Fortune Teller
Country: France

  1. Jacques Rousse and Marie-Adélaïde, Duchess of Orléans
  2. It is difficult to find greater understanding and foresight.
  3. But most of all, Rousse was amazed by her tenderness and kindness.

Jacques Rousse and Marie-Adélaïde, Duchess of Orléans

They met in a madhouse. No, they were not sick - during the French Revolution, aristocrats hid in this asylum to escape the guillotine. They survived during that crazy time and spent many years in exile until they were able to return to France. They loved each other for over thirty years... To fully appreciate the phenomenon known as the "Bélome phenomenon," we must remember what life was like for the French during the Reign of Terror. It was enough to be related to someone, to say one careless word, or simply not show enough enthusiasm to be seized and sentenced to death. At any moment, a terrible knock on the door could be heard... Fear gripped everyone, except for the patients of Dr. Bélome's pension. This famous pension still exists, and its name is still written on the facade of the building above the entrance. And now, just like two centuries ago, a paid clinic is located here. Fate completes the circle, and the buildings regain their original purpose. Arriving in 1787 from Picardy and settling on Sharon Street, Jacques Bélome opened a shelter for the mentally ill and those suffering from nervous depression, even though he was not a doctor by profession but a carpenter. However, the laws of that era were more lenient on this matter than they are now.


His business quickly flourished, and within two years, he had 46 boarders, nine of whom became "voluntary inmates," as Bélome called those who sought refuge from a life that disappointed or frightened them. Then the revolution came. Bélome was appointed captain of the Poppincourt company and became one of the most zealous defenders of the new ideas. Filled with civic courage, he made friends among the representatives of the authorities at that time, and in his commercial mind, the idea of a remarkable enterprise was born, which was quite astonishing even in that era, as it was woven from contradictions. He decided to transform his psychiatric clinic into a kind of sanctuary where wealthy criminals could be placed under the pretext of being cured of more or less imaginary diseases, thus protecting them from the guillotine.

Thus arose one of the most striking paradoxes of that era full of contradictions. During the years when the people rose up in unity against inequality, there existed openly in the center of Paris, under the almost official patronage of the most furious of revolutionaries, an establishment where the "former" ones who had enough money to pay for an expensive pension could hide; as long as they could pay, the guillotine posed no threat to them. Staying in the Bélome House, despite the drawbacks of confinement, could be considered quite pleasant.

The boarders lived among people of their own circle in a mansion with a park suitable for long walks. There was also a library from which "newspapers and political works were carefully removed." In the drawing room, there was a harpsichord, allowing for very pleasant concerts, and in the evenings, they played lansquenet, just like in the splendid times of Versailles.

Even plays were performed there - when thanks to the generosity of their admirers, Mademoiselle Lange and Mademoiselle Mézeray, actresses from the Théâtre Français, ended up in "confinement." Although guests were allowed, Bélome's pension quickly became the most charming residence.

There was only one prohibition: they were not allowed to leave the premises, but it goes without saying that no one even contemplated it - those who dared to venture beyond the gates took great risks.

Information about the boarders' meals is quite contradictory: some claim that the meat was excellent, while others say it was terrible... They spoke of a table set for thirty people, but only eight were served, and the servants stole the provisions brought by farmers for their former owners.

Most likely, both versions are correct - they simply referred to different periods when they were at Bélome's. The success of the enterprise quickly exceeded the capabilities of its initiators, who found it difficult to support two hundred people as they did twenty.

And that was not the only problem; the cost of boarding was exorbitant. One thousand francs per month - full-weight gold francs - was a more than substantial sum, especially since it did not include the cost of "candles, firewood, and coal, not to mention the hairdresser, laundry, coffee, cream, and sugar..." In addition, there was the "fee for the staff and commission for recruiters, as well as money for 'use of the garden.'" It should not be forgotten that most of the people residing at the pension had their property confiscated, and their financial resources quickly dwindled; to stop paying meant immediate expulsion from the Bélome House, with the only way out being the guillotine.

This was the state of the house when, within a few days of each other, two "newcomers" arrived. In the registration journal, we read: "Citizen Marie-Adélaïde Penthièvre, admitted on 28 Fructidor," and on the next page - "Citizen Rousse, deputy, transferred from the Carmelite barracks on 4 Vendémiaire."

