Shame of poor marriage?
Or shame of starving daughter,
Jailing her? Tough one.
I don’t normally do trigger warnings, but this post warrants one. Also, do not do an image search for Blanche Monnier unless you’re keen for nightmare fuel.
Once upon a time, in Poitiers, France in 1876, there lived a beautiful debutante (although at age 27, getting a bit long in the tooth) named Blanche Monnier. She was pretty, popular, and gasp, unmarried. Not that she didn’t have options; she had plenty! To her family’s chagrin, though, she went with what they considered to be one of the more objectionable ones – a lawyer, but an older and POOR one. Had she no standards?!
Yes, she did, she said, which is exactly why she planned to elope with him. Deal with it.
They did, by fucking locking her in a sunless room with a bunch of rats and feeding her Mother Dearest’s scraps. Apparently, her family said they’d let her free if she agreed never to see Lover Lawyer again and she was just too stubborn to do so. Considering that the beau in question died in 1886 and Blanche’s imprisonment continued, forgive me if I’m skeptical if this is the way it went down. Especially since it continued until 1901 and would have gone on for longer if France’s Attorney General hadn’t received the following anonymous letter –
“I have the honor to inform you of an exceptionally serious occurrence. I speak of a spinster who is locked up in Madame Monnier’s house, half starved, and living on a putrid litter for the past twenty-five years – in a word, in her own filth.”
(This is despite neighbours having heard her screams for two and a half decades, the Monniers grieving after Blanche’s supposed disappearance but never calling for a police investigation, and the family servants being well aware of the situation.)
In rushed the police into the Monnier residence, now occupied by the widowed Madame Monnier, her lawyer son Marcel, and his wife and teenaged daughter. And behind the padlocked door the fuzz busted open, the naked, 55 lbs, terrified and utterly speechless Blanche. Madame’s reaction? Silence. Marcel’s? Bluster about how violent and uncontrollable his now-skeletal sister was. She was promptly carted off to a hospital and her loving mom and bro arrested.
Madame Monnier never saw prosecution. This is because France as a nation has particular skills, which includes the production of fine wines, cheeses, and angry mobs. A fine example of that last one formed around the prison in which Madame Monnier and shocked, just shocked by their disapproval, she dropped dead two weeks after her arrest.
That left her boy Marcel. (His wife and kid claimed they didn’t know anything, but considering the testimony of the neighbours and servants, I call bullshit. The kid had been engaged to an army officer, but after this came to light, he called it off. I don’t blame him one bit.) Marcel’s defense was that he was just too weak to go against Mother Dearest and besides which, he read the newspaper to Blanche now and again. The court didn’t buy it and he got sentenced to (a mere) two years. Hurray!
Except Marcel successfully appealed the sentence on the grounds that he never actually hit her and she could have left any time she wanted. How the padlock on the door figured into this, he never bothered to explain. He inherited everything and justice was dead.
As for Blanche, she lived in the hospital for twelve more years, where she eventually managed to recover her ability to speak. But she was never healthy enough to be released.
As for who wrote that note? We’ll never know.