The sense of an eighteenth-century retiring, yet combative, noblewoman to not die with her secrets: a portrait of Elisabeth d’Hautpoul, Lady of Rennes.
Lonely and unpopular, yet she was the closest person to the heart of the mystery of Rennes le Château. There is no way to approach the tiny village’s enigma while ignoring the presence of Elisabeth d’Hautpoul inside that ruined castle. But above all, without investigating the reasons for her lifetime obstinacy.
If you find the topic disrupting the mainstream of my work, or you might feel revulsion or strong disapproval of this little French village affair, you can leave the page. But I firmly believe this strange story deserves a place on this site.
I think we are facing family-owned and personal mysteries of extraordinary interest for the first time in the history of Alchemy and Hermeticism. So the riddle is to be unraveled along with the protagonists’ lives. As for the events, there are mainly two: an old one on the mystery of the aristocratic families of Razés, obscurely lost in ancient times; the other more recent on the catastrophic naivety of Bérenger Saunière, so typical of the early twentieth century. Of course, we can today research the arcane of the first (1), thanks to the inquisitiveness of the second.
So, I mean here to point at the two marchionesses Hautpoul Blanchefort to try to have some basic questions answered, and above all, at the most neglected character, Elisabeth. I do not mean to disregard the critical role of Marie Nègre d’Ables de Blanchefort, but we have to focus on her daughter since she was the last to be there. I’m aware that many have tried to make these two women the most frightening element of the Rennes le Château affair. When one is scared, one doesn’t look into it.
Two fundamental questions can unify these two main branches, the old and the new: who did hide the little treasure discovered by Berenger Saunière in the church? And what did Saunière discover when digging Marie Nègre d’Ables de Blanchefort’s grave up?
I shall intentionally disregard all the para-masonic secret societies that mushroomed on the affair after Saunière’s death. You know my opinion on secret societies: their unique purpose is the assumption of control of places and people. With para-mafioso results. This was what happened in Rennes le Château, both new and old. The difference is that, after Saunière’s death, these secret societies have demonstrated to be highly inconsistent and unable to answer any question (Apart from the extraordinary inventiveness in manufacturing and churning out fake documents). Can any of them know what Saunière found in the deep grave? Of course, they disregard the issue. They also state it was a secret society to have hidden the little treasure in the church to make Saunière find it. But why not directly have him become a member, instead? He surely couldn’t wait for that! Another little priest in search of career, money, and support. In my opinion, in this affair, existed one and only one secret society to be able to give the correct answers and also able to frighten. Berenger Saunière paid bitterly for his disobeying.
To figure out the rank Elisabeth d’Hautpoul held in the family, there are two episodes; the first: her mother, Marie Nègre d’Ables de Blanchefort, entrusted her to face the rest of the family and sue them, against all pretensions to see the immensely important familiar documents inherited by Marie. Elisabeth endured an arduous legal battle to preserve the documents’ integrity, winning the battle in the end, as the documents of the d’Hautpoul family were decreed by a commission to be too crucial to the nation’s security. Marie de Blanchefort was a woman in her fifties who abdicated this function to Elisabeth, despite being a strong and dependable woman who enjoyed running the family businesses.
The second: In the springtime of 1799, Elisabeth invited all her family to a strange celebration at the ruined Montferrand castle. Even Jean Joseph Ange d’Hautpoul-Felines, general and senator – he died as a hero in the Eylau battle – attended what had to be a ceremony of great significance, was him to provide the evidence of the important event, writing in a letter: ” the whole of the family was there”. Strangely, a general engaged in military Napoleonic campaigns rushed to be present by the old and quirky aunt for a family party. Who among us would have done it? Very likely, that was not a family party. Perhaps the researchers in hermeticism will have opened their eyes when reading the celebration’s year: 1799, the end of the century. Springtime. Who can discern will have understood.
Most of the interpretations, and legends, around the Rennes le Château affair were issued a century after Elisabeth’s death and by people not familiar with aristocratic laws and customs, which were well different from the common people’s way of life. So, most of the neglected attention to Elisabeth was due to this late ignorance. For instance, many moderns researchers find it difficult to believe not only that women could inherit and fully manage their inheritance in 1781 (as well as in 1756, concerning the inheritance of Marie Nègre d’Ables de Blanchefort) but that an unmarried woman, among the aristocracy, could enjoy even greater prestige than a married woman. Contracting a marriage in the upper classes was like moving a pawn on the economic and social chessboard. Elisabeth’s older sister, for instance, was called since her birth, in 1733, by the name of Marie d’Aussillon, as, when she reached the age in 1752, she should have married Joseph d’Hautpoul-Felines, of another branch of the family, lord of the lands of Aussillon, indeed. While Elisabeth, so lucky to have no living male brothers and the other sisters already married, didn’t need to marry to achieve acceptable sustenance and social prestige. In this way, all the inheritance was in the family. In the same years, even the king of France had several sisters unmarried in the court. It is also largely disregarded the druidic influences still retained among the French aristocracy. These influences are not just unique to a more significant consideration of women, compared to Christianity, but regard the conservation from generation to generation of weird ritual practices (1).
