, he busied himself creating a force similar to the Ligue du Bien Public, which had suscitated, among other miseries, the Saint-Barthelemy Massacre.  He also wrote a book where he recounted all his evil actions, which he hoped would be a best-seller.  He only left his study to hunt out new victims and he sent denunciations in such great numbers that the Prosecutors, irritated, asked him to deposit bail.  That is to say to become partie civile and pay the costs of the trial when his victims were acquitted.  He died at a very old age, 81, in 1676, not at all tired of hunting true and false heretics.  Alas, the fashion had passed, and he finally died very sad to have been able to roast only one unfortunate person…

***

Reception of a French Academician in the XVIIth Century.

Jean Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin is one of the ancestors of the Forty Members of the Academie francaise.  He was one of the first to enter the Academy, but was a really nasty piece of work, whose name is carefully not spoken by anyone hoping to don the Academy’s green jacket.

Cardinal de Richelieu, who founded the Academy, was very fond of beautifully written literary and poetic works.  But although he was a political genius, his literary talents were non-existent, and it is our Desmaret who would ghost-write the verses that are slightly less bad that the ones that the Cardinal wrote on his own.  Under his name of Armand du Plessis, Richelieu even gives Mirame, a tragedy, ghost-written by this same Desmaret.  Naturally, the ghost draws advantages from this situation.  Lucrative positions for a start, and soon a seat in the Academy.  Beautiful in appearance, and in favour at Court, he then begins to lead a voluptuous life, woven with gold and silk…

In 1645, he arrives at the age of fifty and has an attack of religiosity.  He assures it anyway, in a work that he very simply entitles Les Delices de l’Esprit.  But our man has the itch for action, and the idea of serving the Church, excites him diabolically, literally…

As it happens, at this epoch, the Compagnie du Saint Sacrement is recruiting.  Founded by the Duke de Ventadour, the King’s Lieutenant-General in Languedoc, and Viceroy of Canada, this institution proposes to promote God’s glory “by all means”.  Which is supposed to make libertines, Protestants, unmarried mothers and prostitutes think twice, along with all those who are taking care not to let the lights of the Renaissance go out altogether, while awaiting those of the Grand Century…

Armand du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu

What is sure, in any case, is that our man enters into a secret Society, which acts everywhere in an underhand way, which declares the Arts and theatres to be heretical, and wants to purge society of all those who do not say their Rosary every day…  In the name of this Society, our religious man uses his pen with great zeal, spending whole days writing texts to save God and the Holy Church.

He is heard to thunder:

“Christianity is lost if a strong army does not rise to combat and exterminate impieties and heresies everywhere.  This army must be composed of one hundred and forty-four thousand fighters, who would have the mark of the living God on their foreheads.  Its chief must be Louis the Fourteenth in person.”

Although he is Controller at the Extraordinaire des Guerres and Secretary of the Marine du Levant, Desmaret has no intention of mounting a palfrey in an army of fighters of infidels.  He reserves for himself another role in this crusade.  The very distinguished role of snitch…

Let us leave our Academician for an instant and visit the little people, among those of “mechanical condition” as was said at the time.

Public writer's booth. That of Simon Morin was in Paris near Notre-Dame.

A man of the people, Simon Morin has a booth of writer-copier in the Notre-Dame quarter.  Which does not give him nor his children enough to eat every day.  But he doesn’t care, since Simon Morin is the Holy Spirit in person.

