Writers of scary stories love to pen tales of hapless thieves getting more than they bargained for when trying to filch seemingly innocent valuables. H.P. Lovecraft’s 1921 short story “The Terrible One Man” serves as a stellar pattern for these sorts of stories, with a trio of rogues receiving rough justice rather than a payout.
Well, a slightly less violent (but still similar) case recently occurred in real life.
On April 13, a pair of thieves broke into the Thomas-Dobrée museum in Nantes, France.
They stole a number of artifacts crafted out of precious metals such as a golden Hindu statuette and a collection of coins. But more importantly to the museum’s curators — and the French people as a whole — they stole the case of Queen Anne de Bretagne.
Born in the fifteenth century, Anne de Bretagne (aka Anne of Brittany) held a unique place in French history. She married Charles VIII at age 12, but after he passed away without an heir, she ended up wed to Louis XII.
That made her the only woman in French history to twice be crowned queen. And the theft of her famous gold case enraged the people of L’hexagone.
Regional politician Philippe Grosvalet declared, “These burglars have attacked our common heritage.”
Catherine Touchefeu, another public servant, added, “If by any chance the thieves were motivated by the fact that it is shiny and made of gold, they should understand that its historical and symbolic value far outweighs its 100 grams of gold.”
Indeed, the raw-metal value of the priceless royal French heirloom would come out to about $4,750 in today’s dollars. But it’s what’s inside the case that makes it truly a treasure — a treasure that leaves some people pale as a ghost after learning about it.
Understand that, when she died, Queen Anne was buried in Paris with other French royalty. However, she really wanted to be buried in her parents’ tomb in Brittany, so she came up with a compromise.
Her body would stay in Paris, but home would be where her heart quite literally was. Yes, you guessed it: That case contains the 500-year-old remains of Anne’s cardiac muscle.
Fortunately for the museum, the police apprehended the crooks a couple of weeks after the crime. They still had their beautifully ghastly trophy with them.
The case of Queen Anne de Bretagne had remained at the Thomas-Dobrée museum for over 130 years. Now after a short break, it’s set to return.
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