Marie Delphine MacCarthy LaLaurie
Born in March of 1787 in New Orleans, Marie Delphine MacCarthy LaLaurie, commonly known as Madame LaLaurie, was a wealthy socialite with a penchant for the macabre. One of five children, Marie Delphine came from a well-to-do family with ties to local government and well-respected community figures. Like many of the elite families during the 1700s, Marie Delphine’s family owned slaves.
Madame LaLaurie married three times, with two of her husbands passing away and leaving her widowed. Madame LaLaurie’s first husband, Don Ramón de Lopez y Angulo, was a royal Spanish officer who died suddenly just days before the birth of their daughter. Her second marriage was to Jean Blanque, a New Orleans banker and lawyer who found great success in legislation and finance. The two remained together for 8 years until Jean’s death, and the couple bore three children. Almost a decade after the death of her second husband, Madame LaLaurie married her third and final husband, a physician named Leonard Louis Nicholas LaLaurie. Young and successful, Leonard helped to reinvigorate Madame LaLaurie, empowering her to make moves for the benefit of her own life. Encouraged by her new marriage and maintained position in New Orleans' high society, Madame LaLaurie purchased a mansion at 1140 Royal Street in 1831, which became the couple’s primary residence for the remainder of their time in New Orleans.
In addition to being a socialite, widow, mother, and keen investor, Madame LaLaurie was also a well-known slave owner who received several formal warnings and was investigated for the horrendous treatment of the people she enslaved. Madame LaLaurie was infamous for mistreating African American people, and according to New Orleans funeral registers, at least twelve enslaved humans died between 1830 and 1834 at the LaLaurie residence.
The LaLauries were eventually found guilty of mistreatment of enslaved people after an incident in which a neighbor saw a child fall from the roof while attempting to avoid being whipped by Madame LaLaurie. The death and subsequent cover-up of the child’s death would cause the LaLauries to forfeit nine slaves, though they were almost immediately returned to the residence after the incident.
After multiple investigations and three years of comfortable living in the LaLaurie Mansion, Madame Delphine’s world came crashing down on April 11th, 1834. One of the slaves being held by the LaLauries, a 70-year old woman, set fire to the home in a failed attempt to commit suicide, wanting to escape the horrific abuse she had experienced at the hands of Madame and Dr. LaLaurie.
The fire quickly overtook the home, drawing large crowds to the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls St. to observe the flames. When onlookers realized that Madame LaLaurie and their husband were not in the building, they asked for access to keys to ensure all people had been evacuated. Madame LaLaurie refused, claiming that no one else was in the home, despite the fact that they were well-known slave-owners. Bystanders ignored Madame LaLaurie’s protests, breaking down doors and walls in an attempt to get to the people inside. Their efforts paid off, and in the process, no less than seven slaves were found chained and tied in their quarters, hideously mutilated, and unable to escape the deathly flames.
Those found in the LaLaurie mansion claimed that they had been hung, tied, and beaten for months on end, and showed signs of being kept in restrictive positions, wearing spiked metal collars, and being severely beaten with a whip. The discovery of these seven enslaved people ushered in the end of Madame LaLaurie’s status as a socialite in New Orleans.
Shortly after the rescue of the enslaved, local citizens bore down on the LaLaurie Mansion, destroying it and everything inside in an attempt to force the LaLauries out of New Orleans. This tactic worked, and Madame LaLaurie fled the residence and New Orleans shortly after to live in Paris.
Madame LaLaurie lived out the remainder of her life in Paris, passing away in 1849 without ever facing justice for the horrendous crimes she committed.