Brittany’s Beautiful Brigand

For those without means, life in 18th century Brittany was challenging. It was a time when only the strongest survived the daily struggle to eke out a living against a backdrop of poor harvests, famine and disease. The third of five children born to day-labourers, Marie-Louise Tromel was born on 6 May 1717 near the town of Le Faouët in central Brittany. Little is known about her early years but the young girl was reported to have accompanied her mother to the local fairs and church pardons to peddle small items of haberdashery.

By the time she was 18, she had garnered a reputation as a thief and it was said that it was not unknown for her to ransom children of her own age. She formed a close attachment with Henri Pezron, a servant from the nearby town of Guémené-sur-Scorff, and became a mother late in 1735. A small band of beggars and gamblers gravitated around the couple and complaints about the behaviour of this group soon became a regular feature of life in this remote part of Brittany.

Marie Tromel
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Two other children followed before 1743 when the couple and some of their associates were arrested in Glomel and taken to the cells in nearby Carhaix where the authorities opened a formal investigation against them. A tailor had been attacked on the road to Priziac by a gang armed with pistols and clubs; the victim had recognized Henri Pezron and Corentin Tromel, Marie’s elder brother, as being part of the gang. Marie, then described by the Seneschal of Guéméné as “a red-haired harlot”, was separately accused of swindling a man with counterfeit money at the Croisty market and although the case against her was not pursued, the men were convicted and jailed.  

By this time, Marie seems to have acquired the nicknames Marion du Faouët or Marie Finefont (most cunning in Breton). Her group of brigands, which included her two elder brothers, was then thought to number several dozen men and women, many of whom carried nicknames such as the Fox, the Raven and the Gargoyle. Shrewd and careful, Marie’s group primarily targeted travellers passing along the local roads and farmers and merchants returning from local markets or pilgrims returning home from Pardons. Her company did not attack the mail coaches nor those carrying the local gentry or bourgeois; it is thought this was a victim profile born of pragmatism; she feared to attack those targets important enough to ensure a strong reaction against her.

Bandits of Brittany
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In 1745, Henri Pezron escaped from prison and re-joined Marie at Le Faouët. The band resumed its activities around Quimper, Ploemeur and Carhaix, and numbers were said to have grown to as many as fifty members. Following a robbery near Ploërdut, Marie and Henri were arrested in the summer of 1746, along with two other gang members. She appeared before the judges of Hennebont who sentenced her to be flogged and branded; her companions to be hanged. However, they successfully petitioned for an appeal and were transferred to Rennes where a second trial began.

Assuming responsibility for the activities of the company, Henri’s testimony exonerated Marie but condemned him; the death sentence was confirmed and he was hanged in the Place des Lices on 28 March 1747. Marie and her two companions escaped the noose but she soon met her justice in the public square in Rennes; stripped naked to the waist and whipped, the letter V (for thief) branded on her shoulder with a hot iron. Despite being officially banished from Brittany, she immediately returned west to Le Faouët and reformed her troop to resume her criminal activities.

Henri_Barnoin Le Faouët market
Le Faouet Marketplace

In September 1747, a man from Le Faouët was killed by one of the gang and this seems to have fundamentally altered the semblance of tolerance that had existed between the local populace and Marie’s bandits. Denounced in the pulpit, one day in May 1748, a member of the gang entered the chapel of the Ursulines in Le Faouët and insulted the priests and nuns. This sacrilege further provoked the wrath of the authorities who redoubled their efforts to chase-down the gang.

Their efforts were eventually rewarded in the south coast town of Auray where, in June 1748, Marie was arrested just a week after giving birth to her son by Maurice Penhouet, another member of her gang. The records of this arrest give us our only contemporary description of Marie, described as having: “a height of almost five feet, grey eyes, chestnut hair, a scar on the top of the forehead, face marked with freckles, wearing a headdress of white canvas in the fashion of the city”.

The judges of Vannes seem to have been rather lenient or else did not have enough firm evidence for a conviction; Marie was condemned a second time by the court and, once again, banished in perpetuity. However, once again, she returned to Faouët and reorganized her group. Her tactics remained the same as before; attacking merchants and visitors returning from the markets and stealing from churches.

Returning from market by Deyrolle
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Marie also appears to have implemented a structured racketeering system. She raised levies on the farms of the locality but seemingly not on those immediately surrounding her base of operations. The threat of arson was an effective form of blackmail employed by her group and people paid to avoid trouble and gain her protection. Marie even provided passes of safe-conduct that allowed victims to travel for a year without fear of being robbed again by members of her gang. The testimonies provided at her trial present her as a prudent woman who knew how to use terror and intimidation as well as kindness to obtain what she wanted; moderating the violence of her gang when needed and sometimes even showing leniency.

Some people have suggested that Marie’s uncanny ability to avoid the forces of law and order was due to the influence of a powerful protector, a wealthy lord from an illustrious Breton family; René de Robien who owned an estate in Melionnec, about half way between Gouarec and Le Faouët and a man known to have interacted with Marie and members of her gang. However, his arrest at the end of November 1751, removed any protection that he might once have afforded.

The arrest of de Robien encouraged Marie to maintain a low personal profile but her gang remained as vigorous as ever; her brother, Corentin, being notably active, attacking and robbing those travelling on the roads around Guiscriff, even killing one of his victims in January 1752. Local legends tell that a cave in Huelgoat forest was one of Marie’s many hideaways, while the cave in the wood of Kerbeskont near Rostrenen is said to have served the same purpose for Corentin.

