The Verdict


If you don’t want to know what happened to whom, then please don’t read on! If, however, you’re curious about what happened to all these characters who I have bringing to you one by one, then please read on.

Early on the morning of Mary 31, 1786, the courtyard of the Palais de Justice and all of the surrounding streets and byways were filled with people waiting to hear the verdict in the trial of the century, a trial that had captured the imagination on the entire French kingdom. A Cardinal of the Church was accused of theft, forgery, and lèse-majesté(criminal disrespect for the person of the monarch, in this case Marie-Antoinette); a young, pretty adventuress was accused of masterminding a plot to steal a necklace worth a large fortune and tricking the Cardinal; a mystic, Rosicrucian, and fraud was accused of–sort of, somehow–being involved in the theft; and a young prostitute was accused of impersonating the queen in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles.

Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan had a very large, very powerful family. As court was opened very early on May 31st, 19 powerful members of his family (from the Soubise, Guéménée, and Lorraine) arrived in mourning. It was a show of support for their relative and respect for the Parlement de Paris, the court hearing the case.

Before this trial began, many witnesses had been examined. It was something of a parade, including everyone from a clockmaker to the Du Barry herself. The Prosecutor General, Monsieur Joly de Fleury, wrote down his recommendations to the court before the accused were brought before it. The recommendations were sealed, to be opened after the accused persons were questioned by the lords of the Parlement. Once this was done, the seal would be broken and the recommendations read and the voted on. Continue reading

Nicolas de La Motte

nicolas de la motteThe Characters #6: Nicolas de La Motte

Nicolas Marc-Antoine de La Motte was “homely but a man of splendid physique” according to Jacques Claude (late Comte) Beugnot. Monsieur de La Motte married a young lady by the name of Jeanne de Valois de St Remy. She was a member of an impoverished (and illegitimate) arm of the Valois royal line of France; her family was descended from Henri II the entire inheritance had been squandered. He was a gentleman and a cavalry officer in the Gendarmerie. According, again, to Beugnot (who may have not been well-disposed towards La Motte), La Motte was adroit at “Wrangling credit” and had poor behavior so that he never advanced within the cavalry.

He lived in Bar-sur-Aube where his uncle was one of the most prominent citizens. He met Mademoiselle de Valois (later Madame or Comtesse de La Motte) at his uncle’s house. He was a lively, powerful character, and she was an impetuous, wild character. They hit it off immediately. Mademoiselle de Valois is rather tight-lipped about the lead-up to her marriage to La Motte on June 6, 1780, and no wonder. Beugnot, who was something an admirer of Mademoiselle in his own right, says that he received letters from Bar-sur-Aube telling him that a romance had begun between Mademoiselle de Valois and Monsieur de La Motte. “All in the same month,” he says,” they wrote me, first, that there seemed possibility of an engagement; in the next letter, that the engagement had been announced . . . and then, in almost no time at all, that the marriage had been celebrated.” The marriage was sanctioned by Mademoiselle de Valois’s foster mother (the Marquise de Boullainvilliers) and the Bishop de Langres, an old friend (and perhaps lover) of Mademoiselle. Beugnot’s “astonishment” at the rapidity of the romance was relieved when Madame de La Motte gave birth to twins a month later. Continue reading