Tag Archive: Renaissance


The Master of the Hunt

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

According to Sully, Henri IV met the Master of the Hunt in the Fontainebleau Forest.

It is the 8 September 1598.  A group of hunters are riding in the Fontainebleau Forest.  At their head is a cavalier who speaks loudly with a rough accent.  His dress is neglected, his big nose reddened, his beard and moustache badly maintained, his fingernails black with dirt, a fairly strong smell emanates from him.  This is King Henri IV of France.

Since morning, the royal hunt has been travelling through the underbrush in pursuit of a stag.  Soon, they will stop in a clearing to eat some little meat patties and empty numerous flasks of Jurancon wine which the King has transported with him in all of his outings.  However, for the moment, they haven’t had anything to drink – and it is important to stress this fact.

Suddenly, the King stops his horse and tells everyone to listen.  All the cavaliers obey.  They then hear, coming from a distant place, which they estimate to be about half a league away, that is to say around two kilometres, the voices of a pack of hounds, cries and sounding of horns…

The King asks his companions if they too can hear hunting horns and hounds.  The Count of Soissons, who has cupped his big hand around his ear, nods and declares that it is astounding.  The King would like to know who it is who dares to hunt at the same time as himself.  Someone suggests that it could be an echo of their own horns.  The King dismisses this explanation:

“Our horns have never sounded any of the airs that we are hearing now…  Listen…”

It is true, the music coming to their ears – of course very muffled by the distance and the forest’s density – does not correspond to any of the airs which have accompanied the group’s hunt since morning.  The King decides to investigate.

He is about to spur his horse when, suddenly, the same sounding of horns, the same cries, the same hound voices explode at twenty paces from him, as if, by some spell, the mysterious hunt had made a prodigious leap through the forest.

Astonished, the King and his friends turn toward the track near them whence the noise of the horns and hounds seems to be coming.  The track is empty.  The King asks if anyone can see anything.  They see only the sun playing on the ferns, through the trees.

And yet, the hunters, the horns, the noisy pack are there, close by.  Calling voices, neighing horses, metallic sounds, like weapons clashing, can be heard.

Suddenly, these sounds, these noises, these fanfares move.  They were coming from the right, now they are coming from the front, then the left, then from behind, then, again, from the right.  Invisible, the phantom hunt slowly circles the King and his companions.  Henri IV is worried.  He orders Soissons to go to see what is happening.

Anxiously, the Count heads his horse towards the place whence the noise is coming and soon returns to say that he sees nothing but, like everyone else, he can hear the hounds and the horns.

At this moment, a big, dark, bearded man with long hair and flaming eyes surges from the underbrush and cries out in a terrible voice:

“You wanted to see me!  Here I am!”

Then he turns toward Henri IV and says:

“Turn over a new leaf!”

And he disappears.

Immediately, there is silence in the forest.  Not one cry, no sound of hounds, no horns, not a hoof beat.  The phantom hunt seems to have evaporated.  The King orders his companions to find the man.

They search the thickets, the bushes, the ferns, they look at trees, clumps of rocks, nothing!  The strange person has also disappeared.  The King decides to question the peasants.

And without a word, almost without a sound, everyone starts off and heads towards Fontainebleau.  All of them seem to feel superstitious fear to the point that no-one dares to break the silence.  Not even the King, who is usually so talkative, so joyful, so prompt to jest.

After half-an-hour of travelling along tracks of moss and Spring ferns, the little troop arrives in a clearing where there are tree fellers and charcoal smokers.  Henri IV calls to them and explains that he has seen a mysterious person surge in front of him like a devil, his eyes full of sparks.  The woodsmen nod their heads and tell him that it is the Master of the Hunt who often hunts around there.  The King wants to know who this Master of the Hunt is.

“It’s a ghost who roams in the forest…  Oh!  He’s apparently not nasty.  We see him from time to time.  But to tell the truth, we don’t like it much…  Once I saw the Master of the Hunt near Franchard.  He came out of the ground, right there, in front of me…  He was two strides away.  He looked at me for a good moment without saying anything.  I didn’t dare move.  Then he laughed out loud and disappeared little by little like smoke…”

The Count of Soissons asks:

“And you say that this Master of the Hunt is a ghost?”

“For sure he’s not a human like us.  It’s the Master of the Hunt!  Or the Black Hunter as he’s sometimes called.  Sometimes, he’s accompanied by a whole invisible hunt.  A hunt that makes the devil of a noise, with dogs, cries, horns…”

The King tells him that that was what they had heard.

“Well then, it’s the Saint Hubert Hunt.”

And the woodsman explains that it is a mysterious hunt composed of ghosts of men and ghosts of dogs who have been haunting the Fontainebleau Forest for a long time.

Most impressed, Henri IV and his companions return to the castle where they recount their adventure.

And the whole French kingdom soon learns and marvels, that the King of France had met a ghost…

***

Many questions have been raised about this story and the craziest suppositions have been made.  First of all, it was thought that an attempt on the King’s life had been made, then that it was a diabolical apparition…  Finally, people with no imagination concluded that the sovereign had been tricked by facetious poachers who had had fun imitating the sound of horns and the voices of hounds.  Henri IV had therefore been the victim of a joke.

***

If it were poachers, why did they tell him to “turn over a new leaf”?

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to "turn over a new leaf" was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d'Estrees.

It was said that the dark man who told Henri IV to “turn over a new leaf” was supposed to frighten the King and prevent his marriage to Gabrielle d’Estrees.

In April 1599, that is to say eight months after the incident in the Fontainebleau Forest, Gabrielle d’Estrees, whom the King was about to marry, died of poison, and Henri IV took for wife the overweight Marie de Medicis.  Rumours then began.  It was murmured that at Fontainebleau, the King had not been the victim of a bad joke, but of a plot cooked up by a high-placed person.  Which one?  The Papal Legate.

The Papal Legate – who was in Paris at this time – was Alexandre de Medicis, who wanted the King of France to marry his fat cousin.  And it is explained that, to strike the King’s mind and bring him to repudiate Gabrielle, the Legate contacted the famous poachers and gave them the task of setting up the whole thing.  Which is supposedly why the Master of the Hunt was accompanied by a phantom hunt and why he told the King to turn over a new leaf…

***

Although this explanation was accepted by all of the contemporary chroniclers, the story does not end there.  In 1625, in 1647 and in 1672, the Master of the Hunt appears again to stag hunters, still accompanied by his invisible whippers-in and his phantom pack of hounds.  And in 1698, it is Louis XIV himself who sees him.  He would say:

“A person of supernatural appearance surged before me, making my horse rear, and addressed a few words to me.”

Words that the King never repeated.

And that is not all.  In 1897, an English tourist who was riding a bicycle in Fontainebleau Forest, recounted that she had met, near the Croix du Grand-Maitre, a dark man who had surged from a bush and who ran with the lightness of a deer, calling out:

“Yak, Yak, Yak…”

***

These periodical apparitions of frightening men could be simply scruffy, threatening-looking people roaming the forest, whom imagination and the memory of legends transform into supernatural beings.  They could also be hallucinations, “concrete ghosts”, according to one psychoanalyst.  In this case, Freud explains that the hunter is, of course, a sexual symbol because he is hairy!…  Apart from this interpretation, the hypothesis of an hallucination – individual or collective – should perhaps not be rejected for the Master of the Hunt is a character who is found in most Western folklore.  In the North of Europe, for example, he is called the Black Hunter.