Marie du Faouet's house
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Marie was captured, along with her latest companion, Olivier Guilherm, in Poullaouen on 2 July 1752 and once more she found herself confined to the cells in Carhaix. Olivier escaped from jail just five days later and, fearing a rescue attempt, Marie was quickly transferred to Quimper. Held in the town’s jail while the authorities gathered evidence against her, she received many visitors from Le Faouët, including Olivier, and gave instructions as to the treatment to be meted out to potential witnesses against her.

At the end of August 1752, the parish priests of central Brittany read monitoires at high mass on three consecutive Sundays; these were edicts demanding the faithful come forward and reveal all that they knew of the fugitives, on penalty of eternal damnation. With state and church now railed against her, Marie escaped from jail on 9 September 1752. Legend attests that she made good her escape by sawing through the bars of a window but it is more likely that she bribed the gaoler.

Despite her flight, the court in Quimper continued their investigations and the réaggraves issued in February and March 1753 encouraged over a dozen new witness statements implicating Marie in criminal acts. Réaggraves were the ultimate church sanction and those members of the congregation who now refused to come forward with information could expect excommunication and the economic and social handicaps that came with it. New witnesses were called before the court; almost fifty were heard in the months of August and September alone.

Marion du Faouet
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At the time, before being able to pronounce a suspect guilty, the investigating judge had to assemble strictly defined formal proofs. Without these, they could only abandon the trial; even a confession was not enough for a conviction unless it was freely made and supported by evidence. Alternatively, it was necessary to have the corroborated testimony of at least two adult, first-hand witnesses of good standing. With such high burdens of proof, a significant proportion of cases were necessarily dropped and torture justified in order to obtain a confession. However, torture was used only because the judges did not have sufficient proof and thus freedom was the only possible outcome for the suspect who did not confess.

In Brittany, torture was officially used only eleven times between 1750 and 1780 and, as elsewhere in France, was used in support of the procedures known as the preparatory question, to have the crime confessed, and the preliminary question, to have the accomplices denounced immediately prior to execution. Trial by fire was the most popular judicial torture used in Brittany; the suspect was typically strapped onto an iron trolley or sometimes an iron chair and carted, feet first, to a fire over which their feet were repeatedly roasted.

Ordeal by Fire
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Finally, on 6 October 1753, the judges delivered their verdict, condemning Olivier, Marie, her brother and nephew Corentin and Joseph Tromel, as well as Vincent Mahé to be hanged until dead. Corentin Tromel had been captured on 29 May 1753 but escaped from Quimper jail on 17 June 1753 and so, with no physical bodies to hang, the four were instead publicly executed in effigy later that day.

Once again, Marie found herself on the run and she returned, for a time, to her old haunts near Le Faouët but the execution of two members of her gang at the end of October 1752 encouraged her to go into hiding. Unfortunately, her absence did not restore peace to the countryside and members of her gang continued to harass and rob travellers on the roads around the villages of Saint-Caradec and Kernascléden. The gang were even said to have been responsible for robbing a church near Lesneven, netting a significant haul of money and silver plate.

Marie successfully evaded attention for two long years but finally, on 21 September 1754, in Nantes, she was arrested for vagrancy and, by chance, recognised by a former victim from Gourin. The following May, she was transferred to the court at Quimper to face the twenty charges brought against her, including the sole act of violence directly levied against her; beating a man with a club in 1751. The formalities of the trial confirmed the death sentence but she first faced torture in order to extract information about her accomplices. Despite her feet being roasted, Marie revealed little information that was not already known to the investigators and on 2 August 1755 she was taken to the Place Saint-Corentin, where she was hanged in front of the assembled crowd of spectators.

Place St Corentin in Quimper
Place Saint-Corentin, Quimper

However, the execution of Marie did not put an end to the activities of her gang; many of whom avoided arrest and continued their abuses in the Breton countryside. Records show that one of her gang, Guillaume Hémery, was arrested and subsequently tried in Châteauneuf-du-Faou, being condemned on 24 July 1763 to “reveal his accomplices and to make amends in front of the church; a burning candle in his hand and a sign on his chest, to then be broken alive, finally to expire on the cross of Saint Andrew, the face turned towards the sky”.

Hémery’s last day was recorded for posterity and makes for grim reading: “Six times, his feet, his legs are exposed to the torturing fire, six times he cries under the stinging bite of the flames as part of the preparatory question and three more times as part of the preliminary question”.  The ordeal of fire over, he was led “barefoot, in a shirt, to the Place-aux-Bestiaux and tied to a cross of Saint Andrew with his arms, legs apart, chest against the cross … the executioner raising his iron bar, begins to strike the arms, the thighs, the kidneys …”. His face turned towards the sky, he lay upon the wheel, dying in agony early the following morning.

Thanks to his revelations, several confederates were eventually tracked-down and arrested during the following year, including Pierre and Corentin Bellec, Corentin Tromel and two of his sons, Joseph and Guillaume Tromel. Imprisoned in the dilapidated cells at Châteauneuf-du-Faou, several men escaped in November 1765 but Joseph Tromel was recaptured and returned to jail. Eventually tried in Rennes, Pierre Bellec, Corentin and Joseph Tromel were condemned to be broken on the wheel and executed in the city’s Place des Lices on 31 October 1766. Being only 14 years old, Guillaume Tromel was sentenced to watch the torture of his father and brother and to be flogged on market day.

