Mary Jane Jauncey Thorn’s (the second eldest daughter of Col. Thorn) courtship with Antoine Raymond Camille Varaigne du Bourg was marked by high drama and romance.
According to various sources including a letter from Susanna Cooper wife of American writer James Fenimore Cooper, Antoine had been a frequent caller at the Thorn residence in Paris. He fell in love with young Mary and after six weeks had asked for her hand in marriage. When the Colonel refused, the pair eloped with the help of her governess (classic regency romance-style).
Sadly, the consequences of their impulsive act were rather less romantic. Thorn was mortified and with the help of friends managed to chase down and retrieve his daughter, whose reputation was ostensibly ruined. Susanna Cooper wrote, “We heard that the Thorn family were in the deepest affliction, from a blow worse than death. Their second daughter, May, a beautiful creature of about fifteen, had run off with a young Frenchman.“
Antoine was arrested and James Fenimore Cooper, who took an interest in the whole affair, later wrote to Vicomte Charles Emmanuel Henri Dambray, saying “…If the character of young Mr de Varaigne is what you appear to think it, I shall be sorry to find that he is to be the victim of a passion that tyrannizes over most of us in youth.” Clearly Cooper had some sympathy for the young man, although he also understood the position of his friend Colonel Thorn.
From what I can tell, time and some diplomacy eventually soothed the waters, and about a year later (1832), Antoine and Mary were married. Antoine later became prefet du palais to Napoleon 111 and all was forgotten. The elopers had two children Theodore Camille Varaigne du Bourg and Jeanne Marie Camille Varaigne du Bourg.
Somewhere in this world exists a portrait of Mary (Thorn) de Varaigne and child. It’s mentioned in the record of her mother’s will. What I wouldn’t give to see it!
On a personal note, some of the relatives I have met while researching this story, are direct descendants to Antoine and Mary, and I’d like to thank them for their contribution to the family story.
Lastly, I wonder what happened to the governess. Who was she and was she fired after helping Mary and Antoine to escape.
These have just sold at auction to Henri de Fraville (descendant of Mary) and the caption that accompanies the sale reads:
Two 19th century medallions. Touching and very interesting memory of two characters, Father and Son. The Father, Camille de Varaigne du Bourg, Baron du Bourg, Prefect of the Palace of Napoleon III. Born in 1809 under the 1st Empire and died in 1872. His Son, Captain-Commander of the 3rd Chasseurs d’Afrique. Killed to the enemy on 1/7 bre / 1870 near SEDAN. Medallions in perfect condition. Perfect markings.