CONSTANCE COURONNE was a slave in the Grand Port District of Mauritius and a mere child, aged eight years old, when she was convicted and sentenced to transportation for life alongside her cousin ELIZABETH VERLOPPE on 24 September 1833. Both girls had been found guilty of attempting to poison a woman named MADAME MOREL by administering a “white powder” in her afternoon tea. MARIE JULIE MELANIE DEVILLE LASABLONIÈRE was CONSTANCE’s legal owner, but at the time of the so-called poisoning the two young girls had been placed in MOREL’s service to learn needlework. CONSTANCE confessed to administering the white powder, which ELIZABETH served to their mistress. The court would later argue that the girls did so believing they were giving the woman a fatal dose of arsenic, even though the powder was only an emetic that caused “dizziness, a violent headache, palpitations” and vomiting, from which MOREL of course recovered.
The two young slaves turned convicts, by then aged ten and fourteen, were transported to the Colony of New South Wales per the brig Dart (1834); the same vessel that had brought fellow Mauritians JOSEPHINE MERCELIN, LOUIS MERCELIN, and PAUL NANINE to the colony six months earlier. On arrival the two girls were sent to the Parramatta Female Factory. They were there only two months before First Police Magistrate HENRY WILSON applied for them to become servants at his Miller’s Point residence.
CONSTANCE remained lady’s maid to WILSON’s daughter MARCIA WILSON even after the latter married WILLIAM FINCH and established a home in the Wellington Valley. While there, CONSTANCE met and married ROBERT TRUDGETT, a stockman employed by the FINCHES, with whom she had eleven children.
- Alternate: CONSTANCE DE LA SABLONIÈRE
- Alternate: CONSTANCE DE LA SABLOMIÈRE
- Courtesy title: Viscountess Gaton
- Married name: CONSTANCE TRUDGETT
- Granddaughter of LINDOR COURONNE (Male “Indian” slave in Mauritius, maternal Grandfather)
- Granddaughter of MORIN PATRON de LASABLONNIÈRE Duc Gaton of Mon Tresor at Grand Port and of Port Louis of the Isle of Mauritius (paternal Grandfather)
- Daughter of ADELE COURONNE (Mauritian slave)
- Illegitimate daughter of GABRIEL HENRY ISIDOR LASABLONIÈRE (her owner’s son)
- Sister of BELONY COURONNE (b. 1815, Mauritian slave)
- Sister of THEOPHILE COURONNE (b. 1820, Mauritian slave)
- Sister of JULIE COURONNE (b. 1826, Mauritian slave)
- Sister of [MARIE?] JULIE COURONNE (b. 24 April 1827, Mauritian slave)
- Sister of SERAPHINE COURONNE (b. 15 April 1830, Mauritian slave)
- Niece of CLAUDINE COURONNE (b. 1808, Mauritian slave, sister of ADELE COURONNE)
- Niece of ESTELLA COURONNE (b. 1812, Mauritian slave, sister of ADELE COURONNE)
- Niece of NEREUS VERLOPPE (father of ELIZABETH VERLOPPE)
- Cousin and partner in crime of ELIZABETH VERLOPPE
- Slave of MARIE JULIE MELANIE DEVILLE LASABLONIÈRE
- Convict servant of HENRY WILSON (First Police Magistrate)
- Lady’s Maid of MARCIA WILSON
- Wife of ROBERT TRUDGETT
- Mother of EMILY TRUDGETT
- Mother of GEORGE TRUDGETT
- Mother of ROBERT TRUDGETT
- Mother of MARIA TRUDGETT
- Mother of MARY ANN TRUDGETT
- Mother of JAMES HENRY TRUDGETT
- Mother of SARAH ELIZABETH TRUDGETT
- Mother of WILLIAM TRUDGETT
- Mother of EDWARD JOHN TRUDGETT
- Mother of ALFRED TRUDGETT
- Mother of CHARLES TRUDGETT
- Catholic (c.f. Convict Indents)
- Height: 4 feet 4 inches
- Hair: Black
- Eyes: Black
- Distinguishing features: “Nose pugged” (c.f. Convict Indent)
- Complexion: “Black” (c.f. Convict Indent. However, the Mauritian Slave Registers differentiated skin colour more than this and classed her as “Olivure”)
- Education: None (neither read nor wrote)
“To All of Noble Birth and those of Note, the holder of this warrant “Constance Couronne” is my granddaughter. I Morin Patron de Lasablonniere Duc Gaton of Mon Tresor at Grand Port and of Port Louis of the Isle of Mauritius grant her my protection and the courtesy title of “Viscountess Gaton” for which she is entitled be it by half blood, to which there are no lands or monetary gains attached. I do this knowing of her illegitimacy born by my son Gabriel Henry Isidore Lasablonniere Marquis Gudin to Adele Couronne (his mother Marie Julie Melanie De Ville’s property.) I grant this title of Viscountess Gaton for her protection not only from My wife and my son but from others who may wish to harm her as a half caste after I am no longer.
