He even signs SMS messages: “Molecatcher to the king.” It’s been over two centuries since Louis XVI was guillotined on Paris’ Place de la Concorde, but the job of hunting the underground rodent that so troubled French monarchs on the grounds of the Versailles palace still exists.
Its current holder carries on, business as usual, with a task that hasn’t changed in centuries.
“It might sound funny, but it’s serious work. My job is to make sure molehills don’t deface Europe’s finest gardens,” says 36-year-old Jerome Dormion, the latest in an unbroken 330-year line of burrowing rodent-killers in the royal palace and gardens visited by six million people a year. “We still have visiting dignitaries too. Imagine if they were to see them!”
Dormion — who started out as a regular gardener before noticing a niche in the molecatching market — keeps the roughly 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of magnificent horticulture mole-free. The grounds include fountains, an orangery, glistening landscaped grass, Marie Antoinette’s cherished farm and famed gardener Andre Le Notre’s Royal Path and Grand Canal.
He takes the work very seriously — but there’s the odd flash of humor.
“I’m known as the king’s molecatcher because Versailles is still the palace,” he says. “The king might be gone, but the palace still has moles, loads of them.” He smiles: “Which is good, as it keeps me in work!”
Versailles is a veritable hotbed for moles, unlike some other European palaces, since it lies in the verdant countryside some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) outside the Paris city walls. Across the channel, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II need not furrow her regal brow, as her palace, within London, is protected by city foundations that prevent moles from digging through to the royal residence.
Tattooed by Trud Tattooist at Blue Dragon Tattoo Studio, Brighton.
Sarah Jessica Parker.