Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Glimpse of a Forgotten World

The most famous of all ghost sightings at Versailles occurred on August 10 1901. Two British women - Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain - who were both academics, visited Versailles that summer of 1901. After their experience they wrote a book about what had happened; a book that still fascinates us today. But what happened that day at the Versailles Palace?

The two women had decided to take a walk in the enormous garden of the palace and began walking towards the Trianons. When they got to the Grand Trianon, it was closed for the public so they could not enter. Despite having a tour guide's book with them the two women managed to get lost - anyone who has ever visited the gardens of Versailles would understand this. They walked by a lane when Charlotte noticed a woman waving a white scarf from a window and Eleanor saw what appeared to be an old farmhouse that had been abandoned. Both women said that they felt a sudden dreariness.

Charlotte and Eleanor was approached by some men who told them to continue onwards - the ladies both agreed that the men - whom they thought were gardeners - was dressed in a peculiar way with a long grey-green coats and wore three-cornered hats. Eleanor looked about and saw a woman with a little girl in the doorway of a cottage; the woman was handing the girl a jug of milk. Her companion Charlotte did not notice this scenery but said that everything around her seemed to change - the surroundings became "unnatural" and it seemed as if all life and light had gone out of the surroundings.

The companions went on and reached a point near the Temple de l'Amour where they spotted another strange figure. A man was sitting outside the garden kiosk and he wore a very large hat and cloak. Charlotte
This was the portait that Eleanor and
Charlotte identified the woman from the
lane from
thought the man to be unpleasant and when he turned his face towards them, Eleanor noticed that his face had been scarred by smallpox. He did not seem to see the women but they both felt uneasy passing him. But yet again they were guided on their way by an unexpected character: a tall man with dark curls and equally large dark eyes pointed them towards the Petit Trianon.

To get to the gardens of the Petit Trianon they had to cross a bridge. When they reached lanes of the mansion Eleanor noticed a woman who was sitting on the grass and sketching something; she looked up at them. Eleanor describes the woman as wearing a long, white summer dress of light fabric and a large shady hat. She had plenty of beautiful hair. Once again Charlotte did not share Eleanor's vision.

So who were these people? Charlotte and Eleanor identified the woman on the lawn as Marie Antoinette when they matched the woman from their vision to a portrait of the famed Queen with her two children.

Some people suggest that the two women were caught in a so-called "time-slip" which had let them see ghosts of the past. A bit more down-to-earth explanation is that of Philippe Jullian. He points to the fact that Montesquiou (who lived in Paris at the time) often held dinner parties where the guests would perform different kinds of situations dressed in period costumes. He says that it is far more likely that the women simply happened to walk by some of his guests.

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