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Meet the Edwardian Women Who Claimed to Travel Back in Time

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1911, a book called The Adventure was published by Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont. It claimed to detail their experiences time traveling while visiting the Versailles palace and grounds 10 years previously. The book was widely popular – it was reprinted multiple times and sold over 10,000 copies in 5 different editions.

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The book also had some detractors who claimed it was exaggerated – and that was before the third edition was published under the authors’ real names, Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain. The two were unmarried, childless women beyond ‘appropriate’ age (some sources say they may have lived together), and when their real names came out, a certain amount of personal nastiness arose as well.

Charlotte Anne Moberly
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Eleanor Jourdain
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

But just what did the women claim to see during their holiday?

In short, they said they glimpsed Marie Antoinette sitting at Petit Trianon during her last moments of peace before being informed the mob had come to take her and her family into custody for the crime of being royal.

The two were sitting in the Hall of Mirrors after an official tour when Charlotte Moberly suggested they walk over to see the Petit Trianon. They got lost trying to find it and both began then to feel as though something was “off.” When they stopped to ask directions, they found two men dressed in greenish jackets and tricorn hats in the garden. There was a cottage nearby, and a woman and a girl sharing a water jug in the doorway, both dressed in “unusual” clothes. The men gave them directions, and they continued on their way, but the day had turned eerie.

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“I began to feel as if I were walking in my sleep; the heavy dreaminess was oppressive. At least we came upon a path crossing ours, and saw in front of us a building consisting of some columns roofed in, and set back in the trees. Seated on the steps was a man with a heavy black cloak round his shoulders, and wearing a slouch hat. At that moment the eerie feeling which had begun in the garden culminated in a definite impression of something uncanny and fear-inspiring. The man slowly turned his face, which was marked by smallpox: his complexion was very dark. The expression was very evil and yet unseeing. I felt a repugnance to going past him.”

The met another man who spoke in an odd accent as he ran up behind them on the way to the Trianon, and when they found the chateau at last, they glimpsed a pretty woman with fluffy blond hair sketching on the northside terrace. Moberly recalls thinking she was a tourist, except for her “dress was old-fashioned and rather unusual.”

As they found their way back to the front drive, the past dissolved and the present reappeared. They would later learn that their visit took place on August 10, the anniversary of the day the king, queen, and their children were taken hostage by the people of France.

Marie Antoinette
Photo Credit: Public Domain

Some additional research into the royal family’s last days at Versailles, fashion of the time, and maps of the palace and grounds bolstered the women’s claims, in their eyes. They concluded that the men in the green were part of Marie Antoinette’s Swiss Guard, the “evil” man was Comte de Vaudreuil (who helped betray the queen), and the pretty woman sketching on the terrace was Marie Antoinette, still blissfully unaware of the page running to tell her of the mob at her door.

What did Moberly and Jourdain really experience that day? We may never know, but they never recanted their stories, telling some version until their deaths some years later. The public judged them – because they might have been lovers or because they were unmarried and inexperienced virgins, depending on the day – but most enjoyed their tale along the way.

h/t: Mental_Floss