Namur, Belgium: 1733. Ephemera. An unusual survival of an 18th century swindle and subsequent execution. The manuscript letter is written by Mme de Douglas to an unknown "Monsieur" from Namur (Belgium) dated early January 1733. Mme Douglas was the widow of one of two brothers who inherited their fathers' rich estate from the East Indies. Upon the brothers' death, in order to prevent the estate being distributed to the daughter of her brother in law, she paid a wet nurse and others to falsify testimony implying that the daughter was illegitimate. The daughter was imprisoned but later found to be not guilty, and the courts in Holland (Belgium) indicted Mme Douglas. Ultimately, "The verdict (was) that she be hanged, and that her 80 year old father be brought onto the scaffoled in order to watch the execution; and her 300,000 florin fortune is not sufficient to save her from her fate." [Translation of an article in "Kurz-gefaßter historischer Nachrichten zum Behuf der neuern Europäischen Begebenheiten auf das Jahr 1735," vol. 45 (November) p. 893.
Written in unaccomplished French, bifold, 7 1/4 x 6", 4pp,.
Translation from French:
[From Namur the 1st of Jan 1733
As I learned a few days ago that you also took possession of all the property of your father-in-law, by agreement with your brother-in-law I have the honor to write you these lines, to know if your intention to lodge with me was false, as you assured me of demonstrating the desire if it were up to you, and I assured Monsieur Questand also, agreeable that you appeared to me that we could easily arrange for your interests and mine(.) (I)f you come to Namur it would require us to confer together(.) I am lodging at the moment with Mr Canon Paradis* near St. Aubain, I shall await a response to this letter my compliments if you please to Madame your wife and I wish you both all good wishes in this year that we are beginning according to your desires having the honor to be
with a perfect esteem Sir your very humble and very obedient (??) Countess
* In 1717 Veselovsky, one of Peter the Great's entourage on his second visit to the Low Countries, lodged in Namur 'chez M. le chanoine Paradis.' See Charles Maroy, 'Les voyages de Pierre le Grand,' L'Expansion Belge 6/4 (1913): 209 [199-211].
Further reference to this case is made in a European history published in Nurnberg in 1744, summarizing important events in European history from 1734 to 1744 (Ref. below).
'How sharply dishonesty is treated in Holland is illustrated by an example in the person of Madame Douglas. There were two Douglas brothers, both married, who received a rich inheritance from the East Indies. One questioned the legitimacy of the inheritance, the other accepted it. The two were so hostile towards each other that guardians had to be appointed. After awhile both brothers died, one of whom was survived by a daughter. Because, however, the other widow wanted the entire fortune for herself and her children, she corrupted a wet-nurse and other witnesses, who finally testified that the child [presumably of the dead brother] was illegitimate. The mother of the child was put in jail, and the sister-in-law received the entire inheritance. After further investigation the imprisoned woman was found not guilty, and the lying of the widow and her false witnesses was exposed. She [the widow] was prepared to pay 300,000 guilders for her life, but Madame Douglas ended up having to pay far more. Her 80 year old father was forced to watch the execution of her daughter on the scaffold, because he had given his daughter the offending attorney Streich. Nine of the false witnesses were beaten with a broom and seven were branded.' [Translation of a passage on pp. 638-639 in Andreas Lazarus von Imhof, Des Neu-eröffneten historischen Bilder-Saals Zehender Theil... Nürnberg, 1744]. Very good condition. Item #27715