Illuminated people of this kind are legion under the Sun-King, a sombre epoch where spirits and spells still have all their powers.  For Simon Morin, the world has known only two religions:  a religion of the Jews, with Moses, a religion of the Christians, with Jesus.  But now a third religion is being announced, that of the Holy Spirit.  The Church, he proclaims, has nothing more to say, and the sacraments, along with laws of morality, have no more significance.  The Holy Spirit is here now, in the person of a few pure people.  And all is pure for the pure;  whatever they do, they commit no sin.  They are the annunciators of absolute liberty under the reign of the Holy Spirit…

And Morin carries his message to servant girls, washerwomen, shop girls, who are quickly won over to his prophecy, for he is a beautiful-looking man, his female assistant, as well as a few young, fresh male adolescents who barely leave him, and his wife, who says that all this will end badly.  In 1646, his pretty female penitents, whom he neglects from time to time, denounce him as being idolatrous.  He is imprisoned and almost immediately released for, with good sense, these Gentlemen of the Official, judge him to be more silly than heretical.  This brief stay in the Bastille builds up his popularity and his exaltation.  In 1647, he publishes Les Pensees de Simon Morin, that he dedicates directly to the King, to exhort him to get rid of the Church and take himself, Simon Morin, as his spiritual advisor…

As he persists and proclaims that he is the new Christ, he is bundled into prison for more than twenty months this time.  Upon leaving, he meets up with a cortege of his faithful followers, his legitimate children and others at their head, followed by a whole collection of washerwomen and maids.

After a short time of silence, he again says directly to the people of the City, that he is the messiah and the saviour of France.  This time, the ecclesiastical judge gets really upset.  Imprisoned for a third time, he is threatened with torture and even worse.  When he is presented with the brodequins and the red-hot pincers, he weakens and signs an abjuration in which he recognizes all his errors and swears that he will no longer prophesy…

A few years pass by, and one beautiful day our augure is again found perched on the grilles of the Louvre.  He wants to put into the King’s own hands, his most recent work, which he has modestly entitled Temoignage du Second Avenement du fils de l’Homme.  He is of course arrested, but, and here the justice of the Ancien Regime shows itself in an inhabitual light, the tribunal only sees in him an obstinate demented man and has him released.  But all these scandals have earned him disciples that are more and more numerous.  His wife keeps telling him that he is going to end by the hand of Charlot (the Paris executioner) he answers with outstretched arms and eyes raised to the sky:

“Gabriel and his celestial militia will come to deliver me!…

To be continued.

In the XVIIIth Century, it was believed that a woman sleeping naked on her bed could be fecunded by the South-West zephyr "charged with floating embryos".

The way in which, throughout the centuries, humans have imagined that they are engendered is a passionate subject.  A young History professor, Monsieur Pierre Darmon, wrote a History of it in which procreation appears as the most prolific of mysteries, a sort of immense, baroque tapistery, around the edges of which the imagination of theologians, jurists, philosophers and doctors has enormously embroidered.

Does sleep favourise the birth of male children?  Yes.

Does the foetus resemble the mother more than the father?  Of course.

The more lascive a woman is, the more fecund she is?  Oh dear no.

Are short women more fecund than tall ones?  Definitely.

Are women whose matrice is cold fecund?  Of course not.

Are women who give birth to a boy more fecund?  Assuredly.

These are very serious subjects of thesis, defended before the very venerable Faculte de medecine de Paris up until the time when, around 1770, Lavoisier gives the first foundations of modern chemistry…

In the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, it was believed that women who gave birth to monstrous children had been fecunded by a witch.

In the XVth Century, the monks Sprenger and Institutor write the first big treatise on demonology, Le Marteau des Sorcieres.  For two centuries, this guide – red with the blood of thousands of victims – will inflame all parts of Europe, in the hands of Inquisitors and Judges who have blind confidence in it.

During witchcraft [sorcery] trials, sexuality and generation always play a determining role.  One discovers there, in a tragic light, the idea that humanity has had, over the ages, of the role of the sexes and of procreation.

Mandated by the Pope to hunt witches [female sorcerers], Sprenger and Institutor assure that these women are capable of detaching by a spell [enchantment] the fascinus (the “object which fascinates”) of these gentlemen and of taking them away.  The witches place these little animals – these little sparrows? – endowed with their own lives, inside a nest.  The XVth Century text says:

“There, they wriggle and feed themselves with seeds, as several people have recounted.”

