BOYSEXUALS IN THE ARCHIVES OF THE BASTILLE 1702-6
The Parisian fortress of the Bastille was used notoriously as a prison from 1417 until it was stormed by a revolutionary crowd and demolished in 1789. Some 750,000 files from its archives were transferred to the Arsenal, another prison in Paris. There they were worked on by François Ravaisson (1811-84), the curator of the Arsenal’s library, who sorted them out and published many of them in nineteen thick volumes covering the years 1659-1769 as Archives de la Bastille: Documents inédits (Archives of the Bastille: Unpublished documents).
The cases presented here are taken from pp. 2-11 of the volume (published in Paris in 1880) for “Règne de Louis XIV (1702 à 1710)”, a time when sodomy was a crime still sometimes punished by burning at the stake, though the penalties inflicted on the nobility, amongst whom Greek love appears to have had a fashionable following, were never nearly so harsh.
The main case of Lebel may be briefly summarised as follows. When Lebel was ten, ca. 1688, he was seduced by Duplessis, a habitually active boysexual, in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. They then kept in touch until Lebel, aged 24, was arrested and sent to the Bastille, and the King ordered an investigation. It was found out that Lebel and Duplessis, with the help of an intermediary called Leroux, rented boys to the aristocracy and to clergymen. The archives infer that Level turned “mouchard” (informant) for the police, and in exchange was sent from the Bastille prison to the Arsenal prison, from which he was released under the condition that he would keep the job which had been offered to him. Only temporarily frightened off boys, he soon resumed his activities with them until at least 1706, after which his fate is unknown.
Most of the documents were written by either Marc-René de Voyer, Marquis of Argenson (1652-1721), who was then Lieutenant-General of the Police, or Louis Phélypeaux, Count of Pontchartrain (1643-1727), who was then Chancellor of France.
Ravaisson’s brief introductory “Disclaimer” is included. Four abbreviations were used in the published text, which was prefaced by an explanatory list. The latter is here omitted and the abbreviations replaced by the words they stood for.
The translation from the French for this website is by J. M. Thian.
The documents contained in this volume do not call for any new observations; they are interesting for the history of customs, and that is all. France seems to have grown old with the King; the misfortunes of the war have exhausted all active forces. All that is sought now is rest; the devout work to gain heaven cheaply, while the debauched deserve hell with little noise. The agonies of approaching death make the King more meticulous; he wants to deal himself with the pitiful offences that he once abandoned to the justice of the parliaments; the Bastille has become the branch of Bicêtre and the Salpêtrière, because infirmities, embittered by the advice of a confessor, have made abominable, in the eyes of the frightened penitent, the faults that he himself committed in happier times.
Political agitation is no longer an issue, everything sleeps in France; an immense boredom invades the government and the subjects; the spirit withdraws little by little from this great body; it will be so until the death of Louis XIV; however Versailles is still the lion’s den: foreigners look at it with admiration mixed with fear, and the Bastille still inspires them with respectful awe
1st April 1880
THE COMMISSIONER BIZOTON TO MR. D’ARGENSON.
22 March 1702.
Lebel is a handsome, well-made boy, formerly a lackey, and who now passes himself off as a man of quality. This man is in the latest debauchery, and it is a place where young boys are seen every day entering with people of quality and even monks, who spend whole days there in great debauchery, and it is said that the sin of Sodom is committed there with the greatest licence.
It should be noted that there are two reports against this man concerning this debauchery, and that he was expelled from the parish of Saint-Sulpice, and from there went to live behind the Capuchins, in a house very suitable for this kind of debauchery (Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal)
PONTCHARTRAIN TO MR. D’ARGENSON.
Versailles, 6 May 1702.
His Majesty is willing to have Lebel and Louvart put in the general hospital, but they must first be questioned about the crimes of which they are accused.
As there is no confrontation to be made, it will be a procedure of little duration, and if you want to hide them entirely from public knowledge, you can send them to the Bastille for a few days. (Archives Nationales)
JOURNAL OF MR. DU JUNCA
On Friday 12 May, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. de Savery, etc., handed over M. Dupressoir-Louvart, said to be the son of a wigmaker, dressed as a marquis, whom Mr. the governor received, etc., and had him put alone in the first room of the Chapelle tower, locked up.
On Sunday 14 May, at 9 o’clock in the morning, Mr. de Savery handed over Mr. Lebel, being of the same affair of Dupressoir, there being only one order for the two, whom I had put locked again in the fifth room of the Bretaudière.
(Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal)
AUTOGRAPH MEMOIR BY MR. D’ARGENSON, INITIALLED BY LEBEL.
2 June 1702.
People with whom Lebel committed the sin of sodomy.
He is 24 years old and originally from Paris. His father is valet de chambre to Mr. de Chanlot, secretary to the late Mr. le Prince, and he studied at the Jesuit College until the second year, after having been an choirboy at Saint-Sulpice for three years. Duplessis, a famous sodomite, who lodges near Saint-Etienne des Grecs, and walks every day in the Luxembourg garden to seduce young schoolboys, was the first to debauch him, and it was in this same garden that he listened to his infamous proposals; he was then only 10 years old, and from then on Duplessis had at his house almost every day an assembly of young people, whom he abused successively.
He procured him for Coutel, who lives in the Palais-Royal, and who is not only a sodomite, but a godless man.
Astier was of the same company: all three go to the Luxembourg and to the billiard-halls of the Place de Saint-Michel, almost every evening, to play games with young children, to lure them to the cabaret or to their room, and there to commit with them the last abominations.
As they have no property, and as they subsist only on this intrigue, they deliver the young people they have debauched to people who pay them well, and they share the price.
The Abbot de Villefort, who was in the Bastille, and has since been expelled from Paris for similar infamies, also knew him and procured him for Mr. de Ch., a discharged colonel, who gave him a louis d’or, and then pretended that he was his soldier; but his friends got him out of trouble. He knew several other people whose principal study is to corrupt youth and to make an open traffic in them. Here are their names:
Mr. Leroux, who lives behind the church of the Madeleine, boasted of it in his presence; this one sends handsome lackeys to provincial lords, when they are asked for them, and here makes the conditions of their engagements. Comtois, a lemonade maker, who has his shop in the rue des Bons-Enfans, near the Palais-Royal; Mr. de Sancerre, from Montpellier, who lives in the rue Dauphine, opposite the Hôtel d’Anjou; Mr. de la Guillaumie, abandoned to all sorts of debauchery, and confined among the Fathers of Charity at Charenton, by order of the King, at the request of his parents; Baptiste, who was in the service of Mr. de Vendôme, and for a long time abused his confidence, to the point of boasting that he supplied him with youths, and that he was well paid for it; Mr. the Abbot de Capistron, who is said to be in charge of the same responsibility; Mr. the Abbot de Larris, formerly in the quarter of Sainte-Geneviève; this one has a pleasant figure and prostituted himself; Abbot Lecomte, who was expelled from the seminary of Saint-Magloire, is a native of Paris, and has for a long time made his principal study to attract schoolboys to corrupt them; Abbot Dumoutier, usual comrade of Abbot Lecomte and in the same trade; Abbot Bruneau, who has several relatives in the magistracy; Abbot Servien, and it is said that he has a private house in the quarter of Saint-Paul which serves him only for this purpose.
Mr. the Duke of L., who in August 1699, being accompanied by a person of distinction whom he does not know, asked him to come and sup with them, although he had never spoken to him, which he did not accept.
Also knows that the people in this abominable trade meet at the shop of Livry, a lemonade seller in the Place du Palais-Royal, but does not believe that Livry is involved in the plot.
Has heard it said that the last Portuguese ambassador was of this taste, and that he had in his service a tall page named Louis, whom he has since made his gentleman, and who, after the departure of the ambassador, had a very brilliant coach in Paris.
It was said at the time that the Duke of Lesdiguières loved this page and that he gave him a lot of money, and he remembers that there was talk of a ring worth a hundred louis.
The son of Alvarez and Abbot Bailly, son of the mistress of President de Maisons’s mistress, usual companions; Robert or Gobert, valet of the wardrobe at the home of the Duke of Orleans.
Suspects the young Duke of Estrées of having this inclination, and knows that he wanted to have a tall, well-made lackey, whom he found in the church of the Jacobins, leave his position to enter his service, which gave rise to talk about it in the evening at the Tuileries, as a most ridiculous thing.
In the past, Father Armant, a Capuchin from Paris, was involved in these abominations. That was before he was a monk, and now he is of exemplary conduct. He lives in the convent of Saint-Honoré, and was known in society under the name of Ville-aux-Bois; his uncle is Mr. Amoing, clerk of the Grand Court. Amoing, court recorder of the great council, and he is about to be ordained a priest.
