The Washington Post

‘Blood Royal': A break in the case


This post is based on Eric Jager’s book, “Blood Royal” (Little, Brown and Co.)

On the night of the murder, Jacquette had seen a tall man in a red hood shouting orders to the assassins. A week or two earlier, the same man, accompanied by a broker, apparently had rented a house for the assassins to use as a hideout. The day after the murder, Guillaume’s officers found and arrested the broker, a man named François d’Asignac.

D’Asignac, an elderly man with a limp, closely fit the description given by Marie Fouchier, owner of the rental house. She and her grandson Perrin, who had also been present at the rental, had already been deposed. Now they were summoned again to identify the broker.

There was no “police line-up” or any attempt to shield them from the prisoner’s eyes. Marie and Perrin quickly confirmed that d’Astignac was the broker they had seen and spoken with. With Guillaume himself present, d’Asignac was now questioned. He had quite a story to tell:

Beginning the previous June, he said, he had been approached several times by a man dressed as a “scholar” looking for a house to rent in the Rue Saint-Antoine, where Louis lived — though there had been no mention of the duke.

When the broker could not find anything there, the scholar asked if there was anything “in the Rue Vieille du Temple, near the queen’s palace.”

Louis regularly passed through the Marais to visit the queen, riding back and forth along that street in particular.

The scholar, apparently eager to find something soon, told d’Asignac that if the broker found a suitable house in the new location, he would “pay him with some good wine” — evidently on top of his usual commission.

“So I began to look around in the new quarter,” recalled the broker. Clearly worried now about being thought a co-conspirator, d’Asignac added, “I didn’t think there was any harm in it.”

Shortly after he started looking in the Rue Vieille du Temple, he learned about the Fouchier house.

“About two weeks ago,” d’Asignac said, the scholar came by to see him again.

“Have you found anything?” he asked.

“Yes,” said d’Asignac, and he took his client to the Rue Vieille du Temple, where he showed him the Fouchier house.

“C’est bon,” said the scholar, clearly pleased. He said he wanted to talk to the owner right away about renting it. So d’Asignac took him to see Madame Fouchier, where after a bit of bargaining, the scholar rented the house from her.

The broker’s testimony gave Guillaume his first real glimpse into what lay behind Louis’s murder — a conspiracy evidently reaching back for many months and possibly involving other people besides the “scholar” and his team of assassins.

Originally the assassins had tried to find a house for their ambush right in the victim’s own street, the Rue Saint-Antoine. Then, apparently after spying on Louis’s activities, they decided to attack him in the Rue Vieille du Temple on his way to or from the queen’s palace.

The new testimony also seemed to confirm that the tall “scholar” was the ringleader. And his persistent search for a suitable hideout surely meant that he — or whoever was behind the murder — had a powerful motive to kill Louis, although what that motive was remained unknown.

The offer of a reward in the form of “some good wine” was an intriguing detail, but too general to be of any help. Wine arrived in Paris every day by wagon and barge from all over France, and no particular vintage had been mentioned.

On the positive side, the broker said at the end of his testimony that he thought he would recognize the “scholar” if he saw him again. But first the hooded man had to be found and arrested.

D’Asignac’s testimony seems to have cleared him of any direct involvement in the murder. But to ensure that he would be on hand to identify the mysterious scholar, should he turn up, Guillaume ordered the broker to be taken to the Châtelet’s prisons for safekeeping.

Next time: Guillaume sets a trap



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