In an curious and quick moment of cultural despair, we aimed at the 1930's books our fabulous grand mother has given us recently, one of which was "The vicomte de Bragelonne" which is actually the last book of the "Three Mosqueteers" trilogy.
Quite long, this book manages to deal with our lovely and hunky (yet a bit old) mosqueteers and the young loves of Louis the 14th. Surprisingly, the action, the cape et d'épée moments are not that interesting compared to the languishing and romantic intrigues in which the newly born Court of Louis is described.
The main characters of this Court consist in : Louis' brother or "Monsieur", openly gay character, his wife the beautiful young and sharp Henriette or "Madame", the shy and future mistress of Louis IX a.k.a "La Vallière" and a young and witty Lady called Athénaïs.
Charmed by this rare and curious firstname, and bewildered by our lack of knowledge of all things royal, we made a quick and shameful research on you-know-what.org to learn about this young woman… And to our surprise, we read that this disinguished Lady of the court got involved in a black magic trial during Louis IX's reign.
Here is the story :
By 1666, Mme de Montespan was trying to take the place of Louis XIV's current mistress, the lovely but timid Louise de La Vallière. Using her wit and charm, she sought to ingratiate herself with the king. She became close to the Dauphin, as well, whose affection for her never wavered.
The furor began in 1675 after the trial of Marie-Madeleine-Marguerite d'Aubray, Marquise de Brinvilliers, who had conspired to poison her father and siblings with her lover, army captain Godin de Sainte-Croix, in order to inherit their estates. There were also rumors that she had poisoned poor people during her visits in hospitals. She fled but was arrested in Liège. She was forced to confess, sentenced to death and on July 17 was tortured with the water cure (forced to drink sixteen pints of water), beheaded and burned at the stake.
The sensational trial drew attention to a number of other mysterious deaths, starting a number of rumors. Prominent people, including Louis XIV, became alarmed that they also might be poisoned. The King forced some of his servants to become his foretasters. He told Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, who, among other things, was his chief of police, to root out the poisoners. La Reynie sought to calm the King. The subsequent investigation of potential poisoners led to accusations of witchcraft, murder and more.
Authorities rounded up a number of fortune-tellers and alchemists that were suspected of selling not only divinations, séances and aphrodisiacs, but also "inheritance powders" (ie. poison). Some of them under torture confessed and gave the authorities lists of their clients, who had allegedly bought poison to either get rid of their husbands or rivals in the court, once of which was Mme de Montespan.
Being questioned while she was kept intoxicated,La Voisin claimed that de Montespan had bought aphrodisiacs and performed black masses with her in order to gain and keep the King's favor over other rival lovers. In 1666, Mme de Montespan supposedly went so far as to allow a priest, Etienne Guibourg, to perform a black mass over her nude body in a blood-soaked ceremony, which was also said to have included infant sacrifice. Whatever the truth in these allegations, in July 1667, Mme de Montespan became the king's new mistress even though Louise was carrying his child.
In addition to seeking Louis' love, some charged Mme de Montespan with also conspiring to kill him. However, certain inconsistencies in this testimony suggest that the royal mistress was innocent of these charges.
After the scandal had forced Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan apart, the king continued to visit her daily in her rooms at the palace, and apparently her brilliance and charm in conversation mitigated to some extent her reduced status as a discarded mistress.
In 1691, no longer in royal favour, Mme de Montespan retired to the Filles de Saint-Joseph in Paris, with a pension of half a million francs. convent, in the rue Saint-Dominique
Conclusion : Witchcraft always pays off !