Who were these people saved from certain death by the Thermidorian Reaction and thrown into the house on Sharon Street?

Marie-Adélaïde de Penthièvre was the widow of Philippe d'Orléans, who during the revolution took the name Égalité and became famous (if you can call it that) mainly for voting for the death of his cousin, King Louis XVI. It is worth recalling that the outcome of the vote at that time was decided by a single "yes" in favor of execution. Who knows how the events would have unfolded if Philippe had been a little more loyal to his family.

But it was hard to expect such loyalty from this characterless, dissolute being on whom any woman, except his own wife, had an influence, especially Madame de Genlis: it was she who pushed him towards embracing the new ideas and whom he appointed as the "governess" of his children. The eldest of them would later rule under the name Louis-Philippe I.

Marie-Adélaïde, with self-denial and humility worthy of all respect, endured her husband's excesses but suffered terribly from seeing her own children's coldness, influenced by the formidable "governess."

However, this poor woman became compliant and even embraced the revolutionary ideas of the young Duke of Chartres - she, the granddaughter of a king, a woman whose father, whose parents were Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV, was recognized as a legitimate child!

Learning that her son was actively involved in developing new social theories, she wrote to her husband:
" instill anti-establishment sentiments in our children, who are destined to live under the established order, would mean wishing them unhappiness."

It is difficult to find greater understanding and foresight.

However, Philippe was not grateful to her for this; it seemed that he was annoyed by her tenderness and submission, as he saw them as reproaches against himself.

The scenes between them became more and more tumultuous, and in the end, the young woman, completely hopeless, went to her father. True, before that, a feeling of her own dignity arose in her, and she demanded that Philippe finally choose between her and Madame de Genlis. Hearing his answer, she left the Palais Royal.

Let us skip the events that led her to the Bélome House; alas, they are not much different from hundreds of similar stories. Only note that on March 4, 1793, the old Duke de Penthièvre died; perhaps he could not bear the act of his son-in-law voting for the death penalty of the king. And when Philippe Égalité himself was sentenced to death, he ascended the scaffold "with his head held high and a indifferent gaze, listening disinterestedly to the malicious cries of the mob gathered at the Palais Royal."

The death of the man she never stopped revering as her legitimate spouse, the man whom she always loved, broke Marie-Adélaïde's heart...

And then came a series of tortures well known to many people of her class: imprisonment, awaiting death, the common pot at the Conciergerie, and - suddenly - the Thermidorian Reaction, just when she was preparing for execution in one of the chambers of the Luxembourg Palace.

The next day, representatives of the people went to the prisons to collect appeals for release or transfer to less damaging places for health.

That is why on the 25th day of Thermidor, the administration of the Santé prison ordered special care for "Citizen Penthièvre"; and on the 28th day of Fructidor, she found herself in Bélome's establishment.

By this time, life here had become less enjoyable. The society that inhabited the "House" in the last few months was rapidly dwindling: boarders were eager to leave the "clinic" as soon as the slightest opportunity arose. Supplies became increasingly difficult to come by, food became scarcer, and no one was willing to go to extraordinary lengths for a few remaining clients.

But none of this prevented Marie-Adélaïde from feeling like she was in paradise - how could she not, considering what she had experienced before!

It was as if she slowly woke up from a long and terrible nightmare, and she found it almost unbelievable to freely walk in the garden, even if the gate was off-limits.

The death of Philippe d'Orléans freed her from the heavy burden that had weighed on her for many years; now she could only think about her children and hope for a speedy reunion with them.

When Abbot Lamber came to visit her, he thought, "she had a healthy and fresh appearance, which, - he adds, - was difficult to expect after so many misfortunes."

The noble abbot simply did not understand that for the first time since her marriage, the princess could afford to relax and feel happy.

The Duke of Nivernais, Marie-Adélaïde's relative, introduced her to Jacques Rousse, a member of the Convention who also ended up in the Bélome House thanks to the Thermidorian Reaction: an immediate sympathy sparked between them.

However, Jacques Rousse was not among the typical revolutionaries, most of whom were untidy, loose, and rude.