The lack of general historical knowledge has led to distortions about who might have hidden the glass phial inside the pillar in the church, as well as a small number of gold coins and a few pieces of Visigoth jewelry. This is not a question; it is “the” central question, the pivot of the whole Rennes le Château affair. Not of the enigma, though.
After having found, or better having had someone to find for him, a strange glass phial poorly hidden on the top of a pillar inside the little village church, Berenger Saunière got caught up by the enigma. Of course, we don’t know the inner of the phial, but, as Antoine Captier’s father said, a dark powder and a roll of paper appeared content at first sight. I have already said about this powder and how this could be of alchemical relevance. After the finding, Claire Corbu witnessed that the abbot used to melt gold ingots, which gives even more value to my assumptions of a Berenger Saunière who has been taught how to make gold. I have also mentioned that this transmutation into gold is a forbidden practice. But sometimes, this was to allure new followers. The gold coins and Visigoth jewelry were found by Saunière when digging the church up.
Elisabeth d’Hautpoul-Rennes, or simply Dhaupoul, as she used to sign her many litigations against many of the people around her, was the daughter of Jean Francois d’Hautpoul-Rennes, Knight Hospitaller Order of Malta. Since Elisabeth never got married and her unique male brother died as a child, she was also the last heir of the main branch of the d’Hautpoul family. After 1781, she remained the unique owner of the castle in Rennes le Château, as well as of the mysterious documents her paternal grandfather passed directly to her mother, Marie Nègre d’Ables de Blanchefort.
Marie Anne Elisabeth was born in 1735 in the village’s castle. In the parish archives, her baptism was recorded on April 6 of the same year, and since the newborn babies of the time were very soon baptized (maximum one week after birth), we can assume she was born in late March or at least the first few days of April. She was the second of four children and, as customary by French and Italian aristocrats, she was just called by her third name, Elisabeth.
So, who did hide the phial inside the pillar? Although there are neither documents nor witnesses, in almost all literature on the affair, I have seen no doubts about Antoine Bigou (the abbot at Marie de Blanchefort’s death time) doing that. Modern people seem to forget that the Rennes le Château little church was originally the private chapel of d’Hautpouls. There, in the crypt, they have their ancestors buried. In the presbytery, François d’Hautpoul murdered or had murdered the preceptor of his wife, Marie de Blanchefort. So the d’Hautpoul family treated the church as a private castle outbuilding. Of course, the ordinary inhabitants of the village were allowed to attend the sacred functions inside, but they were not allowed to feel the little church was their community church. The arrogance of aristocracy before the revolution reached the point of denying the common people to be humans but rather treating them like animals. And this was much stronger in small rural centers, where the gentleman was a small sovereign. The local clergy was contiguous with the aristocracy but at a lower step. So Marie Nègre d’Ables de Blanchefort, and her daughter Elisabeth, felt sure to be socially superior to Antoine Bigou, who was compelled to obey the authorities of the village: the two marchionesses.
Marie de Blanchefort, after the marriage of her third daughter, Marie Gabrielle (September 1756), remained alone in the castle with Elisabeth. Her husband François d’Hautpoul, was severely ill, they said he had abandoned the house the same day of Gabrielle’s marriage, retiring to Limoux, where he died not much later. Up to January 1781, Marie de Blanchefort was the Lady of the village, owner of the castle and all the lands around and the earnings from the lands, and, above all, owner of the ancient and enigmatic documents of her father-in-law. The inhabitants of Rennes feared her, and there is no reason to suppose that abbot Bigou thought differently. He was probably treated as the first and most important of her domestic help. Don’t be amazed, a marchioness d’Hautpoul de Blanchefort, before the french revolution, could make tremble even a bishop.
So to understand the customs of the times, there is a funny story about a Breton duchess who, in the same years of the dame de Blanchefort’s death, called for the bishop to give her the last rites. The bishop was so intimidated that, while blessing his illustrious host, he was caught by a heart attack and died after falling over the duchess. The lady did not move and coldly intimated to the servants: “take this bishop off”.
This anecdote is taken from “Histoire de la Révolution Française”( history of the french revolution) by Jules Michelet, Paris 1848. An extremely interesting work ( the full version is some 2000 pages in two books) that shall make you plunge into the social tragedy before and during the french revolution. Indispensable to understanding the abyss among classes in the eighteenth century in France. Consequently, we cannot in any way not only put Antoine Bigou above the two marchionesses but not even remotely at the same level. In the previous century, in the same Rennes le Château, a marquis d’Hautpoul had a young shepherd murdered because, in the village, he was said to have discovered a treasure in the deep of a cave. The boy was tortured to death, and the marquis had the killers murdered too. All that was in the total indifference and impunity by the local judicial and religious authorities.
Is it plausible that Marie de Blanchefort asks Bigou to hide the little treasure unbeknown to her daughter? When the same had entrusted Elisabeth the management of the secret documents and authorized her to forbid the access of the family documentation to her other daughters?