***

The invisible hunt is an extremely widespread myth.  In the Blesois, it is the flying hunt of Thibault le Tricheur, in Touraine the Briquette Hunt, the Arquin Hunt or the Menee d’Helquin.  In Berry, it is Rigaud’s Hunt or Baudet’s Hunt;  in Bourbonnais, the Maligne Hunt or the Gayere Hunt;  in Bretagne, the Gallery Hunt;  In the Maine, the Artus Hunt led by the famous King Artus who governed the Bretons in the IVth Century;  in the Orleanais, King Hugon’s Hunt;  in Sweden, Odin’s Hunt;  in Germany, the Wooden Heer.

***

George Sand studied these strange phenomena and collected a few.  Madeleine Bosquet, the author of a work on Normandie romanesque et merveilleuse, published a certain number of witness statements which are rather troubling.

One night when Ronsard was returning home, near Vendome, the poet, who was a bit deaf, heard the sound of a hunt and saw a cavalier appear who wanted to take him up behind him.  Anyone else would have made the sign of the cross to make this vision go away.  Ronsard, who had been a soldier, preferred to draw his sword, and everything disappeared.

But this meeting troubled him to the point that he noted his impressions in a poem, which I shall not try to translate here.

***

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Charles IX of France.

In Spring 1574, there is plotting everywhere and the troubles which are shaking the kingdom demand an urgent solution for the future.  What is going to happen to the young monarch?  Will his mother, Catherine de Medicis, renounce all authority over the kingdom?

Cosme Ruggieri, the Queen Mother’s astrologist, convinces her, for whom her dynasty’s interests pass before all else, to hold the darkest of ceremonies of divination, the ceremony of the talking head…

On the night of 28 May 1574, we are at Vincennes inside one of the castle’s nine towers, the one still called today the Devil’s Tower.  The Queen Mother is there, with two of her inner circle and her son who, breathless, is shivering with fever and can barely stand.  An altar has been erected and is covered in a black cloth.  A statue, draped in a triple black veil, represents the Mother of the Shadows, the goddess of suicides and madness, the divinity for whom the Mass is to be served.

Catherine de Medicis.

Candles, also black, light this altar on which there is placed an ebony chalice, filled with coagulated blood and two communion wafers, one white, the other black.  The man who is going to say this Mass is an apostate monk, converted to magic…

Into the middle of this lugubrious meeting a little boy of ten advances.  He is a kidnapped Jewish child who has been prepared for a long time for this communion.  He has been dressed in a white gown, is as beautiful as he is innocent and is waiting to receive God.  The magician begins the service by planting on the altar a long dagger, the handle of which represents a snake, then he recites invocations to the Virgin, launches anathemae to the God of the Christians, and consecrates the wafers to Satan.  The child, who doesn’t know what is happening, joins his hands and closes his eyes to receive the white wafer on his tongue.  But he has barely taken  communion than one of the infernal priest’s assistants plunges a dagger into his neck.  Then it is the dull clang of a sword which rings on the altar stone:  the child has just been decapitated and the magician brandishes this poor, little, innocent head and places it on the black wafer in a big, silver paten…

Bewitchment seance organized before Catherine de Medicis by Cosme Ruggieri.

The young sovereign has been forewarned.  It is at this precise instant that he must lean over and ask the head a question.  The head would answer him, and reveal all the future to him.

Trembling, this unnatural Prince approaches and asks his question in an unintelligible voice.  They wait.  Appalling silence.  Finally, a sigh escapes the child’s dead lips and they think that they hear that this sigh signifies:

“I am forced to do it!…  I am forced to do it!”

That is all.  Then the sound of a body falling.  It is the King, already agonizing, who has just fainted.  Salts are applied and he is brought to his senses.  He struggles and lets out appalling screams:

“Take that thing away from me!  Take that thing away from me!… “

He is rushed back to his bedchamber.  He is now delirious, he sees blood everywhere, he is sinking into a river of blood.  He spends the next two days like this in terror and hallucinations then dies on 30 May.  He was barely twenty-five years old.  At the autopsy, it is seen that his heart was all shrivelled, as if it had been exposed for a long time to fire…

***

This is a true story.  The bronze bewitchment was reported by the Spanish Ambassador to France, Don Francis of Avala, who on 8 June 1569 told the story to Phillip II, with the precision that “every day, the Italian watches the nativity of the three persons and his astrolabe, then tightens and loosens  the screws”

As for the Mass of the decapitated head, it was related in detail by the great jurist Jean Bodin, the author of La Republique and founder of modern Economics.  He was also the Secretary of the Duke of Anjou, Catherine de Medicis’ last son, therefore well-placed to know about it.  Jean Bodin had only one fault:  he absolutely believed in witches and recommended that the most rigorous punishments be meted out to them…

***

The Saint-Barthelemy Massacre was basically only a big, ritual sacrifice.

Stories of talking heads have always been part of the florilege of magical beliefs, although we don’t know their origin.  It is also known that Gerbert, the Pope of the year 1000, was reputed to have built a talking head, which had the gift of revealing the future.  But this was, of course, only a legend founded on this pontiff’s vast knowledge in Astronomy and Mathematics.  In the XIIIth Century, Albert the Great is said to have also had such a head as well as an automaton, capable, it was believed, of human behaviour.  This belief was also part of the bewitchments of the Middle Ages and has its origin in the immense scientific knowledge of Albert, to whom Chemistry owes discoveries of the greatest importance:  gold refining, the treatment of sulphur, the action of acids on metals, etc.  Like Gerbert, he passed for a wizard and the confusion that was made at the time between science and magic also explains that were attributed to him the paternity of the Grand and the Petit Albert, the collections of popular magic, the success of which persisted , in the Occident, for half a millenium.

***

To conciliate evil powers, Catherine de Medicis wore permanently at her neck a big talisman made from human blood, billy-goat blood and metal which had been melted during a favorable astral conjunction.  She lived surrounded by magi, deviners and astrologists, and it is on Ruggieri’s indications that she had built in the Soissons hotel an octogonal tower orientated on the cardinal points, whence her favorite magician could observe the stars and do his horoscopes.  A column of this still exists, nearly thirty metres high, included in the walls of what is today the Bourse de Commerce in Paris…

***

Catherine de Medicis permanently wore this cabalistic talisman made from human and billy-goat blood.

Ruggieri would survive almost thirty years longer than Catherine de Medicis and would remain the unmoveable oracle of several great princes of the kingdom.  Charles IX’s brother, Henri III, also given to black magic, would use him to send spells to the ligueurs and their chiefs, the Guises.  Not without success, since the two most illustrious representatives of this Roman Catholic family, for a long time more powerful than the kings of France, are assassinated, at the end of numerous acts of bewitchment.  The Guises returned the favour:  every day, the faithful were ordered to Notre-Dame to pierce wax effigies representing the royal family, there…  Henri III had brought from Spain at great expense all the grimoires of magic which are in fashion at Phillip II’s Court…  to make counter-spells!

The whole of France would believe that the regicide dagger which killed him in 1589 had been placed in Jacques Clement’s hand by larvae, magically formed during hate ceremonies.

***

Hate ceremonies are one of the essential ingredients of black magic, the final goal of which is vengeance, the awakening of interior negative powers, with their cortege of unhealthy desires, as opposed to white magic, of which the aim is to heal and to uncover secrets which can transform life in a positive manner.