And our two grave demonologists recount the following story which they hold to be absolutely true:

“A man notices that, under the effect of a spell, the most precious of his goods has disappeared.  He addresses himself to a known witch and demands reparation from her by the practising of a graft which she knows how to do.  The witch makes him climb a tree and presents him with her collection.  In a nest, several objects of virility are jumping and dancing.  He chooses one, the most flattering.  The witch who, although diabolic, still has scruples, exclaims:  ‘Above all, not that one, it belongs to the parish curate!…’ “

When a woman gives birth to a monstrous child, for several centuries it was thought that it was because of a magical operation.  Therefore, the person responsible has to be found.  It is always a witch or a wizard who has impregnated the mother with bad germs.  And where do these monster germs come from?  They float in the air.  In any case, it is never the fault of the father…

Up until the middle of the XVIIIth Century, a quantity of scientific treatises can be found which doctorly explain that

“at the origin of all animal life, there are little, invisible beings, already formed, but lifeless, which are waiting to enter into contact with a liqueur which is subtle enough to vivify them”.

A woman can therefore procreate on her own, through enchantment or even simply a dream.

This is why, on 13 January 1637, the Grenoble Parliament declares Magdeleine d’Automont d’Aiguemere innocent of the sin of adultery.  This chaste spouse has just given birth to a boy.  But, her husband has been absent for four years.  However, the judgement underlines that

“having imagined the person and the physical contact of the said Lord d’Aiguemere, her husband, in a dream, she received the same sentiments of conception and of pregnancy that she would have received in his presence”.

The judges refer to Saint Thomas who said that, in the state of innocence, children were made by the intention of thoughts alone.

This judgement is accompanied by a highly scientific declaration:

“One supposes that, on the night of Madame d’Aiguemere’s dream, her window being open, her bed exposed to the West, her blanket in disorder, that the South-West zephyr, duly impregnated with organic molecules of human insects, of floating embryos, had fecunded her.”

***

To be continued.

Rosette Tamisier.

During her last public appearance, the little miracle girl proclaims in a firm voice:

“Rose Tamisier.  I’m thirty-three years old…  Christ’s age…”

She makes the sign of the cross and then sits down facing her judges in the courtroom of the Carpentras Tribunal.

Troubled and distraught after two days of passionate debates, the judges don’t know which saint – or devil – to address to discover the truth.

To everybody’s great discontentment, they declare themselves to be incompetent and the trial is taken to Appeal before the Nimes Court, on the following 6 November.

At Stockport (Great Britain) on 4 May 1947, a seven year old girl placed a crown of roses on this statue of the Virgin Mary. The flowers remained intact and perfumed for more than three years...

The case is rapidly, brutally expedited.  Rose is condemned to the maximum:  six months of prison and a fine of sixteen francs for “offence of affront to the Catholic religion”.

In fact, she will suffer an incarceration of twenty-one months in all, for she refuses to allow those close to her to pay the trial costs which come to the considerable sum of eight hundred and eighty-two francs.

When her ordeal ends, no-one is waiting for her at the prison door.  As if it were feared that, with her release, a decidedly cumbersome God would again manifest himself.

Everyone had hastened to forget her passing glory, but the high clergy will never forgive her for the upheaval she had caused in consciences.  Back in her town of birth, Saignon, to care for her elderly father, Rose thinks only of effacing herself as much as possible, not without hoping to find balm for her wounds in the holy sacraments.

The ecclesiastic authorities refuse categorically.  The Archbishop orders:

“If this girl asks for Holy Communion, she must first confess her culpable juggling.”

Throughout the terrestrial time left for her to live, Rosette Tamisier will remain firm.  She fights desperately and does not stop tearfully begging her Curate to allow her to accede again to the Holy Table, but she will never admit to having lied.

Periodically the Press writes about these extraordinary things. The public is interested for a while, pilgrims go to see them despite the Church's mutism, then it all returns to oblivion.

The Roman Catholic Church remains just as inflexible.  Despite her letters full of humility to the Archbishop and her exemplary life, it remains deaf to her appeals.

