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Old 14-12-2018, 03:33 PM   #5
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The Mystery of the Versailles Time Slip

The Moberly-Jourdain incident.

PART ONE – The Original Time Slip of 1901

It is only in the last two years that I became familiar with what is usually referred to as the Moberly-Jourdain incident, or the Ghosts of the Trianon, thanks to my friend Patrick Bernauw. In August of 1901, two highly educated English women, women of impeccable reputation, Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, were visiting the gardens of Versailles. Moberly was the president of St Hugh’s College in Oxford, and Jourdain was her assistant at the time (who also went on to an esteemed academic career).

Here is a highly abridged version of what happened to Moberly and Jourdain. I will follow it with my own, very different yet potentially related, experience:

On 10 August 1901, Moberly and Jourdain toured the palace of Versailles, which apparently neither of them were really impressed with (this becomes potentially important later as a theme) but they got lost along the way to the smaller Trianon Palace(s) in the gardens. Now, this is not hard to do, and whereas I have personally been to Versailles many times, I still get lost in the miles – yes, miles – of gardens. The tree lined avenues are long and confusing in the way they intersect and lead to different areas of the main and smaller palaces. And there is a strange, disconcerting feeling to the gardens at certain times of the day which I cannot fully explain. But I will say that I have had emotional – to the point of erratic – overload while walking those avenues myself, so I think that naturally sensitive people are prone to the inherent mysteries of Versailles.

Back to 1901, the Englishwomen missed the turn for the main avenue after discovering that the Grand Trianon was closed. They went in search of the Petite Trianon (most famously known as Marie Antoinette’s private little palace) and found themselves off track and on a smaller lane. Charlotte Moberly saw a woman shaking a white cloth out of the window of a small stone cottage and Jourdain noticed what appeared to be a deserted farmhouse, where an old plow or wheelbarrow and some farming equipment lay. At this point they claimed that they were both suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of “oppression and dreariness.

They kept walking and came upon some men who they thought were palace gardeners. Moberly later described the men as “very dignified officials, dressed in long grayish-green coats with small three-cornered hats.” Eleanor Jourdain reported passing a cottage with a woman and a girl standing in a doorway; the woman was holding out a jug to the girl and the girl was reaching up for it – and yet somehow they appeared to be frozen in time. Jourdain described it as a “tableau vivant”, a living picture, which has been compared to a type of modern wax work. Moberly said that she did not observe the cottage, but strongly felt the atmosphere change. She wrote: “Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees.”

They reached a place close to Marie Antoinette’s Temple of Love and came across a man sitting in the garden, who again appeared to be in period dress, wearing a cloak and large “shade” hat. But this man was foreboding. In the words of Miss Moberly, his appearance was “Most repulsive… its expression odious. His complexion was dark and rough.” Jourdain stated that “The man slowly turned his face, which was marked by smallpox; his complexion was very dark. His expression was evil and yet unseeing, and though I did not feel that he was looking particularly at us, I felt a repugnance to going past him.” A few moments later, another man who was described as “tall, with large dark eyes, and crisp curling black hair under a large sombrero hat” approached them, and showed them the way to the Petit Trianon. (I am unclear here as to what may have been happening in terms of language, but I assume this all took place in French and that the women spoke French. The quote I have found says that he spoke “in a strange accent.” I have just started reading the official Moberly and Jourdain book from 1911 recounting the experience so will provide those details when I reach them).

The women then crossed a bridge on their way to the Petit Trianon. When they reached the gardens in front of the palace, Miss Moberly witnessed an elegant lady, elaborately dressed, who appeared to be sketching. Moberly remembered, “The lady was wearing a light summer dress, on her head was a shady white hat, and she had lots of fair hair.” Moberly was confused and thought the woman was a tourist who had come to sketch the gardens, however she was dressed in what again appeared to be period costume. Moberly would later say that she absolutely believed that the woman was Marie Antoinette after viewing a specific portrait of the Queen and recognizing her. Miss Jourdain did not see this woman, however.

Read more:

I remember first reading about this many years ago, - If I remember correctly, one of the ladies kept slipping in and out of time on returning to Oxford, but I cannot remember which one. However, there should be lots of sites with the full story.

Last edited by grimstock; 14-12-2018 at 05:28 PM.
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