When Charlotte Gainsbourg was 16, she came home from school to find her mother distraught and the police waiting for her. They had just discovered that she was the target of a kidnapping plot. A gang of upper-class teenagers – journalists called them the blousons dorés (golden jacket) gangsters – had planned to kill a police officer and steal his uniform. Then, using this disguise, they were going to abduct Gainsbourg and demand a 5m franc ransom from her famous parents, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. The gang, who had already committed several armed robberies, had found a country house where they were going to hide Gainsbourg. They had even bought shovels with which to bury the police officer.

Just another family out for a stroll: Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin with her daughter Kate Barry and their one-year-old, Charlotte, in France, 1972.

Gainsbourg laughs as she recounts the episode: “I thought it was so cool.” Her mother and father weren’t quite so blase. “I remember my parents being extremely scared and my father made me go to school with a bodyguard.” She stares into her coffee, stirring in milk for longer than is necessary. “I was so ashamed.”

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