Breaking on the wheel
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The character of Marie has undergone a remarkable transformation in the two and a half centuries since her death. Her memory clearly lingered in the public consciousness, as evidenced by her appearances in the oral traditions of central Brittany noted in the middle of the 19th century. Writing of his travels in Brittany in 1839, the French novelist Fortuné du Boisgobey noted that locals in Finistère spoke of: “a band of extremely formidable brigands active about 50 years ago in the central part of Finistère; led by a woman, a sort of Bohemian queen called Marion du Faouët, named after the small town where she was born”. He added: “a thousand probably exaggerated stories have been embroidered on the horrors committed by this gang, on the kind of absolute and supernatural power exercised by Marion”.

In the popular tradition, Marie was endowed with great intelligence and great beauty; two characteristics which explained her power to manipulate men to do her bidding. One old tale tells that Marie terrorised Brittany at the head of an army of four thousand men, made up of vagrants, vagabonds, malcontents and military deserters, all armed and ready to shed blood. However, other stories said that Marie’s gang also included young men of honest families who aspired to the favours of a debauched Marie: vagrants or youths from good families, her seductions crossed all social barriers.

In old traditions, Marie is painted as a powerful figure who knew, equally, how to deal with lawless vagabonds and the officers of the law, exerting an almost supernatural fascination over all. How else to explain her ability to terrorise the countryside with impunity for so long but through witchcraft? One legend tells that Marie possessed an enchanted auger with which she pierced a tree that poured out a marvellous potion that put the constabulary’s archers to sleep. Similarly, her escape from Quimper jail was attributed to her wonderful hair which sawed through the thickest iron bars. 

Highwayman
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The legends also attributed great riches to Marie, her ghost was said to haunt a field outside Le Faouët where she rolled a barrel that clanged with the tune of thousands of gold coins striking against each other in sad testimony to her innumerable victims. Another tale, recorded by the Breton author Anatole le Braz towards the end of the 19th century, noted a popular tradition around the Black Mountains that spoke of: “The famous female bandit, Marion du Faouët, who wreaked havoc there in the 18th century; her name is still only spoken with terror. In the cry of the silversmiths, the mountain dwellers believe they recognise her whistle, so sharp that it pierced the soul of the traveller, so violent that it made the leaves fall from the trees. Her shadow continues to prowl in these areas, on stormy nights; the silent gallop of a dark horse whose hooves, striking the ground, leave a trace of blood.”

The passage from bandit to witch to phantom saw the memory of Marie invoked as a bogeyman with which parents would threaten their children. The author of the first study of Marie, Julien Trévédy, recounted a scene he witnessed around 1850 in Corlay: “A grandmother was dragging her grandson to school: the boy resisted and the old woman, as a last argument, threatened to go and fetch Marion. This word was magic and the child obeyed. I asked who was this Marion and the grandmother replied: “It is Marion du Faouët. I would be very sorry if she came. She was a highway robber who killed a lot of people and took the children away. They say she was hanged in Quimper and she deserved it. It was at least a hundred years ago”. Even as late as the 1930s, the Breton author Paul-Yves Sébillot noted that the children of the Black Mountains were frightened into behaving with threats that Finefont would take them if they did not.

Marion du Faouet
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Over half a dozen old ballads, some rather fragmentary, featuring Marie have survived to this day. The oldest of which, collected in the middle of the 19th century, evokes the ravages of her bandits and even attributes to her the looting of a castle near Guingamp. Despite, or perhaps because of, the once widespread prejudice against red-haired people in Brittany, much is made of Marie’s hair; a magnificent fleece of fiery, proud red. Some of the songs also mention quite specific details that are not recorded elsewhere: Marie controlled her troop by means of a whistle; she gave a knife to each of her associates as a symbol of allegiance to her; and she was always accompanied by two dogs, one black and the other white.

In 1884, Julien Trévédy, a former president of the court of Quimper, published the first historical study of Marie, claiming to recover the historical Marie from the legends still then circulating around Le Faouët, Guéméné-sur-Scorff and Gourin. However, when he republished his account five years later, small edits had been made that significantly altered the tale. The violence and debauchery noted in the trial records and in popular tradition were downplayed. Marie was now said to have robbed the rich not to enrich herself but to aid the poor; she had effectively become a Breton Robin Hood. Thus, a new character was formed; a heroine quite distant from that which tradition had long preserved.

Highway robbery
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The sympathetic portrayal of Marie was cemented by a song written by the Breton author and poet Pierre-Jakez Hélias in 1954. Here, Marie is poetically portrayed as the most beautiful girl ever seen and one who made more than one man lose his honour. Her robberies are diminished as only a means for her to enjoy life’s simple pleasures such as changing her headdress every day. A misunderstood country girl, she climbs the scaffold to meet her end, full of repentance. In this romanticised vision, the figure of Marie has become completely separated from historical reality and the ground is set for the numerous works of historical romantic fiction that followed in the latter part of the 20th century.

These more recent works developed the popular myth of Marie that we have today and unsurprisingly reflect modern attitudes: she loves deeply; fights for equality and social justice; champions the marginalised; she is a strong, independent woman and feminist icon. It is worth noting that this was also a time when the image of Brittany and notions of Breton identity were being rethought and renewed. Marie, now cast as a Breton free-spirit, fighting the oppression of the French crown, was given a political dimension; a new heroine to embody a new image of Brittany.

Thus, the ambiguous relationship between historical reality and legend continues to evolve. It may adjust itself again and future generations might well question why public roads and civic buildings were once named in honour of a career criminal who menaced those innocents too weak to fight back.

Published by Bon Repos Gites

Enjoying life in Kalon Breizh - the Heart of Brittany.

