List Of Contents | Contents of The Countess of Saint Geran, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page    

Bouille, from whom the young count carried away the Saint-Geran
inheritance, were very warm in the matter, and spoke of disputing the
judgment.  La Pigoreau went to see them, and joined in concert with

Then commenced this famous lawsuit, which long occupied all France,
and is parallel in some respects, but not in the time occupied in the
hearing, to the case heard by Solomon, in which one child was claimed
by two mothers.

The Marquis de Saint-Maixent and Madame de Bouille being dead, were
naturally no parties to the suit, which was fought against the
Saint-Geran family by la Pigoreau and Mesdames du Lude and de
Ventadour.  These ladies no doubt acted in good faith, at first at
any rate, in refusing to believe the crime; for if they had
originally known the truth it is incredible that they could have
fought the case so long aid so obstinately.

They first of all went to the aid of the midwife, who had fallen sick
in prison; they then consulted together, and resolved as follows:

That the accused should appeal against criminal proceedings;

That la Pigoreau should lodge a civil petition against the judgments
which ordered her arrest and the confronting of witnesses;

That they should appeal against the abuse of obtaining and publishing
monitories, and lodge an interpleader against the sentence of the
judge of first instruction, who had condemned the matron to capital

And that finally, to carry the war into the enemy's camp, la Pigoreau
should impugn the maternity of the countess, claiming the child as
her own; and that the ladies should depose that the countess's
accouchement was an imposture invented to cause it to be supposed
that she had given birth to a child.

For more safety and apparent absence of collusion Mesdames du Lude
and de Ventadour pretended to have no communication with la Pigoreau.

About this time the midwife died in prison, from an illness which
vexation and remorse had aggravated.  After her death, her son
Guillemin confessed that she had often told him that the countess had
given birth to a son whom Baulieu had carried off, and that the child
entrusted to Baulieu at the chateau Saint-Geran was the same as the
one recovered; the youth added that he had concealed this fact so
long as it might injure his mother, and he further stated that the
ladies de Ventadour and du Lude had helped her in prison with money
and advice--another strong piece of presumptive evidence.

The petitions of the accused and the interpleadings of Mesdames du
Lude and de Ventadour were discussed in seven hearings, before three
courts convened.  The suit proceeded with all the languor and
chicanery of the period.

After long and specious arguments, the attorney general Bijnon gave
his decision in favour of the Count and Countess of Saint-Geran,
concluding thus:--

"The court rejects the civil appeal of la Pigoreau; and all the
opposition and appeals of the appellants and the defendants; condemns
them to fine and in costs; and seeing that the charges against la
Pigoreau were of a serious nature, and that a personal summons had
been decreed against her, orders her committal, recommending her to
the indulgence of the court."

By a judgment given in a sitting at the Tournelle by M. de Mesmes, on
the 18th of August 1657, the appellant ladies' and the defendants'
opposition was rejected with fine and costs.  La Pigoreau was
forbidden to leave the city and suburbs of Paris under penalty of
summary conviction.  The judgment in the case followed the rejection
of the appeal.

This reverse at first extinguished the litigation of Mesdames du Lude
and de Ventadour, but it soon revived more briskly than ever.  These
ladies, who had taken la Pigoreau in their coach to all the hearings,
prompted her, in order to procrastinate, to file a fresh petition, in
which she demanded the confrontment of all the witnesses to the
pregnancy, and the confinement.  On hearing this petition, the court
gave on the 28th of August 1658 a decree ordering the confrontment,
but on condition that for three days previously la Pigoreau should
deliver herself a prisoner in the Conciergerie.

This judgment, the consequences of which greatly alarmed la Pigoreau,
produced such an effect upon her that, after having weighed the
interest she had in the suit, which she would lose by flight, against
the danger to her life if she ventured her person into the hands of
justice, she abandoned her false plea of maternity, and took refuge
abroad.  This last circumstance was a heavy blow to Mesdames du Lude
and de Ventadour; but they were not at the end of their resources and
their obstinacy.

Contempt of court being decreed against la Pigoreau, and the case
being got up against the other defendants, the Count de Saint-Geran
left for the Bourbonnais, to put in execution the order to confront
the witnesses.  Scarcely had he arrived in the province when he was
obliged to interrupt his work to receive the king and the queen
mother, who were returning from Lyons and passing through Moulins.
He presented the Count de la Palice to their Majesties as his son;
they received him as such.  But during the visit of the king and
queen the Count de Saint-Geran fell ill, over fatigued, no doubt, by
the trouble he had taken to give them a suitable reception, over and
above the worry of his own affairs.

