Michelle and the minister II: witnesses and judgment

8th June 2016
Cantique de Genevieve de Brabant, illustration from Chants et chansons popularies de la France, Paris, Garnier Freres, 1854, Priaulx Library Collection

1593. Pierre du Bouillon's story unravels as witnesses speak out and brave Michelle Palot refuses to waver. The illustrations are from 'Le Cantique de Geneviève de Brabant' and  'Le vieux Château des Ardennes,' in Chants et chansons populaires de la France, Paris: Garnier Frères, 1854, in the Library collection.

Follows on from Part I of Michelle and the minister: the case is presented

Du Bouillon defaults

Extraordinary meeting of the Colloque held at St Peter Port 2 May 1593. Present: Monsieur the Lieutenant and all the ministers and the same elders as previously, following what was decided last 25 April. Monsieur de la Vallée, minister of St Saviour, was chosen to chair the proceedings.

The minutes of last Wednesday's assembly were read out: Monsieur Bouillon had asked for a week to collect his thoughts and decide whether to pursue or desist from appealing against the assembly’s decision that he should be suspended from his ministerial duties until he had been exonerated of the accusation against him, viz., that he had committed adultery with Michelle Pallot and got her pregnant. The agreement to give time to Monsieur Bouillon to give his reasons in writing for recusing as judges the ministers Monsieurs du Gravier, Le Marchant and Loumeau, and the elders Guillaume Halouvriz and Francois Allez amongst others, was also read out; they, however, upon being reminded that they should have replied to Bouillon's accusations in writing, complained that as Bouillon had not obeyed the order, the assembly should find in their favour.

The Lieutenant read to the assembly the contents of a private letter Bouillon had written to him. The letter, neither signed nor dated, was identified by Mathieu Le Roy, son of Monsieur Bouillon, who was present on other matters. He said that he had personally handed it over to His Excellency the Lieutenant on behalf of his father last Saturday. In this letter Bouillon made no mention of the reasons for the recusations, but Monsieur de la Vallée explained that Bouillon had been ill last Sunday with a fever he believed to be malaria. The assembly, being of the opinion that this was the reason for Bouillon’s defaulting in the letter, adjourned the case, leaving the new date to the discretion of His Excellency the Lieutenant, who was to consult with Bouillon; the Lieutenant promised to see to it as soon as possible.

Ordinary meeting of the Colloque held at St Peter Port Thursday 29 June 1593. Present: Monsieur the Governor and the following ministers and elders: St Peter Port: a minister and two elders. St Sampson and the Vale: a minister and two elders. St Andrew and the Castel: a minister and two elders. St Saviours, a minister and an elder. St Pierre-du-Bois and Torteval: three elders. Forest: a minister and an elder. St Martin, a minister and an elder. The minister of St Saviour chairing the proceedings.

The proceedings against Monsieur Bouillon were read out: he continued to default. The scribe was asked to write to him and summons him, on behalf of Monsieur the Governor and the assembly, to appear before it on the 3 August next to defend himself, as he had undertaken to do, against the charge laid against him by Michelle Pallot, and to inform him that his failure to comply would be regarded as an admission of guilt.

Extraordinary meeting of the Guernsey churches held at St Peter Port 11 July 1593. Present: Monsieur the Governor and the following ministers and elders: St Peter Port: a minister and an elder. St Sampson and the Vale: a minister and two elders. St Andrew and the Castel: a minister and two elders. St Saviours, absent. St Pierre-du-Bois and Torteval: two elders. Forest: a minister and an elder. St Martin, a minister. Monsieur Le Marchant was chosen to be chair.

The assembly heard missives that had been written to the assembly by the Church authorities at Caen and by certain ministers who had written privately to some of the island’s ministers. It was decided a reply should be sent to the ecclesiastical authorities at Caen informing them of the actions taken against Monsieur Bouillon, enclosing copies of the letters informing Bouillon of the summons and copies of documentation of the actions taken against him, which would give the church authorities there an answer to the calumnies he had been spreading against the assembly. Nevertheless, Monsieur Le Marchant was to write privately to Bouillon, exhorting him to do his duty.