It seemed that this conscientious fifty-year-old professor of law from Toulouse was infinitely far from any kind of revolution; calm and rational, he conscientiously performed his duties as a prosecutor-syndic in the Toulouse community.

But since he was open to new currents, like all intelligent people of that time, he was genuinely excited about the ideas of the encyclopedists. This representative of the upper bourgeoisie became, to the extent permitted by his character, a frondeur and a liberal.

When the revolution came, he sincerely - like many of his fellow citizens - believed that a golden age had arrived and that his beautiful country would now establish the best order in the world.

As a talented lawyer, he was elected a member of the Convention, and in 1792, he left Toulouse for Paris, convinced of the greatness of the cause he was going to serve.

However, when he saw what all this led to, he literally went mad, and the final straw that pushed him into horror was the arrest of the king. For Rousse, the revolution meant only a transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, like in England, and he never for a moment considered the possibility of removing the monarch, let alone in such a way.

Courageously defending his views, which were bold to recklessness, "he showed himself to be an inflexible and principled man and skillfully and fearlessly defended Louis XVI." However, Rousse knew perfectly well the risks he was taking by acting in this way and prepared for the inevitable.

His colleague and political ally, Doulcet de Pontécoulant, recounts that Jacques Rousse approached the scaffold several times "to empathize with the feelings that those whose heads were about to fall from their shoulders should experience."

He was well aware that he could not coexist with the monstrous mechanism of the revolution.

His behavior during the trial of the king, of course, attracted the closest attention of the revolutionary committee. And when on May 31, 1793, he spoke out with a passionate protest against the condemnation of the Girondins, the authorities decided that he had finally crossed the line, and on October 30, Rousse was declared an outlaw.

For six months, he managed to avoid justice, but on March 18, 1794, due to someone's denunciation, he was thrown into the Carmelite prison, which meant certain death for him.

While everyone in this prison did everything possible to be forgotten, Rousse - as we have evidence from the materials of the National Archives - did the opposite. He never ceased to bother "his dear colleagues" with reports of minor health problems: first, an eye inflammation... then rheumatism... In the end, he even wrote to them that it would be good for him to take baths in Dax or Bagnères!

And if we remember that his correspondents were Robespierre, Billaud-Varenne, Saint-Just, Collot d'Herbois, and Couthon (prominent figures of the French Revolution, members of the Committee of Public Safety), one can imagine their surprise at reading the letters of a man whose head was about to be cut off, asking for advice on which hydrotherapy resort to choose!

And - who knows - perhaps it was this recklessness that saved him for four months, until Thermidor 9: could such a jester pose a serious threat?..

In addition, all these "health bulletins" eventually served him well: thanks to them and the fact that Rousse's physical condition was indeed not brilliant, he was transferred to the Bélome pension.

His meeting with Marie-Adélaïde was a shock to him: all the memoirs of that era unanimously praised the beauty of the princess, who, at forty, still retained her wonderful blond hair, peach-colored complexion, grace, and charming smile.

But most of all, Rousse was amazed by her tenderness and kindness.

He saw how she cared for the most destitute prisoners, how she shared the oil and eggs brought by the peasants who adored her... He admired how tolerant and condescending she was towards people, how deeply she believed, how affectionate and friendly she was. And it was quite natural that - as Lenoir writes - "from the first days, he bowed before her, respectfully and tenderly, feeling as much sympathy for the sorrows of the poor woman as for her lovely philosophical tranquility."

At first, the surprised Marie-Adélaïde quickly realized how wonderful it was to love and, especially, to be loved.

Did something serious happen between them? It is most difficult to answer this question: they were people of the frivolous and frivolous 18th century, and although they themselves were not characterized by such qualities, they could not help but be influenced by their time. However, everything we know makes us think that while they were prisoners at the Bélome pension, their relationship remained purely platonic. The feelings they experienced were too new and too wonderful to be tainted by physical passion or even to yield to it. We are almost certain that what united them was such attention to each other, such tenderness, such an innumerable amount of affection and gentle words that they were enough to fill their hearts.

Time passed, and freedom came for Marie-Adélaïde. She left the Bélome House and returned to society, but she never forgot the man who accompanied her during those difficult days and brought her so much comfort. As for Jacques Rousse, he remained at the pension until his release from prison, and then he disappeared from history.