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Blanche Monnier, a tragic French socialite who was locked in a dark room for 25 years

Blanche Monnier, a tragic French socialite who was locked in a dark room by her mother and brother for 25 years.
Blanche Monnier - Colourisation by Claudia D'Souza

Portrait colourisation of Blanche Monnier, a tragic French socialite who was locked in a dark room by her mother and brother for 25 years. Her crime? Falling in love with the "wrong" men and wanting to marry against her family wishes

Blanche Monnier (French pronunciation: 1 March 1849 – 13 October 1913), often known in France as la Séquestrée de Poitiers (roughly, "The Confined Woman of Poitiers"),was a woman from Poitiers, Vienne, France, who was secretly kept locked in a small room by her aristocratic mother for 25 years. She was eventually found by police, then middle-aged and in an emaciated and filthy condition; according to officials, Monnier had not seen any sunlight for her entire captivity.

Blanche at 19 years old

Monnier was a French socialite from a well-respected, conservative bourgeoisie family in Poitiers of old noble origins. She was renowned for her physical beauty, and attracted many potential suitors for marriage. In 1874, at the age of 25, she desired to marry an older lawyer who was not to her mother Louise's liking; she argued that her daughter could not marry a "penniless lawyer". Her disapproving mother, angered by her daughter's defiance, locked her in a tiny, dark room in the attic of their home, where she kept her secluded for 25 years. Louise Monnier and her brother Marcel continued on with their daily lives, pretending to mourn Blanche's death. None of her friends knew where she was, and the lawyer who she wished to marry died unexpectedly in 1885. On 23 May 1901, the "Paris Attorney General" received an anonymous letter – the author of which is still unknown – that revealed the incarceration:

Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honour 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.

Monnier was rescued by police from appalling conditions, covered in old food and feces, with bugs all around the bed and floor, weighing barely 25 kilograms (55 lb).

One policeman described the state of Monnier and her bed thus:

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 odour given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.

Her mother was arrested, became ill shortly afterwards, and died 15 days later after seeing an angry mob gather in front of her house. Her brother Marcel Monnier appeared in court, and was initially convicted, but later was acquitted on appeal; Marcel Monnier was deemed mentally incapacitated, and although the judges criticized his choices, they found that a "duty to rescue" did not exist in the penal code at that time with sufficient rule to convict him.

After she was released from the room, Monnier continued to suffer from mental health problems. She was diagnosed with various disorders, including anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, exhibitionism, and coprophilia. This soon led to her admission to a psychiatric hospital in Blois, France, where she eventually died in 1913 in apparent obscurity.


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