In the midst of the Terror, at a time when Parisians were laying low, afraid of falling victim to the revolutionaries, when a heavy atmosphere weighed down on the city and dread and anxiety suppressed all amusement, when shortages grew ever more dramatic and severe, there was at Charenton, a refuge, a haven where all the customs and conventions of the Ancien Régime remained intact. In a beautiful private mansion, surrounded by a vast park, noble pensioners would spend their time playing music, enjoying the theater, or reading peacefully, attended by countless servants. Their meals were prepared by a great chef, and their accommodations were of the highest comfort. It was the clinic of Dr. Belhomme. If an aristocrat was threatened by the guillotine, they could go to the doctor for “treatment,” provided, of course, that they could afford to pay.
Unfortunately for the “sick,” the doctor had shared his wicked recipe with his friend Fournier-Tinville, who was the president of the revolutionary tribunal, as well as other leaders of the revolution. Blinded by gold, the police and other judicial authorities routinely looked the other way. That is until the “sick” could no longer pay and were promptly delivered to the tribunal, where they received the remedy of the guillotine. Often, at breakfast, there would be empty seats; nobody ever asked about the missing, they all knew.
Eventually Robespierre fell, the Terror came to an end, and the doors of the prisons were opened. The members of the revolutionary tribunal took their place before the guillotine, including Dr. Belhomme and his good friend Fouquier-Tinville. At the time there was only one client left in his clinic, the only one rich enough to keep up with the payments. It was the widow of Philippe Egalité, the Duchess of Orléans, the richest woman in France.
During her stay at Belhomme’s clinic, she met an officer named Rouzet. He quickly fell in love with the widow, and she was taken with him. They knew a passionate love, all the while heads were falling around them. When the Duchess of Orléans left the clinic she was quickly expelled from France, along with the remaining members of the royal family. She hired a private carriage, and traveled to the Spanish border with her dear Rouzet. The officer, who was after all a representative of the Republic, lead the way while the duchess laid low until the border. Once in Spain, the roles were reversed, as the duchess was the cousin of the King. They settled in Catalonia, and lived peacefully and in happiness, without issue until the end of the empire.
After Napoleon’s fall, the Bourbon monarchy was reestablished and the duchess reclaimed her country and her fortune; Rouzet was still by her side. She asked King Louis XVIII to give Rouzet a title, the king obliged, transforming at once Rouzet into the Count of Folmont.
Upon his death, the duchess had him interred in a magnificent ceremony, in the pantheon she had constructed for her family in Dreux. The Duchess died some time later, leaving her son Louis-Philippe as her heir. The first thing Louis-Philippe did was remove Rouzet from his luxurious tomb inscribed with his titles, transferring his body to an anonymous grave.
Each year, on November 2, the day of the dead, my uncle the Count of Paris would take us to the royal chapel in Dreux for a memorial service in recognition of our ancestors. And every year, my uncle would point out the stone under which the lover of our ancestor lays buried.