Monday, November 23, 2009

Les Noyades

Christine reminds us of the dreadful noyades or "Republican marriages" which began in November 0f 1793 in Nantes. Under the orders of the Republican Jean-Baptiste Carrier, those citizens who had resisted the Revolution were stripped naked, tied together, put in boats and drowned in the middle of the river. Many innocent, non-political persons, including young girls and nuns, were subjected to such gruesome murder. To quote:
Details of the practice vary slightly, but are generally consistent with the description offered above. One author described how "marriages Républicains... consisted in binding together a man and woman, back to back, stripped naked, keeping them exposed for an hour, and then hurling them into the current of "la Baignoire Nationale", as the bloodhounds termed the Loire".[9] British radical and Girondist sympathizer Helen Maria Williams, in her Sketch of the Politics of France, 1793-94,[10] wrote that "innocent young women were unclothed in the presence of the monsters; and, to add a deeper horror to this infernal act of cruelty, were tied to young men, and both were cut down with sabers, or thrown into the river; and this kind of murder was called a republican marriage".[10]
According to literary scholar Steven Blakemore, Williams seems to have regarded this as a form of "terrorist misogynism".[3] Williams' description of the women as "innocent", in his view, "not only suggests that they were not guilty of aiding the rebels, but that they were young 'virgins'".[3] He argues that in Williams' text, the male Jacobin executioners are portrayed as "sadistic, public voyeurs who delight in tying 'counter-revolutionary' men and women into forced positions of sterile intercourse, in a grotesque 'marriage' of the soon-to-be dead." Thus, "if the Old Regime, for Williams, represents the forced confinement of female beauty, the Terror represents beauty's degrading death."[3]


May said...

They really went out of their way to outrage everything good, beautiful, holy. It's horrible beyond words.

Leslie Carroll said...

This is an aspect of the French Revolution that I knew nothing about, so thank you for this illuminating -- and terrifying -- post. I agree with Matterhorn; the revolutionaries went about everything the wrong way. Any initial notions of Liberte, Egalite, et Fraternite (imagine the accent marks) went out the window in their bloodlust.

Brantigny said...

That the Noyades happened, fact.
Were theser people innocent, most likely a fact as well. The defence of the Church and King can hold no such reason for the murder of these men and women. It was not only men and women but babies as well. The reports of such as Westerman provide a self written indictment.

Verite pour la Vendee.


elena maria vidal said...

Yes, it is, Matterhorn.

I agree, Leslie. They threw the baby out with the bath water.

Catherine Delors describes the atrocities in her meticulously researched novel, MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION, as do I in TRIANON and MADAME ROYALE.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Richard, very true. And some pretty nasty things happened over in Lyon, too. Westermann was particularly obsessed with the murder of children.

lara77 said...

I wonder if any French Government ever apologized to the people of the Vendee for such vile atrocities;that Westermann creature I hope answered to God for his crimes.I cannot fathom such barbarism in a so called civilized nation. How King Louis XVI would have cried if he saw what was being done to his people. The crimes against so many French People proves forever the sheer hypocrisy of the French Revolution.

elena maria vidal said...

It really was not about The People, as more peasants died during the French Revolution than did nobles; it was about a shift of political power and the overthrow of Christian society.