The notorious Frenchman D'Orlean, 1836
'I have cured persons whom the Doctors had given up; if I am guilty it is of that.' The King versus D'Orléan, the conclusion of a protracted case which opened in the Royal Court, Saturday, December 10th, 1836. Much of the evidence was heard in camera. D'Orléan was practising as a veterinary surgeon. The folk of the country parishes—Judith Lainé, the Bichards, Rihoys, Reniers, Mahys, Galliennes and Ogiers, in this case—are as usual regarded as ill-educated and credulous by Guernsey's sophisticated urbanites. The details of the case are reported in the Comet of February 6, 1837.
Jane Barlow remarked in her diary that D'Orléan was 'stood in the stocks for witchcraft, for making people believe in rabbit droppings as a remedy.' See also the cases of Anne Le Page and Nicolas Roussel, and the Jersey witches of 1787. D'Orléan was in fact put in the Cage for an hour, which appears to have been the usual punishment for 'imposition upon the public credulity,' and banished from the island for six years, the Bailiff remarking that 'no case had ever come before him that had so richly deserved the whip,' and regretting that the Crown Lawyers 'had not moved the court to send him to New South Wales, as he very richly deserved to be sent thither.' More of D'Orlean's scams can be found in Marie de Garis, 'Folklore of Guernsey, Part IV: Witchcraft,' in Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, XXVIII (3) pp. 78-9.
From the Comet of December 12, 1836.
The Crown Officers indicted Louis D'Orléan, son of John, a native of Carantan, in France, prisoner in the public jail, to see himself adjudged to such pains, punishment, and corporate chastisement as the Court may deem meet to inflict, for having at different times and on different occasions, by imposing on public credulity, swindled various sums of money from several individuals; pretending, by the use of certain charms and amulets, to cure persons which he pretended were bewitched, or suffering from the spells of other persons, which the said D'Orléan said, or insinuated, were the individuals that were the authors of these maladies; and particularly having from the month of July to the month of November, 1835, swindled Mr John Bichard and his wife, or one of them, the sum of from £4 to £5, under pretext of curing the wife of John Bichard, by the means aforesaid.
During the trial Bichard testified that D'Orléan, all the while mumbling unintelligibly under his breath, set fire to something in a dish and accidentally also burnt a wooden partition, nearly smothering them all. He then gave Bichard's wife a small phial, of which she drank half the contents, and he himself the other half. He produced two dolls and asked Bichard and his wife if they reminded them of anyone. He tried to charge them £1 10s for another bottle, but as they had already borrowed £5 from Henry Brouard to be able to pay D'Orléan in the first place, they refused. D'Orléan told Bichard not to forget him and that he would 'not lose sight of him if he did,' pronouncing that his wife was bewitched. John Bichard junior said that D'Orléan had asked for £7 for attending his mother; she had been persuaded by his uncle to employ D'Orléan, but he himself had disapproved. D'Orléan had made the whole family go upstairs and performed his operations in front of them, mumbling something that Bichard could not understand, although he tried hard, only being able to hear the name of God occasionally. D'Orléan had burnt what Bichard thought was vitriol and had sprinkled it on their backs with a spoon (great laughter in the Court). The dolls were said by D'Orléan to represent, one, the person who kept a spell over their mother and the other, the person who had bewitched their father. All this had taken place at night, and D'Orléan had warned Bichard junior that if he left the room the spell which was upon his father and mother would fall upon him, 'and probably death would be the consequence.'
He was accused of 'having, from the month of June to the month of December 1834, swindled the late John Gallienne, or his family, of the sum of from £12 to £15, under the pretence of curing the said Gallienne by the means aforesaid.' Again he is said to have burnt something, (it seems to have been simple white brandy), in the house; it is implied that he told the persons present at these operations to stand 'with their side against the fire.'
Other charges, couched in the same terms, 'under the pretence of curing by the means aforesaid,' included:
For having during a period of three years swindled the the sum of £3 from Mr Henry Mahy, who initially denied ever having hired D'Orléan; from the first of September 1836 swindling the sum of £3 5s 0d from Mr William Roberge, or some of his family, to whom he sent three phials; from the 1st August 1834, swindling the sum of £3, from Mr Daniel Ogier of the Marais, under the pretence of curing Ogier's wife; for having, about the month of May 1836, swindled the sum of £3, from Mr John Rihoy, who was sick, or from some one of his family; for having in May 1836 poisoned a cow and six pigs belonging to the said Rihoy, near the Ville Baudu, Vale parish. Rihoy had been ill a long time, and as a last resort had agreed to pay D'Orléan £3, in advance, rather than the £6 he had demanded. At eleven o'clock at night D'Orléan had brought a small phial and burnt something in a dish, claiming that Rihoy was bewitched, and told Mrs Rihoy that he would eventually reveal the name of the person who had bewitched her husband. D'Orléan denied ever having told the Rihoys that 'a wicked book' had made them ill. He ordered that their sickly cow be moved from the garden to a field farther away. Some days later he visited the cow in the field, and it died, as did some one-day old pigs. A veterinary surgeon testified that the cow in question had tetanus, but that some medicine had been administered that was far too powerful. D'Orléan had visited the Rihoys at the Ville Baudu the morning after the death of the cow and remarked that they had sustained 'a heavy loss,' which they interpreted in a sinister way, as meaning he knew he had caused its death; but James Ingrouille later testified that he had told D'Orléan the news about the cow earlier that morning.