***

Ruggieri was to be found at the side of Concini and Marie de Medicis, after the assassination of Henri IV, who didn’t much like his magic which he called “effeminate foolishness”…  To Concini who would occultly govern France for three years, he taught magic and was even more popular at Court after he predicted Henri IV’s assassination, having already tried to bewitch him.  Implicated in a witchcraft trial, he once more survived, but was very wary from then on and would live from the sale of almanachs which were very popular with the little people, who were superstitious.  He wrote them under the name of  “Querberus”.

Finally, he died very old, and despite the insistence of his protector Concini, the Archbishop of Paris refused him a christian burial, having his body thrown into the road.  The wise man didn’t care anyway, for he believed in neither God nor the devil but only, as the good Florentine that he was, in the power of the greats, and in daggers and poison.

***

Ruggieri was the standard-bearer of that generation of clever adventurers who appeared in France, destabilized by the Wars of Religion.  But more than his magic, it was his intelligence and his strength of character, without counting his absolute cynicism, to which he owed his career.  More than any other, he was able to make his own these words from the frightening Leonora Galigai, Concini’s wife, who at the moment of being condemned to death, declared proudly to the judge:

“My spells were the power that strong souls have over weak souls!”…

***

From Antiquity to the XVIIIth Century, men believed in the existence of mermaids. Sailors even gave very detailed descriptions of them.

Pliny, in Chapter Nine of his Natural History, writes:

“A deputation from Lisbon was sent to Emperor Tiberius to announce to him that a Triton had been seen and heard in a cavern.  Nereids have been seen on this same coast.  One of them was dying.  Her moans were heard from afar by the inhabitants.  The Legate from Gaul wrote to Emperor Augustus that several dead Nereids were to be seen on the coast.  I can cite witnesses (who occupy a high rank in the Equestrian Order) and who have certified to me having seen in the Cadiz ocean a man of the seas, of a conformation perfectly identical to ours.  During the night, this man of the seas boarded the ships!”

The Naturalist Rondelet, who professes in the XVIth Century in Montpellier, writes in his Histoire des Poissons:

“There was taken in Norway a marine monster after a great torment.  All those who saw it gave it the name of Monk, for it had a human face, but rustic and not very gracious, the head shaven, and a sort of monk’s hood on its shoulders.  The extremity of the body ended in a wide tail.”

And Rondelet continues:

“The poets say that there are Nereids (that is to say a feminine being, of human form, which lives in the sea).  Pliny considers that this is not a fable.  Some were seen on the beaches in former times.  Their complaints were heard.  Some were seen in Pomerania, with a beautiful woman’s face.  I have heard it said that a Spanish mariner held one in his ship, but that one day she escaped, threw herself into the sea and appeared no more.”

It can be read in The Great Chronicle of the Netherlands that in 1433, off the coast of Poland, a marine man, with palmed feet and hands, who let himself be touched by everybody, was fished.  He does not speak, but he seems to understand very well.

In the XVIth Century, navigators brought several mermaids to the King of Portugal who managed to keep them alive for a few years. He showed them to his friends and tried in vain to teach them to speak.

The King of Poland has him locked up in a tower.  But the man of the seas goes into such a depression that it is thought that he will die from it.  He is taken back to the shore, where a great crowd is assembled.  He waves goodbye, plunges and disappears forever.

Father Bonhour, a French Jesuit of the Renaissance, writes:

“Mermaids, of whom the poets speak, are not just inventions.  They have been seen in diverse countries.  Philip, Archduke of Austria, brought one with him to Genes, in 1548.  Another appeared on a beach of Holland at the beginning of the century.”

But it is to the Naturalist Benoit de Maillet, a precursor of Darwin, and who is the first to maintain, in the XVIIIth Century, the thesis of transformism, that we owe the most abundant documentation on the men of the seas.  Benoit de Maillet was Consulate of France in Egypt and Inspector of French Establishments in the Levant.  He made numerous maritime observations which he consigned in his work Entretiens sur l’origine de l’homme (1748).  For him, the origin of Man is in the oceans.  Voltaire, who makes jokes of everything, derides him.  But the collection of testimonies taken from the chronicles of Portugal by Benoit de Maillet demand our attention.

The King of Portugal in the XVIth Century, Manuel, nicknamed the Great or the Fortunate, is having a glorious reign.  Vasco da Gama opens the route to the Indies.  Brazil is conquered.  The Court of Manuel is grandiose, enriched by the treasures of Africa and Asia.  But never is a more surprising gift made to King Manuel than the one mentioned in History of Portugal and Relations of the East Indies:

“A fishing net, thrown at the point of India, brought in fifteen men of the seas which were immediately sent to the Lisbon Court.  Thirteen died during the voyage.  The only ones to survive were a woman and a young girl.  They came to King Manuel who never grew tired of admiring them.  The Oceanides appearing very sad, the King had them lowered into a shallow place in the sea, bearing light chains which prevented them from escaping.  And the Court, aboard boats, were able to watch their evolutions.  These creatures lived for a few years during which, each day, they were taken to the sea.  But they were never able to learn to speak.”

Here now is something taken from The Great Chronicle of the Netherlands:

“Today, six men who had gone by boat to the Diamond Islands were preparing to return home.  It was sunset.  At the edge of the island, they noticed a marine monster.  This monster had a human face and its body ended like a fish.  He had black and grey hair, a long beard, and the stomach covered in hairs.  He had a ferocious air.  When he emerged, he wiped his face with two hands while sniffing like a dog.  He approached so closely that one of the men threw a line to him to see if he would catch it.  But the man of the seas dived once more and no-one saw him again.”

This report from the captain commanding the Diamond Quarters in Martinique was received by Pierre de Beville, Notary of the Quarters of the Maritime Company, in the presence of the Jesuit Father Julien Simon.  It contained as well “the separate and unanimous statements of two other Frenchmen and four Negroes”.

Mermaids and other marine monsters as they are shown in the XVIIth Century work “Physica curiosa” by G. Schott.

Here is something else, which occurs in 1746 and is reported to us by Sieur Le Masson, employed by the Marine:

“A sentinel making his round at night on the walls of Boulogne noticed a man gesticulating in the moat.  He hailed him without receiving a reply.  At the third summation, the sentinel fired.  When the cadaver was recovered, it was  noticed that it was that of a man of the seas whom the tide had left in the moat.  The inferior part of the body had the form of a fish.”

On 8 September 1725, Monsieur d’Hautefort sends to Count de Maurepas, Minister of Louis XIV, the following sworn account:

“Seven ships had dropped anchor on the  Banks of Newfoundland, when, around ten o’clock in the morning, a man of the seas appeared on the port side of the French ship Marie-de-Grace, captained by Captain Olivier Morin.  He firstly showed himself under the barrel of the Foreman Guillaume L’Aumone.  Immediately, the Foreman took a boathook, but the Captain stopped him, fearing that the monster would drag him down with him.  For this reason, the Foreman only gave him a blow on the back, without stabbing him.  The marine man circled the ship several times, went away, came back, raised himself out of the water as far as his navel.  This all lasted from ten o’clock in the morning to midday, and the monster was seen for all this time by the thirty-two men of the crew.  They were all able to notice the following particularities:  the brown and dark skin, without scales.  All the movements of the body, from the head down to the feet (visible in the transparent water), were those of a normal man.  The eyes were well proportioned, the nose wide and flat, the teeth white, the ears similar to those of a man, the feet and hands the same, except that the fingers were joined by a film, like those that exist on the feet of geese and ducks.  To resume, it was a man’s body as well made as those that one sees ordinarily…  Around noon, the singular creature went away from the ship, dived deeply, and no-one saw it again.”