173 thoughts on “Brittany’s Beautiful Brigand

    1. Thank you very much!!! Yes, I find it interesting when we are able to trace the development/embellishment to a seemingly familiar story. In this instance, one’s elderly grandparents would simply not have recognised the character being talked of. Thanks for reading!!! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  1. lol… wow, what a tale!! ❤️

    She was definitely not afraid of life ❤️

    Her life does not sound good to me lol … I don’t like that she terrorized, manipulated, killed and stole… but I AM thinking in today’s time period and conditions

    … it is funny how things get romanticized like that.

    I have things that are like that… and I see brightly anyway- so there is always an essence of that in my stories when I really love something lol – so I am guilty of that too

    And sometimes people feel oppressed somehow? Where they need a strong figure to represent strength against the oppression? Or without fear?

    She does borderline heroine if it was oppression of the church or things like that? Different moments in time 😮 I can not currently correctly imagine

    But beauty is definitely a super power. Yup I would totally say that

    Lol… so will people stare at me in Brittany? Are they still prejudice? I have freckles and red hair 👩🏻‍🦰 lol … also beautiful … so I feel like I would rock Halloween over there ❤️😘 … it is not prejudice now is it?

    Once the terrorizing aspect of the story changed into heroine, like you say, into a Robinhood’esk type tale … then it makes the story completely different

    Funny how history warps. Or is it that it corrects itself? ✌️

    Very cool story ❤️😘 brilliantly told – as always!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Haha, yes, she certainly lived life on her terms. You are right, it is funny how history fragments into legend and myth and bits coalesce and separate again over time. This one is interesting as the major adjustments have been within living memory.

      Ha, beauty is often indeed a super power 😉 No, the old prejudices have long gone; it was once said redheads were on their last turn on earth! Whatever that meant! 😉

      I am so pleased that you enjoyed the read!!! Thank you!! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes that is very interesting. I am not sure how I view that lol … because out of respect for those terrorized, is that proper to turn into heroine? So I am not sure in that way.

        Well I hope red heads do not go extinct lol – we bring the fire lol ✌️😄

        We are Phoenixes- we rise from ashes lol 😘✌️

        It’s funny to think people have these notations about colorings lol … I tried to see what that saying meant … but I learned a lot of other things instead lol

        Any of the red headed women I know are actually very strong in spirit. ❤️ a fiery spirit, I suppose

        Always enjoy your posts ❤️✌️

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Personally, I agree – it raises a whole host of issues when we retrospectively make a hero or heroine out of people who were effectively thugs. Even trying to cover them with a modern veneer, the past cannot be undone. What next, an Al Capone Blvd or creche?

        Yes, the colouring notions are strange but I suppose explained due to the relative rarity and like many rare things, viewed with fear or suspicion back then? I had to look hard to find two redheads to illustrate this post haha but they are out there in glorious paintings 🙂

        Once again, many thanks! Your kind support is much appreciated! 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Yes exactly. That is exactly the part that bothers me with it

        That is true with rare things… you are unfamiliar so I guess is handled with caution… that is true, I do that with unfamiliar things as well.

        You picked the illustration well lol! Nice choices! 😊❤️

        Always my pleasure 😊

        Liked by 4 people

      4. Yes indeed.

        Oh yes – today lol… I have to run to store but I do not want to do it today lol … so it is what I call a push it day lol – what creative thing can I create to push it lol 😄✌️

        So I have made some Tang for her lol … and I made biscuits this morning – I asked if she wanted biscuits and gravy but she said no lol – she went with waffles 🧇 so I made that

        She has tuna for lunch

        I am trying to convince her to give me green light for a new concoction lol … but she is worried she won’t like it – let me have that challenge, if I lose – I make what she wants… so far it is still a red light … but I’m workin on it ✌️ going to try anyway lol

        I have some paperwork stuff am working on, otherwise. 😊 very nice weekend

        Hope you are getting to enjoy yours also 😊 has been a beautiful sunny ☀️ weekend – just extremely windy!!

        Liked by 4 people

      5. Hahaha yes – yes they are … but I also do not doubt my skills – I know my audience lol

        She is only hesitant because she is picky lol … but I am enticing with my things so … we gonna see lol

        I get her to try sometimes… I gotta be real good though – I already know this – I bring my A game lol

        What better way to sharpen skills right? The harshest critic lol

        I am usually pretty good at this game as long as I do not get too carried away lol ✌️ Thank you ❤️

        I am not actually afraid of those blow ups lol … those are fun memories ❤️ lol

        Liked by 3 people

      6. Yeah I got this lol ❤️✌️

        I went with Mexican chicken nachos lol … I know my teens – I just can’t get too elaborate or 🌶 spicy

        It also can’t be too exotic lol

        But that works ✌️ I just used odd ingredients but totally should be fine lol ❤️✌️ lol (it is – I tasted) I just have to pass the critic lol

        Liked by 2 people

  2. What a fascinating person! Of course, I don’t approve of the crimes she instigated and committed but for a woman to be the leader of such a gang took a lot of courage. Interesting how the version of her story changes over time from villain to heroine. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you! I am glad you found it interesting! Like you, I think it is fascinating how the myth surrounding her has changed and so recently. Whatever the truth, she clearly had a commanding personality to lead such a disparate group for so long!!
      Hope all is well! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, yes, at this rate of development, I expect someone to unearth a miracle in the new few years 😉 It is funny what things history seems to ‘forgive’ but I suspect that tells us more about us than it does about them 😉

