Tag Archive: XVIIth Century


The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

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

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

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

Diane's bedchamber in the Chateau de Ganges.

Diane’s bedchamber in the Chateau de Ganges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

To be continued.

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus Mary!  You will die young…”

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

“Give everything that you own to your husband!”

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

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

The Marquise asks how she will die.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

To be continued.

The Marquise de Ganges

The Marquise de Ganges

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

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

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

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

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

Catherine Deshayes, wife of Monvoisin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the future Marquise returns, she hears this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

To be continued.

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.

***

Several times in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, navigators in Martinique declared having seen a merman who came out of the water to observe them.

If we study the first beliefs of men, we notice that all of the people who live by the sea have in common the myth of an ancient man coming out of the sea to educate them.  It is the Vinak-Car (the fish-man) of the Guatemalas.  It is the Cuculkan of the Mayas.  It is Manco-Capac for the Incas and it is Quetzalcoatl who comes out of the Gulf of Mexico.  On the Celtic coasts, it is Hue-Gadarn.  In India, it is Parascharya.  And must we recall the Neptune of the Greeks, and the Venus of Hesiode, who appeared in the waves?

Of course, these are all legends.  But what if the legends were really memories?

Two great astronomers, Shklovski and Paul Sagan, have seriously asked themselves questions on the legend of the Akpallus, and they wondered if it does not speak of beings who came from somewhere else, in the early days of humanity, to “launch” civilization on Earth.

The Akpallus are creatures who came from the sea and are remembered by the first Sumerian civilization.  Our History begins in Sumeria.

The famous astronomer Sagan gives the following hypothesis:  extra-terrestrial visitors, in space-suits, based on a space ship which landed on the sea, came to bring to men the rudiments of knowledge.  They appeared on the coast of Sumeria.  Hence the legend of the Akpallus, who were creatures that were half-man half-fish (the helmet which imitates a fish head, the breathing apparatus which represents a tail).  The sign of Pisces, which would unite the “initiates” of the Near-East, could be connected to this fabulous memory.

***

In the XVIIth Century, a merman belonging to Genoa sailors who claimed to have captured him in the Aegean Sea, was shown in different European cities. But it was perhaps a clever trick…

We could do away with the hypothesis of the Extra-Terrestrials and consider that the men, on the coast of Sumeria, really saw fish-men, whom they took for gods.

***

This is the oldest legend of Western Humanity.  Or rather, it is the oldest document.  Berose, who was a priest in Babylon at the time of Alexander the Great, is supposed to have had access to cuneiform and pictorial testimonies several thousands of years old.  And he has left us an account of the earliest times.  During the “first year” (that is to say, the first cycle), an animal “endowed with reason”, called Oannes, is supposed to have come out of the sea, coming from the Persian Gulf.  Its body was that of a fish and a man at the same time.  This creature taught men.  At sunset, Oannes dived back into the sea, spending the night “in the deep”.  For it was an “amphibian” creature.  After that, there were several generations of similar creatures:  the Akpallus.

As we can see, all of the religions of the maritime peoples have their origin in the apparition of beings resembling humans, emerging from the sea.

***

Life has perhaps appeared, developed and disappeared several times on Earth.  And the idea of a first humanity living in the oceans should be considered.  In this case, the “men of the seas” who were sometimes found, in former centuries, would be the degenerated remains of the first humanity.  The leftovers of a first extinct evolution…

***

For all of the children who have read Hans Christian Andersen, there is no doubt about the existence of mermaids…

The question that Benoit de Maillet asked himself in the XVIIIth Century was “Could there be creatures of human form in the sea?”  He dreamed a lot about the Botal Hole.

This is the path of our Naturalist’s reflection.  The child, inside its mother’s womb, breathes through two openings which correspond with four vessels, through which the blood coming from the heart is able to circulate without entering the lungs.  One of these openings is called the Botal Hole;  the other is the arterial canal.  The child lives like this, in the liquid environment of its mother’s womb.  At the moment of birth, air enters for the first time into his lungs where blood begins to circulate.  And the Botal Hole closes.  Benoit de Maillet concludes that, for some beings, the Botal Hole does not close completely.  They can therefore lead an amphibian existence.

Buffon pursued research in this direction.  He cites several experiments performed on little puppies, that he obliged to be born in a tub of lukewarm water.  He left them there for half an hour.  He removed them for the same length of time.  He put them back.  Going alternatively from water to air, the little dogs, Buffon tells us, were breathing perfectly in each element.  So Buffon concludes:

“It would perhaps be possible, while being careful about it, to prevent the Botal Hole from closing in this way and to create, by this method, excellent divers and amphibious species of animals who could live equally well in either air or water.”

***

As for mermaids, many illustrious men have studied the problem of monsters.  Ambroise Pare said:

“It should not be doubted that, just as we can see several monsters in diverse ways on land, in the same way there are also strange sorts in the sea.  Some are men from the waist right to the top, called Mermen;  others are women and are called Mermaids.”

Nearer to our time, the admirable Michelet, in his book La Mer, consecrates a chapter to Mermaids.  He asks:

“If these beings really existed, why were they so rare?”

Then answers:

“Alas, we don’t have to look far for the answer:  it is that they were generally killed.  It was a sin to let them live, for they were monsters…”

Perhaps the last Mermaids, the last Mermen, vestiges of an adventure of Life which aborted, did not survive longer than the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, an epoch still rich in marvels and prodigies of Nature.  Perhaps there is still a small number of them in the oceans, hiding in distant abysses, forever far from humans, definitively afraid of our turbulent growth…

***

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.

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.

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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…

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