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It was hot and stuffy that day. On August 10, 1901, two English friends wandered through the Versailles Park. Annie Moberly, 55, director of the women's college, and Eleanor Jourdain, 38, teacher, were looking for the Petit Trianon, Queen Marie Antoinette's favorite residence. But they did not count on such a meeting …
Very small, this palace was a perfect refuge from the bustling life in Versailles, and the queen quite severely limited the number of visitors. Even King Louis XVI himself, who presented the Trianon as a gift to his young wife, was not allowed here without her permission.
Strange encountersA little lost on the way, the Englishwomen suddenly saw on the road two men in long cloaks and cocked hats, both with swords. Ahead there were small houses, and going up to one of them, Eleanor Jourdain saw a girl of 12-13 years old inside and a woman with her. Both were in dresses that were old-fashioned for the time.
Later, both Englishwomen recalled that in those minutes they were seized by an anxious, oppressive feeling. The next on their way was the building, which they took for the Tower of Love - a gazebo in the park. Nearby were two men who turned to the travelers with a menacing look. The face of one of the men was marked with traces of smallpox. Another, tall and handsome, wrapped in a black cape, waved his hand to indicate that the women should turn to the right. Soon Jourdain and Moberly were at a small house with closed shutters. On the lawn in front of him, Annie noticed a woman wearing a green dress and a white hat. The woman painted. A man who looked like a servant came out of the door of a neighboring house. The English women, thinking that they had violated the boundaries of private property, wanted to apologize, but the man-servant, without saying a word, led them to Trianon.
The late queen's retinue?The journey ended, the teachers returned to England, and only a few months later discussed their impressions of that day in Versailles Park. The reason was the portrait of Marie Antoinette, which caught the eye of Annie. The woman realized that the late queen was extremely reminiscent of the draftswoman she had met on the lawn.
Digging through the books, Moberly and Jourdain found out that the clothes of the men they met were similar to those worn in the 18th century by the Swiss guards who served the royal family. And the man with smallpox marks was identified from the portrait as the Comte de Vaudrey.
Ghost bookThe English women came to the conclusion that in some mysterious way they ended up in the memories of Queen Marie Antoinette. Ten years later, Moberly and Jourdain published a book called Adventure, using pseudonyms instead of their real names - Elizabeth Morison and Francis Lamont.
The book has become the object of attention of scientists as well. Significant weight was given to what was written by the rather high status of authors who were not interested in the hype around their names and to some extent even risked their reputation by publishing these memoirs.
And even if the story of ghosts from the past deserves some skepticism, one cannot but admit: if the ghost of the executed queen appeared somewhere, it would only be here, in her beloved Little Trianon.
Read also about Marie Antoinette's court and her famous court portraitist Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, in the collection of which there were several hundred portraits.