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The Tragic Story of Blanche Monnier, Locked Away From Society for 25 Years

Blanche Monnier was a young, beautiful socialite from Poitiers, France, with a talent for the piano. She had the world at her fingertips – reputation and wealth.

Her only real downfall was falling in love with a penniless lawyer, who her mother, Madame Louise Monnier, deemed unworthy of her daughter’s hand in marriage.

Instead of allowing Blanche to follow her heart and marry the lawyer as she wished, Louise locked Blanche far away from the public eye and far away from her lover.

Many in the town thought Blanche had run away, passed away or was institutionalized. The truth was far more sinister. 

Blanche Monnier after being discovered.

25 years passed before authorities received an anonymous letter, written by someone with a shocking secret. According to the letter, Blanche was hiding in plain sight, locked away on the third floor of the family home, beaten, starved and living in squalor.

Her mother declared her insane, claiming Blanche had locked herself in the bedroom of her own accord, however, the courts disagreed. 

Even with Blanche freed from a life of filth and abuse, the damage done to her was far too much. She would never be able to return to her former self.

This is the story of Blanche Monnier, a young woman whose autonomy was taken away from her for 25 years by a jealous controlling mother.

Who Was Madame Blanche Monnier?

Blanche was born on March 1, 1849, in Poitiers, France to her father Emile and her mother Louise. Along with her older brother, Marcel, the family lived in an upscale neighborhood in one of the nicest homes on the block.

The Monnier family was a well-known, respectable clan who came from old money.

According to the stories, they were integral in establishing the town of Poitiers long ago and had maintained a reputation as distinguished members of the middle-upper-class society. 

The Monniers lived in a three-story luxurious manor that would have been coveted by many of the townfolk  – except for the constant screaming that could be heard coming from inside. Louise, the matron of the home, was known to be a hothead.

Louise was described as a tyrant. She was a lady of power and wealth and everyone in Poitiers knew never to cross her. She got into heated yelling matches with the servants and all members of her family, particularly young Blanche. 

Blanche was described as a gentle, playful and good-natured girl to those who knew her, however, she also drove Louise mad. She was far too outspoken for a woman of her social standing, in Louise’s opinion.

A photo supposedly of a young Blanche Monnier.

They had a certain image that needed to be portrayed at all times if Blanche were to marry properly, meaning marrying someone of equal or better financial standing, who could take care of her along with the rest of the Monnier family.

Louise felt that Blanche would never find a suitable husband if she didn’t change her attitude. 

This certainly didn’t stop the men of Poitiers from trying to romantically pursue Blanche. She was described as remarkably beautiful, with soft flowing hair and piercing green eyes.

By her early 20s, many young men attempted to court Blanche, but she wasn’t in any rush to get married. 

A Socialite In Love

Despite her mother’s frustration, Blanche thwarted proposal after proposal, until she met an older man who worked as a lawyer.

This man has never been named, but it is said that he came from a lower-class family and though he worked in law, he was penniless.

When Blanche told her mother of her plans to marry this lawyer, Louise forbade it. However, this did not stop Blanche from seeing her lover. She would just have to be quieter about it, sneaking out of the Monnier manner late at night to meet with him.

While Blanche thought that she was being discreet, apparently it was not enough because the town began to whisper rumors about Blanche and this man.

At the time, it was considered a scandal to be alone in the presence of a man, other than your father or your husband, late at night. 

Word of Blanche’s ongoing relationship would get back to Louise, who was furious and came up with a plan to put an end to it once and for all.

In March of 1875, Blanche returned to the manor after a date with the lawyer. Louise was waiting for 25-year-old Blanche to walk through the front doors. She wouldn’t walk out again for another 25 years. 

A Family Secret

As the days passed, people began to question where Blanche Monnier was.

Some thought perhaps she had finally been sent off to a finishing school to prepare her for marriage and motherhood, while others believed that she had simply gone mad and finally been institutionalized.

Blanche was a beautiful socialite, however, because of her outspoken nature, she was seen by others as a strange woman. 

Over time, the people of Poitiers began to forget that Blanche Monnier ever even existed, however her lawyer lover, did not.

He questioned where Blanche was and eventually was told by her family that she had gone insane and had been sent to a mental facility. He would die several years later never knowing what really happened to Blanche. 