***

To be continued.

UFOs in History

A celestial phenomenon observed in Paris on 10 February 1875, from 5:25 to 6:10 in the evening.

People often say “at the UFO epoch” when referring to the second half of the XXth Century…  In the same way that they say “at the time of the Inquisition” to designate certain periods in the past.  “Practices inherited from the Middle Ages”, someone will declare while denouncing some of today’s horrors.  As if cruelty were not of all times.  As if the apparition of the first UFOs only went back to the days immediately following the Second World War…

“In the night of 12 October 1621, around eight o’clock at night, the Moon being in its last quarter, the air started to lighten in the East.  For roughly an hour and a half, the sky became as light and clear as in the most beautiful mornings of Summer.  This gave great astonishment to the inhabitants of Lyon.  And the greatest part of them were looking up, because of this brightness, when they noticed in the sky some very strange things and these things were not natural…

“Above the big Place de Bellecour, they saw appearing a sort of great mountain, on which there was the form of a castle in a round shape and from this round-shaped castle, which was moving in the air with prodigious bounds, flashes of lightning were coming out, and it seemed to float on the whole of the Port du Rhone quarter, on Saint-Michel and above the Saone River.

“Around the Place des Terreaux, there was seen by more than four hundred people, this same day, a round star which was moving, and which was very luminous and as if surrounded by flashes of lightning…

“Over the city of Nimes there was seen at the same time, and principally in the following night of 13 October, around ten o’clock at night, just above the amphitheatre, a sort of brightly shining sun which was dancing, surounded by luminous torches, and this flamboyant sun seemed to want to travel straight onto the Roman tower, that is called La Tour Magne.  And this greatly astonished all of the inhabitants of the city.

“On the city of Montpellier, from ten o’clock in the evening to three o’clock in the morning, was seen a very luminous star which was moving above some houses, and from this star lances of fire were coming out, and all the people were outside and were observing this with great astoundment.”…

A few years earlier, and without predudice to the Mediterranean people’s gift for embellishment, three strange boats appeared off Genes.  According to the numerous testimonies of the epoch, they were a type of floating carriage, perfectly spherical, surrounded and as if haloed by long filaments of fire “the same as the tongues of dragons”.  The power of suggestion of these engines must have been considerable, since several witnesses, such as the son of Sieur de Loro and the brother of Signor Bagatello as well as several women, died from emotion.  So much so that, the next day 16 August, the Bishop of Genes had a solemn Te Deum said in the cathedral…

In the Maya temple at Palenque, Mexico, there is this famous sculpted stone where some see a man at the controls of an engine propulsed by reaction.

New apparition:  in the month of January 1609, above Angers this time, the whole city rushed into the street to see torches of fire moving in the sky.  They resembled “fat thistles all ardent” surrounded by immense red and blue lights.  After a few minutes of slow navigation the “things” concentrate their flight above the Saint Maurice and Saint Pierre churches.  The inhabitants, terrorised, see in this a sign from Heaven and rush all together into these two churches thinking that if the city was going to be attacked by these “things”, the holy places at least would be preserved…

Let us go back a few years more in time, but still staying in this rich period, into the XVIth Century which saw, it seems, a veritable epidemic of flying objects…

At the beginning of Winter 1578, on 21 December, right in the middle of the day, there is seen to appear in the Geneva sky a “star” the size of the Moon and which was moving very fast.  The star in question is trailing behind it “a great abundance of fire”.  One of the testimonies, reported in a book published by the Parisian Editor Jean Pinart in 1579, gives the precision that the “star” had left behind it in the sky three great black arcs which resembled smoke and that, around Geneva, several fields had been burnt…

One month later, a new prodigy, in France this time, still reported in the Discours merveilleux et espouvantables des Signes et Prodiges by Jean Pinart:

“On 23 January 1579, around six or seven o’clock in the evening, above a village on the Seine River named Essone, there appeared a great dragon of round shape which was vomitting fire in great abundance.  And this dragon followed the river, and it was said that it sent out thunder, and there was a great flooding of the waters, to such an extent that several boats of food supplies were lost, even though there had been no storm nor earthquake.  Then, the dragon danced around and it disappeared and no-one saw it again…”

***

On 7 August 1566, over Bale, numerous spherical objects (some dark-coloured, others luminous) seemed to be in combat. This lasted several hours and terrified the population.

Most of these texts come from the Bibliotheque nationale where a friend of Louis Pauwels found them.  They were in a little book from the 1600s only re-published in  the XIXth Century and drawn up by what could be called the “journalists” of the epoch, to give an account of a particularly abundant series of prodigies.

***

They occurred in the sky, on the surface of water or on the ground but they all ended in a more or less sudden manner in the atmosphere…  They were all visions of unidentified objects which are of course interpreted according to the cultural references of the epoch.  As we have seen, they are round castles, surrounded by flashes of lightning, or round stars which move very rapidly throwing out blinding lights, or carriages (the only vehicles at the epoch which could serve as comparison) which float in the air surrounded by serpents of light or by fat thistles.  Forms where the sphere predominates and which emit red or blue lights, or fabulous animals (what impression would the Concorde make in the sky of Henri IV of France?) which vomit flames.  What is particularly remarkable is that – on the contrary to what happens today – all of these phenomena are observed at the same time by hundreds or thousands of people and always in well determined places…

***

On 14 April 1561, the inhabitants of Nuremberg fearfully watched objects with strange forms performing a fantastic ballet in the air above their city.

Everything invites us to think that these phenomena totally resemble the observations of flying saucers which appeared regularly in the press in the XXth Century.

Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that it would be fascinating to undertake a systematic study of all of these discours on the prodigies of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries which, aside from the moralising conclusion attached to all of them – Heaven is sending us these signs to exhort us to repent and prepare us for the Last Judgement – are nothing more than reports taken down at the time, certain of which are excellent and worthy of the reports by our Police Forces today…

Why would these authors have invented these stories?  The most striking thing about them is perhaps the relative dryness of their accounts, their sobriety in any case.  They never try to embellish their testimony or make ulterior events depend on these manifestations.  That these events had also been seen in Geneva, in the austere capital of calvinism, is another proof of their authenticity:  the mistrust of the Reformed Church for anything marvellous of divine origin is well known.

***

Louis Pauwels does not necessarily conclude that flying saucers exist, although certain testimonies are often particularly serious and troubling.  He simply ponders the constance of these phenomena throughout all human History.  And the constance of these apparitions and of these hallucinations in the sky should lead, along with research and objective, material proof, to systematic speculation about this remarkable permanence in History…

***

I should like to add that, although I believe that people really do see these things, I do not necessarily believe that they come from another planet.  I think that they could come from the Future.  A Future where Science has managed to find an answer to the question of the expansion and contraction of Time and Space and has been able to build machines for their biologists and anthropologists, not to mention environmentalists, to visit the past.

All that work and money going into doing something that people do already today without machines.  Wouldn’t it be easier to study how they do it and develop a method that other people can use?  Of course, this would involve scientists studying all the different fields of spiritualty and they seem intent on studying only material things.  Pity.

Don Miguel de Manara, better known as Don Juan.

