Loving the wrong man was a serious business in the past as the disturbing story of a young French woman who was secretly locked up in a small room for 25 years shows.
In 1876, 25-year-old Blanche Monnier, a beautiful French socialite from a well-respected family, fell in love with an older, broke lawyer who lived nearby and set her heart on marrying him. However, this decision made her aristocratic mother unhappy, opposing her daughter’s will.
Madam Monnier argued that her daughter could not marry a “penniless lawyer” and used all her means to prevent such marriage. She tried to change Blanche’s mind forbidding her decision and plotting against her but failed. The young woman had no intention of fulfilling her mother’s wishes.
It seemed as if Blanche suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth, or at least Paris. None of her friends knew where she was. Her mother and brother mourned her and continued with their daily lives.
Years passed, and the lawyer Blanche loved passed away, but her fate remained a mystery. Soon, she was forgotten. But unbeknownst to many, the Monniers are hiding a terrible, dirty secret.
As it turned out, Madam Monnier held her daughter captive in a padlocked, tiny room so Blanche would cede to her will. But even after she had so many years to think about her decision while living in the same tiny room, Blanche stayed with her choice.
Perhaps she would have been willing to hold out even longer if it wasn’t for the attorney general in Paris who released her from her prison cell.
On 23 May 1901, the office of the attorney general of Paris received a mysterious, anonymous letter saying:
“Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honor 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.”
Such claims shocked the police, and no one could believe that Madam Monnier was capable of such a thing. After all, she was a well-respected citizen in Paris awarded for her generous contributions to the city by the Committee of Good Works.
Despite the Monnier family’s sterling reputation, officers were sent to inspect their house. They were denied entrance at first which led them to force the door open. They searched the premises and noticed a tiny, dark, foul-smelling padlocked room upstairs. When they pried open the windows, there was Blanche Monnier or at least what was left of her.
Covered in food and feces with bugs all around the bed and floor was the 50-year-old Blanche weighing barely 50 pounds. She didn’t resemble a human. Extremely malnourished, lacking sunlight, and cut off from any social contact for 25 years, Blanche seemed like a scared animal when the officers took her out.
Her mother was immediately arrested but passed away in prison 15 days later. She confessed to the inhumane treatment of her daughter.
A witness described the gruesome discovery:
“The unfortunate woman was lying completely naked on a rotten straw mattress. All around her was formed a sort of crust made from excrement, fragments of meat, vegetables, fish, and rotten bread… We also saw oyster shells, and bugs running across Mademoiselle Monnier’s bed.
The air was so unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.”
Blanche’s brother, Marcel, was initially sentenced to 15 months in prison, but later acquitted as he never physically restricted his sister’s movement. He even claimed that it was Blanche’s choice not to move despite being able to leave anytime. While the real author of the note that saved Blanche was never found, some people believe that it was Marcel.
As for Blanche, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to some lasting psychological damage caused by her imprisonment. She never returned to society. She lived until 1913 and died in a sanitarium in Bois.
If Blanche Monnier hadn’t made the wrong choice for a future husband, history might not have recorded her existence.