The respondent offers to uncover the most secret intrigues of Paris, especially with regard to the governors and tutors who corrupt the innocence of their pupils, and he asks for no reward other than to be confined to Saint-Lazare, on bread and water, until he is judged worthy of becoming a monk at Joyenval, which is a monastery of the Premonstrant order, according to the vow he has made about it. The bishop of Chartres is abbot of this abbey, where he was about to be received, when he was arrested and brought to this fortress. (Bibliothèque Nationale)
JOURNAL OF MR DU JUNCA.
On Sunday 18 June, at 11 a.m. or thereabouts, Dupressoir-Louvart, a prisoner confined alone in the first room of the Chapel Tower, with no appearance of illness or insanity other than a venereal disease, which desperation led him to cut off all his noble parts, completely removed and thrown by himself into the corner of his fireplace. Seeing that he could not die soon enough, and that the time for bringing him dinner was approaching, he took his knife and cut his throat to the bone. A moment later, Mr. Lecuyer, captain of the gates, going to his room to have dinner brought to him, found Dupressoir on his bed, dying and covered in blood. He immediately came to inform Mr. the governor and to ask for Mr. Giraud, the chaplain, who came at once; but having found him unable to speak, he gave signs that he could hear everything Mr. the chaplain was saying to him, and even had enough strength to get up on his feet and signaled that he wished to write. What he needed to do so was immediately brought to him. He wrote on a piece of paper: I ask God for forgiveness with all my heart; it is despair. He continued to give good signs of a repentant Christian until his death, which occurred at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The Governor having notified Mr. d’Argenson, he came on the evening of the same day, alone, to enquire about the details of this misfortune and what could be done, having found him dead; it was agreed that he would send Commissioner Bizoton, alone, at 7 a.m. the following Monday, to visit the body and draw up a report on the state in which he found it, which he did in the presence of Messrs. Corbé, lieutenant of the company, de Rosarges, officer, de Reil, surgeon, and R., key-holder. This procedure having been completed in the morning, the priests of Saint-Paul came to remove the body of Dupressoir-Louvart, which was buried under the name of Pierre Massuque, in the presence and under the care of La Coste, sergeant of the company, and some soldiers.- Monday 19 June 1702.
(Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal)
PONTCHARTRAIN TO DE SAINT-MARS.
19 June 1702.
I have received the letter you wrote me concerning Louvart, who gave up hope; the best way to prevent this sort of accident is not to leave the prisoners any knives or other things which they might misuse, and to visit them and have them visited often; by often I mean in the morning, in the evening, and 3 or 4 times during the day, and even during the night, those about whom there may be suspicion.
THE SAME TO MR. D’ARGENSON.
Versailles, 21 June 1702.
I have read to His Majesty the interrogation which you had carried out with Lebel; he wants you to go into great depth and detail about all the miseries and abominations of which he has begun to speak to you, promising to have him received at Saint-Lazare, as he wishes. So work incessantly on this matter, without having any regard for anyone he might name; you judge better than anyone else how important it is to look into what concerns governors and tutors who corrupt schoolchildren.
Marly, 5 July 1702.
When you have learned from Lebel the names of the youths he has indicated to you, take the trouble to tell me and to wait for the King’s orders before having them arrested.
REPORTS OF MR. D’ARGENSON
In 1701, Lebel, his father was butler to Mr. de Chanlot, secretary of commandments to Mr. the Prince, and this young man, vicious from childhood, after having been educated in a college in this town, and having given himself over to the most infamous prostitutions, kept a school of abominations and sodomy in his own home; he is convinced of all his disorders by his own admission; but after having been 9 months in the Bastille, he asked with the utmost insistence to be transferred to this house (Saint-Lazare), in order to do a bit more voluntary penance there; however, his mind still seems restless, which makes one fear that his conversion is still very uncertain.
I even learn that since he has been at Saint-Lazare, he has given new proofs of his vicious and corrupt inclination, in spite of the protestations and oaths, repeated so many times, that he used to deceive me. Thus, it is no longer by way of mercy that he should be left in this house, but by way of justice and penance.
PONTCHARTRAIN TO M. D’ARGENSON.
19 April 1705.
I am sending you the order to get Lebel out of Saint-Lazare; see to it that he goes immediately to the job which Mr. du Tronchet wants to give him, his freedom being granted him only on this condition.
THE SAME TO MR. DE SAINT-MARS.
28 November 1706.
You will see from the letter from Louvart’s mother the request she is making for a diamond and the deceased’s clothes; I have no doubt that you will make return to her everything that may belong to her. I therefore instruct this woman to come to you and justify to you that she is her son’s heir; for if he had a wife or children, it would be fairer to give them these clothes.
