Marie Anne Lenormand: Fortune Teller of Paris

In her 20s, Marie Anne Lenormand set up shop in Paris. Being a fortune telling was not exactly a legal means to make a living, so getting into Lenormand’s shop for a reading could be challenging. It was one of the most turbulent times to be in Paris. The Revolutionaries and the Royalists battled, often violently, over control of the government. None of this seemed to faze Lenormand. The elite of France soon began to visit her shop. She gave readings to both the Revolutionary leaders and to Royalists. Soon she would be known as the ‘Sybil of the Salons’.

 Joséphine de Beauharnais palm as read by Marie Anne Lenormand

Palm of Joséphine de Beauharnais, who becomes Napoleon’s wife, from Marie Anne Lenormand’s memoirs. Lenormand was as adept at palm reading as cartomancy.

(This article is actually a series of articles on Marie-Anne Lenormand. Before continuing here, you might like to read the two preceding articles: Indomitable Marie Anne Lenormand followed by Early Years.)

Meeting a young Jean Bernadotte, Lenormand told him he’d become the King of Sweden. This amused Bernadotte, a devoted French military man, who is rumored to have said he’d pay Lenormand 10,000 francs a year should he become king. Through a quirk of fate and the fact his family bloodline made him eligible to succeed to the throne of Sweden, he was selected to succeed the current ruler of Sweden who had failed to produce an heir to the throne. Jean Bernadotte was, in a sense, ‘drafted’ to become king. At first he refused. Eventually, though, he accepted the crown to become King Charles XIV and ruled both Sweden and Norway until his death in 1844. There’s no record Bernadotte made good on his promise of 10,000 francs yearly for Lenormand.

A similar story is told of Horace Vernet, who was brought to Marie Anne Lenormand as a youngster. Lenormand predicted in thirty years he would become a world renowned painter, and, the King would have him record the military actions of French troops in Africa. This prediction was fulfilled by 1839, King Louis-Philippe did indeed have Vernet paint French troops in battle in Algeria.

In all cases Lenormand seemed to deliver the good news and bad with unflinching honesty. For example, three prominent Revolutionary figures visited her shop: Jean-Paul Marat, Maximilien Robespierre and Louis Antoine Leon de Saint-Just. All three would be instigators of the ‘Reign of Terror’ which would claim thousands of lives. For Marat she foretold a speedy death but a wonderful funeral (Marat would be murdered and receive a hero’s funeral). For Robespierre and Saint-John she predicted they would die by the very hands of the people they claimed to protect (both were executed by guillotine in public – a backlash against the ‘reign of terror’ these men started using the ‘Committee of Public Safety’). After a reading like that, you have to wonder if any of these gentleman asked for their money back …

At heart, Lenormand seemed to be sympathetic to the Royalists, even though she predicted their eventual loss of power. True to her fearless nature, Marie Anne Lenormand assisted in trying to free Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France from incarceration. Not once but twice. This landed Lenormand herself in prison, likely facing a long prison term or execution. Yet, even in prison, Lenormand continued to thrive, giving readings to prisoners, sometimes those from wealthy backgrounds, some members of the crumbling monarchy. It would not be the last time that the free spirited Lenormand would be imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment.

While incarcerated, Marie Anne Lenormand would receive a request for horoscopes from some important women who were being ‘detained’ at another location. These women provided all the data Lenormand required to ascertain their fates. However, the names of the women and their position in society were omitted. Only the initials of these ladies was provided (along with the needed astrologic and other information). One of these women was Joséphine de Beauharnais, future wife of Napoleon. Marie Anne Lenormand provided the requested horoscopes. Josephine’s horoscope stated she would soon suffer tragedy, possibly lose a husband, but would survive and find herself amongst royalty, again. While in prison, Josephine’s husband would be executed, and she herself was slated for the same fate. A turn of events (and with the help of some influential friends) Josephine was set free.

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Not long after Lenormand and Josephine were freed, Josephine visited Marie Anne Lenormand for additional readings, being impressed with the accuracy of the horoscope she’d received from Lenormand. Josephine was not the only one seeking consultations. Lenormand’s parlor became a veritable whos-who of clients, including a young artillery officer named Napoleon. His reading was not by tarot cards, but a palm reading, where she related to Napoleon that he would, " gain battles, marry a widow, conquer kingdoms, distribute thrones and astonish the world. However, he would end his days in exile".

In the next article on Lenormand, we look at the rise of Napoleon (and Marie Anne Lenormand’s rise as a reader for the aristocracy) …

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