As for the past miracles, they too will fall into total oblivion.  Despite the doubts or convictions which will subsist in the minds of a lot of absolutely trustworthy witnesses…

How difficult and dangerous it was under this Second Empire, sanctimonious and bigoted, to be distinguished by the hand of the Lord!…

***

This story seems to be quite unknown.  The works on religion, those that support it and those, also numerous in the XIXth Century, which attack it, don’t mention Rosette.  It is surprising at an epoch when miracles suscitated a prodigious interest throughout the whole of the Occident and were the objects of serious studies for the first time, with scientific controls.  For example, those accomplished in the middle of the XIXth Century by Bernadette Soubirous and Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curate of Ars.

It is Maitre Maurice Garcon, the famous lawyer, who exhumed this case, thanks to the ecclesiastic authorities, who, for the first time, in the 1930’s, placed the documents and exhibits at his disposition.

***

This long silence was paradoxically because the Church feared that the judiciary authorities might be convinced of the authenticity of the Saint-Saturnin prodigies…  It is in fact extremely prudent in matter of recognition of saints or miracles.

Jeanne d’Arc was canonised only in 1920 and Saint Bernadette in 1933.  Saint Therese of Lisieux, who was canonised in record time, still had to wait thirty years.

Further, the Church always fears the intervention of the Devil in paranormal phenomena.

***

Imprint of Rosette Tamisier's bloody stigmata, believed to represent Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.

Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, believes that Rosette Tamisier performed miracles.  The archives of the civil enquiry as well as those of the ecclesiastic enquiry, along with the whole of the witness statements, concord on several points.  Even outside the miracle of the picture, it is accepted that Rosette levitated when she prayed and that she bore stigmata.

***

Although the Church recognizes the existence of levitation, it does not consider that it is enough for canonisation.

Certain mediums also levitate.

As for stigmata, they too are fairly common.

***

On the subject of the bleeding picture, there are many witness statements.  Those of the whole population, but also the gendarmes who established the reports, the Sous-Prefet, the Mayor and doctors.  Collective hallucination appears to be unthinkable.

The "Descent From the Cross" which was in the Church of Saint-Saturnin.

The report of Gendarme Brive, for example, clearly indicates that, when the blood that had flowed from the wounds on the picture was wiped off, it immediately formed again and so on, up to three or four times, more and more weakly, it is true.

At the beginning of the miracles, Rosette asked to be alone inside the chapel on the morning preceding these miracles.  Certain people have used this to argue that she herself spread blood on the canvas.  This cannot be so, for apart from the surveillance which had been established around the chapel, the religious authorities first, the civil ones later, had the picture taken down to see if it was rigged in some way.  Nothing suspicious had been found.  At the last miracle notably, the blood came back with such abundance that any idea of subterfuge, of “juggling”, as the Archbishop said, appeared to be out of the question.

***

This attack from the Roman Catholic Church is comprehensible.  Firstly, around the same epoch there had been the case of Sister Patrocinio, a Spanish nun who drew fake wounds on her body with a stick of silver nitrate.  This had thrown considerable discredit on the religion.  It was also the eve of a great occultist awakening in the middle of the end of the XIXth Century.  Heresies were flourishing, notably that of Vintras, who had founded the Oeuvre de misericorde, whose doctrine would spread into numerous European countries.

He had announced that all sorts of miracles were going to occur, and the Church made the connection, fearing that Rosette was part of this sect.

In fact, the extraordinary thing about this case is that the Church itself undertakes to put a miracle girl on trial.

Apart from the Curate of Saint-Saturnin, all the men of the Church in her time will be gradually against the miraculous thesis.  So almost all of the laics, public servants, lawyers, doctors and others will be for it, the free thinkers, like Doctor Clement, among them.  This quite simply shows that, in this matter, the Church displays a much more critical and prudent attitude than the laics.  For it knows what it can lose in prematurely recognizing miracles which aren’t, and in annexing to the religion phenomena for which all rationality appears out of the question.