Extraordinary meeting of the Guernsey churches assembled at St Peter Port 3 August 1593, by the authority of Monsieur the Governor, who was himself present with his Lieutenant, and the following ministers and elders: St Peter Port: a minister and two elders. St Martin, a minister and an elder. St Andrew and the Castel a minister and an elder.  Forest: a minister and an elder. St Pierre-du-Bois and Torteval: two elders. St Saviour, a minister. The Vale and St Sampson: a minister and two elders. The minister of St Martin to be chair and the minister of the Vale the scribe.

This Colloque assembled on an extraordinary basis to examine the case of Mr Pierre Le Roy called du Bouillon. The scribe had been asked to write to him and summons him in the name of God and on behalf of this assembly to appear here this day to answer the accusations against him and to defend himself against the crimes with which he has been charged.

The scribe: I did indeed write to du Bouillon, and I myself and Monsieur de la Vallée here present handed the letters to du Bouillon’s wife and she promised to send them to him.

Du Bouillon had taken no notice of the letters, and instead he had written to the Governor on the first of July and again on the first of August. These letters were read to the assembly; they insulted and calumnied the ministers, and even insulted the discipline of the Reformed church as received in this island, which he himself had professed all the time he had lived here. The assembly also heard a list of the actions so far taken against du Bouillon, and thereupon decided that although his obstinacy, his flight, and his refusal to appear before the assembly in order to maintain the honour of his ministry, were sufficient in themselves to find him guilty of the crime of which he was accused, it chose nevertheless to be circumspect and to give the matter due consideration, and so deferred the verdict until the next ordinary Colloque which was to take place at Michaelmas. Here would the matter be brought to a conclusion, and so all the witnesses and those who could shed further light on the matter were to be called on to attend.

The witnesses

Extraordinary meeting of the Guernsey churches assembled at St Peter Port Thursday 28 September 1593. All the ministers of the island were present, and elders from all the parishes except St Martins, St Andrew, and Torteval.

As the previous Colloque had decided that more could be learnt about the facts of the case against Monsieur Pierre le Roy called du Bouillon, by hearing evidence, the following witnesses were now cross-examined:

First witness: Pierre Salmon, of the parish of St Pierre-du-Bois, longtime lodger of Bouillon’s living at Torteval presbytery, sworn to tell the truth.

Do you know Michel Palot? Is she a loose woman? Have you heard of any argument between her and her master, that is Monsieur Pierre Bouillon? — Salmon: I know Michele Palot well, she used to be a servant to Monsieur Bouillon, but I have never known her to be loose or promiscuous, and I have never heard of any argument between her and her master. She had complained to my wife for three years that du Bouillon was chasing her and propositioning her, and eventually it got so bad my wife advised her to leave his service, which she did. In fact, my wife and I went to St Sampson, on the day of Easter communion, because Madame du Bouillon had begged my wife to go and visit Michelle and ask her to come back to her mistress at St Pierre-du-Bois and to tell her that they would look after her and she would never go without, as long as she continued to say that the baby's father was the same man she had told people at Hamptonne, that is, that the father was Giot. We did try, but she told us that she would not go back to St Peter because she was afraid her master would kill her. And as for the child, she told us she would never say Giot was the father, because it wasn’t his, it was her master’s, and that what she had said at Hamptonne was a lie. We went back to St Pierre and told Monsieur du Bouillon and his wife what she had said, and du Bouillon took a real out of his purse and gave it to me for my trouble.

Second witness: ‘La Ferrone,’ Jacquette Ferron, resident in Torteval, sworn to tell the truth.