The young girl, Don Miguel’s half-sister, is rapidly conquered by this beautiful Andalusian man who says that he is a friend of her half-brother.  But at the moment of celebrating their clandestine marriage, by a devilish refinement, he reveals his identity to her.  What a victory if the lovely lady had accepted to lose her soul, and what savour the taste of mortal sin would have added to the thing!…  But the young girl pushes him away and, having slapped him, alerts the household.  The lord of the place arrives, Don Miguel kills him and, while fleeing, also kills a domestic who was pursuing him.

This first defeat marks the beginning of a series of events which would vividly impress the young libertine.

On his way one night to a convent with his equerry to kidnap a nun – who was consenting, by the way – (this type of sacrilege was still missing from his collection), he hears some mortuary psalms being chanted inside a church.  Intrigued, he enters.  The church is empty.

Don Miguel fought many duels. He was a clever swordsman and killed the husbands whose wives he had taken...

He has scarcely taken a few steps when a violent blow to the back of his neck throws him to the ground unconscious.  His companion brings him round and they both distinctly hear a lugubrious voice crying out:

“Bring the coffin, he is dead!”

Terrified, they rush home and renounce the kidnapping.

From this moment on, the hallucinations continue to occur.  Called by a pretty girl who is dreaming on her balcony, he climbs up via a silk ladder and finds an empty bedroom draped in black, where a skeleton is lying surrounded by four candles.

He is on the verge of folly when he meets the only woman that he would ever love:  Dona Jeronima.  He marries her and lives happily with her for thirteen years.

The whole of Seville marvels.  Don Juan has calmed down.  Don Juan is faithful.  To tell the truth, Don Juan has found the love that he has been passionately seeking…

Suddenly, Dona Jeronima dies, and Don Miguel, crushed with pain, again suffers hallucinations, appalling hallucinations which make him ill.  To find peace again, he wants to enter a convent.  His Confessor opposes this:

“You need to be active.  The contemplative life is not suitable for you.”

And Don Miguel puts his fortune at the service of the poor, founds hospices, collects money for charity, cares for the sick, directs the convent of the Caridad with the same passion which formerly pushed him to debauchery.

At the end of his life, Don Miguel lived like Saint Vincent de Paul.

Doing in Spain what Saint Vincent de Paul does in France, he exhausts himself at the task and dies at 52, surrounded by the respect of his peers and the admiration of the whole of Spain.

He is buried inside the convent’s chapel, underneath a plaque on which he had asked that these words be written:

Here lie the bones and ashes

of the worst man who was ever in the world.

Pray for him.

Soon, miracles take place near his tomb.  When Guy Breton was writing this text, the Congregation of Rites was studying the dossier for the canonisation of Don Miguel.  It is possible that he is now, or soon will be, a saint in the Roman Catholic calendar.  This atheist, criminal libertine could have his statue in churches.

***

Don Miguel had many visions.  One evening, on his way out, he passes a group of men who are walking rapidly carrying a stretcher.  He stops and asks the bearers why they are going so fast.  They tell him that Don Miguel de Manara is dead.  He rushes to the stretcher and glimpses a cadaver which he recognizes…  He is the one being carried away…

A few days later, he meets a procession which is coming out of a street and advancing noiselessly without displacing the slightest breath of air.  Penitents are following in long rows, holding lighted candles…  And he notices that the flames of these candles are rigorously motionless despite the walking.

This nightmare cortege literally turns him icy cold.  He then asks which saint is being honoured.  He receives the reply that they are carrying Don Miguel de Manara to his burial…

Don Miguel bursts out laughing.  A nervous laugh which stops suddenly for he perceives a bier covered in black velvet and supported by monks.  Behind them, the penitents are walking slowly.  Don Miguel insists:

“What are you carrying there?”

One of the monks looks at him through glassy eyes and tells him that they are going to bury Don Miguel de Manara.

The cortege continues on its way and enters San Isodoro Church.  Don Miguel follows it.  He hears lugubrious chants and attends a Mass for the Dead.  When it is over, he dares to approach the coffin placed in the centre of the nave and snatches off the black velvet covering it.  He then sees in horror that the dead man’s face is once more his own.

He faints.  He is discovered, unconscious, in the early hours of the morning, lying in the church.

***

All of his hallucinations were just as morbid as these.  Here is a third example among dozens of others.  One day when he is going to see a businessman about a farm destroyed by fire, he notices a woman who seems to have exactly the same body and is walking in exactly the same way as his dear Jeronima.  He follows her.  The unknown woman walks faster and faster and he is almost obliged to run so as not to lose her.  She enters a church.  He enters too and approaches her.  He is about to touch her when she turns around.  Under the mantilla, Don Miguel sees in terror a jeering skeleton looking at him…

***

These hallucinations were well-known in Seville.  Everyone was talking about them…

***

If he had been the only one to have seen these things, a psychiatrist could probably explain them by the disgust that he felt for his former life, for his sinning with his body and even for the human body itself.  But often, friends – sometimes high-ranking people in Seville – shared his visions.  So these phenomena are inexplicable.

***

His mourning for his wife does not explain the hallucinations that he had before his marriage, the authenticity of which is certified by witnesses.

***

These appalling visions finally changed him.  He founded a hospice and completely devoted his life to the poor.  This lasted eighteen years.  In Seville, he was called the Father of the Poor…  His only distraction was to busy himself with the roses that he had had planted in the garden of the hospice.  In 1678, the plague struck Andalusia, attacking thousands of people.  Don Miguel devoted himself without counting to help the victims and died of exhaustion in 1679, after having cared for hundreds of sick people…  Seven months later, his body was exhumed to be transferred.  It was noted that it was intact.  The face was smiling, and underneath the perfectly healthy flesh, people had the impression that blood was still circulating…

As for the roses that he had planted, they continue to flower every year, for more than three centuries now.

***

The Don Juan saint

Don Miguel de Manara, better known as Don Juan.

On 27 July 1680, the city of Seville and the Brothers of Charity, along with numerous Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, monks, laymen, great lords and Masters of the University, introduced into the Court of Rome a request for the canonisation of Brother Don Miguel de Manara, who had died one year earlier in odour of sanctity at the convent of the Caridad.  The enquiry undertaken by the eminent Doctors of the Congregation of Rites was long and minutious.  It lasted ten years and permitted the discovery that the person proposed for judgement in the Court of Rome had had a particularly edifying life.  In faith of which the Pope signed the decree making Don Miguel de Manara a Venerable, the first sanctification grade before beatification.

Immediately, the monks of the Caridad went to work so that the Vatican would take interest in the miracles which were taking place near the tomb of their former Brother and would decide to accord him the title of Blessed.

When Guy Breton wrote this text in the XXth Century, the Congregation of Rites was studying the canonisation dossier of Don Miguel de Manara.

But who is this holy man possessing such remarkable virtues that Rome was considering granting him a halo?

Seville in the XVIIth Century.

He was a Sevillian who lived in the XVIIth Century and was better known by the name of Don Juan…  That’s right:  Don Juan, the lover of a thousand and three women, rapist, adventurer, assassin!…  However, this very real character must not be confused with the legendary Don Juan created by Tirso de Molina and taken up by Moliere.

Born in Seville in 1627, Don Miguel has the revelation of his vocation of seductor when he is only fourteen years old.  Having attended a performance of Burlador by Tirso de Molina, he leaves the theatre declaring with tranquil assurance:

“I will be Don Juan!”,

as another child would say:  “I will be a sailor!”

