Dreadful Murder in France in 1818 by a Peddler

Dreadful Murder in France in 1818 by a Peddler: French Rabbit Pelt Peddler
French Rabbit Pelt Peddler, 1737. Courtesy of Met Museum.

A dreadful murder in France in 1818 by a peddler had everyone talking. It also had newspapers everywhere reporting on the horrid event that occurred in Brie. It all began when a peddler and his wife presented themselves at a farmer’s door named Monsieur Pinard around nightfall in June of 1818. They asked if they could spend the night at Pinard’s house. Monsieur Pinard agreed and a small room was given to the couple.

The next day was Sunday. Monsieur Pinard, the peddler, and his servants went to Mass in a neighboring village. Because Madame Pinard had just had a baby, she was still confined to her bed and recovering. For this reason, she had her 6-year-old son stay home to help take care of her. The peddler’s wife was also ill, so she stayed behind too.

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The French Robin Hood or the Prince of Smugglers: Louis Mandrin

Louis Mandrin at Age 36. Author’s Collection.

Louis Mandrin has been called the French Robin Hood or the Prince of Smugglers. He became famous for rebelling against the tax collectors of France during the time of Louis XV. The tax collectors, known as fermiers, were (tax) farmers who collected taxes for the King. However, besides the pre-agreed tax amount, the tax collectors often tried to collect something for themselves. Many of them were greedy, and, therefore, they were extremely hated and highly unpopular with the French people.

The first time that Mandrin experienced a problem was in 1748. Mandrin’s father had died and he taken over his business. At the time, Mandrin had a contract with the French government to supply mules to the French army in Italy. To do so, his 97 mules had to travel to Italy and in so doing they had to cross the Swiss Alps. This was an extremely difficult task because of cold weather and a variety of other factors. Unfortunately, along the way, most of the mules died so that when Mandrin reached his destination, only 17 mules survived. The survivors were in such a sorry state, the fermiers refused to pay him for the animals. Continue reading

Accused Glasgow Murderess Known as Madeleine Smith From the 1850s

Accused Glasgow Murderess Known as Madeleine Smith: Madeleine Smith
Madeleine Smith, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The accused Glasgow murderess known as Madeleine Smith was alleged to have killed Frenchman Pierre Emile L’Angelier (or Emile L’Angelier) in 1857. L’Angelier originally came from the Channel Islands, an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. The two began a secret love affair in 1855 that involved hundreds of love letters and clandestine meetings at her bedroom window. One of these clandestine meetings resulted in Madeleine losing her virginity to L’Angelier.

L’Angelier had left the Channel Islands to seek his fortune in Scotland in 1851. When he first arrived in Scotland, he lived in grinding poverty and depended on the charity of inn keepers. Eventually, he began working as a clerk at a warehouse and then began assisting a gardener as an apprentice for moderate wages. By steadiness and assiduity, he improved his lot over time. Continue reading

The Legendary Jean “Chouan” Couttereau

Legendary Jean Chouan
Portrait Presumed to be Jean Chouan by L. de Labarre, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Born on 30 October 1757 at Saint-Berthevin, the legendary Jean Chouan was the nom de guerre of Jean Cottereau, a counter-revolutionary, insurrectionist, and staunch royalist. He was also a man of several nicknames, with “Chouan” a nickname given to him by his father (or it may have come from his imitation of the call of the tawny owl. However, he got the nickname, it meant silent one. There was also the less flattering nickname of “le Gars mentoux” or “le garçon menteur” (the boy liar).

Chouan is legendary because what is known about him was written by royalist partisan Jacques Duchemin des Cépeaux in 1825 at the request of Charles X. The story that Cépeaux reported has many unfounded facts that were further nourished by a small faction of Catholics and royalist-legitimist. Thus, Chouan’s actual role in history remains questionable and is likely more legend than fact.

Some facts that appear to be true are that Chouan’s father, Pierre Cottereau, was a lumberjack who felled trees, stacked and seasoned the lumber, and then made wooden shoes called sabots. His mother was a woman named Jeanne (nee Moyné) Cottereau. The Cottereau’s lived as tenants on a 20-acre farm located half-way between Saint-Ouën-des-Toits and Bourgneuf-la-Forêt in Mayenne, France. Chouan’s father was often absent and his mother was illiterate, which meant the children — Jean, Pierre, François, and René — were largely unschooled. Thus, when Chouan’s father died, Chouan declared himself a sabot maker, but unlike his father, Chouan was not as energetic or as skilled. Continue reading

Art Theft of the Princesse de Lamballe Painting in the 1980s

Paintings of Princesse de Lamballe, Callet (left), Rioult (top right), and Le Brun (bottom left), Public Domain
Paintings of Princesse de Lamballe, Callet (left), Rioult (top right), and Le Brun (bottom left), Public Domain

