American Horror Story: Coven, had introduced us to many characters. See a previous post about Marie Laveau here: https://amateurconnoisseur.com/2021/04/21/queen-of-new-orleans/. Another character that was introduced during that season, was also a real person, Madame Delphine LaLaurie, portrayed by the brilliant Kathy Bates.
Delphine LaLaurie is infamous. She was born in March of 1787 in New Orleans, she was married three times, first two marriages she was widowed. The third she wed Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie. She would birth 5 children, and her third husband had a son before they married.
Delphine had purchased the land and built the mansion, located at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans, LA. She had slave quarters attached to the home, and her treatment of her slaves were mixed. Some New Orleans residents reported that the LaLaurie slaves were singularly haggard and wretched. However, in public Delphine was seen to be generally polite to black people and solicitous of her slaves’ health.
The marriage between Delphine and Leonard became strained and 7 years after marrying, Delphine petitioned the First Judicial Court for a separation from bed and board of her husband. She claimed that he “treated her in such a manner as to render their living together unsupportable.” The separation was temporary.
Funeral registers document the deaths of twelve slaves within 5 years. The causes of death are not mentioned, and infectious diseases could easily have been the cause. Rumors abounded about Delphine’s treatment of her slaves, and a local lawyer was dispatched to her home to remind her of the laws for the upkeep of slaves. During his visit he found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Other tales of Delphine’s cruelty circulated throughout New Orleans. An eight year old slave girl fell to her death from the roof, simply to avoid being whipped. Her body was buried on the mansion grounds. After this issue the LaLaurie’s were found guilty of illegal cruelty and were forced to forfeit nine slaves. Later they were bought back by the LaLaurie’s through another relative and returned to the Royal Street residence.
On 1834, It was rumored that the cook was chained to the stove by her ankle. She set a fire in the house to commit suicide. When responders to the fire arrived at the house asked for the keys to the slave quarters to ensure everyone had safely evacuated, the LaLaurie’s refused.
The door was broken down and seven slaves were discovered, horribly mutilated, suspended by their neck, with their limbs stretched beyond human allowance. They had obviously been there for several months. Various versions of the slaves conditions circulated. Some were emaciated, some whipped brutally, some had been wounded, others had spiked collars around their necks. It was gruesome and unnecessary the brutally and heinous acts these people had endured.
As soon as the slave’s conditions became known, the LaLaurie mansion was demolished and destroyed. Unfortunately Delphine and Leonard LaLaurie escaped New Orleans and had gotten to Paris. For several years, Delphine had the desire to return to New Orleans, but her son and two of her daughters convinced her to stay in Paris.
Delphine LaLaurie is believed to have died in Paris in 1849, at the age of 62. There is also a tomb in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, that records her death in Paris in 1842. Whether or not her remains are in this tomb is unknown.
The house that currently stands at 1140 Royal Street, is not the same house that the LaLaurie’s had resided in. That original home was destroyed in the fire and mob violence. The new house is designed to look like the old but it has never had Delphine LaLaurie in its walls.
Whether or not the land holds the memory of the injustices that happened on it, is something for you to decide. The home is privately owned and no tours are offered at this time.
Stay Curious my Friends!!