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, times were grim back then and there are numerous accounts of suspects being permanently crippled by their burns. It must have been hard to judge how long was long enough in the flames?
      There’s a ‘great’ story of a man who was crippled by fire and thus unable to work again. He spent the next years camped outside the house of the magistrate who supervised the torture and apparently his constant presence drove the magistrate to an early grave!
      I sometimes start with one idea and get so sidetracked confirming facts that the post changes into something completely different 😉
      Many thanks for reading and liking it!!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What a story! The evolution of a legend is truly fascinating, but when ‘actual history’ is rewritten by a new culture it’s a shame. Up becomes down, and evil becomes good, etc. It’s interesting how long the protection racket has been around…to antiquity I imagine.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you!!! I am glad that you found the story as interesting as I did. Like you, I enjoy seeing how legends develop over time and this must have happened a lot in the days of purely oral stories. That means that many of them may no bear any relation to the original reality. I appreciate that folklore is a living thing but the danger in too much “modern” tampering is that we lose the original tale and replace it with a “fake” posing as a historical tale. Like the protection racket, I guess fake news has always been with us 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for reading it! I agree, the tale reminds me of some of the 19thC outlaws that you have written about – just how on earth did some people manage to get away with so much for so long 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, a misunderstood country girl, indeed!

    What a tale. So unusual for a woman to become a bandit! And then to keep getting caught and released and escaping and caught, over and over, and always returning to the life of crime.

    Personally, I would never risk getting my feet roasted and getting strung up on that wheel. She must have had a high pain tolerance. It seems like at a certain point she could have stopped and just raised goats and sold wool and linen, lol !!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agreed, it was quite a feat for anyone to be able to lead a group of bandits for so long especially in a relatively small area! Definitely a woman of charisma!
      Yes, those tortures were very grim. Haha, yes, selling linen or goats cheese would have been safer but I guess she enjoyed the adrenaline rush 😉
      Thank you very much for reading and liking it!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, me too!!! I suppose it would have been easier if that was all that one knew but having tasted 21stC comforts, no, I couldn’t live in those days 😉
      Thank you!! I am happy that you liked this!! 🙂

      Like

  5. Wow Collin. Another beautiful article. I need some of her luck. I don’t seem to get away with even the tiniest thing. She escaped punishment soooo many times. But man, roasted feet….yikes. I’d own up to all the crimes in the world…since the dawn of time… if it were me being roasted …..

    Liked by 3 people

  6. How spoiled we all are these days. It was really different times … (While we all go bonkers in lockdown a bit, I saw a documentary on Jemen this week and felt a bit ashamed.)
    Thank you for the ineresting read!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Marie was quite a gal! It’s very unusual to have female brigands but Celtic women are feistier than most. Boudica has gone from heroine to butcher back to heroine. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in history to see the truth?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. She certainly was! To be fair to Boudicca, I guess she was fighting to avenge the attack on her and her daughters and the Roman sequestration of their lands rather than just for silver 😉 But certainly, Marie is of that same line of strong Celtic women with the charisma and skills to lead men to potential doom. Yes, a time machine would be so wonderful!! Please, please invent one!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess we only have the Roman’s writing about Boudicca to base our thoughts on. She reminded me of Khaleesi going over the top in an attempt to gain revenge. Who am I to judge? The Baja native people (where my native blood comes from, I think) were polygamists. The Spanish priests said they should stop so they killed the priests. There is a ceramic plaque on the wall of the mission showing the gory deaths.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes, the victors always write the history 😦 That said, even by their accounts, she had a lot to be vengeful for!
        Yikes! That sounds grim. Hmm, there is clearly a gentler way to get one’s message across!!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Not only is the story of this person interesting (and sad) in and of itself, but the story of how the story evolves with times is also an interesting study all by itself. What a great read.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks for writing the post on Marion du Faouët. She is one of the few women in the Age of Enlightenment considered a historical figure. Some even give her actions credit as the birth of the French Revolution. Some argued that had there been more equality and easier ways to make a living, she probably, perhaps wouldn’t have turned to a life of crime. Those like her and many who became pirates and highway robbers were actually common people who did extraordinary and often criminal things in order to survive.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Often in accounts like this it is hard to distinct what is true and what is fictions. I think, perhaps with her, it became an inspiration or perhaps one could say representation of the people being displeased with their monarchy, mainly because she was a woman and that was something quiet rare for a woman of the 1700’s. [That’s when bold for modern day woman] However, when people are looking for an icon, a hero that express their grievances and beliefs, and someone shows up, then they may turn they the person into a legend. Her brazen actions, criminal as they were, may had sparked some people’s indignation to rebel against the monarchy of France, we may never know for sure. According to stories told of her in other countries, the common people didn’t see her in the same eyes as the authorities and the aristocrats. It’s these two groups who primarily wrote history not the everyday people. To some of the everyday people she became a heroine like Robin of Loxley of Sherwood was the English.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You are right, she is interesting because for 130 or so years she only existed in court transcripts and legends in a few locations in central Brittany. It was just over a century ago that she first entered the public historical record.
        There were several rebellions raised in Brittany between annexation and the Revolution and many argue that the spark for the Revolution itself was lit here too in Jan 89. Although, it’s an argument that hinges on the benefit of hindsight 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. She was popular in the Americas as far back as the mid-late 1700’s. Especially, in areas like New Orleans and some parts of the Caribbeans. That’s where a lot of the North American legends about her grew out of.
        Yes, it studied in American history that Brittany had a hand in sparking the French Revolution. I too, I’ve heard that the spark for the French Revolution was lit in Brittany after the French people saw what the 13 colonies in the New World did to Great Britain and wondered why were they accepting a rule-from-birth? Figuring that they are much older than the US and if the US could govern itself, then why can’t they? 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      4. That is fascinating! I had no idea she was known over there. Do you know any of the American legends or can you give me any pointers as to where I might be able to find them?
        Hmm, the revolution here wasn’t initially about replacing the monarch and in Brittany, the counter-revolution lasted longer than in any other part of France 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes, she was heard of here, even in colonial times. That’s how I l know her name. She is part of folklores. She was mostly viewed as a female Robin Hood. Here, she’s ranked along side women like Anne Bonny, Mary Critchett, and Rachel Wall, although these women were Americans and pirates, Marie-Louise Tromel, better known as Marion du Faouët or Marie Finefont name is ranked along with them as a famous female criminal.