And straight away, he tries to gain some experience.  As a member of a noble family, he needs, as a true conquistador, brilliant beginnings.  And, for a trial run, it is indeed brilliant:  he becomes the lover of the Archbishop of Seville’s mistress.  He draws from this first contact some lessons that a long apprenticeship with a commoner lady would not have given him.

Don Miguel seduced marquises, servant-girls, washerwomen, nuns, duchesses, middle-class women, sales-girls and princesses.

Then he turns to the married women whom he charms by his words, marvels by his audacity and sends into ecstasy by a very knowledgeable technique…

When a husband, learning of his misfortune, displays any threatening contrarity, Don Miguel draws his sword and kills the interferer.

Wanting to equal his model by any means, he backs away from no peril.  One evening, he arranges to meet a young girl in a hunting pavillion and alerts the lady’s brother.  The brother, thinking that it is just boasting, goes to the bedroom door and listens.  Recognizing his sister’s voice, he insults Don Miguel, but has to remain on the landing and await the end of the duet, a few characteristic sounds of which permit him to follow the different stages.  After which, Don Miguel comes out with raised sword, kills the brother and calmly goes home.

All of these exploits do a lot for his reputation, as can be imagined.  Soon, he has the nickname that he wants.  The whole of Seville calls him “Don Juan”.  It is said of him that he attracts women more than a magnet attracts iron.

But one evening, just like the Don Juan of the legend, while he is in a young girl’s bedchamber – her name is Dona Teresa – the father appears, a torch in his hand.  Don Miguel leaps from the bed, seizes his sword and, in the dark corridor, engages in a terrible duel.  The elderly man, who has drawn his sword, fights furiously, but Don Miguel kills him with a thrust to the heart and flees.

This time, the business is too serious for the parents of the young man to arrange.  Dona Teresa’s father being the head of a powerful Andalusian family, the King himself orders that he be pursued in Justice.  Don Miguel has to flee, to leave Spain, to take refuge in Italy, then in the Netherlands where the charm of the beautiful Flemish ladies soon contains no secrets for him.

Engaged in a Spanish regiment which is warring against Holland, he displays exceptional bravery which merits him being mentioned in Army dispatches.  His brilliant conduct is quickly known in Seville and, by royal decision, the judiciary pursuits are abandoned.  Don Miguel can return home.

He has barely arrived, when he finds a new way to fascinate the beautiful Spanish women:  he participates in corridas and displays, there again, extraordinary dexerity.

One day, he falls seriously ill.  All the husbands of Andalusia rejoice, but Don Miguel recovers, despite expectations.  It is said of him:

“He even beats death!”

It would be wrong to think that this eternally dissatisfied man was a brainless butterfly without method.  Don Miguel kept his accounts.  He possessed a complete list of his “victims” with, opposite, a list of the husbands or lovers he had fooled according to their professions.  All social classes were represented.  At the top of the masculine column, the Pope’s name could be read…  During his stay in Italy, Don Miguel had in fact seduced a beautiful Florentine to whom, it was said, His Holiness had accorded his favours…

Then came an Emperor.  His principal biographer, Mrs Esther Van Loo says:

“The enumeration continued, brutal, direct, precise.  It was an astounding pele-mele of Bishops, of reigning Princes and Dukes, of Marquis, of Counts, of Knights, of bourgeois or of modest tradesmen.”

One evening, while reading over his strange “accounting”, he noticed that he had not yet tasted incest.  His sisters being nuns in a convent, the severe Rule of which forbade all hope, he was going to resign himself to abusing one of his aunts, when he remembered the existence of a half-sister, the bastard daughter of his father, who lived in Corsica.

The following day, Don Miguel embarked.

To be continued.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII of England's second wife.

On 19 May 1536, at nine o’clock in the morning, the Queen of England Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s wife, who had been locked up in the Tower of London on 23 April, charged with adultery and conspiracy, is taken to the scaffold wearing a white silk gown, the neckline of which is cut very low around her neck.  An executioner stands waiting, motionless.  Once she has climbed the last steps, surrounded by her four ladies-in-waiting, the young woman discovers the block, the sabre and an open coffin.  She does not even blink.  With the serenity of the pure, she prays.

The previous day, upon learning that, by the grace of her monstrous spouse, she would be neither hanged, nor burned, but decapitated, she had gently enquired:

“Is the executioner skilled at least?”

Then she had added, touching her neck with her hand:

“It is true that it will not be too difficult for him;  it is so slim!…”

The four ladies-in-waiting approach to assist her.  She pushes them away, smiling, undoes her headdress all studded with pearls, on her own, leaving only the snood which holds her long, black hair.  After which, she kneels and places her head on the block.

Anne Boleyn's execution. When her head had fallen, the Queen's lips were seen to be moving in silent prayer.

As the executioner raises his arm, Anne can be heard to murmur:

“My sweet Jesus, take pity on me!”

Then the sabre falls on the frail neck that had so often been caressed by Henry VIII.

The head bounces and falls into the straw.

The ladies-in-waiting are then stunned to see that the Queen’s lips are still moving in silent prayer.

At this moment, the firing of a cannon makes London shake.  Its purpose is to inform the King, inside his White Hall palace, that his second wife is dead and that he can prepare his marriage to Jane Seymour.

The ladies-in-waiting, in tears, immediately take “with much precious care” the head and gentle body of Anne Boleyn, then they put them in the coffin which is whisked off to Saint Peter of Vincula Chapel where the remains are buried with no religious ceremony.

Henry VIII, who is going to marry Jane Seymour the next day, is then thinking that nothing more would be heard of Anne Boleyn, inhumed “like an anonymous shipwreck” and that even her memory would be effaced from people’s minds.

This shows his ignorance of the maliciousness of ghosts.

A few days before her death, Anne had written a poem in which she compares herself, in strangely premonitory fashion, to a “guiltless ghost”.  And, since 1536, this “guiltless ghost” has not ceased to haunt England.  It is true that, in this country, everyone knows that the innocent are unable to have any rest as long as justice has not been rendered to them.

The first manifestation of Anne’s ghost took place on the night following her execution.  A few people from Norfolk, who later assured that they had been horrified – which can easily be admitted – see a carriage drawn by four decapitated horses drive by.  Inside was the Queen in a white gown, holding her head in her lap.  This appalling carriage arrives at the gates of Blickling Hall, where Anne was born, and disappears suddenly.

From then on, Anne Boleyn’s ghost will never cease to haunt this castle where she had lived as a child, sliding along the corridors, silently climbing the stairs, warming itself by a fireside, traversing walls, travelling through the castle grounds on moonlit nights, making the cords of the psalteries and violas vibrate in the Music Room, or frightening the cats by its unusual light.  To the point that the inhabitants of Blickling Hall will very quickly get used to this “presence” and today no-one feels the least bit frightened by hearing, at night, the famous swishing of the silk gown, not even the most fearful of chambermaids…

The principal characteristic of ghosts is ubiquity.  Anne Boleyn’s ghost appears therefore in many other places.

It is regularly seen at Rockford Hall, in South-East Essex, a castle which, like Blickling Hall, used to belong to Anne’s family.  There, it roams over the lawns during the “twelve days of Christmas”, which is the period that separates the 25 December from Epiphany.  These twelve days were considered, before christianism, in Europe’s primitive societies, as a magical period.  They began at the solstice, which the Ancient peoples situated on 25 December, and ended when the lengthening of the days became clearly noticeable, that is to say, on 6 January.  The Church “christianized” this period by framing it with Christmas and the Festival of the Kings.

