The two deaths of the Beast

Journey of the "Beast of the Chazes" after its death

September 21st 1765, a 65 kilos animal falls on a field 20 meters from the forest of the royal abbaye of the Chazes. It just came out of the woods riddled with bullets, one in the head that just exploded its eye, one second that pierced the back of both thighs and many other shot in its left flank (cf. the page about wounds). The Beast of Gévaudan has just been officially shot dead by the providential right-hand man of king Louis XVth, François Antoine, arquebuse-bearer of His Majesty. The hunt took place just like in a book. Set as clockwork, orchestrated by Anthony alone with his men.

From then on, everything will happen very quickly. As soon as the animal is seen dead by the huntere from Langeac and around, which role was to surround the woods (with the order not to shoot at the Beast...), the body of the animal is brought to the Besset castle, where it is studied by François Boulanger, surgeon from Saugues. Next morning, september 22d, Robert-François Antoine de Beauterne, the king's envoy's son, leaves with the body to Saint Flour, at monsieur de Montluc, where he arrives on septembre 27th.

Only two days after that he arrives in Clermont-Ferrand to show the body of the famous "Beast of Gévaudan" to monsieur de Ballainvilliers, the intendant of Auvergne. He will find several similitudes between the animal he has in front of his eyes and the hyena as described by Buffon(tome IX of his "Natural History). The same ay, or maybe next morning at first light, the body of the Beast of the Chazes is autopsied and measured by Charles Jaladon, who makes a report.

But on october 1st 1765, in almost two times less than it usually takes to go - with a stagecoach - from Lyon to Paris, Robert-François Antoine arrives in Versailles at the duke of Saint Florentin. Just a few more days and the duke arranges an interview with the queen, the Beast gets into Cour on october 3d or 4th 1765.

After that, if Antoine's will has been exexuted, what we can be almost sure of, then the stuffed animal was given to the royal guards who went in Gévaudan with him, so that they show it themselves and earn some money from it (two hundred thousand pounds according to M. Bès de la Bessière).

After this, there is some kinf of hole, because this animal is only found back in 1929, page 53 of Brioude's almanach, in a small story by M Chacornac:
"Our compatriot Paul Le Blanc, whose sympahique souvenir was still in the mind of people of my age, related how he had almost seen the Beast of Gevaudan. Taking advantage of one of his trips to Paris, he went to see the director of the Museum and told him his ambition. The book of entries mentioned, in fact, the journey from the cabinet of the king to the museum of natural history of a wolf killed by Antoine de Beauterne known as the Beast of Gévaudan. Unfortunately, the skin of the historical animal has lost all its hair, and shortly before Paul Le Blanc went to the museum, it had been scrapped according to all rules of use for historical pieces of collection of the State, and burnt with everything it still had. I owe this anecdote to the the kind courtesy of M.A. Casati lawyer at the Court of Appeal of Paris, and Mr. Olivier consultant doctor in the Bourboule hospital."

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Journey of the "Beast of Chastel" after its death

June 17th 1767, ten thirty, one single gunshot is heard in the woods of Tennazeyre, near Auvers. Under Jean Chastel's gun, the Beast who had gone on in the killings since the death of the "Beast of the Chazes" just got killed. The bullet hit the neck, ripped off the trachea and broke the left shoulder (cf. the page of wounds). The marquis of Apcher, who lead this miraculous hunt, will keep the Beast a dozen days in his castle in Besques. But on June 20th, maître Marin, royal notary and bailif of the abbey of the Chazes, writes a report while Antoine Boulanger and his son Côme-Damien autopsy the animal.

After all After all the nobility of Gévaudan has passed to see the monstrous animal, the story takes to different paths whether you listen to Pourcher or Fabre.
According to Pourcher, Jean Chastel shows his beast to everyone in the country to earn some money. He gets his trophy (very badlu stuffed) in the end of June 1767 and brings it through the county one month long. The abbot even tells us that in te end of july, the marquis of Apcher sent one of his servant with Chastel, sieur Gilbert, so he can show it to the king. He would have get to Paris around august 10th at monsieur de la Rochefoucauld, who informed the king of the arrival of the body and brought it to court, where the king gave the order to bury the corpse because it smelled too bad. Chastel would have been driven away as well as his beast.

But according to Fabre, if the Beast was indeed carried to Versailles by sieur Gilbert, servant of the marquis of Apcher, it is never mentionned that Chastel did follow to Paris. One can trust Pourcher about the journey of Chastel with his trophy to ear some coins, it has vene existed in France untill all wolves have been killed. Fabre tells us that once it got in Paris, and after Buffon has seen the animal and declare that iot was "only a big wolf", sieur Gilbert was invited to get rid of the animal. But in this version, no place is given concerning the burrial.

But thanks to the work ofPhilippe Sauré, an new and probably more accurate testimony has been found a few years ago. Presented in the "la Gazette de la Bête" I give you here some lines of the "Report about the damages done in Gévaudan by the ferocious beast that appeared in 1763, written by M. Bès de la Bessière in St-Chély :

"Gibert, caretaker in the hotel earned by M. de Peyre in Marvejols had told me on january 24th 1809 that he brought himself in Paris the true ferocious beast that caused such damages. In 1767 he started working for M. Le comte d'Apchier. M. d'Apchier put the beast in a crate build for the occasion, because he thought it would be more preserved like this, or because he wanted to keep it safe from public curiosity during the journey from Besques to Paris. M. d'Apchier gave it to Gibert and a rider fomr marshalsea even protected him on the way to Clermont. There, Gibert rents a carriage to Paris and applying his master's order to the letter, never leaves the crate and shows its inside to no one. However, the Beast was rotting. Gibert finally arrives in Paris, stays at the hotel of M. de la Rochefoucault to whom he gave a letter in which the marquis of Apcher pleased him to inform the king that the monstrous beast was dead and the body was brought to him to testify its death. But the king was out in Compiègne and he gave order to Buffon to visit and examine the animal. The naturalist, in spite f the saggng which had make all the hair fall, because of the heat of the end of july and the beginning of august, again in spite of the foulish smell, after a serious inspection, thought it was just a big wolf. As soon as M. de Buffon finished, Gibert burried it with haste because of its stench which he said made him sick and had to stay in bed for ten days.
à Paris..."
(AD 48 -11-J-12, Fonds André Bès de la Bessière).

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Two stories, to journeys for one only mythical animal, but a common detail: the cabinet of the king. Because if there is one thing that seems impossible, it'es that Buffon or even Daubenton (an other famous french naturalist) did not investigate any further. They could not ignore that the murders had continued after the "victory" of Antoine and that they had stopped after the death of this animal, so they were sure it was the one and only Beast of Gévaudan, or at least the last one.

Unthinkable that the first naturalists of all time did not want to study such a monster. But the explanation to this precise points lies maybe on the page about the hyena.


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