        You are right, it wasn’t until later years these stories about Marie Finefont as she called here were written down by a man named Julien Trévédy, but they weren’t new. They were already quite popular accounts. If you can find some books about Colonial New Orleans you may be able to find the account where she was used an inspiration for protest when the Spanish rule wanted to tax the people of New Orleans more they wanted to pay.

        Louisiana was claimed for the French Crown by explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1682, La Nouvelle-Orleans was founded in 1717 and some say 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.

        If it wasn’t about getting rid of the monarchy then, what was the revolution originally about? I hope it wasn’t about Marie Antoinette’s infamous cake eating quote.

        I used to work in a library and had all day to look up little known things and I would find a lot of stuff that isn’t made public. Why? I don’t know. I guess because some of it was so old you had to handle it with care. Anyway, the old newspapers, which were on microfilm, you could find articles where they printed a story back when it happened and gave reference to who the protestors were quoting or using as an inspiration just as reporters do today. That’s where her name came up in the New Orleans protest against the Spanish rule which begun in 1762 and ended in 1802. By this area wasn’t a part of the United States yet, it isn’t included in regular American history. It maybe included in the Louisiana state history.

        One recent legend about her is that Calamity Jane, an American outlaw of the Old West admired her, mainly, because they committed the same types of crimes.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Again, fascinating. How wonderful that her reputation was unknown in Paris but so famous as to inspire revolt in New Orleans! I shall try and track down a source. I wonder why she inspired a tax revolt? Afterall, she never targeted the tax collectors or the ruling classes.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. First of all, I love your account of this story. I loved the pictures accompanying it. They bring the story to life.
        She didn’t invoke or inspire the protest. The government’s heavy taxation inspired the revolt. She just because the icon they used to represent themselves as in saying they were being unfairly treated just they believed at the time she was unfairly treated.
        What? She wasn’t famous in Paris? Most people in North America apparently thought she was famous. Between her and Lafayette are the only two French people they probably knew of in the 1700’s. Although, New Orleanians was not of English Colonial American at the time, many of New Orlean’s residents were from other colonies and perhaps picked up the habit of picking whomsoever actions they thought best represented what they were trying to say. Like the English governor of Massachusetts supposedly said once during a protest.. “Who did they pick this time to rally around?” The protest was being conducted in Boston and they were walking toward the governor’s mansion.

        With ships sailing from Brittany to New Orleans it is easy to see how the New Orleanians could have heard the story and knew about her feats and terrible fate and rallied around them. Remember, people were hung or imprisoned back then for any kind of debt. A taxation debt was no different than owing the general grocer. In the Americans, there were no penal colony. America was the penal colony. It was either the noose, imprisonment, or indentured servitude.

        The colonists picked icons to rally around according to what ‘they’ saw in the person’s actions; not that the actions were always remotely similar.
        I hope you can find this account of her. It’s short, but a very interesting account. Of course, your account of her goes far deeper, because the account I’m talking about doesn’t mention anything about her as an individual person. It merely talks about her as being a representation of a struggle. Most people in America knows of Brittany because of the seaports. Almost every American family has a Brittany or two. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      8. Thanks! It is really interesting that the folk there rallied to her name. I wonder why?Especially when there were famous brigands to choose from, such as Cartouche or Mandrin? And it’s not as if any of her exploits were of a rebellious nature or anti-authoritarian. It is funny the heroes some folk choose.
        I have not found a reference yet. I am still searching though 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Perhaps Cartouche or Mandrin were a little too much for their taste. 😆

        Seriously thus, I can see where they saw her actions as having a rebellious nature and even deemed them anti-authoritarian. Most of the colonial America was deeply influenced by the Puritans, Quakers, and Pilgrims and these religious sects viewed any form of taking, stealing as ruffian behavior and ruffian behavior was viewed as anti-authoritarian.

        Perhaps you can find the account by reviewing microfilms of old newspapers in New Orleans and surrounding towns. The Picayune is listed as the oldest newspaper but I’m certain there’s one predating1837. I don’t know how widely circulating it was but I’m positive one existed before the Picayune. Perhaps by this protest never reached the frenzy level of 1772 – Pine Tree Riot (Weare, New Hampshire, British America) 1773 or the Boston Tea Party, it wasn’t recorded by no other papers than the local ones.
        Or perhaps because New Orleans wasn’t English territory at the time it wasn’t widely circulated among the English colonies. But I’m certain her story was no mystery to the rest of the American colonies. The French ships were bringing cargo and people to the Americas, especially to the Antilles and New Orleans. To find out exactly how this story reached the Americans, I say you are going to have follow the routes of the ships in the 1700’s. Nantes, France’s busiest seaport town with ships heading to the Americas isn’t very far from where she was executed.