Anne’s ghost seems also to like a room in the North-East part of the building known by the name of “Anne’s Nursery”.  Not content with screaming, slamming doors and making diverse other noises, it indulges in lugubrious facetiae.  It is said that bloodstains appear on the floor, on the anniversary of the day of the execution.

This haunted chamber has naturally attracted numerous spiritists.  Some have felt strong emotions there.  The writer Charlotte Mason recounts, for example, that during a meeting held one night in 1928, a black cat suddenly fell down the chimney in a cloud of soot, plunging the participants into indescriptible terror.  Another time, hands surging from the invisible tore ribbons off a little girl whom wisdom should have commanded to leave at home.  Finally, in 1965, the members of an association specialized in contacts with the After-Life were deliciously ill with fear in seeing a headless woman pass among them…

***

Hever Castle in Kent, where Anne Boleyn's ghost appears each Christmas Eve, crossing the bridge over the Eden River on the twelfth stroke of midnight.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost also appears on Christmas Eve at Hever Castle, near Edenbridge, in Kent.  On the twelfth stroke of midnight, it can be seen slowly crossing the bridge over Eden River.  It is there that the young woman’s romance with Henry VIII began.

Anne Boleyn’s ghost is sometimes mischievous.  It seems to take malicious pleasure in frequenting Merwell Hall, in Hampshire, a castle haunted by the ghost of its rival, Jane Seymour.  And some nights, the inhabitants see floating on the lawn the scintillating silhouettes of the two White Ladies.  One with a head and one without…  Jane Seymour, whom Henry VIII married on 20 May 1536, died the following year, on 24 October 1537, after having given birth to the future Edward VI.

To be continued.

Louise de Budos, Duchess of Montmorency

Let us try to unravel this business.  Everything starts by a bewitchment, that is to say by a magic ring which appears to have made the Connetable fall under Louise’s charm.  She and her family are evidently convinced that certain objects can be loaded with power…

***

This could be considered just credulity.  But it is not only animists, throughout the world, who believe that matter is connected to something which goes beyond appearance.

***

Bewitchment is a reality, which often passes through the intermediary of an object, serving as a sort of “psychic condenser”…  Rings are very often the support for this force.  In Ancient Greece it was believed so much that priests were forbidden to wear them, so that their powers came only from the divinity…  In Oriental tales, there are prodigies operated by rings everywhere, that of Solomon notably, which commanded the whole of Nature and whose owner would be master of the world…

***

Bewitchment phenomena are of all times and of all civilizations.  Plato talks about some.  So do the Scriptures.

***

The year of Louise’s death is also that of one of the most resounding affairs of witchcraft in the XVIth Century, that of Father Aupetit, from Pageas in Limousin, who confessed under torture to have seen the devil.  Saint-Simon himself is also convinced that, in the case of Louise, Satan was at work, since like L’Estoile, one hundred years before, he speaks of a smell of sulphur, which filled the dead woman’s chamber.

***

The frightful position of the body when it is found could have been caused by an attack of hysteria or by diabolic possession, whose specialists would say that it engenders deployments of prodigious physical force, bodily violences and mutilations, which are medically inexplicable.

***

The rest of the story recalls the theme of the White Lady.  Grey or white, she is there to announce a death, to protect, or to comfort.  Like the one who helps the dying in a London hospital and who is seen so regularly, that Doctor Paul Turner had an investigation carried out, which concluded that the phenomenon was real.  The lady in question, dressed in grey, is standing at the foot of the bed or seated near the stove, and even gives glasses of water to the sick, but each of her apparitions ineluctably precedes the death of those who see her.  Even if everything indicates that the sick person will apparently recover…

***

Let us just say that she appears on the spatial scene when the temporal scene has already accomplished its revolution…  attracting the person living on borrowed time.

***

Louis Pauwels finds that the hypothesis which satisfies him the most is that of psychometric vision…

Psychometric vision is the perception, usually by a person endowed with mediumnic faculties, of images representing scenes which have unfolded in the past, at the same place.  These images are “true”, that is to say that they have an objective reality, exterior to the brain which capts them.  They usually appear through the intermediary of an object having belonged to the person who is seen like this.  As for the mechanism which provokes this projection of images, it is inexplicable…

***

That such images can form, appears to be of capital importance.  Not because they make perfectly forgotten people and situations resurge from the past, often with great precision.  Not even very much because they project the anecdotic or premonitory “double” of important historical events.  But because, in their way, they open the space-time lock that our limited concepts have put in place for so long…  Locking away powers, which, liberated, would allow Humanity to resolve a lot of problems that have been insoluble until now…

***

Louise de Budos, Duchess of Montmorency

According to Saint-Simon, Louise de Budos died a victim of the Evil One.  As for Connetable de Montmorency’s re-marriage with Laurence de Dizimieu, it was due to another spell.

On the evening of the drama, pain caused by her niece’s death had thrown Laurence onto her lifeless body.  After having spent a long time kissing her remains, she had taken the beggar-woman’s ring off Louise’s finger.  She then immediately slipped it onto her own finger, like a pious relic…

The Connetable, lost in the pain of his suffering, returned straight to his castle, where all of the witnesses are able to see the sincerity of his despair.  And then, as soon as he starts to recover, he shows Laurence – whom he had never been able to stand before – a thousand marks of friendship.  She was pleased about these new dispositions and thought that they were because of his mourning.  But when she was preparing to leave for good, he asks her straight out to marry him.

Why?  Laurence is not rich and, on top of that, her face is quite ugly.  As for keeping her just to give a mother to his children, the Duke could have found closer relatives in his family and certainly less detested ones…  The first moment of astonishment over, Louise’s aunt, who is only 28, does not even consider refusing the dazzling offer made to her by the kingdom’s most eminent lord.  Who, at 65, still finds the most gallant letters in his mail from women offering themselves to him…

The Connetable is in such a hurry that he doesn’t even wait for Rome’s dispensation to fix his wedding date.  It is only some time after its celebration, that he thinks about turning to the Pope.  This mission is entrusted to Jean des Porcellets, Lord of Maillan, an important man in France’s South.  Rome scolds the Duke’s emissary, but accords its pardon.  On condition that a new marriage be held as soon as possible, this time according to the rules.

Meanwhile, during all this time, Laurence is not enjoying her happiness as she should.  She is continually asking herself questions.  How did love suddenly descend upon her prince?  One day, she comes to the conclusion that it is certainly her defunct niece’s ring that is at the origin of the miracle.  The friends in whom she confides laugh at her.  But as she is more and more tormented, they suggest that she simply get rid of it.  So, one day while she is walking in the gardens of Ecouen Castle, she throws the ring into a pond…

Almost at the same moment, Jean de Maillan returns from his Roman embassy.  The Connetable immediately receives him telling him that, not only is he not going to get married, but that he is even thinking of separating from Laurence as fast as possible.  The Pope, indignant at such extraordinary behaviour, then orders the Connetable to christianly marry immediately.  Long haggling begins.

Montmorency swears that if he can get rid of Laurence, who is despite everything his wife, he would never again marry, and would never again have children.  The Pope is inflexible and his power is so strong at this time that, on 18 April 1601, the marriage has to be publicly celebrated by the Bishop of Arles, at Beaucaire.

Laurence has hardly taken off her wedding-gown than her spouse demands an immediate separation…  With interdiction to ever set foot again in Chantilly…  To avoid being sued, Montmorency gives her an honourable revenue, but obliges her, as if in prey to an eternal resentment, to flee from castle to castle until his own death in 1614.

