In her memoirs, Charlotte Robespierre recalls that her brother Maximilien courted her cousin-in-law, a certain Mlle Deshorties. However, she did not make clear what the young woman’s first name was. As she indicates, there were three daughters Deshorties. Well, in his hagiography, Ernest Hamel affirmated that the young woman’s name had been Anaїs and that she later became the wife of a lawyer called Leducq. This knowledge, especially her first name, has been spread, and more or less every historian and biographer is sure that Maximilien indeed courted a young woman named Anaїs Deshorties… In his review of Marc Bouloiseau’s biography on Robespierre, Louis Jacob offers another insight: He claims that the name of Mlle Deshorties was, in fact, Marie-Catherine-Antoinette. “Antoinette” is also the name that is given in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on Robespierre. Le Gentil, in his biography of the Leducq family from 1692 to 1877, simply names her Marie-Catherine, which is also her name in several fora on genealogy. Le Gentil, too, states that it was her who had a relation to Maximilien. I will try to trace back her life, which is not easy since reliable sources are rare and biographical mentions rather hagiographic.
Marie-Catherine was the child of Robert-Franҫois Deshorties, then a notary, and Marie-Anne-Joseph (yes, this male name was common for women, too, at least in North France: Le Bon’s family is full of female Josephs) Lenglet, born in 1726. The two of them married on 1st July 1755 and had (according to Charlotte) two sons and three daughters. Marie-Catherine’s birth date is unclear. Louis Jacob, seemingly well instructed, gives the 25th March 1765. Other sources say she was only born in 1767. Her mother died on 16th May 1770, when Marie-Catherine was still a child. In January 1776, her father married Marie-Marguerite-Alexandrine-Eléonore-Eulalie de Robespierre (1735-1791), Maximilien’s aunt. I do not know anything about the young Marie-Catherine. Ernest Hamel praises her a lot, calls her (in other words) pretty, nice and smart, as well as lively, gay, playful and so on. How did he know? No clue. Le Gentil is more concise: she “was as remarkable for her distinction as for her intelligence”. Charlotte Robespierre claims that her brother courted Mlle Deshorties for “two or three years” in 1789. Was she the recipient of the tear-jerking letters Maximilien wrote in June 1787? About her relationship with her cousin we can only speculate. Le Gentil suggests that it was Marie-Catherine who inspired Robespierre the poem dedicated to “belle Ophélie”. Abbé Proyart writes in his obnoxious account on Robespierre’s life, that he obtained the hand of a young relative, that may have been Marie-Catherine. Well, as we know, they did not marry. Other than Charlotte recalls, Marie-Catherine did not marry before Maximilien’s return to Arras in autumn 1791. Their relationship may have been at an end by then. In 1792, on 7th August, Marie-Catherine married Léandre Leducq (born 1768) in Simencourt, a village near Arras. The witnesses to their marriage were, among others, Charles-Louis-Alexis Deshorties (her brother?) and Gabriel Du Rut, widower of Robespierre’s other aunt Aimable-Aldegonde-Henriette (1736-1791). Hamel mentions only that Mlle Deshorties married “M Leducq”, and given that he mistakes her first name, he might as well write about Marie-Catherine’s sister Marie-Louise-Constance (1766-1858), who married another Leducq, Pierre-Louis-Augustin (1770-1843), in May 1794 (floréal an II). But that is not the case. Robert-Franҫois Deshorties, then justice of peace in Arras, died in December 1792. Léandre Leducq was, like many men of his family, a lawyer, but he seems not to have worked as such but having floated about here and there, being mayor of Saint-Nicolas in 1800 to 1802, before finally, becoming a justice of peace in Arras as well. He and Marie-Catherine had at least two children, Xénophon, born in 1796 (14 prairial an IV), who was an oils fabricant and married his cousin, Constance’s daughter Joséphine-Constance-Eulalie in 1820, and Léandre, born on January 1st 1799. The two sons were born in different villages near Arras, suggesting that the Leducqs moved around a bit. They seem to have been well-to-do, though, as they lived in a house with a large garden. In 1813, Leducq père escorted his younger son Léandre to college in his convertible (as I said: well off), when he suddenly died. His widow raised their children and got, according to Hamel, a little bitter. Nevertheless, she did a good job, Léandre fils was a brilliant student and studied law in Paris. He became a distinguished and honoured lawyer, was a noted republican and defended the liberty of press in nine different cases. He married in 1837 a woman named Primerose Sy and had a son, Frédéric and a daughter, Marie. Léandre died in 1880. His mother, Marie-Catherine, had died in 1847, on 28thApril, according to Ernest Hamel.
And that is all I have found out so far about that woman who shared some time of Robespierre’s pre-revolutionary youth. If it was her, at least.