The Affair of the Poisons was a MAJOR scandal in France. From 1677 – 1682 a bunch of French aristocrats were charged with poisoning and witchcraft. Thirty-six people were executed.
It began with Madame de Brinvilliers, who tried to poison her father and two brothers in an effort to win control of their estates. When she was accused, she fled but was eventually captured, and confessed under torture. She was forced to drink sixteen pints of water, then beheaded and THEN… her body was burned at the stake. Yikes.
The trial brought to light some additional “mysterious” deaths, which led to the arrest of Magdelaine de la Grange, who was accused of murder. Magdelaine went down swinging and claimed to have knowledge of a a whole slew of poisoners. Shortly after, the police rounded up fortune tellers, alchemists, and healers who were selling “inheritance powder”. These people were tortured until they provided a list of their customers.
The most famous case during this very scary time, was that of La Voisin the healer. She was arrested in 1679. La Voisin (Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin) implicated almost everyone in the French court. Including Olympia Mancini- the Comtesse de Soissons, her sister Marie Anne Mancini- the Duchesse de Bouillon, Francois Henri de Montmorency- The Duke of Luxembourg and King Lois XIV’s mistress (shown in the painting) Athenais de Montespan.
La Voisin was questioned while under the influence of alcohol (interesting) and claimed that Montespan had bought aphrodisiacs and performed black masses in order to keep the King’s favor.
Francoise-Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan was the favorite mistress of King Louis XIV of France. He had seven children with her! She was born into nobility and was considered the true Queen of France due to her influence over the king. However, The Affair of the Poisons ruined everything. In 1691, she was forced to leave the court and retired to a convent (no black masses there!) She received a pension and died at the age of 65.
La Voisin was sentenced to death for witchcraft and poisoning, and burned at the stake.
The result of this scandal- 442 suspects were questioned, 367 orders of arrest were issued, 218 people were arrested, 36 were executed, 5 are sentenced to the galleys and 23 were forced into exile.