Monday 22 February 2021

Week 8: Tanneguy Archdeacon: the prodigal son and the 'accidental' school shooting

100 years ago this week: Week 8

What caused a troubled teenager to kill the cook at his college, and why was the incident hushed up?

Read on for the full story.

Death of the cook at the institution Sorbon

Last February 18 in the kitchen of the institution Sorbon, the young Tanneguy Archdeacon, aged 17, killed, with a revolver, Mlle Maria Havet, the chef, through an act of carelessness.

Yesterday evening, Mr Ernest Archdeacon, the young man's father and well-known sportsman, visted the chambers of Mr Frachat, the examining magistrate appointed by the prosecutor to investigate this incident.

He informed him that his son caused endless problems, and that he had obtained his detention at the Petite-Roquette through paternal authority.

Mr Frachat informed Mr Ernest Archdeacon and his lawyer, Mr Raymond de Rienzi, that the young Tanneguy would be interviewed today.

The magistrate will also hear the from brother of Mlle Havet to find out if the unfortunate woman had made - in extremis - any declarations on the circumstances of this tragic incident.

Le Petit Parisien, 25/02/21

Another curious incident to unravel, but one thing strikes me immediately. The ‘accident’ – described here as a death, not a murder or killing - occurred a whole week before the story hit the press. Why there was such a delay will become clearer as we investigate the incident and the two family backgrounds.

So what did happen exactly on February 18, 1921? An article in Le Matin, published the day before the article above, gives a more complete description, but I’m not sure the exact circumstances and motivations were ever fully revealed. 

Tanneguy Archdeacon had arrived at the Institution Sorbon* only a few months previously, but his parents, unhappy with his behaviour, had already pulled him out of the school with the intention of sending him off to sea. On this day, he was returning to the Institution to collect some of his affairs, but he also had with him a freshly purchased gun. 

43 Rue de Bellechasse, the address of the Insitution Sorbon, today

Why did he take the gun with him to the school? He showed it to classmates who told him he was crazy and to put it away, but instead he headed directly for the kitchen, to 'talk to the cook, Maria Havet'. She was undoubtedly the person he wanted to impress or scare, if not to kill, but what happened next was not witnessed by anyone else. A shot though was fired, and Maria Havet lay dying. 

Tanneguy claimed it had been an accident, and the police officers who arrived on the scene quickly came to the same conclusion. Not even reporting this the day after the incident is unusual - as I have seen over recent weeks, the newspapers in 1921 are full of stories of shootings - but the information the journalists received must have always come from the police. This time, it was the son of a 'well-known sportsman' who was involved, and that was probably enough to keep it out of the public eye until a narrative had been found.

The brother's combat

If the story was being reported at all, it was undoubtedly thanks to Maria Havet's brother. For the police, the affair was closed and the body released for a burial which took place a couple of days later. Mr Havet - a simple accountant living in the Paris suburbs - was not satisfied. Determined that the incident be investigated properly, he filed a complaint. An examining magistrate was subsequently appointed, and Tanneguy Archdeacon placed under investigation.

In the meantime, Tanneguy's father had already taken the affair in hand. In 1921, paternal authority laws were still in place, a mechanism that enabled fathers to have children locked up (temporarily) if they felt they had behaved badly. Ernest Archdeacon** asked to have his son placed in the Petite-Roquette, Paris's infamous juvenile penitentiary, and his request was granted.

Ernest Archdeacon became the spokesman for the incident, explaining that his son was constantly causing him difficulties, but was certainly not a murderer. Further stories appeared in the press in subsequent days backing up this theory, introducing witnesses to confirm the accidental nature of the shooting. The influence of Mr Archdeacon was apparently stronger than that of Mr Havet, and the story slowly slipped away again from the papers. 

I can find no mention of a trial, so we can probably assume that Tanneguy Archdeacon escaped justice this time. This is almost certainly confirmed by the next mention of his name in the press. Once again, he was troubling the judicial system and causing his parents problems.

