Dropping The King‘s Name For Shame

Article No: 92

Dropping The King‘s Name For Shame

He gave his name as Frederic Joseph du Pont du Chambon, although he had been baptized Frederic-Joseph-Louis. He was born in 1765 in France, at a place called Angouleme, close to the Atlantic Ocean, south-east of La Rochelle and north-east of Boudeaux, about 25 miles east of Cognac. His parents were from Louisbourg, from where they were evicted in 1758, at the time of the English conquest. His father, Charles-Ferdinand-François du Pont du Chambon was from one of the most respected and ranking families of Cape Breton, being intimately involved in the administration of the island. His grandmother on his father's side was Jeanne Mius d'Entremont, daughter of Jacques Mius d'Entremont and of Anne de La Tour, thus a sister to Anne that we saw in sketch No. 7, who became a widow at 13 and a millionaire at 34. His mother, Marguerite-Josephte Rodrigue, was the daughter of Michel Rodrigue, himself the son of Jean Rodrigue, born in Portugal, who had come to Acadia to seek his fortune.

Frederic-Joseph du Pont was to be a disgrace to his family. An author calls him "an ill-fated man ... a thief, a falsifier and a murderer." Another author says that he was "a poor specimen closely involved in an affair sensational and at the same time sordid." This "affair" is known in history as the "Affaire Petit du Petit-Val," meaning the affair of François-Gaspard-Philippe Petit, Knight of the Petit-Val, who possessed a considerable fortune. His wife was first cousin to our Frederic-Joseph, who, with other members of the Rodrigue family, was to conspire to rob him of his fortune.

After losing his wife at La Rochelle in 1787, the rich François-Gaspard-Philippe moved to Paris, taking with him his mother-in-law, Marguerite Rodrigue, and two of her sisters, that is Marguerite-Josephte (mother of out ill-fated Frederic-Joseph) and Victoire Bibiane Rodrigue, unmarried.

This was taking place at the eve of the French Revolution. In 1794, the Rodrigue faction denounced their rich relative and his mother-in-law as being opposed to the French reform. They were hoping that they would be sent to the guillotine and that the fortune would fall into their hands. But the accused were found innocent.

That is when Frederic-Joseph, with his conspirators, decided to have recourse to extreme measures. One night in 1796, at one o'clock in the morning, they entered the castle of their rich relative, François-Gaspard-Philippe, and killed him and the three women living with him, including Marguerite-Josephte Rodrigue, mother of Frederic-Joseph, plus two maids, thus six in all. They spared a boy of ten, the only son of François-Gaspard-Philippe, hoping to acquire his guardianship and grab the huge fortune that his father was leaving him with.

But what happened is that the child was put under the care of his uncle, Pierre-Alexandre Petit. Not to be outdone, Frederic-Joseph and his men succeeded in having this uncle put to prison, with the hope that they would be able to take the child under their care and finally do away with him. But again it was in vain, because the uncle was released shortly after.

In the meantime, Frederic-Joseph, after the butchery in which his own mother was slain, was brought to court as being the main suspect of the carnage. Although the judge was unable to find direct proof that he had been the main instigator of the whole affair, suspicion ran so high against him that he was sent to prison, along with an accomplice by the name of Achard, who seems to have been closely related to the Rodrigue family, said to be a dealer in limonade in Paris. It is not said how long they were secluded.

In the meantime, the boy, who had always been a weakly child, died in 1801 at the age of 14 and a half. Immediately, the members of the Rodrigue family flung to the "Petit du Petit-Val fortune." It was divided among the crowd. Referring to Frederic-Joseph, an author writes: "Finally, only one fortieth of the covered fortune was allotted as, as his share, to the 'sansculotte' slaughterer of Lyon," where he lived at the time [sic]. The name "sansculotte" (the word means 'without trousers') refers to the fact that around 1793 the French revolutionists started to wear long pants extending down to the ankles, which distinguished them from those who wore trousers extending from the waist to the knees, called "culottes"; they were the royalists, that is those faithful to the King. This contemptuous name "sansculotte" became synonymous of hero, patriot, republican.

The "sansculotte", formerly known as Frederic-Joseph-Louis, hated so much the King, Louis XVll, that he dropped from his own name that of "Louis," and threw himself thoroughly and without reserve into the Revolution. He was to attain the rank of lieutenant.

It happened that the people of the town of Lyon had organized themselves to combat the forces of the revolutionists. Frederic-Joseph was sent with his troops to subdue the population. Later in life, he requested a pension for what he calls his deeds of valour in Lyon, but it was refused. He finally had to take refuge at some relative's at La Rochelle, and then in Paris. It is not known what happened to him in his last days. He is mentioned for the last time in 1810, when he applied again for aid, which again was refused.

And thus disappeared from our annals one of the rare cases in history of matricide, of whom can be said: "It were better for that man if he had not been born," and not only for him, but also for the honour of the Rodrigue and of the du Pont families.

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