Jacquette Ferron: ─ I lived at Monsieur du Bouillon’s house for a year and was a servant there at the same time as Michele Palot. She was a respectable girl, quiet, not loose at all or promiscuous and did not go out at night. I never heard anything bad about her. But she did often complain to me that her master, Monsieur du Bouillon, harassed her and propositioned her. I told his wife and she spoke to her husband about it. He met La Palote in the presbytery and he set about beating her and assaulting her and if his wife and children had not come running to hold him back he might well have killed her. I have no doubt that La Palote was pregnant before she went to England; I said so openly when Jean de Fosse the mason was working up a the presbytery, when I sang this song out loud, ‘Ce n’est de fievre ne chaut mal dont la fille est en peine.’ [‘It’s not the frying pan, nor the fire, that’s giving the girl a problem.’] When La Palote came back from England, Madame du Bouillon asked me to go and see her in St Sampson, where she had gone to live quietly, so I could find out if there were any witnesses who had seen her misbehaving with Giot, and whether I could find proof that there had been intimate relations between Michele and Giot, but I had no misgivings on that score, and went to St Pierre without any concerns; and in fact, La Palote told me that the child wasn’t Giot’s but her master’s, Monsieur de Bouillon’s. When I got back to St Pierre-du-Bois I reported what had happened to Monsieur and Madame de Bouillon and they gave me two denerels of barley for my trouble.

Then, a week or so later, Madame de Bouillon sent me to see La Palote for a second time, to tell her that if she was brought to Court she should get down on her knees and ask her master’s pardon, then she could come back to St Peter’s and her master would maintain her and help her a great deal. I went back and told Madame de Bouillon what had happened. Her husband wasn’t there; she gave me a denerel of wheat. Madame de Bouillon also asked me to say that men in the Town had offered me money, real gold écus, to say that Monsieur de Bouillon was the father of La Palote’s child, but nobody has ever offered me any money to say such a thing, and anything I said about that I had been put up to by Madame de Bouillon. I told La Palote, too, that Monsieur Bouillon had been trying the same on with me, and that I therefore knew she was telling the truth about the harassment at his house.

Third witness: John Langlois of St Pierre du Bois, sworn to tell the truth.

John Langlois: — I am familiar with the house of Monsieur de Bouillon as I went there to help with threshing his corn three years in a row. I knew their servant girl, Michele Palot. I never saw her out roistering at night, nor did I ever see anything bad about her, nor hear anything bad about her. In fact, it was the opposite, her master and mistress spoke very well of her. I had no doubt that she was pregnant when she went to England, but I did not want to say anything in case I started a rumour. Around Christmas time Monsieur du Bouillon went to Torteval to look for Richard Jehan at the School, and got him to come back to the presbytery, and told him he had warned La Palote that she should not leave for England without telling him first. Madame du Boullion asked me to go and talk to La Palote at St Sampson, to see if she was still sticking to her story; she told me that there had been reports that La Palote was in despair, because she repented of the allegations she had made against her master. But when I went to see La Palote, she told me that the child was her master’s, and that he was a man who was happy to preach to other people but didn’t follow his own preachings; that he had fathered this child when her mistress was away in Town, after he had sent La Gelée away to sleep at his son-in-law’s house. They made her say that the child was young Giot’s and he had promised to get her married in England.

Madame du Bouillon told me not to speak to La Palote when her aunt was there, so to go on Saturday when the aunt was in Town, which I did, and I spent at least an hour and a half with La Palote without her ever changing her story. I told Madame du Bouillon and she said that her husband was ill. She gave me something to eat and then sent me to see her husband, who told me that his enemies had asked La Palote to say these things. They paid me a bushel of wheat.

Fourth witness: Helier de Gerzé of the parish of St Saviour, sworn to tell the truth.

Helier de Gerzé: ─ I know Monsieur du Bouillon’s house as I often go there to cook their meat. As for this story I have heard that Monsieur du Bouillon was going around telling everyone he would use me to prove an intimate relationship between Giot and La Palote, and that Giot called her his wife, I have never heard anything like that and I have nothing bad whatsoever to say about La Palote. One day when I was making some rope to take to the Vale, Monsieur du Bouillon came up to me and asked me to do him a favour, viz., to pop over and see ‘that wretched girl,’ talk to her, and find out what her story was. I agreed as I had some business at that house myself, as her aunt owed me some money.