***

As soon as the judgement had been rendered, the famous picture was removed from the chapel and no-one knows what happened to it.  Perhaps it is with certain ecclesiastic dossiers to which, despite his requests, Maitre Garcon never had access?…

***

Rosette Tamisier.

To those who attempt to relate what their eyes have seen, Abbot Caval replies:

“I have much better things to do than discuss this…  I’ve seen enough as it is, I’ve made up my mind…”

In vain does Doctor Bernard solicit an official analysis of the traces of blood that he has collected from the bleeding picture.  The intransigent Abbot answers:

“We know how to find the truth better than you do, Sir…”

It is hoped that, inside the locked chapel, the awaited miracle will occur in the absence of any witness.  It doesn’t.

It is Rosette herself who gives an explanation for this:

“The violent contradictions which are perturbing people’s minds are disturbing the operations of grace at the moment,”

says she to Doctor Bernard, with great presence of mind.

The ecclesiastic authorities want to move quickly, even more so as, in Spain at the same epoch, an enormous scandal has just exploded, certain aspects of which recall what is then happening in Saint-Saturnin.

Imprint of Rosette Tamisier's bloody stigmata, believed to represent Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.

A certain Sister Patrocinio, who was carrying stigmata fairly similar to Rosette’s, had been thrown into prison by the Prosecutor and her wounds had healed with a few cataplasms.  The nun had finally confessed to keeping her wounds open with a mysterious stone which had been given to her by her Confessor.  The Patrocinio is locked up in a convent from whence Queen Isabella soon removes her to make her her favourite, causing great scandal at the Court and among the population.

The Episcopate fears that similar things might occur in the South of France.  The conclusions of the Commission are quickly collected and they proclaim that it is impossible to see in these facts which have been submitted to it “the characteristics of a true miracle”.  Curate Grand resentfully writes that same day in a letter:  “Hell roars around us…”, while the satirical Parisian Press makes fun of the Sous-Prefet.

The uproar caused by this conclusion is far from being calmed, when the said Sous-Prefet, who is seen as a hero by some and an idiot by others, receives a letter signed by a certain Abbot Charvoz from Orelle.

It is this letter which will precipitate Rosette Tamisier’s sad destiny, without any recourse.

In 1953, the statuette of Saint Anne d'Entrevaux (Alpes de Haute-Provence) suddenly started to bleed. Laboratory analyses showed that it was human blood which was dripping from the finger of the plaster saint. Dr Tropini from Nice is seen here radiographing the statuette and discovered no trickery.

Abbot Charvoz was in fact the pontiff at the Oeuvre de misericorde and had been one of the first disciples of Vintras, the famous Norman heretic whom Barres evokes in La Colline inspiree.

In his letter, Abbot Charvoz takes the side of the miraculous thesis with great finesse and accuses the episcopal authority of wanting to stamp out the divine manifestations by lying about them.

At this epoch, the Roman Catholic religion was a State religion and heresy was hunted out.  It took no more than this for the Sous-Prefet to accuse Rose of being a vintrasian heretic, and for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, prodded perhaps by the Archbishop of Avignon, to take hold of her case.

As soon as the judiciary machine entered into action, witness statements poured in.  On the laic side, opinion is clearly favourable to Rosette at first.  The Judge of the Peace at Salon sends an eulogy of the young woman which emanates from the Sisters of the Presentation and confirms that, during her stay in the Sisters’ House, Rosette had been fed by Communion wafers which had come to her miraculously.

The Judge of the Peace at the Isle includes with his report, which is also favourable, an undershirt which supports the authenticity of the stigmata of her adolescence.  Even the Mayor of Saint-Saturnin sends a pathetic letter in which he is firmly on the side of the miracle.

Meanwhile, Curate Grand is begging Heaven for the prodigy to be renewed before the pilgrims who are more and more numerous and are leaving disappointed.  Rosette has been ill since the beginning of the year and cannot even be moved.  Evil gossipers use this to say that she can no longer slip into the chapel to prepare her “miracles” herself.

On the morning of 5 February however, a capital event will occur.