He was then accused of 'having, during a period of three or four years, in a house occupied in whole or in part by Mr Amice Renier, in the parish of St Peter-Port, swindled Mr Renier of £4 or £5, under pretence of curing his child's eyes, which the said D'Orléan pretended were afflicted in consequence of the spells of a man named Quéripel,1 and having at that time by the use of the said pretended charms or amulets, and with the connivance of his accomplice, caused the said accomplice of the said D'Orléan to appear, pretending that the said accomplice was the man who had cast the spell upon the eyes of the child.'
Finally he was accused of
having for the previous three or four years, with his accomplice, or accomplices, swindled Mr Daniel Ogier of the Marais of certain sums of money, and in Ogier's house, along with his accomplices, by the use of his pretended charms and amulets, caused one of his accomplices to impersonate Mr Robin, former proprietor of the estate, who had been dead six years, pretending that it was he who had cast a spell upon Daniel Ogier, or upon his family.
In the witness box, Daniel Ogier himself denied ever having heard D'Orléan claim he could make the spirit of the late Mr Robin appear, and said that his wife, who had been ill for many years and obtained no relief from any doctor, had greatly benefited from the medicines and treatments administered by D'Orléan.
D'Orléan pleaded not guilty, and chose Advocate FALLA to defend his cause.'
In fact, Thomas Falla was able to find several witnesses to testify on D'Orléan's behalf; W Ogier claimed he was a very good vet, and Daniel Le Ray said he had cured his wife of long-standing illness; Le Ray himself was disabled, being unable to walk without a crutch or turn himself over in bed, but D'Orléan had recommended Le Ray visit a doctor, rather than use his remedies, as he did not understand the nature of Le Ray's illness. Peter Le Poidevin's wife had also been cured; she had been ill six years. James Ingrouille testified he had been told by D'Orléan he was bewitched, which was why medical doctors, who did not understand the nature of his malady, had not been able to cure him. Jean Falla said that D'Orléan had been unwilling to treat his wife, as he felt she was beyond help. John Tostevin testified that D'Orléan had cured his child, who was dangerously ill, and restored to Tostevin himself the use of his badly damaged hand.
Miss Judith Lainé 'had been too ill to go to market, so D'Orléan had visited her, burned something in her room, and told her another woman—he did not say who—was jealous of her. (Much laughing.) She paid him what she thought proper.'
Advocate Falla, as always the voice of reason, pointed out that the cow had died of tetanus and that the day-old piglets could only have been poisoned if their mother had also been, and yet the sow was perfectly well. Falla argued that as D'Orléan's help had been requested by those for whom all other help had failed, and as thus he did not thrust his services upon them, he should not have been subject to a criminal prosecution; the patients had not brought any complaint against him. He may have cured some whose illnesses had been imaginary, but it was clear he had actually effected a real cure in some cases. 'These proceedings might be considered in a light of censure against the country, but it shewed that moral instruction was become necessary to cure the people of such propensities.' He asked the Court to throw out the case; he was unsuccessful.
On Saturday February 11th, 1837, from twelve to one, D'Orléan underwent the first part of his punishment in the Cage. The Comet reported:
to brave the public gaze as much as possible, he feigned to read a newspaper which he held in his hand during the period of his ignoble exhibition, and we understand it was his intention to have delivered a speech to the surrounding spectators, but he did not. Although the weather was excessively wet and stormy, many persons went to see the man who had practised his impositions for so long a time among some of our over-credulous countrymen. He was packed off this morning to Jersey by the packet, where, doubtless, he will find a new theatre on which to exercise his pretended extraordinary powers in gullibility and deception.
1 The Quéripels were old hands at witchcraft; Jean Quéripel was tried and found guilty of sorcery on 22 October 1624; as recently as 1913, a 'Miss Q' is identified as an 'overlooker,' no doubt the same woman who, in January 1914, as 'Mrs T. Lake, née Quéripel, of the Robergerie, St. Sampsons, was charged with fortune telling, the explanation of dreams & practising the art of witchcraft.' S. Carey Curtis, in the Report and Transactions of the Societe Guernésiaise, 1937.