I pointed out to La Palote that when she had been in Hemptonne she had named Giot’s son as the father of her child, and she admitted it, but said she regretted it.  I prevailed upon her to tell the truth and reminded her she couldn’t have it both ways, and she told me, ‘Even when I thought I was going to die [while I was giving birth], I still maintained the child was my master’s.’ Monsieur du Bouillon and his wife enjoined me to tell her that if she stuck to the first version of her story and came back to St Peter’s, she would lack for nothing.

Fifth witness: Jean Bequet of St Pierre du Bois, sworn to tell the truth.

Jean Bequet: ─ I am a neighbour of the Presbytery of St Peter’s, and I am familiar with Monsieur du Bouillon’s house, and I know La Palote, and I have never known of anything bad about her or her behaviour. On Easter Day Monsieur du Bouillon sent someone round early in the morning to ask me what I knew of the relationship between Giot and La Palote, and then he assembled the elders of St Peter’s and asked them to listen to my evidence.  I maintain that same evidence today: one day I was at Giot’s mill when La Palote came over with a bag of vegetables for the miller. The mill’s sluice-gate needed to be raised, and La Palote went off with the miller’s son to help him open the gate, and they were gone for ages, until after sunset. Monsieur du Bouillon offered me a bushel of wheat to go and see La Palote at St Sampson to ask her to come and speak with him, or to talk to Lénard Manquez. I refused as I did not want his corn.

Sixth witness: Perrotine Simon, widow of the late Edouard Palot, and responsible for the said Michele, sworn to tell the truth.

Perrotine Simon: ─ I vaguely remember that a long time ago Michele Palot came one night to sleep at my house; my husband was away. Michele told me that her master, Monsieur du Bouillon, used to get up in the night and take his rapier and make a lot of noise around the house with it, dragging it along the walls and making sparks fly out of it, and sometimes he came to her bed and she did not know what he was going to do, and that was why she had fled the household. The next morning du Bouillon and his wife came looking for her at her father’s house, and I sent her away with them. I went to see La Palote on the day she gave birth; she was very weak; she still maintained that the child was her master’s.

Seventh witness: Colas de Fosse of St Peter Port, mason by trade, sworn to tell the truth.

Colas de Fosse: I know the house of Monsieur du Bouillon; I often go there to do jobs for him. I have never seen or heard anything bad of Michelle Palot. On the contrary, I have often heard her master and mistress praise her. Last winter I was there working while the master and mistress were out, and La Palote served us our dinner. I saw her belly and remarked to her that she was expecting; she made no answer and went off in tears. When her mistress returned she told her what I had suggested, and her mistress rebuked me for what I had said and told me I should not spread such rumours about her chambermaid, and that she was an honest girl. Another time I was working in the living room and my servant Pierre Mansel was ill, so he went up to the top room to warm himself up, and when the fire was lit, La Palote got up from her bed to get close to the fire, and Mansel was horrified to see her huge belly. He came downstairs and told me, ‘La Palote is expecting.’ Soon after I said to Madame du Bouillon, ‘Je ne sçay qu’a La Palote, elle n’est point joyeuse comme de coustume.’ [I don’t know what’s up with La Palote, she used to be such a happy girl.’] And Madame told me that it was the nature of that type of sickness, that people become bloated and get depressed like that. Then Jacquette Feron started singing that song, ‘Ce n’est ne fievre ne chaut mal dont de quoi la fille est en peine.’  Then I asked Madame du Bouillon, ’What does La Ferronne mean?’ and she replied, ‘She is crazy, she has no idea what she is saying.’

