The suicide of the Duke of Abrantes
Type of spiritual experience
A description of the experience
Death and its Mystery, At the Moment of Death; Manifestations and Apparitions of the Dying – Camille Flammarion
The Duchess of Abrantes, who was born in 1789 and died in 1838, wrote her Memoirs under the Restoration. Junot, Duke of Abrantes, who was born in 1771 died in 1813. The humiliation suffered by him on the defeat of the French army in Spain, where he had earlier received the title of duke after his capture of the city of Abrantes, an emotion augmented by the rather cold reception accorded him by Napoleon upon his return, completely unnerved him. In the hope of recovery, he had gone in July 1813 to Montbard, his father’s home, when, in an access of fever, he threw himself out of the window and broke his leg. He died some days afterwards – July 29th. He appeared to his wife after the accident but before his death. The duchess at the time was on the shores of Lake Geneva.
It was the night of July 22nd – 23rd. I was sleeping uneasily, as in a feverish slumber, when I was gripped by a sensation such as I have never known and painful, moreover.
I awakened and saw distinctly, near my bed, Junot dressed in the same grey coat he wore on the day of his departure for Illyria, looking at me with a gentle and melancholy expression.
I uttered a piercing scream which awakened Blanche, my head chambermaid, and Madame Thomieres, who at once leaped from her bed and came to me, asking me what was the matter.
Alas! I still saw this fearful apparition, for Junot’s face was pale and profoundly sad; it seemed already as though we were separated here on earth!
But what terrified me most was to see the apparition walking round my bed and yet – heaven – one of its legs was broken.
At length, through an intense revelation, I saw Junot’s condition; and yet no news had reached me or could reach me, since the event was taking place at that moment. And later on my brother long hesitated to tell me the truth, for he feared for my life in the state I was in.
‘Light up my room!’ I cried in my ever growing terror ‘Give me lots of air – lots of light above all!’ and my gaze followed this apparition, still visible, that now approached me, now withdrew into a dark corner of the room, beckoning me to come to it. This sight made me believe at moments that I was going to die; then there escaped from my lungs a cry, hollow and prolonged, that seemed an appeal to death.
It was only toward morning that the apparition vanished by degrees and grew to resemble a cloud, almost indistinct. I am not explaining this phenomena; I am telling it as it was.
When, on July 30th, Albert, returning to Secheron told Madame Thomieres of the terrible accident that had preceded the duke’s death, she could not restrain a cry of astonishment and told him what had happened to me.
Even today I cannot thrust from my mind the thought that there was in this case a close connection between the two souls bound by so many ties that they formed a single soul. I believe this, believe it firmly. The mysteries of providence are too deep for our eyes to penetrate