The Marquise de Brinvilliers, a high society lady from the upper crust stomping grounds of Marais, Paris, was to make headline news, as it had been revealed, she had murdered her father, brothers, and attempted murder of her husband, by using poison.
It is believed she acquired her knowledge of poisons, whilst working as a volunteer at the Hotel Dieu (Hospital). She used her position to administer her own poisons, taking note of their effects upon the patients. Hospitals were overflowing with patients, and no one would question the high death rate…
Her crime wave can be traced back to her father, the Marquis de Brinvilliers, who had married her off to a man she had no love for. She loathed her husband, and had an affair… that seems to be a common choice among the aristocratic elements in France.
Godon de St.Croix, her lover was released from prison, and using his new found knowledge, the pair set about poisoning off her family members, one by one.
Her father the Marquis de Brinvilliers, was first on her list, and at her trial she is quoted as saying; he deserved it.
She next turned her attentions to her brother’s hoping to inherit their money.
Next on the list, her husband, a pre-arranged marriage was next to go, or so she thought. For Godon de St.Croix her accomplice must have had a conscious for he warned her husband, giving him an antidote. It is said he survived, with a badly damaged digestive tract.
Godon de St.Croix her accomplice died, believed to have been by natural causes, but no one can be sure.
She was to make a grave mistake, pushing for the return of a casket, which had been taken into police custody. The contents of the casket were letters, recipes poisons and their effects, enough information to prove her guilt in these deaths.
Brinvilliers fled France to safety in England, but was apprehended by Police Lieutenant la Reynie of Paris, who was hot on her tail, and brought her back to face trial in Paris.
She was tortured at the Conciergerie where she admitted her crimes in great detail, and then taken to the Hotel de Ville for execution.
She being a noble lady by birth was first beheaded, and her body burned, as a heretic by law.
The execution attracted many. According to the words of Marquise de Sevigne sent to her daughter. “Brinvilliers is in the air. Her poor little body was thrown after the execution into a very big fire, and the ashes to the winds, so that we shall breathe her, and through the communication of the subtle spirits, we shall develop some poisoning urge which will astonish all.”
What a prophetic statement it was. In 1680, four years after the Brinvilliers crime wave, it came to light other noble women were dispatching their unwanted husband’s to a higher realm. The poisons they purchased were known as “poudres de succession.”