Another day Monsieur du Bouillon came to Town and spoke to me about a rumour that was going round that his chambermaid was pregnant, and he would not want such things to be said about her for 100 écus, she was a respectable woman, that he could guarantee it, and would answer for it, and that he had had her examined. A short while later, I went to St Peter’s one Sunday after some money I was owed; I spoke to Madame Bouillon and she mentioned La Palote again and denied that she was pregnant. I replied, naturally you would think that, wouldn’t you, after you had her examined like Monsieur Boullin said you did. She said she had examined her breasts and belly herself. She added she wasn’t sure about her, as she had sneaked out one night to see to the laundry [au fil] and  spent the night with Le Manquais, and she had given him a jacket that belonged to her master, Monsieur Bouillon. Some days later Bouillon came and found me and told me that La Palote was pregnant, and Giot was responsible. He said he would have given 100 écus for her not to have gone to England and that he would have married her to Le Manquais: but he had sent her to England so that she could return afterwards, and that if it cost him 100 écus he would have her married to Giot.

Eighth witness: Robert Le Maistre, surgeon, sworn to tell the truth.

Robert Le Maistre: ─ I am a close friend of Monsieur Bouillon. He asked me for medicine (herbes) or some remedy for one of his female parishioners who was bloated; he even suspected that this person was in the early stages of pregnancy. I said that I would have to see this person, and that I could not dispense any medicine without seeing the patient first. So we agreed that I would come over to St Peter’s at my convenience to visit the sick person. I therefore went to Bouillon’s house, and when I asked to see the patient, Bouillon told me that the people involved were country people who did not believe in medical remedies, so there was no point discussing it with them.

Ninth witness: Joseph Mansel, sworn to tell the truth.

Joseph Mansel: ─ I was on board Andre Brehaut’s boat when it took Michel Palot to Hamptonne. She had a bible with a red cover which she carried in a shoulder bag (bissac), which she said was hers, and I handled it and had a look inside it. When we got to Hamptonne, Benet, one of the inquisitors [chercheurs], asked us if she was married and if she was pregnant. About a week (?) after our arrival, I came across her as she was leaving with her parcel and I asked her where she was going. She replied that she was going to La Hye (Hythe?) to learn how to spin wool, and I told her she could have learnt how do that perfectly well in Guernsey without going to England.

Tenth witness. André Brehaut, sworn to tell the truth.

André Brehaut: — Last winter I took Michelle Palot to Hemptonne in my boat at the request of Monsieur Bouillon. One day as I was loading up my boat with cargo on behalf of James De Beauvoir (Beauvois), he spoke to me and asked me if I would do him a favour and take a chambermaid of his that he was sending to his daughters at Hemptonne. She had lived at his house for nine years; for the last nine months she had been feverish, but now she was better, and that he would vouch for her as he would for one of his own daughters. On arrival at Hemptonne, Rachel, the wife of a serge-maker, gave me three gros to pay La Palote’s passage; Jeanne Vignon payed for her return voyage. After Bouillon had spoken to me, he took a couple of steps down the ladder to go off, and then changed his mind and came back up again, and told me that his own children had fooled him, and he couldn’t be certain that his chambermaid hadn’t tricked him as well. When I brought her back from England, Bouillon’s son Matthieu came with me in the ship. When we got back here, Matthieu paid me two deniers not to take La Palote to shore before nightfall. I heard Matthieu talking to her and this is what he said, ‘Be very careful what you do, because if you carry on being a clever girl as well as you have started, you will get more than has been promised you, but if you don’t, you will get nothing at all.’

Once the witnesses had been heard, it was decided to adjourn further proceedings to another day due to the absence of the Governor. The Governor was to choose the day for them to reassemble in an extraordinary Colloque, where he would decide how to settle this affair.

Summing-up and judgment

Extraordinary meeting of the Colloque by authority of the Governor on 5 October 1593, at which were present My Lord the Governor with all the ministers of the Island and elders deputized by their Churches.

The Governor: — I have called this meeting here, following the decision taken at the last meeting of 29 September, in order to proceed to judgment of Mr Pierre Le Roy called du Bouillon; we must put an end to this business. To this end, all the documents and letters and witness statements pertaining to the matter must be read out, so that a good and holy resolution may be arrived at in the case of du Bouillon and his servant, Michelle Palot, and put an end to the huge scandal this affair has caused.