The "Descent From the Cross" which was in the Church of Saint-Saturnin.

During the preceding night, she suffered atrociously and in the early morning she whispered to those at her side:

“I suffered too much for there not to be something exraordinary to have happened up there…”

When the Curate penetrates the chapel with a group of pilgrims, the spectacle is stunning.  From all of the crucified one’s wounds, including his head, blood has flowed with an abundance never before observed.

The most sceptical people should have bowed to this evidence, but it is the complete opposite that takes place.  Pressed to end it all, the Prosecutor of the Republic listens only to gossip and charges Rose with two offences:  fraud and affront to religion.

In 1955 at Englancourt (Aisne) the faithful saw the gilded statue of the Virgin Mary blink its eyes several times.

The judge goes immediately to Saint-Saturnin and lengthily interrogates the miracle girl.  With a gentleness and a politeness which appear very excessive to Curate Grand…  The holy man fears that all this must hide a trap.

He was right:  the magistrate has an arrest warrant signed which is executed the same day.  Of what exactly is she accused?

Of something as vague as “affront” and as exorbitant as “theft”…  Because of some Communion wafers which had disappeared for a while from the Curate’s taberacle…

The judge’s report concludes like this:

“Approximate value of the stolen objects:  nothing.”

The little cabriolet which, the following day, carries Rosette to Apt is more or less her hearse, for from this moment she is going to disappear from the chronicles of the epoch.

In Apt and on the road which leads there, thousands of people, mysteriously alerted, line up and firstly watch in silence as the carriage passes by with drawn curtains.

When the coach arrives in the streets at the centre of the town, the crowd becomes extremely dense.  A versatile and cruel crowd from whence rise the first cries, female voices of course:

“Let her be whipped!…  Let her be whipped!…”

A few moments later, preceded by four gendarmes on horseback, who open a path for it with difficulty, the carriage penetrates the gaol.

From now on, it will be experts, chemists and magistrates who will take centre-stage.  After having revoked the Sous-Prefet who was tenaciously defending Rosette, the Minister of the Interior hands the case over to the Minister of Justice who names a pharmacist to examine the picture.  Laboriously, he attempts to demonstrate that Rosette used a leech to colour the wounds or a mixture with a potassium cyanide base.

The Accusation Dossier  deposed on 10 July is so weak and so badly presented that the tribunal is obliged to dismiss the case.  Abbot Grand and those faithful to the miracle girl are triumphant.  Not for long, alas…

An old enemy of Rosette, Abbot Caire, thinks that this is the right moment to insinuate that the judicial complexity of this case itself well proves…  the presence of Satan…

Immediately, taking for pretext an Article of the Code which punishes with imprisonment those who have insulted or defaced a religious object, the magistrates send the case back to the Correctional Tribunal of Carpentras.

***

To be continued.

Last photo of the Empress (left) at Territet, the day before her assassination.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi)’s assassin is doubly mistaken.  He believes that he has killed someone satisfied with her official role, fond of the advantages of public life, capriciously abusing her power.  This is the first error.  The anarchist had killed a Court anarchist, a woman who knew only the weight of the Crown.  Lucheni should have known that she had written:

“What do sceptres, crowns and purple ceremonial mantels matter?  They are only derisory, coloured rags, ridiculous rattles with which we vainly try to cover the nudity of our souls, when we should be thinking of safeguarding our life and our intimate feelings.”

This is a democratic empress, a popular queen, a modern sovereign.  The assassin kills an image, but this image is false.  With unparalleled audacity, Sissi had unleashed many worldly and social revolutions in Vienna.  This is a woman who is scandalised by small-mindedness, by injustice and by egoism.  Even if it beat in slight disorder, her heart, which had suffered so much, was very loving.  Elisabeth was nothing like a tyrant.  Sissi was more of a revolutionary than her aggressor.