Princesse de Lamballe, who was Marie Antoinette’s friend and her Superintendent of the Household, married the heir of the richest man in France. Because the princesse was royalty and because she was rich, many people were intrigued by her and many portraits were painted of her. One well-known painting that is currently displayed at Versailles was done by Antoine-François Callet in 1776. Another painting was painted by Louis-Édouard Rioult between 1780 and 1785 and appeared on a supplementary issue of Le Petit Journal in 1892. Another person who painted the princesse de Lamballe was one of Marie Antoinette’s favorite painters, Madame Le Brun. Yet, perhaps of all the paintings of the princesse, one particular painting bears mention because it was stolen in an art heist in the 1980s. Continue reading

Torture in 18th Century France: An Irishman’s View

Joseph Ignace Guillotin, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Joseph Ignace Guillotin, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Before the guillotine was proposed by Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin in October of 1789, an Irish gentleman visited Paris, France, in 1787. While in Paris, he wrote a number of letters to a friend in Ireland. He noted in the letters that Frenchmen used various methods of torture in 18th Century France. This torture was applied to criminals and what he claimed was an “idea of the administration call[ed] la justice Françoise.” Among the letters the gentleman wrote was one dated July 25th, which described various types of punishment meted to French criminals.

Here is that letter verbatim: Continue reading

Pierre Poulailler the 18th Century Robber

Pierre Poulailler
Hen-house, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Despite being a handsome child, Pierre Poulailler acquired a reputation at birth of belonging to the devil. He demonstrated this devilish reputation when, even as a toddler, he behaved incorrigible. At the age of ten, he ran away and became a cabin-boy on a merchant ship, but his sea career did not last long. He deserted at age twelve, went to England, and tried to pass himself off as the son of a French duke, which failed. He then found himself back in France attached himself to a band of gypsies, who taught him the art of pilfering, quackery, and he “passed through all the degrees which lead to downright robbery.” Continue reading

21 Facts About the Guillotine in the 1700s

Not the Guillotine but the Halifax Gibbet
Halifax Gibbet, Early Example of a Decapitating Machine, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Before the guillotine, there were other beheading devices. One early one used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, in the sixteenth century was an alternative to beheading by axe or sword and called the Halifax Gibbet. Yet, the decapitation machine that would become the most well-known was the French guillotine, named for Dr. Joseph-Ignance Guillotin.

Interestingly, Dr. Guillotin was opposed to the death penalty and hoped it would be abolished. As that seemed unlikely, he gave a speech and proposed a decapitation machine he thought less painful and more humane. He said, “Now, with my machine, I cut off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it!” His statement quickly became a joke and resulted in the circulation of a humorous song that thereafter tied his name to the machine and caused many people to believe he invented it.

Besides the guillotine not being the first decapitation device and Dr. Guillotin not being the inventor of the guillotine, there are 21 other interesting facts about the guillotine. Continue reading

The Four Soldiers of the La Rochelle Conspiracy

Four Accused Men of the La Rochelle Conspiracy, Public Domain
Four Accused Conspirators, Author’s Collection

In 1821, under the Bourbon Restoration, a sergeant-major named Jean-Francois Louis Leclerc Bories was in the 45th regiment. He was also garrisoned at Paris. While there, he was initiated into the society of the Carbonari, a group of secret revolutionary societies originally founded in Italy that influenced secret societies in France.

The society in France was an association of conspirators involving Liberals and Bonapartists who were against the Bourbon monarchy. Members were primarily recruited from military ranks, and Bories appealed to his comrades to join. Thus, he successfully initiated several other soldiers into the society’s ranks.

In January of 1822, the 45th regiment moved from Paris to La Rochelle, and while in the regiment was in La Rochelle, the secret society was discovered. The discovery resulted in twenty-five men being arrested and accused of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the restored Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVIII. Among those arrested and brought to trial were Bories, along with three other men — Jean-Joseph Pommier, Charles Goubin, and Marius-Claude Raoulx.

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Madame Marie Lafarge, Murder, and Arsenic

Madame Marie Lafarge, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Madame Marie Lafarge, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

Charles Pouch-Lafarge was a coarse and repulsive 28-year-old man. He was also not having much luck in life. He had married and his wife had died shortly thereafter. In addition, his father had purchased property in the hamlet of Le Glandier in Corrèze and it had fallen into disrepair. To make it profitable, Lafarge turned part of into a foundry, which resulted in him falling into massive debt and being on the verge of bankruptcy. For this reason, Lafarge decided to find a wife that could help him financially, and to accomplish that he hired a marriage broker, a man by the name of Monsieur Foy.

In Picardy, France, Marie-Fortunée Capelle was born in 1816. Her father was an artillery officer, and her grandmother was rumored to be the illicit love child of Stéphanie Félicité, better known as Madame de Genlis, and Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orleans. If that was true it made Marie a descendant of Louis XIII of France. Yet, despite her royal credentials, Marie was described as “not greatly blessed with beauty.” She, similar to Lafarge, also had some bad luck. Her father died when she was twelve and her mother died several years later. Thus, she found herself at the age of eighteen the adopted daughter of her maternal aunt. Continue reading