The Duke of Saint-Simon reports the Duchess' story in his "Memoires".

Half-mad and ignored at Court and in town, Laurence de Dizimieu lived another forty years.  As for Louise de Budos, who had known some extraordinary adventures while alive, she had some strange activity after her death, if we are to believe Saint-Simon.

“A tradition constantly believed in the House of Conde, says that Connetable Louise appears in the age that she had and with the clothes of her time, at the window of the Chantilly armoury, shortly before the death of the head of the House of Conde.  What is very certain is that, very few days before the smallpox of Madame the Duchess, a bastard of Louis XIV …[Louise-Francoise, known as Mademoiselle de Nantes, the daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, who married Louis, Duke of Bourbon, the grandson of the Great Conde, in 1685]… the Great Conde being at Chantilly which he seldom left, Vervillon, his equerry, coming back from shooting and arriving at the castle at sunset, saw at the open window of the armoury, opposite the Connetable’s statue, a woman dressed singularly, leaning and very advanced on this window, and who was looking so far down, that he was only able to see her face a little and imperfectly.  Vervillon, who knew all about the House’s tradition and who knew that this room was always locked and its windows too, was so struck by this that he stopped.  Turning to the groom who was following him, he asked him if he didn’t see something at the window and what it was.  The groom told him that he saw the same form.  Vervillon, sure that he wasn’t imagining it, advances, still looking at it until, being very close to the door, he could no longer see it.  Instead of going to his bedchamber, he dismounts at the Concierge’s place and asks him why the armoury is open.  The Concierge replies that it isn’t, denies it, presents his keys, goes up straight away with Vervillon, shows him the locked door of the armoury, and unlocks it:  they all enter, find doors and windows all closed and no-one inside.  Vervillon, very astonished, goes to his bedchamber, taking the Concierge with him, telling him what he had seen, then to Monsieur the Prince de Conti, then exiled at Chantilly, and has the groom speak before them.  By word of mouth, the thing comes to the principal people of the household and frightens them.  Vervillon had been for years with Monsieur the Prince, [and was] a good man, greatly estimed, [and had] greatly mingled with men and women of the world.  He has lived more than thirty years since this and still has a lot of considerable friends…

“Two days later, Monsieur the Prince de Conde learned that Madame the Duchess had smallpox at Fontainebleau, from whence the Court had left because of it.  He went to join her, fell ill straight away and very promptly died there on 11 December 1686…”

The apparitions of Louise de Budos’ ghost are also related by Madame de Sevigne.

***

To be continued.

The duchess’ ghost

Louise de Budos, Duchess of Montmorency

In the middle of the day, on 26 September 1598, a great cry of affliction rises in beautiful Chantilly Castle, which has only just been finished.  Louise de Budos, Duchess of Montmorency, has just expired, when she was perhaps going to give a second son to Connetable Henri, to perpetuate his race.  In Chantilly and Fontainebleau, where the Connetable has gone to deal with some business entrusted to him by Henri IV, people are stunned and pained.  Henri de Montmorency’s beloved spouse, so gentle and so beautiful, was only twenty-three years old.

Montmorency will return to his castle only for the funeral service and to ask the Feuillant Brothers to found a monastery at Chantilly.  Then, before retiring, desperate, inside his Mello house, he has the doors and windows of the room where the unfortunate Louise died, nailed shut.  Three months pass, then a rumour begins to run throughout the Oise countryside.  A rumour which appears incredible.  It is said inside noble and middle-class homes, as well as in the slums, that the Connetable has re-married.  It is even said that the new spouse is a certain Madame de Dizimieu, Louise’s aunt, who was already living in his home while the Duchess was alive.  And the sign of the cross is made, for this delay is too short and the union is contrary to canonic texts…

Pierre de l’Estoile, the great chronicler of the epoch, comments on the event like this:

“Died in this time at Chantilly, in the bloom of her years and of her age, Madame the Connetable, the flower of Court beauties, a hideous mirror of God’s justice in her end, which was with appalling despairs, fears and moanings, serving as instruction to this century’s courtiers of both sexes, to fear God and not to do as she did who gave herself to the devil, who paid him by her vanity and curiosity, vices which most of the lords and ladies of the Court today make their god!”

It can be seen that Pierre de l’Estoile makes no bones about accusing Louise de Budos of witchcraft.

The Duke of Saint-Simon reports the Duchess' story in his "Memoires".

One century later, Saint-Simon takes these facts and expands them with several witness reports.  Here is the strange story that the author of the famous Memoires makes of the event.  According to him, Louise de Budos, a young widow of eighteen, and her mother were beside the Connetable’s wife when she died in 1593.  Mother and daughter do what they can to relieve the pain of Montmorency who remains inconsolable for a long time.  One day when they are walking in the neighbourhood of Pezenas Castle, they meet a poor woman who asks for alms while holding a child in her arms.  Louise, moved at the sight of the baby, obliges her mother to give a few coins to the beggar-woman who gratefully thanks her and assures both women that if they wanted it, their charity would bear a thousand benedictions.  The condition is that they accept a ring that she holds out to them and which must be worn on the young widow’s finger.

Saint-Simon concludes:

“The advice was point by point followed and the Connetable married Louise de Budos”…

As we know, the story doesn’t end there and for five years little Louise and her great captain were perfectly happy.

Montmorency is frequently absent on campaigns beside the future Henri IV, who is doing what he can to hasten the time in France when every home will have chicken stew [poule au pot] on the menu.  Louise therefore often finds herself alone at Chantilly Castle which the Connetable has just had rebuilt.  One evening while she is with her aunt and the Count of Cramail, the entourage finds her complexion to be considerably altered.  Has she received some bad news about the Connetable?  Of course not, replies Louise who attempts to reassure her people.  A few days later, while she is on an after-dinner walk with these same two people, she suddenly leaves them, praying them not to move.  She advances towards a man who is standing at the corner of a pathway and seems to be waiting for her.  She joins him, stops beside him and talks to him for rather a long time.

When the man leaves, the aunt and Cramail join her, very intrigued.  The young woman appears so despondent that, this time, they have no doubts that she has just learnt some fatal news from the armies.  She again attempts to reassure them and is even more evasive and more depressed than the last time.

The next evening at dinner, when the desserts are about to be served, she is told that the man to whom she had spoken the day before is asking to speak to her again.  This visit appears to overwhelm her and she says aloud that she finds the man decidedly very pressing.  She prays that he be asked to wait, but leaves the table fairly quickly, firmly forbidding that anyone disturb her:  even if they were to hear some noise or the echoes of an eventual dispute, she insists.

Louise goes with her visitor to a study, situated near the Great Gallery, where she locks herself up with him.  The family, for the moment reduced, it is true, to her aunt and that gentleman, begin to find this comportment extraordinary.  For reasons which can appear just as singular to us, they leave her to confront the stranger for a whole twenty-four hours, and it is only in the evening after having held council with all of the people in charge of the castle, that they decide to knock on the door of the study.  It is locked from inside and they call and beg, but Louise does not answer.  They then resolve to break down the door.  A terrible sight awaits the witnesses:  Madame the Connetable is lying on the floor in a posture which freezes the witnesses in horror.  She is lying flat on her back, and her head has been twisted 180 degrees, so that her face is now completely turned toward the floor.  The face shows no sign of violence.

The unfortunate woman is of course dead and there reigns inside the room a sickening smell of sulphur.

To be continued.

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