To this first mistake, the assassin adds a second one, even more flagrant.  He did not kill a living being, he helped someone who wanted to die.  Armed by fatality, the assassin’s arm at last carried the coup de grace to the wounded Seagull who was circling in the sky of despair.  Lucheni did not know, either, that Elisabeth had said:

“The thought of death accompanies me day after day, it acts like a gardener who cleans the garden, but who wants to be alone and becomes irritated if curious people look over the wall.  So, I hide my face behind my sunshade and my fan, so that the idea of death is able to work peacefully inside me.”

There is something even more surprising.  Sissi had said:

“I know that I am walking towards a frightening goal which is assigned to me by Destiny…  I shall leave like smoke that drifts away, my soul will flee through a tiny little opening in my heart.”

A singular premonition…  And her assassin also did not know that she had declared, at the end of 1897:

“I don’t want to survive the Emperor.”

And, speaking of him and their daughter Maria-Valeria:

“I don’t want them to be present at my death, I want to die alone.”

Her wish was granted…

It must also be recalled that the church raised at Mayerling comports a little baroque chapel.  Beside the altar, the statue of a stabbed Virgin had been erected before Sissi’s assassination, by the sculptor Tilgner.  A Mater Dolorosa whose heart, which is apparent, is pierced by a knife;  the Virgin has Elisabeth’s features…

Finally, Lucheni killed someone in view, but he gave birth to a myth.  Death has made Elisabeth even greater.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

When we look back on the Empress’ impressive destiny, we can only bow before so much pain in her family:  Maximilien shot, Rudolf dead (assassinated?), Louis II drowned [or heart attack in the lake], Sophia of Alencon burnt alive, Charlotte demented…  A family?  An obituary.  And each of these deaths had withdrawn a reason for living from Elisabeth.  Fatality is in this presentiment of Sissi when she says one day:

“We all die violent deaths.”

The implacable cogs will turn again, tenacious like a malediction, striking down Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo.  The first shots fired in the Great War…

***

In October 1898, Luigi Lucheni is judged by the Geneva Court.  Furious that the death sentence had been abolished on the territory of the Republic of Geneva, he asks the President of the Swiss Federation to be judged according to the laws of the Canton of Lucerne, where the death sentence is still in vigour.  His letter is signed:

“Luigi Lucheni, anarchist, and one of the most dangerous.”

The sad boasting of the assassin could have cast doubts on his reason.  He was, however, declared to be sane, and considered, to his great disappointment, as a common prisoner and not as a political one.  Condemned to perpetual reclusion, the assassin attempts to kill himself with the key of a tin of sardines, on 20 February 1900.  Nervous, susceptible, he finally hangs himself in his cell on the evening of 16 October 1910.

Elisabeth as Queen of Hungary, by Raab (1867).

So much unhappiness attached to so much charm have made Sissi an unforgettable person.  On 7 June 1907, in the Garden of the People, in the centre of Vienna, Emperor Franz-Josef inaugurates a monument to Elisabeth, Empress of Austria.  The city renders posthumous homage to the lady who fled it.  Sissi is seated, two big dogs at her feet.  She is looking at the Hofburg.

In Hungary, despite the political upheavals, her memory is far from being effaced.  In Budapest, Erzsebet Bridge still spans the Danube, and Erzsebet Avenue has not been renamed…

Sissi was also unforgettable for her unhappy spouse, dignified and courageous in these recurring disasters.  Strapped inside his duty, walled inside his mourning, the Emperor fights melancholy.  He wanders through the empty rooms where each object reminds him of his adored spouse, “even the scales where she weighed herself each day”.  On the verge of tears, he comes across all the reminders of the defunct Empress, her fan in wood and leather, riding-crops in sculpted ivory, one for her, one for him, each having the photo of the other and his or her initials surrounded by rubies, her ivory opera glasses, her silver cigarette case, her Book of Prayer with its clasp, her paper-knife encrusted with ladybirds and dragonflies…  And he raises his eyes to the portraits of the departed, as if he wants to reassure himself with her gaze.  Until his death on 21 November 1916, he will never cease to repeat:

“No-one will ever know how much I loved her…”

***

Empress Elisabeth of Austria with Shadow.

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