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The Disturbing Tale of Blanche Monnier: Locked Away for 25 Years

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.

Blanche Monnier, the beautiful French socialite who was held captive by her family.

Blanche Monnier, the beautiful French socialite who was held captive by her family.

The Heinous Tale of Blanche Monnier

Blanche Monnier was a beautiful French socialite who was tragically held captive by her mother for 25 years, cut off from the outside world completely. Her heartbreaking story and incomprehensible mistreatment is disturbing and cruel, and shows just how monstrous her mother and brother truly were. Let's take a look at the heinous tale of Blanche Monnier.

A Prestigious Upbringing

Born March 1, 1849 in Poitiers, Blanche Monnier was a French socialite from a conservative and well-respected middle-class family. She grew up in a rich neighborhood at 21 rue de la Visitation Street alongside her brother, Marcel, and her highly regarded parents Emile and Madame Louise Monnier. Emile was the head of the local arts facility and the family even earned the "Committee of Good Works" award that was given to citizens who "displayed the highest of virtues."

Blanche was renowned for her physical beauty and was described by acquaintances as "very gentle and good-natured." She enjoyed socializing and attending parties, therefore attracting many potential suitors for marriage. But by 1876, Monnier was 25 and still unmarried. The young woman didn't get along with her mother and suffered bouts of anorexia in her teenage years.

Eager to move on with her own life (and out from under her mother's thumb), Blanche found love with an older lawyer. This romance would ultimately be the catalyst of her atrocious confinement.

Blanche Monnier

Blanche Monnier

The Ultimate Punishment

Despite her insistence to marry the local lawyer, her mother Louise was dead set against the nuptials. She argued that her daughter could not marry a "penniless lawyer," and used all her means to prevent such a marriage. Louise tried repeatedly to change Blanche's mind, plotting against her and even forbidding her decision.

All of this proved futile, for the 25-year-old remained determined to marry the man she loved. Blanche's desire and determination to marry her beau resulted in an explosive argument with her mother that ended with Louise locking her daughter away in a tiny attic room.

The confined space had barricaded shutters that prevented any light from shining through, and Blanche's mother refused to release her daughter until she agreed to break off the marriage. Being headstrong and in love, Blanche denied her mother's wishes and stayed in the room, eating dinner scraps and sleeping on a hay bed left in the attic. As Blanche fought for the man she loved, she would sadly never see him again. He passed away in 1885, nine years into her confinement.

Just how was a well-respected, bright young woman able to disappear from society, without raising questions?

Madame Louise Monnier.

Madame Louise Monnier.

Keeping Up Appearances

To ward off any questions or concerns, Louise and her son Marcel faked Blanche's death and appeared mournful in the public eye. They constantly sold their story that the young woman met a tragic end, even though Blanche's friends and lawyer suitor wondered what exactly happened to her.

Her brother Marcel was also manipulated by their mother, as he still lived at home well into his 50s and never questioned the situation with Blanche at all. Her father Emile would pass away in 1879. As time went by, Blanche was soon tragically forgotten by society.

The Monnier home.

The Monnier home.

An Anonymous Note

It wasn't until May 23, 1901 that Blanche's true and disturbing fate would be revealed to all. Twenty-five years had passed when finally the Paris Attorney General received an anonymous letter that revealed the confinement.

The note was full of scribbles and claimed there was something strange occurring at the Monnier address. It read:

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.

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Despite the police believing that Blanche Monnier was dead, they still decided to go to the house and investigate the accusations, in order to verify the claims were false. After all, the matriarch was a well-respected citizen in Paris, came from an aristocratic family and was lauded for her generous community contributions. Regardless, the police knew it was their duty to investigate.

When they showed up to the house, Madame Monnier peeked her head out the window and ignored them. Police forced their way inside, and kicked in the door to the attic. What they would see next would be both gut-wrenching and absolutely monstrous.

The anonymous note.

The anonymous note.

A Ghastly Discovery

Upon forcing the attic door open, the police were immediately hit with a putrid smell and discovered the skeletal-like Blanche, now 50-years-old. Covered in feces and scraps of food, with bugs all around the bed and floor, she was a gaunt figure with abundant black hair covering her nakedness.

Weighing barely 55 pounds, Blanche was malnourished, was completely cut off from society and hadn't seen sunlight in 25 years. The woman seemed like a skittish animal when the police took her out. One policemen commented:

As soon as light entered the room, we noticed, in the back, lying on a bed, her head and body covered by a repulsively filthy blanket, a woman identified as Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier. 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.

Blanche Monnier before and after her confinement

Blanche Monnier before and after her confinement

A Heartbreaking Injustice

After being taken to the hospital, Blanche was grateful for the treatment by the nurses and she was given a bath and a proper meal. Her mother was soon arrested and when she was later interrogated by police, Madame Monnier claimed Blanche brought this treatment upon herself. She claimed her daughter had violent tendencies and had been mentally ill since her younger years. Her son Marcel also agreed with these claims, and said his sister could have left at any time yet chose to stay in the torture room.

Shortly after Blanche's rescue, her mother was arrested but became ill shortly after. She died 15 days later after seeing an angry mob gather in front of her house. Her brother Marcel was a lawyer himself, and was initially convicted but later acquitted on appeal. Marcel Monnier was deemed mentally incapacitated and judges were unable to convict him due to the fact that a "duty to rescue" did not exist in the penal code at the time.

A newspaper headline.

A newspaper headline.

After being released from the hospital, Blanche understandably and tragically continued to suffer from mental health problems. She was diagnosed with a wide array of disorders, including schizophrenia, coprophilia, anorexia nervosa and exhibitionism. This behavior soon led to her being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Blois, France, where she would remain until her death at 64 on October 13, 1913.

The woman who endured such an appalling and incomprehensible life was finally at peace, though justice was sadly not served.

Blanche Monnier later in life.

Blanche Monnier later in life.

© 2020 Rachel M Johnson


Rachel M Johnson (author) on December 11, 2020:

Hi L.M., it most certainly is. Thanks for checking it out!

L.M. Hosler on December 11, 2020:

What a tragic but interesting story.

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