The Ghosts of the Petit Trianon

This book was originally published in 1910 and represents the accounts and research of two English women who had an experience of some kind of ‘timeslip’ in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles outside Paris on August 10th 1901. They apparently walked through the gardens as they were on August 10th 1792, the day the French monarchy fell during the French Revolution. They wrote a book about this called The Adventure though the incident is also known as The Ghosts of the Petit Trianon.

This account is remarkable for its detail of the accounts of the two women and the efforts they went to establish the historical evidence for their belief that they had strayed into the past. They wrote the book under pseudonyms – Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont – though their actual names were Charlotte Moberly (1846-1937) and Eleanor Jourdain (1863-1924). Moberly’s father was headmaster at the prestigious Winchester School and later Bishop of Salisbury. In her account she distances herself from a belief in ghosts and the occult (an epidemic of Spiritualism was sweeping Britain and America at that time). Jourdain’s father was a vicar of the Church of England.

Moberly was principal of a hall of residence for women at Oxford University and Jourdain was to be appointed as her assistant. Jourdain at that time was working as a tutor in Paris and Moberly went to visit her there to get to know her better before she took up the job.

As their accounts show, their visit to Versailles on 10th August 1901 was one of a number of tourist trips they went on while Moberly was visiting Jourdain in Paris.

They wrote separate accounts of their visit three months later in Oxford.

Interestingly, subsequent to The Adventure, Moberly had claimed to see ghost of the Roman Emperor, Constantine in the Louvre in Paris in 1914. Jourdain later became principal of St Hugh’s at Oxford and there is a report of almost delusional thought when she became convinced that a German spy was hiding in the college. Later, her management style caused mass resignations at the college and in the middle of this scandal, in 1924, she suddenly died.

In 1931, J W Dunne, the author of An Experiment With Time  wrote the introduction to a new edition of The Adventure and he said,

Hence, if Einstein is right, the contents of time are just as `real’ as the contents of space. Marie Antoinette– body and brain–is sitting in the Trianon garden now.”

You will see that Moberly’s theory is that somehow they were viewing the memories of Marie Antoinette from 10th August 1792, not that they had stumbled into the past. To my mind, the idea of a timeslip seems more plausible than reliving a dead person’s memories. I know this is still a pretty controversial view, but I would base it on Dunne’s quote above and evidence from other timeslip type experiences which I will discuss after the text of The Adventure.

However, there are problems too with the timeslip explanation.  Moberly makes much of the anniversary – that it was 10th August when they saw these visions and 10th August was the day of the downfall of French Monarchy (though Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were not executed for many months). But we see that on 10th August, 1792, the King and Marie Antoinette were at the Tuileries in central Paris when it was assailed by revolutionaries – not at Versailles. After leaving the Tuileries for their own safety, they then retreated to the National Assembly. After a deliberation the Assembly locked them in the small reporters’ box called the logographe. At the end of that day Marie Antoinette was imprisoned in the Tower of the Temple.

Imbert de Saint-Amand gives a detailed account of that day in his Marie Antoinette and the Downfall of Royalty (trans. Elizabeth Gilbert Martin)

Also the Count de Vaudreuil was not present in Versailles on 10th August 1792 as he had left France in 1789 after the storming of the Bastille. I suppose this is why Moberly does not feel she walked into the past as it was on 10th August but into the memories of Marie Antoinette as she remembered Versailles from her confined prison in the logographe at the National Assembly. She discusses these points in the chapter Answers to Questions We Have Been Asked.

An Adventure: check it out here

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