        Liked by 2 people

      10. Yes, Governor’s dispatches and early collections of folklore might offer a crumb or two.
        Precious few Puritans in Louisiana, so, I think the religious angle unlikely to account for her infamy.
        Unfortunately, Nantes, is a non-runner as there were no popular traditions of her there or indeed in any other part of Brittany save for those areas where she terrorised the locals.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. The account did not say what the Spanish governor did in respond to their protesting about the higher tax rates, but being the mid-1700’s I can just about imagine what happened. It was either go home or risk being shot.
        This link does speak of the protests. https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/the-french-in-new-orleans

        For a belief system to affect one’s actions and way of thinking, one doesn’t necessaryily have to be a member of that said religious sect. Even today, these belief affect the American way of life. Many American’s customs and belief can be traced back to their Puritans, Pilgrims and Quakers roots. I’m aware that New Orleans was primarily Catholic but everyone in New Orleans were not French, many were English and Spanish settlers there looking for wealth.

        How did the news caught the wind and spread? It could have been because in those days this was a public event. Sea ports cities were famous for spreading news. People used to wait for ships to come into their port with news from faraway lands and it is possible someone abroad one of those ships knew about her infamy. Execution in those days were a big public affair. Hundreds of people showed up. Much like a fairs or circuses which I think was very inhumane. It was a family affair.

        About these specific religious sect not being in Louisiana isn’t entirely correct. After the spread of slavery in Louisiana they were there too. They were in every settlement where slavery was conducted. They were not strictly confined to the New England colonies. They were as far south as Georgia and as far west as Louisiana.

        Quakers played a key role in the abolitionists helping abolish slavery and usually, where there were Quakers, there were also Puritans and Pilgrims. They didn’t always publicly announce themselves. That would have a dangerous thing to do in those days. The Quaker campaign to end slavery can be traced back to the mid-late 1600s, and many played a pivotal role in the Underground Railroad. In 1776, Quakers prohibited all members from owning slaves, and 14 years later they petitioned the U.S. Congress for the abolition of slavery. They fought to bring Louisiana into the union as a free territory. Not another slave territory.
        What I’m saying is that this belief system spread to many who were not Quakers.
        How they started protesting in New Orleans is that the Treaty of Fontainebleau was kept secret for nearly a year, and once the French colony learned of its existence, they revolted. Essentially, they didn’t take kindly to the thought of Spanish rule.

        With an already diverse population of French, English, Spanish, Native Americans, Creole and Africans (both slaves and free settlers), the Spanish had a difficult time governing the colony. Although they afforded settlers there more freedom than they did those of their other colonies (in South America, for example), there were significant restrictions imposed on trade and taxes. The Spanish time in charge of the region was mauled by armed uprisings, and strained relations between the governor’s office and the citizenry. In one of these many uprising is where it was reported that the name Marion du Faouet was invoked as an representation of someone being unjustly or mistreated.

        Who knows who the first heralder was? I don’t know. It could have been someone from that area. Someone who witnessed the actual execution. The time span of some of these uprisings and her execution are coincidentally close.

        Liked by 2 people

      12. Yes, it would be fascinating to find an example of one of the American legends, even one from a century later. I would love to know what it was about her story that caught the popular imagination over there in a way that it did not here. It seems not to have existed long though as I have found no trace of it in any of the books I have consulted. I have therefore contacted Louisiana 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Yes, that’s an interesting, intriguing question. Why did she become a folklore here, but not at home?
        I think, I’m not sure, but I think it was because of the different mind-set of the two places. In America, there were never in a real sense of ancient aristocracy as in Europe. An aristocracy, which usually dominated how everything in history was viewed, recorded and remembered. I suspect some of it may had been suppressed over the centuries. It didn’t matter that the victims were not noblemen, but it did matter how her renegade actions made the noblemen ‘looked’ in the royal court. And in the 18th century, being a woman, her actions were viewed completely scandalous, abnormal, and downright diabolical. The local noblemen most likely viewed her actions as a mutiny on their authority as to why they never became popular in her homeland.

        Discussing something deemed as a threat against the authority was crime, and treason back then brought the penalty of death.

        I’m not saying anyone would’ve gone that far, but they had the legal authority to do so.

        Whereas here, making the settlers stop talking; telling what they didn’t like about a situation was a difficult task at best. Many accounts prevailing today grew out of their freedom of speech.

        Let me know what you find. Forgive me, for not remembering the name of the old paper for it’s been years ago, but I would like to know exactly what paper reported that rebellion. I have been trying to record the name of the antique newspaper. I do record the article was on microfilm. Where was the original newspaper? I have no idea.

        To show the strong French influence in the area, New Orleans. It was named for the Maiden of Orleans, Joan of Arc. That’s why it’s seal is the symbol of the saints. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      14. Hmm, I am not so sure; Louisiana was governed the same as metropolitan France, so, there was still a strong sense of rulers and ruled. If there was a sense that a peasant had somehow upset the nobility, this was not the case here with Marie as opposed to, say, with Cartouche.

        Thankfully, this wasn’t the Middle Ages and people regularly protested and lampooned the ruling elite here then 😉

        No worries about the paper but I do appreciate you trying! I am sure the Folklore Society will have all the answers. 🙂

        Yes although I thought New Orleans was named after the Dauphin; and that would explain the Saints’ symbol – the old symbol of the French crown.

        Liked by 1 person

      15. I accept your assessment in how the public would’ve respond; for I’m not French, you would know more how so they would’ve viewed things than I. I never asked my French relatives about these questions. 😀

        There were many cities in America named for the Dauphin, Louisville, Louisborg, and etc. but New Orleans wasn’t one of them. It was named for the Maiden of Orleans. Not the king. That’s why the present day football team is called the New Orleans Saints. ⚜️ The ‘fleur-de-lis’ is pretty much the state’s symbol. From a religious standpoint, It was an ancient symbol representing the lily of the valley and the Trinity.