So, who was the original owner of the findings in the church? Was it plausible that a priest of a tiny village, undoubtedly coming from lower classes, had the culture, tradition, knowledge, and wealth to be the owner of medieval gold coins, Visigoth jewelry, and the esoterically hot glass phial with powder and papers? Unless he had stolen the whole from the Hautpoul castle or crypt, the answer could only be that he was ordered by one of the two marchionesses. Nothing strange happened during the Bigou service in Rennes le Château, except the unusual burial procedure for Marie de Blanchefort.
The other supposition, that’s to say that Bigou must know everything since he was the confessor of the two marchionesses, is very weak. Are we sure that the two women were so fervent catholic and that they were willing to renounce their millenarian family knowledge at a certain point in their lives?
Let’s s open a parenthesis on Antoine Bigou: We know that Abbot Bigou made off during the revolution. Only a few countryside priests fled like the aristocrats; most remained close to people. But those in collusion with the powerful fled, and so did Bigou. There has been so much talking about Bigou belonging to some secret societies. Perhaps, but if he had stolen the documents, why not hand them to his secret principals instead of badly hiding them in a decaying church a few steps away from d’Hautpoul marchionesses at a time when only they were entitled to do restoration works to the church? And secondly, why a secret society must hide a little treasure in a church to make Berenger Saunière find it when they could have Saunière become a member instead? There was too much uncertainty about who would have found it. As said above, the para-masonic secret societies generally look for the assumption of control of places and people.
Was Elisabeth to order Bigou to keep out of sight her little treasure before fleeing to Spain during the revolution, or even before, when gangs of armed men had already attacked the castles in isolated areas? Anyway, there is no rationality in this decision. Why choose a church open to public use to hide something crucial? Was the area around Rennes le Château non provided enough natural holes, caves, and more suitable places? Anyway, Bigou didn’t come back from Spain, where he died in 1794.
Let aside, for a moment, this question and jump to the other, which will focus our attention on the strange treatments both mother and daughter suffered in their burial procedures. The penultimate Lady of Rennes had no funeral, but a furtive burial during a January night, with no one in the village to attend and testify. She had the burial of a criminal or a witch. Her gravestone was poorly and roughly sculptured, with insulting errors. In the end, after a century, Berenger Sauniere desecrated and destroyed her tomb. Even stranger was the civil burial procedures. Antoine Bigou wrote the death certificate for Marie the same night of her death and deposited it the same night in the village hall. They could not follow the customary practices in which a civil death certificate could be issued only by a civil officer, not a priest, as a priest should have to write down funeral and burial in the parish archives. But, strangely enough, this didn’t happen.
Did Elisabeth endure all with resignation? A woman used to quarrel and open lawsuits as her favorite pastime? And what about the puzzling lack of interest of the other heirs of Marie de Blanchefort? Nevertheless, the grandchildren of those heirs denounced Saunière for the destruction of Marie’s Stele. We know that abbot Saunière was condemned not only to restore the stele but to pay a tremendous amount of money to d’Hautpouls, which ruined it economically. However, there is no mention of the tombstone, which was no longer restored. Strange that those grandchildren had not denounced Saunière for the more severe crime of desecration of the grave. Yet something had to remain in 1895 of the bones of Marie (dead in 1781). I Remember that in Venetian land at the end of the 1990s were found skeletons of French soldiers, who died during the Napoleonic campaign of 1797, buried in a mass grave on the bare ground. The other inhabitants of Rennes le Château did not protest the rupture of steles ( that Sauniere did not break but shifted. He broke only one of the Marquise ) but for the storage and movement of their relatives’ bones. In contrast, the Hautpoul were only interested in the stele. And not even in the tombstone.
Elisabeth, the last Lady of Rennes, went to worse. She had neither a burial nor a funeral nor a death certificate. We are unsure of her place of death, whether in Paris, Spain, or Rennes. Oddly, the Hautpoul family provided a date for her death: May 20, 1820. This absolute disregard for Elisabeth’s last moments is disconcerting. The Hautpoul family was so important that the area was defined as ” Pays Hautpoulois”, or Hautpouls country. Elisabeth was, in a sense, the “chief” of this family, the last heir of the main branch. The whole family attended the celebration in 1799, but the same family was elusive on her death and did not provide her with a grave. Maybe, burdened with debts or perhaps robbed by the servants, she could have had no money to provide for herself despite the 52,000 gold florins obtained four years before the castle sale. Strange indifference for this poor old woman since, in the family, they were all waiting for the papers guarded by Elisabeth. Were even they too poor to provide a burial accommodation for their extravagant aunt? Odd again, since one of the men attending the Spring ceremony in 1799 would later become Bishop of Cahors (Paul Louis Joseph d’Hautpoul 1764-1849) and another tutor of the son of the duke of Chambord (Marie Constant Fidele Henri Amand d’Hautpoul 1780-1853). And I didn’t mention Alphonse Henri d’Hautpoul (1789- 1865), First Minister of France.