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Monday, June 06, 2005

A more lovely femme fatale than Belle Gunne

Via Philobiblon (or is it Philobiblion, as the web address suggests?) - one of my favorite blogs - a great story at CLEWS, The Historic True Crime Blog about Countess Tarnowska, the "Russian Enchantress," who moaned:
"I am the most unfortunate woman in the world. I am a martyr to my own beauty. For any man to behold me is for him to love me. The whole pathway of my life is strewn with the bodies of those who have loved me most."
Below are some choice tidbits, but visit CLEWS and see the whole thing!

Marie Nicolaiewna Tarnowska first hit the front page, dubbed "The Russian Delilah," when she was tried in Venice for murdering her fiance in 1910. Laura at CLEWS writes:
'She is not yet thirty,' breathlessly reported the Sheboygan, Wisconsin Daily Press on May 6, 1910, 'but at least six men have ruined themselves for her; two of these met tragic deaths and four of them deserted wives and children.'
When her first husband, Count Tarnowska, found out she was involved with a man so smitten he'd invited her "to shoot him through the hand to demonstrate his devotion (which she did), the count challenged him to a duel and shot him again."

Her second lover shot himself rather than face the husband in a duel. When the third was outed by her kiss at a dinner party, the count blew his brains out in front of the guests.

Marie's divorce lawyer fell in love with her, abandoning his work, fortune, and wife and sons, shooting himself "when he thought Marie would not have him," then skimming funds from clients to fund a forlorn trip around Europe after her as she took further lovers.

One "insisted on marrying Marie; she agreed, but only after he insured his life for her benefit. He was dead within a month." (See Belle Gunne, below...)

With the help of her lapdog lover she put the insurance company off the scent, but was nailed eventually; she, the lawyer, and one other of her lovers were arrested for their scheme. CLEWS continues:
The trial did not take place until the spring of 1910, and by that time, her misdeeds were so well known that a lynch mob awaited her at the courthouse. The mob of women greeted the gondola bringing the countess and her two lovers to trial. They began shaking their fists and screaming at her and managed to overcome the guards and get hold of the enchantress. The women dragged Marie to the edge of the canal, shouting "Drown her! Drown her!" Guards from inside the courthouse rescued her...

For her part, Marie Tarnowska threw herself on the mercy of the court. She wept, she gnashed her teeth, she displayed her pretty features, she declared her intention to devote the balance of her life to a convent and good works... after serving five years in prison, she managed to obtain a release. It was announced that she would wed one of her lawyers and settle down in England.
A wonderful story, wonderfully told. For a far less attractive femme fatale, see Belle Gunne, the Black Widow of Indiana. Thanks to CLEWS and Philobiblon.

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At 3:56 PM, Blogger Arethusa said...

Hello Mel, Michele sent me!

I love interesting stories in History like this: just shows that you don't need fiction to read about anything exciting. Thanks for pointing it!


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