Trajet de Caen à Paris en diligence
Mardi 9 juillet 1793
(Nous avons des renseignements sur son départ et sur son voyage grâce aux réponses que Charlotte a faites le 16 juillet à l'interrogatoire de Montané et grâce à la lettre qu'elle a écrite à Barbaroux ce même jour.)
Le départ de la diligence est à 14 heures, ce mardi 9 juillet, au "Bureau des Diligences et Messageries" situé au n° 71 rue St-Jean à Caen. Seize relais sont prévus : Vimont, Etréez-en-Auge, Lisieux, L'Hôtellerie, Le Marché-Neuf, La Rivière-Thibouville, La Commanderie, Evreux, Pacy-sur-Eure, Bonnières, Mantes, Meulan, Triel, St-Germain, Nanterre et Paris où l'arrivée est prévue pour le jeudi vers 11h/midi, rue des Victoires Nationales, proche de la Place de la Victoire Nationale.
Charlotte fait la route en compagnie de 7 ou 8 personnes dont un homme qui va l'importuner.
Elle raconte ce voyage dans sa lettre à Barbaroux, qui fut interceptée par le tribunal révolutionnaire et n'est donc jamais parvenue au député.
Voir cette lettre, manuscrite et paraphée, dans la page "Autographes".
Ci-dessous, extrait de l'ouvrage « The Angel of the Assassination » par Marjorie Bowen (Joseph Shearing), 1935, relatant le voyage Caen-Paris.
(Chapitre 5 : Rosa Mystica in Horto Incluso)
[...] The first relay stage of the diligence was at Vimont, three leagues from Caen, the second at Saint Aubin; at Lisieux, twenty-five leagues from Caen, it was necessary to stay the night. This town was still in the Calvados, in the beautiful valley of La Touques; was very ancient, the seat of a bishop since the sixth century, composed of handsome brick houses of Renaissance style, a noble cathedral and several fine churches; the coach from Caen drew up in the evening in the Faubourg Saint Désir at about five o'clock, and Mlle. de Corday engaged a room in the inn kept by a certain Delafosse, which had been formerly Les Trois Rois and was now Le Dauphin. It was a tranquil, charming place, seemingly far removed from terror and tumult, since Puisaye's soldiers had left it; opposite the inn was the impressive stone and brick mass of the Church of Saint Désir, constructed from the old Benedictine convent, with ornaments en rocaille. Mlle. de Corday was given a room on the first floor with a gallery overlooking a small inner court. After her modest meal, the traveller joined the host, his two daughters and another young girl, who were seated in the freshness of the evening on a bench in front of the inn.
The beauty, grace and noble air of the stranger greatly impressed these simple people; they were surprised that one so obviously an aristocrat should be travelling without servants or escort in times so troublous, but her serene demeanour assured them that she was not bound on any difficult or dangerous errand.
She did not mention her business nor did they enquire it, but for a long time, while the hot evening deepened into the hot night, she talked with them, modestly and quietly, on matters of general interest.
Her harmonious voice, her charm, something very uncommon about her calm bearing, so impressed one of the young girls, who afterwards became a Madame Lemaître, that she remembered it all her life, and until she died, very many years afterwards, a centenarian, she would continually speak of the stranger who had spoken to her with such friendly kindness as they sat in the July warmth outside the inn.
This was, to Charlotte de Corday, a gracious interlude, it recalled to her the tranquil days at Mesnil-Imbert, when she had been so happy with her companions and her pupils, the leisurely, well-ordered hours, the musings by the reeds of the home pond, the walks by the whitened hawthorn hedges, under the thick shades of the chestnut trees, the still Sundays, with a hush over the quiet fields and the church bells ringing.
She was glad to breathe, for the last time, in this peaceful company, her Norman air—the air of her native Calvados.
At six o'clock the next morning she took the coach for Evreux, twenty-five leagues from Lisieux; at Evreux she did not stop, but took the night diligence for the capital, which was due in Paris at eleven o'clock the next morning.
There were seven passengers in the coach from Evreux to Paris, two of them were young men of coarse and jovial appearance, whom Mlle. de Corday named at once and secretly "Montagnards." They tried to relieve the tedium of the journey by getting into conversation with the fair passenger; one of them declared that he knew her father and gave his name; he was an utter stranger and this was only a feint to gain her attention. Courteous, smiling, utterly indifferent, she put by these crude courtesies; piqued, the young men redoubled their gallantries; amused, she evaded them with ironic mockery.
So little did their stupidities concern her that as the night drew on and the interior of the coach became dark, save for the fluttering light of the exterior lanterns, she became weary of their banter and fell asleep in her corner; her high-crowned hat was on her knees, and her magnificent hair spread over the cushions of the coach; her noble features had, in their repose, an extraordinary tranquillity.
The young gallants ceased the plaintive love songs with which they had been trying to distract her and stared in silence at this beauty which seemed, they knew not how, so completely beyond their reach; the sparse rays of the lantern showed them intermittently the lovely slumber of the young woman, so fine, so out of place in this public vehicle.
One of the men regarded her with desire, with a sudden and violent passion; what he had begun in jest he would continue in earnest; he sensed, without understanding why, that she was rare and remarkable—"a mystic rose in an enclosed garden."
He began to plead with her, to sing to her, half arrogant, half humble. When, in full daylight, she opened her eyes he pressed his gallantries on her—he asked the name and address of her father, that he might demand her hand in marriage; as they approached Paris he became more and more importunate, more and more in earnest. Fearing that he would compromise her design, she answered him pleasantly, affecting to take it all as a jest. The diligence, punctually at eleven o'clock, rattled into the Cour des Messageries in la place de la Victoire Nationale (place Notre-Dame des Victoires); the heat was even more stifling than it had been in Normandy; Mlle. de Corday was exhausted, shaken from the jolting of the coach, covered with dust, dishevelled from sleeping in her clothes, and completely a stranger in the capital, she was not only alone, she was abandoned. With difficulty she rid herself of her coarse admirer, who was dragged away on his business by his companions, and stood solitary, her trunk beside her, in the cobbled courtyard. She glanced at the coach from Evreux as it turned away; it was the breaking of her last link with Normandy. [...]
Détails sur les conditions de transports en 1793
(Sources : Almanach Royal de 1781, Almanach Royal de 1788, Almanach National de 1793, Almanach National de 1802, Itinéraire complet de la France ou Tableau Général de toutes les routes et chemins de traverse de ce Royaume 1788, L'Indicateur fidèle ou Guide du voyageur par Michel et Desnos 1765.)
La distance de Caen à Paris en diligence est de 53 lieues (1). En 1793, avec 16 relais la durée du parcours est de 33 heures sur route + 12 heures à l'auberge de Lisieux. (En 1722, de Paris à Caen, il y avait 24 relais. En 1765, Michel et Desnos nous apprennent que le voyage durait 5 jours).
En 1785, le prix est de 40 livres et 8 sols (2). En 1793, le prix est de 12 sols par place et par lieue de poste.
La fréquence des départs de Caen vers Paris est de 2 par semaine en 1781, de 3 par semaine en 1785 (mercredi, jeudi, dimanche), de 3 par semaine en 1793 (mardi, jeudi, dimanche), tous les jours en 1802.
De 1775 jusqu'en 1794, les diligences sont des "turgotines" voitures de 4 à 8 places tirées par 6 à 8 chevaux. Les relais sont placés toutes les 4 lieues environ.
(1) 1 lieue de poste 1793 = 2000 toises = 3,898 km
(2) 20 sous (ou sols) 1793 = 1 livre (ou 1 franc) ; 1 livre = env. 4 euros actuels ? (inflation importante)
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