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Blanche Monnier was known as “la Séquestrée de Poitiers, ” a “joyous and playful” socialite woman with a “wealth of beautiful hair and big, brilliant eyes,” from a treasured family living in Poitiers, France. In 1876, she was 25 and deeply in love with an older lawyer and also had a child with her lover which was extremely disgraceful to her noble family. Madam Louise disputed that her daughter could not wed a “penniless lawyer” with no successful future prospects.
When Blanche threatened to run away with the lawyer, her mother locked her in a room until she consented to end the affair. Many neighbours confessed to knowing that Blanche was under house arrest but they had assumed the mother’s allegation about her daughter being deranged was true. Blanche was mentally tormented where her cries and tears were unheard.
On May 23, 1901, the Attorney General acquired an unnamed letter, “Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honour 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” which instigated the investigation of the prominent Monnier family but nobody expected anything bad to turn up. Madame Monnier was presented with an award from the Committee of Good Works. Marcel Monnier was a law student and a sub-prefect of Puget Théniers. Some believe the letter was written by an ex-soldier, a lover of one of the servants after seeing her circumstance or by Marcel because he would become Blanche’s warden if his mother passed away.
The authorities had no idea about the monstrosity they were about to discover in Monnier household. A nauseating stench struck them when they entered the room and scratched on the walls was “Liberte.” On the bed, the once beautiful woman was now a 49-years-old, looking almost like a corpse and weighing only 55 pounds and lying on a mouldy straw mattress which was doused by urine, faeces and fragments of food.
Blanche had no human contact, except for the servants who would leave her table scraps. Her only companions were the rats that gathered to feast on the table scraps. Blanche was intolerant to light because of the deterioration from the sustained murkiness of the room.
The authorities immediately wrapped her in a blanket and rushed her to Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris for observation. She was silent and even expressed contentment when she received a bath, “How lovely it is.” When Blanche was liberated, “She could only stammer a few words and could not frame a complete sentence. Little by little, the power of speech has returned to her. She recognizes flowers, birds, and articles which were once familiar to her.”
Madame Monnier presided over the family wealth. Marcel and his family had to obey her will in order to gain access to the finances. Marcel asserted that he had no “duty to rescue” his sister. There is a book termed The Sequestered Woman of Poitiers: An Unprecedented Affair which stated that Madame Monnier repented by transferring all the family wealth to support her daughter. She died of a heart attack in the prison infirmary and uttering the last words “Oh, my poor Blanche!”
Marcel was prosecuted for being his mother ’s co-conspirator on October 7, 1901. He was convicted to 15 months in prison but later freed as he never substantially restrict Blanche’s movement. Servants heard Blanche mentioning words such as “police”, “pity”, and “freedom” and screaming “What have I done to be locked up? I don’t deserve this horrible torture. God must not exist then, to let his creatures suffer in this way? And no one to come to my rescue!” Marcel’s wife and daughter fleed to a convent for their own safety. His daughter was engaged to a French officer but the marriage was immediately called off because of the ill fame of the Monnier family. Marcel inherited his mother’s property and died in 1913.
In 1885, the lawyer passed away and Blanche was imprisoned for another 15 years, possibly she would have lingered longer if she was not rescued. She was able to gain back some weight but she was severely disturbed by her confinement and placed under psychiatric care in Boise, where she died in 1913.
Thank you for reading, fellow humans 🙂