During his illness, which only lasted a week, he made in his will a
new acknowledgment of his son, naming his executors M. de Barriere,
intendant of the province, and the sieur Vialet, treasurer of France,
desiring them to bring the lawsuit to an end.  His last words were
for his wife and child; his only regret that he had not been able to
terminate this affair.  He died on the 31st of January 1659.

The maternal tenderness of the countess did not need stimulating by
the injunctions of her husband, and she took up the suit with energy.
The ladies de Ventadour and du Lude obtained by default letters of
administration as heiresses without liability, which were granted out
of the Chatelet.  At the same time they appealed against the judgment
of the lieutenant-general of the Bourbonnais, giving the tutelage of
the young count to the countess his mother, and his guardianship to
sieur de Bompre.  The countess, on her side, interpleaded an appeal
against the granting of letters of administration without liability,
and did all in her power to bring back the case to the Tournelle.
The other ladies carried their appeal to the high court, pleading
that they were not parties to the lawsuit in the Tournelle.

It would serve no purpose to follow the obscure labyrinth of legal
procedure of that period, and to recite all the marches and
countermarches which legal subtlety suggested to the litigants.  At
the end of three years, on the 9th of April 1661, the countess
obtained a judgment by which the king in person--

     "Assuming to his own decision the civil suit pending at the
     Tournelle, as well as the appeals pled by both parties, and the
     last petition of Mesdames du Lude and de Ventadour, sends back
     the whole case to the three assembled chambers of the States
     General, to be by them decided on its merits either jointly or
     separately, as they may deem fit."

The countess thus returned to her first battlefield.  Legal science
produced an immense quantity of manuscript, barristers and attorneys
greatly distinguishing themselves in their calling.  After an
interminable hearing, and pleadings longer and more complicated than
ever, which however did not bamboozle the court, judgment was
pronounced in Conformity with the summing up of the attorney-general,

"That passing over the petition of Mesdames Marie de la Guiche and
Eleonore de Bouille, on the grounds," etc.  etc.;

"Evidence taken," etc.;

"Appeals, judgments annulled," etc.;

"With regard to the petition of the late Claude de la Guiche and
Suzanne de Longaunay, dated 12th August 1658,"


"That the rule be made absolute;

"Which being done, Bernard de la Guiche is pronounced, maintained,
and declared the lawfully born and legitimate son of Claude de la
Guiche and Suzanne de Longaunay; in possession and enjoyment of the
name and arms of the house of Guiche, and of all the goods left by
Claude de la Guiche, his father; and Marie de la Guiche and Eleonore
de Bouille are interdicted from interfering with him;

"The petitions of Eleonore de Bouille and Marie de la Guiche, dated
4th June 1664, 4th August 1665, 6th January, 10th February, 12th
March, 15th April, and 2nd June, 1666, are dismissed with costs;


"That the defaults against la Pigoreau are confirmed; and that she,
arraigned and convicted of the offences imputed to her, is condemned
to be hung and strangled at a gallows erected in the Place de Greve
in this city, if taken and apprehended; otherwise, in effigy at a
gallows erected in the Place de Greve aforesaid; that all her
property subject to confiscation is seized and confiscated from
whomsoever may be in possession of it; on which property and other
not subject to confiscation, is levied a fine of eight hundred Paris
livres, to be paid to the King, and applied to the maintenance of
prisoners in the Conciergerie of the Palace of justice, and to the

Possibly a more obstinate legal contest was never waged, on both
sides, but especially by those who lost it.  The countess, who played
the part of the true mother in the Bible, had the case so much to
heart that she often told the judges, when pleading her cause, that
if her son were not recognised as such, she would marry him, and
convey all her property to him.

The young Count de la Palice became Count de Saint-Geran through the
death of his father, married, in 1667, Claude Francoise Madeleine de
Farignies, only daughter of Francois de Monfreville and of Marguerite
Jourdain de Carbone de Canisi.  He had only one daughter, born in
1688, who became a nun.  He died at the age of fifty-five years, and
thus this illustrious family became extinct.

< < Previous Page    

Other sites: