In the seventeenth century, King Louis XIV of France was the reigning monarch over the richest country in Europe.
He held an extraordinary amount of power and had many people at his feet, eager to win his favor. When money and power are involved, people will go to extreme lengths to obtain a chunk of that wealth.
In the late 1660s and early 1670s, many French nobles suddenly and unexpectedly dropped dead. Autopsy reports revealed that the insides of their bodies had been deteriorated and blackened.
When the Parisian police discovered a plot to poison the king, a mass panic over witchcraft seized the royal court. It led to the arrests of well-known French aristocrats and the witches they were associated with.
A total of 194 people were arrested, and 36 were publicly executed. The scandal became known as the “Affair of the Poisons” and has been deemed one of the largest witch trials in history.
It actually caused twice the deaths as the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, which occurred about a decade later.
The Affair of the Poisons started with a murder case involving a beautiful, wealthy woman named Marie de Brinvilliers.
She struck up a relationship with military captain Godin de Sainte-Croix. However, her father did not approve of the affair and had him thrown into prison.
While in prison, Sainte-Croix met a “master poisoner” named Egidio Exili and apparently learned some skills from him. When he was released, Sainte-Croix and de Brinvilliers went on a poisoning spree.