The years passed and life seemingly carried on without Blanche in it.

Then, one day in 1901, the office of the Attorney General of France received a shocking anonymous letter. It was written in French, however, when translated it read:

“Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honor to inform you of an exceptionally serious occurrence. I speak of a spinster who is locked up in Madame Monnier’s house, half-starved, and living on a putrid litter for the past twenty-five years – in a word, in her own filth.”

Still to this day, the author has never been revealed. At first, investigators were skeptical about the letter, but they decided to look further into the claims.

When the authorities arrived at the Monnier manor, one of the first things they noticed was a window on the third floor of the home that appeared to be boarded shut.

It stuck out like a sore thumb against the rest of the beautifully maintained home. When they knocked on the door, they were greeted by one of the servants, who claimed that Madame Louise Monnier was too ill to speak with them. 

A Shocking Discovery At Monnier Manor

The inspectors insisted, showing Louise the anonymous letter with all of the allegations. Eventually, she conceded and allowed them to come inside. The home, which was flawlessly maintained on the outside, was far different on the inside.

One of the first things that the inspectors noticed was a foul smell that permeated throughout the home. It was the distinct smell of urine and feces, which only grew stronger as they followed Louise through the home and up the stairs to the third floor. 

At the top of the stairs, there was a bedroom door with a padlock on it. When they broke it down and walked inside, they were hit in the face with the most putrid smell of human waste and body odor.

A newspaper illustration shows what authorities were greeted by after entering the room where Blanche was held captive.

There was a small, frail-looking woman lying in a bed, cowering. As they moved toward her, she screamed, pulling up her blanket, which was covered in urine and other human waste. It is Blanche Monnier.

The once beautiful young socialite was now a frail 50-year-old woman who was covered in her excrement. She appeared to be extremely malnourished and her hair was matted into a large nest at the back of her head. 

One witness on the scene described what they saw in the bedroom:

“The unfortunate woman was lying completely naked on a rotten straw mattress. All around her was formed a sort of crust made from excrement, fragments of meat, vegetables, fish, and rotten bread.’

‘We also saw oyster shells and bugs running across Mademoiselle Monnier’s bed,’ he went on. ‘The air was so unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.’”

It appeared that Blanche had been locked away in this bedroom for the last 25 years, surviving off of food scraps that were now scattered across the floor.

It did not appear that she used her chamber pot, as there was urine and feces on the blankets and floors, to the point that part of the floorboards and bedpost were rotting. 

She was rushed off to the hospital where it was revealed she only weighed around 56 lbs. At 50 years old, she was so shockingly malnourished that it was thought she would die.

Blanche Monnier after being rescued.

The nurses bathed her and cut out her matted hair, as she graciously thanked them for caring for her. Incredibly, Blanche would recover from her physical injuries. 

Louise Monnier was arrested, along with her son and Blanche’s brother, Marcel, who also played a role in keeping her locked away. Louise claimed that she did not mean to hurt her daughter.

She said that Blanche had become seriously ill and suffered a mental breakdown. She was the one who locked herself in that bedroom, choosing to never leave it again.

According to Louise, Blanche refused to wear clothing or to bathe and Louise did all that she could just to keep her alive.

After spending an evening in prison, Louise became gravely ill and was moved to the infirmary, where she would pass away from heart failure at the age of 75. She would never have to face any real consequences for her actions. 

As for Marcel, Blanche’s big brother, he knew more than he was letting on. Authorities wanted to charge him with criminal confinement and torture for his role in what happened to Blanche.

He maintained his innocence, echoing what his mother had said – Blanche chose to stay in her bedroom and was free to leave at any point.

Marcel was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison, however, he would later be acquitted of his crimes against his sister.

It is believed he knew what was happening to Blanche, that she was being held captive – he even visited her at times, but he refused to help her. 

While Blanche Monnier survived the 25 years of abuse in captivity, she would never mentally be the same again. After her rescue, she needed to learn how to eat using utensils, how to use a chamber pot or even just how to carry on a conversation.

Unfortunately, she never returned to her former self and spent the rest of her days in a sanitarium.

The staff who cared for her said that she was very quiet and gentle, though she struggled up until the day of her death, October 13, 1913, when she died at the age of 64, just over a decade after being rescued. 


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