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The Pillow Baby Story
The Arrival in England
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, beginning in 1792 and lasting until the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states. They are usually divided between the First Coalition (1792–1797) and the Second Coalition (1798–1801). Additionally, France was at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain continuously from 1793 to 1802.
Marked by French revolutionary fervor and military innovations, the campaigns saw the French Revolutionary Armies defeating a number of opposing coalitions and expanding French control to the Low Countries, Italy, and the Rhineland. The wars were of titanic proportions.
Our story begins in July 1797, a Sailing Ship brought the Passengers from Oostende France, which is now Belgium, arriving at the Downs Deal on the Kentish coast. The Downs are an anchorage of deep water, open to the north and south, protected towards the east by the Goodwin Sands, and towards the west by the mainland.
The Boatmen of Deal row to meet the ships to take of the passengers and their luggage and row them safely to shore as the beach is very steep and a pier had not been built at this time. Later Piers were built; the first of wood did not last long. The ferry’s passengers were said to be refugees (émigrés) and included an aristocrat, aged approximately 30, Count Pierre Simon de La Roche of Bruxelles (Brussels) and his lady Countess Marie-Joséphine Detavaux de La Roche. They had been married for some three years and the Countess appeared to be heavy with child.
Accompanying the Count and Countess was the cousin of the Count, Marie-Célestine de La Roche Tondeur of Brussels.
In the 1780’s, Marie-Célestine de La Roche Tondeur had also lived at the French court, having been Lady-in-waiting to the then Queen, Marie Antoinette (who was the last Queen of France and was guillotined on the 16 October 1793 by Charles-Henri Sanson in the Place de la Révolution, Paris) and in 1791 had fled with her cousin to her native city, Brussels. Her brother was Peter de La Roche, a member of King Louis XVΙ?? Guard, who was guillotined.
In 1789 a mob descended on the palace at Versailles and demanded the royal family move to the Tuilerie palace inside Paris. From that point on the King and Queen were virtual prisoners. Antoinette sought aid from other European rulers, including her brother, the Austrian Emperor, and her sister, Queen of Naples. After a failed attempt to flee Paris, in 1791 Antoinette continued to seek aid from abroad. When Austria and Prussia declared war on France, she was accused of passing military secrets to the enemy. On August 10, 1792 the royal family was arrested on suspicion of treason and imprisoned. On January 21, 1793 King Louis XVI was convicted and executed on the guillotine.
Marie Antoinette was cruelly treated during her final days of captivity. Her best friend, the Princess de Lambelle, was killed and her severed head was put on a pike and paraded in front of her children (Marie Therese and Louis XVII) Louis XVII was subjected to abuse by the family's jailers and later died, supposedly of Tuberculosis and malnutrition. Marie Therese, her firstborn daughter was the only family member to survive.
Antoinette followed her husband to the guillotine on October 16, 1793. She was executed without proof of the crimes for which she was accused. She was only 37 years old.
The Count and his cousin had escaped and fled back to the ancestral home La Roche-en-Ardennes which is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Luxembourg and from here they were then given safe passage to England.
A nanny was accompanying the escaping party with her fortnight old son, asleep in a baby basket wrapped up warm against the cold sea air and carried by Maria- Celestine.
As the party was bought to shore in a boat that belonged to local fishermen the Huckstep brothers.
They had never had such important passengers in their care before.
The Group landed and walked to the Immigration Office and joined the queue of immigrants that had now regrouped to show their passports, which were checked but they were not challenged as the officers were tired and it was late.
Pierre could see the brothers waiting for them and they all went over to the gates and saw the two carriages and horses waiting.
The brother had brought some freshly baked bread from their mother’s bakery and hot soup so they safely loaded their passengers into a coach and with a slap on the horses rear’s they set them off on their journey to Swingfield where they had a relative who owned a farm, and it had been arranged to take them to Attaway Farm where William Huckstep and his daughter Ann made them welcome and set them up in one of the farm cottages for the night to rest after the long and difficult journey.,
Marie-Celestine and the nurse took out a baby from the basket and then undid the pillow where a second baby was uncovered but was in a drugged state and as everyone looked on with a worried look the little mite stirred and a relief passed over the faces of the watching group. Then he was laid down to rest for the night.
In the morning after breakfast the party got back into the Coaches and said their good byes to William and Ann and travelled back to find Stone Street, The Ancient Road to Canterbury where they diverted off after an hour to Petham and up Street End to Swingate Farm where another family of Hucksteps were working on the farmland with another family named as the Osborn, who had married into the Huckstep family and were here and in Deal living the same life of either fishermen are farmers.
Here they were shown to the farm house and the top floor which was made ready for the guests to stay for as long as they needed to rest and to begin to relax for they were now safe and so was their precious boy child. He would be starting a new life away from fear but he was just a baby and knew nothing of the trouble his life was causing.
They all rested and ate a great meal, called a ploughman’s lunch which fascinated the French party’ who were so relieved everything was going so well that they began to smile and relax. All except Josephine who stayed in her room
Next morning Marie borrowed a pram and pushed the baby into Canterbury to look at the shops in St Georges Square and turned into a lane and before her was the magnificent building of Canterbury Cathedral.
She walked around the grounds and then found the west wing door where she took the baby out of the pram and carried him to the Alter where she lit a candle and remembered all her friend and the terrible things that had happened to them.
Her darling King and Queen and the Dauphine and the fate of so many of her relatives as well as her Darling husband Peter Tonduir who had been killed.
As she turned away from the Alter she saw the monument to Thomas a Beckett who had been slain there.
A sword's crushing blow extinguished the life of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, on a cold December evening as he struggled on the steps of his altar. The brutal event sent a tremor through Medieval Europe. Public opinion of the time and subsequent history has laid the blame for the murder at the feet of Becket's former close personal friend, King Henry II.
Marie felt cold and hugged the baby close to her and walked back through the door and out into the bright sunlight and pushed the pram, with its precious bundle in it, back up The Old Dover Road to Nackington Lane and arrived back at the farm to a hot meal and was ready for bed.
In the Morning the Count sat down with Marie-Celestine and discussed what they should call the baby, as he said they had to name him, so they agreed on the name Louis and that it would be very appropriate they agreed to wait until they got to London before they added other names.
They spent their days together billing and cooing with the baby, enjoying the garden, that was around the farm and walking in the fields where the corn was growing and nearly ripe for harvesting.
They talked with the farm workers and built up a friendship with a Kentish family who had farmed here in Canterbury and Thanet area for years they were a large family, happy family.
Louis thrived in the sunshine and was becoming every inch a Prince