Francois Vidocq kicks ass

Vidocq was a man among children in old times... and he was even french. This was taken straight from I got a bodybuilding show march 31st and i'm still very busy. Enjoy.

Eugène François Vidocq (July 23, 1775 – May 11, 1857) was a French criminal who later became the first director of Sûreté Nationale and one of the first modern private investigators. Vidocq was Victor Hugo's inspiration for both the two main characters in his novel Les Misérables.

Most of the information about Vidocq's early life comes from his ghost-written biography. According to it, Vidocq was born in Arras, France in July 23, 1775. His father was a baker.

At the age of 14, he apparently accidentally killed his fencing instructor and decided to skip town. He planned to sail to the Americas, but lost his money to an unscrupulous actress. He ended up joining the Bourbon Regiment a year later.

He was hardly a model soldier. He later claimed that he fought 15 duels and received numerous reprimands. Even during the war against Austria, he continued dueling, although he also rose to a rank of grenadier corporal. In 1792, when a sergeant major refused a duel with him, he hit him. Striking a superior officer could have led to a death sentence so he deserted and moved back to Arras.

The French Revolution was already in full swing. Vidocq claimed that he saved two noblewomen from the guillotine in Arras, but was captured and faced the same fate. His father got him out by asking the Chevalier family for help. Vidocq fell in love with their daughter Louise and married her when she falsely claimed she was pregnant. When he found out that Louise was having an affair with an officer, he left for Brussels. He acquired a false passport with the name of Rousseau. In Belgium, he courted an older baroness and joined a band of raiders. He left later with a parting gift of 15,000 gold francs.

Vidocq moved to Paris, where he squandered all his money on loose women. He became a bandit and was arrested many times, but always managed to escape. Once, he tried to forge a pardon for a cellmate sentenced to death. He also dabbled in smuggling. When he gave himself up to clear the name of a guard, he was arrested and sentenced to eight years of hard labor. He was transferred to Brest to labor in the galleys, but he escaped again, this time using a disguise.

In 1798, he moved to the Netherlands and for some time worked for privateer Fromentin raiding English shipping. In Ostend, he was arrested again and sent to Toulon prison under heavy guard. He managed to escape with the help of a friendly convict. He returned to Arras in hiding. The year was 1800.

In 1801, he became a lover of the daughter of a town warden while pretending to be an Austrian. When the constabulary closed in, they moved to Rouen. They lived there for two years until they were found again. He then moved to Boulogne, ending up in another privateering vessel fighting English ships. A fellow sailor recognized Vidocq and informed the authorities in Boulogne. He was sent to prison in Douai.

In Douai, Procurator-General Ransom convinced Vidocq to appeal for a re-trial. He waited five months – during which time Louise Chevalier sent word she was divorcing him – and escaped again. Vidocq tried to make a living as a merchant in Faubourg Sant-Denis, but a year later, he was again behind bars for some time. His attempt to become a school teacher failed when he was driven out of the village for having inappropriate liaisons with his older female students.

In May, 1809 Vidocq offered his services as a police spy to the Paris police in exchange for an amnesty. Inspector Henry challenged him to escape from his guards and come to him to prove his honesty. He did.

Vidocq began as an informer who listened to prisoners talking amongst themselves in La Force prison. Twenty months later, the police arranged his "escape" so he could work as an informant on the outside. Officially, he remained at large. When the underworld eventually begun to suspect him, he used disguises and assumed other identities to continue his work and throw off suspicion. At one point, he was recruited to kill himself.

Finally, Vidocq suggested the formation of a plainclothes unit, the Brigade de Sûreté (Brigade of Security) that later became the Sûreté Nationale. He led up to 12 detectives, many of them ex-criminals like himself. In 1817, he had a hand in 811 arrests, including those of 15 assassins and 38 fences. His annual income was 5,000 francs, but he also worked as a private investigator for a fee.

In 1814, at the beginning of the French Restoration, Vidocq and the Sûreté tried to contain the situation in Paris. He also arrested those who tried to exploit the post-revolutionary situation by claiming to have been aristocrats.

Vidocq's mother died in 1820. Her requiem was kept in Notre Dame Cathedral. At the same year, Vidocq married Jeanne-Victoire Guerin who died only four years later. He married Fleuride Maniez sometime in the 1820s. Still, he maintained a reputation as a ladies man.

In 1824, following his coronation, Charles X of France turned the police force into a political weapon against dissenters and would-be rebels. Vidocq came under observation, suspected of Bonapartist sympathies due to his acquaintances. When a new superior, Duplessis, complained about an apparently trivial matter, he resigned. In 1830, Duplessis' replacement Henri-Joséphe Gisquet reinstalled him.

That same year, Charles X's abdication and the rule of a new monarch Louis Phillipe caused more insecurity and therefore more work for the police. An additional problem was the 1832 cholera outbreak and a revolt that erupted on June 5. Vidocq's Surete arrested dozens of rioters.

Not all in the police approved of his methods however, and bitter rivalries developed. In 1832, he was obliged to resign because of a charge that he instigated a crime through an intermediary for the sole purpose of getting credit for solving it. According to Samuel Edwards’ The Vidocq Dossier (1977), there was a police regulation passed around the time of Vidocq’s resignation in 1833. It forbade the police from employing ex-convicts as officers.

He set up a paper manufacturing and printing company in Saint-Mandé (again hiring ex-criminals to work for him).

The first books he intended to publish were his memoirs. In 1828 – 1829 Vidocq had procured the services of L.F. L'Héritier de l'Ain to ghostwrite his memoirs. However, many historians consider that L'Héritier took lots of liberties with the facts. Vidocq himself seemed to agree, for he authorized only the first two of a total of four volumes. The book was still a success worldwide.

In 1833, he founded the first known private detective agency, Le bureau des renseignments (Office of Intelligence) and, again, hired ex-cons. Official law enforcement tried many times to shut it down. In 1842, police arrested him in suspicion of unlawful imprisonment and taking money on false pretenses after he had solved an embezzling case. Vidocq later suspected that it had been a set-up. He was sentenced to five years with a 3,000-franc fine, but the Court of Appeals released him.

In his last years, he wrote novels based on his experiences of the underworld. Some historians believe that he got help from his friend Honoré de Balzac.

When his wife Fleuride died in September, 1847, he retired and closed his agency, though he still occasionally worked for Department for the Interior under Louis-Napoleon of France.

In April 1857, Vidocq became paralyzed in his home in the Marais district in Paris. He died on May 11 in his bed. His funeral was the next day in the Saint-Denis du Saint-Sacrement church.

Vidocq is credited with having introduced record-keeping, criminology and ballistics to criminal investigation. He made the first plaster casts of shoe impressions. He created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper with his printing company. His form of anthropometrics is still partially used by French police. He is also credited for philanthropic pursuits – he claimed he never informed on anyone who had stolen for real need. The Vidocq Society claims to follow his example.

Vidocq was Emile Gaboriau's inspiration for his fictional detective Monsieur Lecoq, one of the first scientific and methodical investigators. He was also the model for Jacques Collin (a.k.a. Vautrin), a recurring character in several novels of Balzac.


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