la petite ÉMIGRÉE

Françoise Gaudérian was just a teenager and working as a maid to rich Vendéens, when she became caught up in a flight towards Granville during the "Terror". Somewhere not far from Lassay, she was separated from the Vendéen army and left alone in the Mayenne coutryside.A traveller spotted her, delivered her to Julien Thuault, the mayor of Ribay, who took pity on her and took her in. She helped out his wife in the house and on the farm and became well-loved by the family.

After several months, several indiscretions in her speech provoked suspicions amongst the neighbours. "Why has Thuault gone looking for a maid in Vendée when there are so many here needing work"?She was rapidly denounced to Volcler, the mayor of Lassay. Volcler was a former curé, extremely unpleasant, hated the mayor of Ribay with a passion and was, at the time, public prosecutor. Which meant, basically, HE was in charge of the guillotine!

He and his bloodthirsty cronies issued an arrest warrant for Thuault and Françoise, which also implied that she had become his mistress. Even in those days, word got out before the gendarmes could arrive and Thuault suggested fleeing. (Lasséens seem to know everything which is going on, often BEFORE it has gone on!) Françoise refused, telling him to save himself, but she would remain, knowing she had to die. He got away and she gave herself up to the law.

Françoise was taken to Lassay and locked up in the prison in the place de Boil, which today is a lovely house beside the château and overlooking the lake. Volcler was away in Laval, helping heads to roll in the name of the Consitution.

The little emigrant won the hearts of most of the population of Lassay because of her courage and faith and very few wanted to see her killed.On 4th March 1794, Volcler returned to Lassay and set up the guillotine on the Place de la Pointe; this is close to the crossroads where rue d'Ambrières meets rue du Château. It was opposite the present site of the Dépôt des Ventes, because at that time the present road to Couternes didn't exist. In 1794, the main road was the rue Cébaudière (under the arch and leading up to the cemetery.)

Françoise was told that, during the trial, she should announce herself to be pregnant; she would be released immediately. She refused vehemently stating she had committed no crime, was still pure and would not lie. She was thereupon summarily sentenced to death. Françoise and five other unfortunates were guillotined immediately to the disgust and outcry of the crowd; to such an extent that Volcler and his companions considered it wise to get out of town immediately and head for Ambrières!

emigréeNo matter how many horses they brought out to move the bodies on a cart to the cemetery, they all refused to budge. The corpses were eventually moved to a piece of land, still known as "Lande des malheureux", and buried.Today, there is a small oratory just off the road to Thuboeuf; soon, it is hoped, there will be easier access and a recognised footpath enabling visitors to visit freely






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