Le Petit Parisien, Novemeber 18, 1926

I won't translate this entire article, but simply give a quick summary. We are now 5 years in the future, and Tanguy is 22 years old. What we can deduce from the article is that he was not sent to prison or off to sea, but instead to work in a bank in New York. What did he do there? He got married in 1924 (when he was around 20 years old) to Mme Savoli, a young divorced woman - without informing his parents. The marriage lasted a grand total of 42 days, but Mme Savoli - possibly aware of the family wealth - was requesting a payment of 1000 dollars and a pension of $40 a week. Ernest Archdeacon was once again flying to the rescue, requesting that the marriage be declared illegal (in France) because parental consent had not been given for a son who was still a minor at the time. The court agreed, but the family still accepted to pay Mme Savoli a one-off sum of 25,000 francs. Rather tellingly, no mention is made of Tanneguy's misdemeanor five years previously.

What happened next?

What happened to Tanneguy afterwards? If we know that Ernest died in 1950, we know little about Tanneguy. What I do know is that he married a writer, Anne-Marie Goud - also known as Anne-Mariel - who even published under the name of Madame Tanneguy Archdeacon. She died in 1996 after publishing over 120 books, but I am yet to find a biography that mentions her husband.

Was this marriage longer lasting than his first? A 'Tanneguy Archdeacon' - a very uncommon name combing a French first name with a surname harking back to the Irish roots of the family - does crop up in one further source from 1938. This time the Tanneguy in question is in Czechoslovakia just before WW2, visiting his Czech fiancé. He is described as an engineer, fluent in Czech and with a father who was a nationalist MP. Although Ernest was never a politician, his cousin Edmond Archdeacon was an MP, so there could be some confusion from the author of this article. What else leads us to think that this is the same Tanneguy Archdeacon? According to this source, he winds up once again in jail, before being swiftly released and kicked out of the country!


*Listed as being situated at 43, rue de Bellechasse, a chic address not far from the Invalides and Matignon, the home of the French Prime Minister, the Instution Sorbon seems to have been a private teaching establishment. Beyond this incident, I have found no other mention of the school. Today, only a dentist is listed at this address.

**Ernest Archdeacon (pictured top) was a well-known and rather eccentric daredevil, but also a major promoter of the Esperanto language (as can be seen by the name of his houseboat in the second article above!). He was heavily involved in the development of both the automobile and airplanes, mostly as a driver and pilot, and made his name by taking part in numerous races. He is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, but I still need to confirm whether his troublesome son is there with him or not!


Pierre J. said...

A quick search on Internet seems to indicate that he died in 1971 in Brazil (which raises even more questions...)

Anonymous said...

So he got a divorce in 1939 and married again in Brazil in 1940, see :

Anonymous said...

This is his daughter (with Anne-Mariel), still active today few years ago as photographer under the name of Evelyn Morris.

Annabella Bray said...

Some great fellow sleuths on here! 😁

Adam said...

Thanks for this research! Whilst a big part of me thinks that I should have been concentrating on the victim in this story (I did look, but found very little), I can't help feeling a certain fascination with the life of Tanneguy.

I still have questions though. I can't find Archdeacon in the birth records linked above (what page?), and the YouTube link seems to be a singer called Carline. Is there a connection?

The big question though is why Brazil and what did he do there?

Pierre J. said...

I thought the link would point directly to the right page, sorry. Archdeacon is on page 17 upper right.
As for the singer named Carline, she claims to be Archdeacon son, see

Adam said...

This is excellent. Thanks Pierre!

So, to resume:
He had his American marriage annuled in November 1926.
In July 1927, he married Anne-Marie Goud (Anne-Mariel)
In 1939 they divorced (after having at least one child)
In March 1940 he got married in Brazil to Milada Kropac (Sp.?) - a name that looks Czech, linking him again with the 1939 incident in Czechoslovakia.
He died in Brazil on August 30, 1921.

I find it very telling that Evelyn Morris makes no mention of her father in her biography!

Justine Valinotti said...

Can a family be a family if it doesn't have secrets?

Korp said...

Springfield Missouri Republican had some further light to shed on the character of Tanneguy on July 29th of 1924.

Adam said...

This is disturbing reading. I hope he became a better person later in life!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Twitter Instagram Write Bookmark this page More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Premium Wordpress Themes