        Liked by 2 people

      16. Thanks. I really thought the city was named after the Regent of France at the time. The FdL though was for centuries the symbol of the kings of France and exclusively reserved for them despite being borrowed by the English kings as a means of expressing their territorial claims in the territory that is now France. I guess we will have to agree to differ on that one 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      17. I knew the English used the Fleur-de-lis but I did not know they used to claim territory belonging to France. King Louis XIV.

        Yes, I am aware it is commonly taught that New Orleans is named for Philippe II, duc d’Orléans. Named in honor of the then Regent of France, Philip II, Duke of Orléans, but as far I know he was no saint. And neither was the king. The startling clue was when they adopted so many images of Joan of Arc and the adopted seal had nothing to do with the regent of France. It was the French saint they had in mind, not the king. But of course they wasn’t going to say that. But the evident speaks for itself. That’s why the football team is called the New Orleans Saints. I think France acknowledged this by giving the city a Joan of Arc Monument.

        France erected a huge golden statue Of Joan of Arc in 1972 as a gift to New Orleans, whose namesake, Orléans, was one of the towns Joan of Arc (1412-1431) defended from the English during the Hundred Years War.

        Sometimes when looking for clues in history one have to look beyond what’s written and recorded and take note of the people’s actions. Actions speaks louder than words. 🙂
        The territory, Louisiana was named for the king, but not the city. It was named for Orleans, France which was once the capital of France during the Merovingian period. That’s why it was called, “New” Orleans. Not duc d’Orléans.
        I don’t know the full origin of the Fleur de lis for many different societies have used a variation of it. It was one of the most sacred symbols of the Hebrew bloodlines. According to France history, traditionally, it has been used to represent French royalty, and in that sense it is said to signify perfection, light, and life. Legend has it that an angel presented Clovis, the Merovingian king of the Franks, with a golden lily (or iris) as a symbol of his purification upon his conversion to Christianity. Others claim that Clovis adopted the symbol when waterlilies showed him how to safely cross a river and thus succeed in battle. The Aztec used a variation of it.

        Liked by 2 people

      18. Perhaps how it traveled is that during this time so many were coming to America for the exact same reason that this woman was doing what she was doing: Poverty and lack of resources. They saw the aristocracy and authorities as the ones oppressing them.

        Does the accounts in Brittany tells what happened to her gang? Perhaps some of them left survived, left, and spread the word regarding what happened to her.

        Liked by 2 people

      19. Possibly but migration was strictly controlled and expensive – unless you were indentured 😉
        Yes, certainly possible as there was likely far more members than were prosecuted. I guess we will never know 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a fascinating examination of the life of Marion du Faouët. I think history in general isn’t what happened but tales of “what happened” and there are so many different versions about the same events that might revolve around specific facts that have been minimized over time or not included at all.
    Colin, this is absolutely fabulous , I thoroughly enjoyed reading about du Faouët, you’ve done such a fantastic journey into the life and adventures of this intriguing villain or heroine…don’t know for sure. Your chosen artwork is absolutely beautiful. As always, your narrative and artwork display is breathtaking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is really kind of you to say so!! Thank you very much! I am very pleased that you enjoyed the read! 🙂
      She was certainly an interesting woman and that even comes through in the rather dry court transcripts. You are right, history does get rewritten – often – and then, for me, that becomes folklore rather than history 😉 but I guess it’s all debatable 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a fascinating story!, your exceptional writing brings her story to life in such an intriguing way. Thanks for doing all the research it takes to put together something like this for all of your fans to enjoy. I can’t wait to read the next one! 🌟

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You are always so kind and supportive!! I really appreciate that, thank you!!! I am also very pleased that you enjoyed this one. I’m writing the next one now and can guarantee it will be completely different 😉

      Like

  12. Marie wa a bad ass!!! She had to of been beyond beautiful as well as charming inorder to get men to followmher they way they did. All of her running and escaping made me tired and I cant’t believe she was finally hung.
    I have to say that the fire on your toes would be far worse.
    Another great read oh and I bet her ghost is AMAZING! LOL

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, she certainly seems to have been!! I guess it was the “all or nothing” end she wanted as she could have moved to some remote parish or even a distant part of France.
      Thank you for reading it and I am very pleased that you liked it!! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. i love your stories and the images that accompany them..Truly, you take me to times and places, that i never knew anything about…This time, would not be my choice to live in..but i loved hearing about it!! Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. This story of Marie had interesting resonances to the American stories of Etta Place, the mysterious woman who “worked” with Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Even seems to share quite a bit in common with the tales of Calamity Jane — my own namesake –LOL!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I loved the little peeking nun. She has such a bright and interesting face. But the iron torture of roasting the
    feet. It must have been so scary living in those times. Punishment here, there and everywhere. And the
    echos of it all still sounding.
    Gwen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much!! I am glad you enjoyed it! That painting is of a traditional Breton headdress but you are right, they were initially based on the headdresses worn by nuns 🙂
      Thankfully, Marie’s gang were amongst the very last to undergo torture in Brittany!

      Like

  16. You know…last week I found (left by a neighbour in our building lobby) a travel guide all about Brittany in terms of sights, history, castles, legends etc but it didn’t come close to bringing it to life for me as your blog does 😻👍 still I am holding onto the guide in the hope one day I can actually come there hehe

    Like

      1. It is a popular saying that means something similar to the English idioms “slow and steady wins the race” or “softly, softly to catch a monkey” 😉 Mastering a language takes time 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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