The Affair of the Poisons
The ‘Affair of the Poisons’ was a scandal at which ‘all France trembled’ and which ‘horrified the whole of Europe’ as it implicated a number of prominent persons at the court of King Louis XIV in the late 17th century.
Parisian society was seized by a fad for spiritualist séances, fortune- telling, and the use of love potions. The most celebrated case was that of La Voisin, a midwife and fortune-teller whose real name was Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin and whose clientele included the Marquise de Montespan, Olympe Mancini and Marshal Luxembourg. No formal charges were made, and there is no evidence that they were seriously implicated, yet a permanent stain was left on their names. La Voisin was burned as a poisoner and a sorceress in 1680. A special court was instituted to judge cases of poisoning and witchcraft, and the poison epidemic came to an end in France.This bizarre witchhunt, which embroiled the gilded denizens of Versailles with the most sordid dregs of Paris society, remains both a fascinating enigma and an utterly compelling story.