Lady Legros' grave... linked to the story of a famous jailbird

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Françoise's grave - ©Passion Leica / CC-BY-SA Françoise's grave - ©Passion Leica / CC-BY-SA
Paris catacombs Burial place Imprisonment

Famous? Why?

This grave belongs to Françoise Géllain, first buried in the Vaugirard cemetery. We read this on the stone:

A la mémoire de Françoise Gellain dame Legros, couronnée par l’Académie Française en 1784, morte le 12 décembre 1821 à 73 ans. ("In memory of Françoise Gellain, born Legros, crowned by the French Academy in 1784, died on December 12th 1821, at the age of 73").

Well, she had a pretty uncommon life... This lady helped a famous French prisoner, locked in la Bastille: Henri Latude, who spent 35 years in jail! He even escaped many times.

The chap Latude

This chap was born in Languedoc (Southern France). He was a military surgeon’s apprentice who moved in Paris, at the age of 24. He made lots of stupid things, but he wanted above all to attract La Pompadour’s attention, king Louis XV’s mistress.

Don’t ask why... He sent her a package full of a so-called poisoned powder, then he rushed in Versailles castle to inform her that someone was hatching a plot! They rewarded him, first. But he was finally arrested: he denied his implication but they sent him in La Bastille, en 1749.

Françoise turned up

Latude escaped 4 times. The most famous escape took place in 1755, where he glided along the wall with a rope made of thread, today displays in Carnavalet museum (Paris). He was locked, one more time, but with harder detention conditions. He fell sick.

Françoise turned up at that moment! She was a young haberdasher, about 35 years old, and she was really touched by Latude’s fate. She strived to set him free, giving his own money, begging the queen and all the big shots to intervene. They finally heard her, in 1784.

Latude was released. Whoa! Françoise gave all she had for this stranger. She became famous, France gave her a medal. King Louis XVI even gave her a pension and the queen a dwelling in Versailles.

But the French Revolution turned up and Françoise lost everything. She had to sell her medal and resigned herself to poverty. But she never complained... Latude, for his part, died in 1805, at 80 years old.


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