|They seek him here, they seek him there,
those Frenchies seek him everywhere, Is he in
Heaven? Is he in Hell? That dammed elusive Pimpernel!
Most people have heard this rhyme used in connection with the fictional character 'the scarlet pimpernel'. Sir Percy Blakeney of England with his duel personality, in public a foppish English aristocrat yet behind the scenes a masked hero for the French aristocracy. A man, who would at a moments notice, rush over to rescue French nobles from the infamous madam guillotine.
But how many of you have heard of Lady Charlotte Atkyn, Norfolks own Scarlet Pimpernel and not a fictional character?
Charlotte Walpole was a beautiful Irish actress, who could both sing and dance and toped the bill at Drury Lane in London. It was here whilst performing on the stage that Charlotte caught the eye of Edward Atkyns of Ketteringham Hall in Norfolk.
Romance blossomed and Edward proposed and Charlotte accepted and the two were duly married. Unfortunately Charlottes pedigree and background meant that the Norfolk gentry back in Ketteringham never accepted her.
So her and husband spent most of their time abroad travelling Europe rather than on their Norfolk estate. It was during their travels that Charlotte meets and struck up a close friendship with the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.
Marie Antoinette born 2nd November 1755 wife of King Louis XVI. An extravagant and frivolous queen with elaborates over the top hairstyles known as towers that often reached some 2ft in height. She was named by the French People as Madam Deficit and blamed by many for the countries financial problems.
Whether this is a correct assessment it is hard to say. As the Queen grew older and had children she went to great lengths to try to change her image in the eyes of the French people. Wearing simpler clothes and having her portrait often painted surrounded by her children.
Unfortunately all to no avail as in 1789 the King and Queen were forcibly removed from Versailles by the French people to Paris and so began their incarceration. Finally after a trial of sort King Louis was taken from his prison on 21st January 1793 and executed.
Marie, who was now to be called 'Widow Capet' knew then
that it was only a mater of time before it was her turn.
There surrounded by soldiers and tens of thousands of onlookers Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, darling of the French court ascended the platform to the jeers of the bloodthirsty crowd. On the platform stood Charles-Henri Sanson the Executioner who ten months earlier had dispatched the King of France, Marie Antoinettes husband and who went on to execute a total of just under three thousand people during 'his reign'.
Marie Antoinette her end in sight had tried to retain her dignity throughout the ordeal, to the extent that when she accidentally trod on the executioners foot, she is reputed to have said, "Monsieur, I ask your pardon. I did not do it on purpose."
|Charlotte Atkyns was devastated at the death of her
friend she spent the next few years and all of her late
husbands fortune (he having died) trying to free the
dauphin. Louis Charles son of Marie Antoinette and now by
right King Louise XVII was held in a filthy cell in
Once again Charlottes efforts were in vain, at one
stage a child was delivered to her but it turned out to
be another child, a deaf mute and not the dauphin.
Charlotte a broken woman eventually died in poverty in