Ravaisson did not include in his book some later references to Lebel as a sodomite, which are to be found in the interrogation of two sodomites recorded in Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal ms. 10566. The cases themselves are of no other Greek love interest, and one of the two men said nothing about Lebel except that he did not know him or why had been imprisoned at Saint-Lazare. Therefore all that is noted here is what was said about Lebel in the interrogation of the other sodomite (apart from his mere attendance at meetings of an unnamed (but presumably sodomitical) “Order”, to which he vowed fidelity.
[INTERROGATION OF SIMON LANGLOIS, 29, ON 12 MARCH 1706]
How he, the respondant, knows the said Lebel.
Said that he had known him for more than ten years and even knew his father and mother, who kept an inn on the rue des Fossés of Mr. the Prince.
How he knows the said Lebel is given to sodomy.
Said that when the said Lebel was arrested four years ago, the rumour circulated among people known by him and Lebel, that it was for the crime of sodomy, and indeed, not having been informed about it by Lebel himself since his release from Saint-Lazare, said Lebel confirmed to him that it was for this that he had been arrested. […]
If he, the respondant, said that La Brie and others of their society have not prostituted boys to their masters and others.
Said that he has no knowledge of it. Says only that he had been told that Lebel and Dudart were involved in this infamous trade.
If he does not know that Lebel had a bedroom at the home of widow Dudart, and he and Dudart, her son, prostituted boys, among others this Champagne [previously mentioned as having been brought by Dudart to one of the meetings of their order], to ---- [illegible].
Said that Lebel had a room at the widow Dudart’s and that he saw the said Champagne in this room several times, but does not know what they did.
 The Bicetre was a prison then lunatic asylum near Paris, and the Salpêtrière an aylum in Paris for infirm, aged and insane women. Both were notoriously brutal. [Website footnote].
 Entry orders of 10 May 1702 and exit orders of 11 January 1703. Orders countersigned Pontchartrain. [Original footnote]
 Entry orders of 3 May 1702. Orders countersigned Pontchartrain. [Original footnote]
 Ravaisson presents these two cases are mixed up with two unrelated others, “Petit” and “Desforges” which appear unrelated to Greek love and are therefore ignored here. Martin Petit, aged 25 or 26 had prostituted himself to other young people, and then, when he grew too old to be able to prostitute himself successfully, he made money from prostituting others. Mr. Lelièvre Desforges, a gentleman, had “devoted himself to corrupting 10-year-old girls.” What the four cases had in common that caused Ravaisson to bring them together was that they all concerned sexual debauchery.
 By granting the honours of the Bastille to the wretched debauchees referred to here, the police wanted to avoid the scandal caused by the proceedings before the Tournelle, and by the flames of the stake on which the guilty were burned alive; they also sought to remove from public curiosity the statements of the accused against their accomplices, and thus preserve the honour of the families. These are the real reasons for the King's indulgence of a vice which disgusted him deeply and in respect of which his most cruel enemies were unable to cast a shadow of suspicion on him. [Original footnote]
 The Bretaudière was a tower in the Bastille. [Website footnote}
 “M. le Prince” was Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé (1621-86). [Website footnote]
 A gold coin weighing 6.75 grams. [Website footnote].
 If the songs of the time are to be believed, the words of this Baptiste were the pure truth [Original footnote]. “M. de Vendôme” was Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme (1654-1712) [Website footnote].
 Louis de Campistron, from a family of Toulouse; he had entered the Jesuits at the age of 13, and died in 1733, aged 77. He was a laureate of the Floral Games; he belonged, like his brother the Academician, to the House of Vendôme. [Original footnote]
 This abbot was probably a relative of Antoine Bruneau, a lawyer at the parliament, who was well known at the time. [Original footnote]
 Augustin Servien, abbot of Saint-Jouin and Pierreneuf, and prior of Sainte-Catherine-du-Val-des-Ecoliers, died in Paris on 6 October 1716. He was a son of Abel Servien. [Original footnote]
 Jean-François Paul, Duke of Lesdiguières, born in 1678, and died in Modena in 1704. He married in 1896 L. de Duras, daughter of Marshal de Duras. [Original footnote]
 The father was a well-known diamond merchant who had often been entrusted by Colbert with secret and very delicate missions. [Original footnote]
 Louis Armand, Duke of Estrées (1682-1723) [Website footnote].
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