At first, his wealthy and prestigious family excused the absence in society of the young Blanche saying that she was in a boarding school in the United Kingdom. As the years went by, the pretext changed that he had moved to Scotland. 25 years after someone in Poitiers had last seen her in public, the Paris attorney general receives an anonymous tip:
“Mr. Prosecutor General: I have the honor to inform you of an exceptionally serious event. I am referring to a single woman who is locked in the house of Mrs. Monnier, half starved and who has lived for the last 25 years in a putrid bed. In a word, in his own filth. ” The message shocked the authorities on March 23, 1901. The Monnier family enjoyed an excellent reputation. But the accusation is so serious that the Poitiers chief commissioner sends three of his agents to visit the house, at 21 rue de la Visitation.
At first glance, the rooms seem clean, but an unpleasant odor comes from the second floor. The policemen go up the stairs. The door of a room, from which the stench emanates, is locked. They break it and enter a dark and stinking room. In it they find an elderly woman, deeply emaciated, naked and barely covered with a filthy blanket. A police fragment that reproduces the Medium portal details the finding as follows:
News of the release of Blanche Monnier in the press of the time. Cordon press
“The woman seemed to be suffering from extreme malnutrition. She was lying, completely naked, on a rotten mattress. A scab of excrement and food remains surrounded her … We also saw that there were bugs running through Miss Monnier’s bed. The room was so unbreathable that it was impossible for us to investigate further. ”
Agents break the blinds, lowered and locked with chains. Blanche sees sunlight for the first time in years. He tells them that they have kept her in chains that time and that they have barely given her food. It weighs just 25 kilos. At 52 he is so weak that he cannot even stand up. In the transfer to the hospital he mentions that it is wonderful to smell the fresh air. How has he been able to survive, the doctors wonder.
The photographs of the woman, already in the hospital bed, are published in the L’Illustration newspaper some 40 days after her release. His body is a bag of bones. She looks with almost wild eyes and a dark mane covers her cadaverous body, according to one of the many writers who would be in charge of narrating the case, Pierre Bellemare, the work of some retouching artist who tries to hide the nude.
At the time of the discovery, Blanche’s father has been dead for years. They arrest the mother, Louise, who does not get to be tried because she dies in prison shortly after. Only one brother, Marcel, is on trial. The Poitiers room is filled for months with an insatiable audience of details about the bloody case. Marcel’s lawyer details that his client has not carried out any act of violence against his sister, who strictly speaking has not even been kidnapped: “The fact of closing a door behind someone who has no intention of leaving (…) it is not an act constituting a crime. ” He is sentenced to 15 months in prison for complicity.
What led Blanche’s family to subject her to torture size is a mystery. Before her confinement, the young woman attracts the attention of numerous suitors. One of them is a Protestant lawyer and the son of a Republican. The Monniers are Catholics and monarchists: the head of the family, Charles-Émile, had lost his post as dean of Letters at the University of Poitiers in 1877, the year of a serious political crisis between republicans and monarchists, which resulted in the imposition of the first. The annoyance towards them is manifest among the Monniers.
The story impresses the great writer André Gide, who recounts the facts – changing the names – already in the thirties of the twentieth century, in his book The Kidnapped of Poitiers. The filmmaker Luis Buñuel will say of this work: “What is attractive about this book is how, living in a world led, for what they say, for reason, those cases of pure irrationality suddenly appear to deny or rectify this assertion.”
In addition to Gide’s book and numerous others that addressed the young woman’s story, a 2019 revisit of the Monnier case sheds light on the horror the woman suffered. According to its author, Gérard Simmat, a French neurologist, the family wanted to hide the schizophrenia that the young woman suffered and avoid not only the shame that this entailed in the cruel society of the time, but also that she be admitted to the hospital in Poitiers, where there was no psychiatric. Other authors of previous works advanced that the young woman could appear anorexia. At the trial it had already been made public that the young woman was mentally “alienated”.
Blanche did not emerge unscathed from so many years of torture. Indeed, he had serious psychiatric problems, and the doctors found that he exhibited a coprophilic and exhibitionist behavior. After spending some time hospitalized at the Hôtel-Dieu de Poitiers, she was transferred to another center, in Blois, where she will spend the rest of her life, 12 years also between four walls, but better cared for and seeing the sunlight.