Signed Lasablonniere 9th June 1826″
[Source: National Archives of Mauritius via WikiTree, translated from French]
Letter of complaint written by the Widow Morel, a dressmaker, on 15th May 1832
I would like to inform you that a crime was committed against my child and myself last Friday, 11th May, by two young negresses, one owned by Mr La Sabloniere, the other by Madame Geffroy. They were then at my house attending lessons in dressmaking. Here are the facts. At approximately 3pm I gave my child a cup of tea and asked for one myself. I found it had a strange taste and informed the named Zabeth of it. She had presented me with the cup. She replied that she did not know what it could be but suggested that perhaps the pot had not been very clean. I was satisfied with this explanation but ten minutes later I was suffering from a violent headache, dizziness and palpitations. I collapsed on my bed and was afraid that I was going to have a stroke. I was given some “Eau de Cologne” and at this moment I started to vomit. At this moment also, my child aged three, cried out that he was about to vomit too. As a matter of fact he was soon as sick as me. By this time I had an idea that the beverage contained something bad. I told so to Zabeth who had given it to me and to one of my negresses who had made it. This negress, named Belise reminded me at once that I had drunk two cups of the beverage in the morning and that I didn’t experience any discomfort. Zabeth claimed again that it must have been the pot which had not been cleaned properly. I gave myself and my child some “Ayapana” which had been prepared for a dressing. Soon we became so ill that I sent for Mr Cox, the doctor. He found us very sick. Later I had a talk to Belise who had prepared the beverage and I told her that she had been negligent and that she had probably put something bad in it and that if we had died she would have been responsible. She repeated her previous statement, adding to it that she was sure that all the ingredients used in it were good. Then turning towards Zabeth, maintained that it was not so. Then, continues the other, we will see who could have done harm to Madame. I insisted on accusing them both of negligence. The next day at approximately 8 o’clock Mr Cox came to see us. He found us much better and had dinner with us. The meal was nearly over when Belise entered the room. “Well,” she said, “You have accused me Madame, however, Constance, the young negress from Mr de la Sabloniere, has just been kneeling at my feet admitting that she did put some powder in your tea but pleaded with me not to say anything. She confided in me because Helene had seen her pouring the powder into the beverage and had threatened to come and tell you if Constance herself did not come to tell you.” I was so shocked that I could not ask any questions. I told the negress to go and talk to Mr Cox. He then asked the negresses to come to him and he interrogated them separately. Constance admitted that she had used the powder contained in a small flask and knew that it was arsenic because Madame, having one day given it to her, had taken it back immediately telling her that she feared her orders would not be followed precisely and that she could poison herself. The flask was then brought in and Constance recognized it. It was an emetic. Asked if she had any accomplices she admitted that the idea was hers and that she only had told Zabeth about it and had asked her if she should use this arsenic. She was told yes, adding that after I died they could go back to their Quarters and wouldn’t need to learn to work any more. Helene, a child of seven, told us she had heard this conversation between Constance and Zabeth and she had seen the first pour some powder in the palm of her hand in a large quantity and then ask of Zabeth if it was enough of it. She replied, “Yes.” Then she threw it in the pot. Zabeth then admitted to charges laid against her. The young negresses were put under surveillance whilst I informed Madame Geffroy of the facts. After two hours Constance accused Zabeth of having started it all of her own accord by putting in my tea, every day, sometimes urine, sometimes saliva. Then she said she heard four months ago Belise tell one of her friends that she was leaving and that on her return she would find “Her” dead. Constance assured me that Belise was talking about me. I have no suspicion against this negress and do not believe this accusation which I believe came from a desire for vengeance. However, as I do not understand the mentality of these people, especially in these terrible circumstances, I beg you, Sir, to come and take Belise away. Strong reasons force me to act in this manner as I have seen my daughter being taken from me five months ago. Never has a death been more cruel or more extraordinary. I beg pardon for daring to suspect that the crime of these two young negresses was committed in cold blood. I ask that the investigation be complete and thorough as to discover the truth.
I am, Sir, Your Servant,
(Signed) Widow Morel.
[Source: Transcription of uncited primary source WikiTree]
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# Trial Place: Port Louis (Mauritius)
# Punishment: Transportation for Life
# Ship: Dart (1834)
# Parramatta Female Factory