Monday, April 8, 2013

"This is not the work of a professional thief or murderer," the investigator declared. "It is a vile business clumsily done. It is the work of a gentlemen."

How exciting!  Three of my great loves have married (the definition of marriage enlarges yet again) and I stumbled across the result on Amazon.  The first two loves are easy to guess:  French history and true crime.  Add Stanley Loomis, the author of three of my favorite French Rev books and, voila, "A Crime of Passion".

The crime, a murder, takes place in Paris during the reign of the last French king, Louis-Philippe.  The victim is the Duchesse de Praslin.  The murderer is (surprise) her husband, the Duc de Praslin, a Peer of France.  The motive isn't certain, but suspected to be, yes, the governess, Mademoiselle Deluzy.

The familiar names and places made it interesting to read.  And, the way of life is interesting to me.  One thing is for sure…  Crime investigation has tightened up considerably since the mid-Nineteenth Century.  After the Duchesse's body was discovered, out of consideration for his position, the Duc wasn't approached by investigators until well after they were certain he was responsible for the carnage in his wife's bedchamber.    Unfortunately for him, they approached him about his possible involvement while the bloody clothing and some incriminating papers were only partially burned and still smoldering in the fireplace of his bedchamber down the hall.  Bite marks and scratches on his body, and other evidence, combined with his odd behavior, forced the police into the uncomfortable position of having to ask a few questions of Le Duc.

Medical knowledge has made advances as well.  Mr. Loomis had full access to the several trunks evidence (interrogations, correspondence, bloody clothing, candlesticks, bell pull, gun, knife, drawings of the scene of an especially brutal murder) stored in the French National Archives and, so, was able to share with his readers this note of comedy, as stated in a report:
"Hurry, doctor," she (the conciergerie's wife) exhorted, as that gentleman entered the room.  "Hurry and bleed her."
"It is too late to bleed her," pronounced the doctor as before their eyes the Duchesse expired from loss of blood."

The case was closed without the facts being fully exposed, because the Duc, while being tactfully, loosely supervised, downed a vial of arsenic during a restroom break during the questioning in his bedchamber.

Mademoiselle Deluzy was taken into custody and imprisoned in the Conciergerie (picture above is of the prison as it appeared during the 1850's only a few years after Henriette Deluzy called it home)  but not charged.  After her release, she went to America and married a Reverand from a wealthy family and became a prominent member of Massachusetts and New York society.

The crime occurred at the hôtel particuléur (sp?) belonging to the victim's father, General Sébastiani, on rue St. Honoré in Paris.  The building isn't there now.  In its place is the residence of France's President.


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