Viviane Janouin-Benanti

The Poitiers Affair

Version française

A Harrowing True Crime Story

The uncredible true story of Blanche Monnier.

It was the end of May 1901. Reporters from all over France descended on the small city of Poitiers.

After receiving an anonymous tip, police discovered a 52-year-old woman, emaciated, completely naked, making strange noises and uttering incomprehensible words and phrases, in a dark room with the window shutters nailed and locked shut, a room that happened to be in the very proper mansion of the widow of a former dean of the university’s prestigious Faculté des Lettres.

The woman was her daughter and was the sister of a former subprefect who lived just across the street.

It was an unthinkable crime: a woman held captive in her home for twenty-five years. The scandal ripped through Poitiers and then all of France. It would dominate public discourse in the country until the trial was over.

This book is also about a man and a woman and all that kept them apart. One was Protestant, the other Catholic; one a liberal Républicain, the other from a conservative Royalist family; one with family ties to nobility, the other dedicated to helping the working man; one older and wiser, the other young and carefree. Everything was against them.

During the 19th century, France was struggling to stabilize its government, pitting those yearning for a true republic against those wanting a return to the monarchy. This young couple was caught in the eye of the storm, falling in love in spite of it all and suffering the consequences.

To understand what really happened, author Viviane Janouin-Benanti pored over the newspaper accounts of the scandal and read all of the court documents and witness testimonies.

Over a century has passed, but remnants of the deep divisions that fed the public scandal surrounding this case are still present any time the Poitiers Affair is mentioned.