Friday, September 2, 2011

A Cause De- The Family of Chevigne During the Revolution


It's been a while since we had an "A Cause De", but I came across this story while reading The Widow Cliquot and it's a good example of the experience of many families during the Terror, so perhaps more of an "Apres Ca".

The Count of Chevigne was a fond friend of the King, and held the honor of riding in his carriage and accompanying him on hunts, while his wife assisted at the balls of Marie-Antoinette and received invitations to the theatre at Versailles. Together with their four daughters and only son, Louis, they had a perfect life.

Then the Revolution of 1789 struck, and the Count went to fight with the royalist forces, leaving his wife and children behind. For a while they were left alone, fearful, but unharmed, but at the height of the Terror the arrest order finally came. The Countess, her sister the Countess de Marmande, and all five of the children were taken to prison to await trial and sentencing, even though her son was but a toddler. The condition of the prisons was abysmal and disease ran rampant. The Countess of Chevigne was starved and brutalized by the prison guards and watched her sister and three of her daughters succomb to illness and die.

Knowing that either by illness or guillotine her death was imminent the Countess made a desperate decision, begging a woman passing through the halls of the prison to take her two remaining children, in the hopes that they would survive and rejoin their father. Sadly he too would die within the year, and the children never reached him. They were instead adopted by two wealthy women from Nantes.

Eventually the children, and their uncle the Count of Chaffault, survived, and in the Napoleonic era Louis, now a grown man, was able to distinuish himself and regain the title Count of Chevigne, though none of the money that had once gone with it.

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