Lamorlière, Rosalie (fl. 1793–1837)

views updated

Lamorlière, Rosalie (fl. 1793–1837)

French servant. Name variations: Lamorliere. Flourished between 1793 and 1837; a native of Breteuil in Picardy, France.

A native of Breteuil in Picardy, Rosalie Lamorlière was an illiterate servant who had served as a chambermaid to Mme Beaulieu before taking a job at the Conciergerie, a prison on the banks of the Seine, which was the last stop on the way to the guillotine. During Marie Antoinette 's 76-day imprisonment there in 1793, Lamorlière became her servant, and the queen held her in high affection.

Over 40 years later, in 1837, Lamorlière dictated a sympathetic, 17-page account of Marie Antoinette's final days to the Abbot Lafont d'Aussonne. The queen, who was under constant surveillance by hostile guards, was experiencing heavy and irregular menses. On October 16, the day she was to mount the scaffold, "She asked me secretly for some linen," recounted Lamorlière, "and I immediately cut up my chemise and put those strips of cloth under her bolster." As she prepared to dress and change her bloody padding, the queen tried to maintain her dignity, motioning for Lamorlière to stand in front of her, to shield her from the gaze of the guard. But as Marie Antoinette bent down and removed her dress, said Lamorlière, the officer approached and "watched the Queen change. Her Majesty immediately put her shawl back across her shoulders and said to that young man, with great gentleness: 'In the name of decency, Monsieur, allow me to change my linen without a witness.'" The gendarme replied, curtly, "I cannot consent to that." The queen sighed and finished dressing "with all possible precaution and modesty…. She carefully rolled up her poor bloody chemise and concealed it in one of her sleeves…; then she stuffed that linen into a chink she noticed between the old canvas wall covering and the wall."

Lamorlière "basked in the aura of martyred sainthood that surrounded Marie Antoinette decades after her death," writes Marilyn Yalom . Said to be beautiful even into her dotage, Lamorlière spent her final days in the Hospice des Incurables, a home for the sick, with the aid of her benefactor, Marie Therese Charlotte , duchess of Angoulême and daughter of Marie Antoinette, who had provided her an annual pension of 200 francs. Modern historians have profited from the servant woman's oral history. Lamorlière's portrayal of Marie Antoinette's courage and calm in her finals days is in direct contrast to British historian J.M. Thompson's 1943 interpretation of her behavior as one of haughty defiance.


Yalom, Marilyn. Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory. NY: Basic Books, 1993.