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Newgate Calendar - VALLERIE COFFRE


A Frenchman, Executed at Winchester, July 11, 1766, for the Murder of his Fellow-Prisoner

            IT is a melancholy reflection on the state of human nature, to find men under the misery of imprisonment in a foreign land quarrelling with each other, to a height ending in murder. That men, side by side, fighting the battles of their country, and by the fortune of war made prisoners by their enemy, in their confinement, to begin to murder each other is a dreadful reflection.

            Vallerie Coffre was a French prisoner of war, confined with a number of his countrymen, at Portchester Castle, in Hampshire. He quarrelled with his countryman and fellow-prisoner, Nicholas Chartier, and by a secret stab with his knife, an instrument all Frenchmen carry about them, chiefly for the purpose of cutting their food, deprived him of life. This was fully proved on his trial. He pleaded intoxication, and behaved with great contrition. He was a well made young man, and only twenty-two years of age. He was attended by a catholic priest, and was very earnest in his devotions. The whole of the French prisoners were guarded to the place of execution, to witness the dreadful example. He signed a confession, according to the custom of his country, acknowledging his crime, and the justice of his sentence, and asking pardon for it. The priest who attended him, just before he was turned off, read the paper to the prisoners assembled, which it is hoped had a good effect on them. The following is a correct copy of the paper above mentioned:

            "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.—
            Fatal drunkenness! without which I should not have killed my friend, since I loved him, and regret him sincerely, and with all my soul. Truth obliges me to say, to the end, that I have no knowledge of that which I did then, so much were my senses lost; nevertheless I have committed a great crime—I acknowledge the justice of my condemnation—I entreat pardon for it from my friends, from all those who were witnesses to it, and above all, from God, who is the Father and the Saviour of all men, and to whom I recommend my soul, trusting myself to the merits of Jesus Christ, and blessing his divine bounty. I die a member of the Apostolic Roman Church.
            Vallerie Coffre."
            Witness, Delabaye.

            After execution his body was immediately delivered to the surgeons for dissection.

Note: At French tables, knives are seldom laid with each plate. A carver is sometimes found near the dish of roast meat, but there is little occasion for this; their victuals, being always cooked, as we would express it, to rags. Thus they easily pull it to pieces with their three-pronged forks. With one of these and a knife, the latter each individual takes from the pocket, aided occasionally by their fingers, they consume an enormous quantity of salad, greens, and bread; with no small allowance of overdone animal food. Of this part of their aliment, stews, ragouts, and soups, are excellent, but no Englishman can relish their roast beef, their steak, or their leg of mutton.


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