A scandal of the court of King Louis XIV. It began with the trial of Marie Madeleine d'Aubray, the Marquise de Brinvilliers. She conspired with her lover, an army captain, to poison her father and two brothers in order to secure the family fortune, and to end interference in her adulterous relationship.

An investigation was undertaken, and the lady fled the country, but in 1676 she was arrested in Liège and brought to trial. The affair greatly worked on the popular imagination, and there were rumors that she had tested her poisons on hospital patients. After all was said and done she was beheaded and then burned. The French didn't mess around back then.

The trial attracted attention to other mysterious deaths. Parisian society had been seized by a fad for séances, fortune-telling, and the use of love potions. Some of the quack practitioners also sold poison; after their arrest they furnished the police with lists of their clients, who often were guilty only of having their palms read or of buying an aphrodisiac, and accused them of various crimes.

A special court, the burning court, was instituted to judge cases of poisoning and witchcraft, and the poison epidemic came to an end in France. The affair was symptomatic of the witchcraft trials of the period throughout Europe and in New England.

One more reason to stay away from Miss Cleo.

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