A Case of Pregnancy without Intercourse

An 8-page pamphlet published in Paris in February 1637 described an unusual case of pregnancy without intercourse.

Magdeleine d'Auvermont of Grenoble, said the pamphlet, had recently given birth to a son, Emmanuel. But when she did, her relatives immediately accused her of adultery and brought her to trial to have her child declared illegitimate.

Their case seemed airtight. After all, Magdeleine's husband had been absent for the past four years. However, Magdeleine insisted she had been chaste, and she offered an unusual explanation of how she had become pregnant. She said that she had dreamed of having sex with her husband, and the next morning had felt the signs of pregnancy. Nine months later she gave birth to her son.

During the trial, four midwives testified that they themselves had become pregnant without intercourse, and four doctors from the University of Montpellier signed a certificate stating that such a thing was possible. The Grenoble judges voted that her absent husband was indeed the father of the child, and that the child was therefore legitimate.

The report of this ruling caused an uproar. But when the Parliament of Paris considered the case later that year, it decided that the report had to be a hoax. It noted the names of the mother and son, which suggested a parody of the birth of Christ, as well as the fact that the sentence from Grenoble was delivered on Carnival Day.
Links and References
  • Finucci, Valeria. (2003). The Manly Masquerade: Masculinity, Paternity, and Castration in the Italian Renaissance. Duke University Press: 52-53.
  • Arrest notable de la Cour de Parlament de Grenoble, donné au profit d'une Damoiselle, sur la naissance d'un sien fils, arrivé quatre ans après l'absence de son mary, & sans avoir eu cognoissance d'aucun homme. Suivant le Rapport fait en ladite Cour, par plusieurs Médecins de Montpellier, Sage-Femmes, Matrones, & autres personnes de qualité. (1637). Paris.


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