Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The skeleton of Saint-Pierre-de-Frugie

The newspapers in the Dordogne asked 'Is this the last trip of Ernest, the skeleton?' For the first time, since 1913 when a pile of bones were found under the floor of the chateau of Montcigoux, the skeleton will leave the castle. Under official police seal the judicial division of the national gendarmerie (PJGN) will perform in-depth analysis, using modern techniques, to try and unravel the mystery surrounding these silent bones. An initial autopsy that is occuring 103 years after its discovery.
Since 1913, this skeleton has became the legend of Saint-Pierre-de-Frugie. A tale that starts when the body is found under the floor by the fireplace in the mansion. Soon rumors started in the village. Twenty years later, a columnist published a series of articles in which he described a morbid crime scene discovery. The skeleton is that of Ernest Fontaubert, one of the former owners of the chateau with his sister. Ernest left in 1850 for the gold rush in California. Nobody had ever seen him since.
In the village, the scenario was clear. They believed Ernest's brother, the new lord of the manor, killed him. Why? Upon Ernest's return from California his brother believed Ernest kept an incestuous relationship with their sister, Ernestine. Babies born of the incestuous union were buried at the foot of a cypress in the chateau's garden. So the legend snowballed from criminal and incestuous, to gold and fratricide. The legend was transmitted orally from generation to generation, as it does in French country villages. Until an amateur historian, Bernard Aumasson, decided to dig beyond the popular legend. Helped by an American genealogist, he discovered in 2013: the chateau skeleton was not that of Ernest because the real Ernest was found dead in February 1862 near Cave City, California. Ernest was murdered, probably to recover gold that was on him. So who is the skeleton found in 1913 in the floor in front of the fireplace of the chateau? After 103 years of waiting, Ernest, who is not Ernest is being autopsied. Cara - Tuesday


  1. Great story, Cara. It's amazing how much can be discover after so much time. Of course, there are many more records of the "rich elite" than of "everyday Joes and Joettes," so I wish them luck. Mysteries are always more fun when they have an answer. :-)

  2. Caro, what a great story. Such imagination in the tall tales about Ernest. The residents of the village have a great future writing soap operas. They should call this one The Importance of Not Being Ernest.

  3. :) I hope the autopsy will reveal his/her identity

    1. Oops!! I am typing on an Italian phone. It knows your and Caro's names. But the default is the masculine. So when I typed c,a,r, it gave me her name instead of yours, dear one. :(

  4. A skeleton writer by any other name is still one I CAR about.

  5. Great blog, Cara. MY forensic pal tells a great story of a house up north being converted and the builders found a pile of small bones under the floor. Consternation, emergency services, lots of people in white coats. Rumours that they were the bones of dead children, left under the floorboards to rot etc etc.
    They were the bones of chickens, dropped through the gaps in the floorboards for the house cats to munch on, over 100 years before.
    The builders got the go ahead!

  6. When will we know the answer? The suspense is killing me.