Therefore, taking this into consideration, the assembly decided to listen to any evidence that might be relevant. This was duly presented to it, with no omissions. It included certain information received from the Church at Hemptonne. From all this documentation and witness statements it was apparent that Michelle Palot, maid in the household of Monsieur Bouillon, minister of the Churches of St Pierre du Bois and Torteval, being pregnant, was taken over to England, her voyage there being organised by the said Bouillon, and that she was sent back again by the Mayor of Hemptonne before she had given birth. After her return Bouillon stood before the Colloque of the 6 April and reported that she was pregnant, and that she was a debauched and promiscuous girl and that she was no longer in his employ, and that she had misbehaved herself with a young man of the parish called Le Manques, and asking the assembly to make inquiries about the affair. So, following his request, they had sent a minister and two elders to enquire.

In response to their questioning, Michelle Palot stated that her master was the father of her child, and accused him of propositioning and harassing her, sometimes violently, over a long period of time, and that eventually he had made her pregnant. She had given details of the time, the place, and the means. From that moment on she had repeated this accusation before Monsieur the Lieutenant and His Lordship the Governor and the whole assembled Colloque without ever changing her story, even when she was in the act of giving birth, when her life was in extreme danger; she also said that Bouillon had sent her off to England to his daughters, who had kept her hidden to cover up her pregnancy and the birth, and that these women had forced her to say that the father of her baby was Thomas Giot. Bouillon had promised that he would easily be able to clear himself, and that he had witnesses to prove that La Palote and Thomas Giot were in a relationship; yet he had never been willing to face La Palote so that he could put his accusations to her in person. Despite this, Bouillon had never provided a single piece of evidence in his own defence, as he was bound to do; rather, he had sent personal servants and friends of his to make several secret visits to La Palote, to ask her to drop her accusation against him and instead to maintain her first story, the one they had made her say in England; and this she had refused to do.

The Colloque, in consideration of the scandal and of the accusation, had forbidden him to exercise his ministry until he was found innocent. He said he wanted to appeal against this but neither specified which court could hear the appeal nor lodged the appeal anywhere; he tried instead, on the basis of this ‘appeal’ and of certain recusations he claimed against several brother ministers and elders, without presenting any just cause (as he was enjoined to do), to stop the whole proceedings. Finally, under the pretext of going to England to make his appeal and to see the Governor, he secretly went back to Normandy, without getting permission from His Lordship the Governor, the Colloque, or his Church. He got to Normandy at the beginning of May, but has made no attempt, as was his duty, to clear his name nor to write to the Colloque nor to his Church, even though he had been summonsed in writing by this Assembly to answer and present evidence to clear his name, on pain of being found contumacious. On the contrary, he had written several injurious and defamatory letters against more than one respectable person, and even insulted the Church discipline.

Therefore, following on from several other previous Colloques called together to deliberate upon this affair, this assembled Colloque has carefully considered all the past proceedings; the way in which Michelle Palot was unwavering in her accusation against her master; the fact that the majority of her testimony has been corroborated by solid evidence; and her good reputation in other walks of life. On the other hand, the sly tricks and clever manoeuvres used by Bouillon to cover up the deed, his flight, his refusal to answer and clear his name, and his persistent refusal to comply, leads it to the judgment that the said Monsieur Pierre le Roy called du Bouillon, previously minister of St Pierre-du-Bois and Torteval, is sufficiently proven guilty of having committed adultery with Michelle Palot, apparently having forced her, and to have tried to find a means of destroying the unborn baby. For this, the assembly has deprived him of his right to be a minister, and of all the attendant honours and dignities and pre-eminences dependent upon it, and forbids him to be involved with ministry in any way whatsoever. He is also excommunicated until such time as he has given evidence of sufficient repentance. This judgment is to be read out after next Sunday’s sermon in the Church of St Peter Port, St Pierre-du-Bois, and Torteval and the other island parishes where services take place, and the Churches of England, France and wherever else it is deemed necessary should be informed. 

Pierre Bouillon was finally defrocked by the National Synod of France in 1596 (see biographical note in Part I, note 1).