counter create hit The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV

Availability: Ready to download

The Affair of the Poisons, as it became known, was an extraordinary episode that took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. When poisoning and black magic became widespread, arrests followed. Suspects included those among the highest ranks of society. Many were tortured and numerous executions resulted. The 1676 torture and execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers The Affair of the Poisons, as it became known, was an extraordinary episode that took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. When poisoning and black magic became widespread, arrests followed. Suspects included those among the highest ranks of society. Many were tortured and numerous executions resulted. The 1676 torture and execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers marked the start of the scandal which rocked the foundations of French society and sent shock waves through all of Europe. Convicted of conspiring with her adulterous lover to poison her father and brothers in order to secure the family fortune, the marquise was the first member of the noble class to fall. In the French court of the period, where sexual affairs were numerous, ladies were not shy of seeking help from the murkier elements of the Parisian underworld, and fortune-tellers supplemented their dubious trade by selling poison. It was not long before the authorities were led to believe that Louis XIV himself was at risk. With the police chief of Paris police alerted, every hint of danger was investigated. Rumors abounded and it was not long before the King ordered the setting up of a special commission to investigate the poisonings and bring offenders to justice. No one, the King decreed, no matter how grand, would be spared having to account for their conduct. The royal court was soon thrown into disarray. The Mistress of the Robes and a distinguished general were among the early suspects. But they paled into insignificance when the King's mistress was incriminated. If, as was said, she had engaged in vile Satanic rituals and had sought to poison a rival for the King's affections, what was Louis XIV to do? Anne Somerset has gone back to original sources, letters and earlier accounts of the affair. By the end of her account, she reaches firm conclusions on various crucial matters. The Affair of the Poisons is an enthralling account of a sometimes bizarre period in French history.


Compare

The Affair of the Poisons, as it became known, was an extraordinary episode that took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. When poisoning and black magic became widespread, arrests followed. Suspects included those among the highest ranks of society. Many were tortured and numerous executions resulted. The 1676 torture and execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers The Affair of the Poisons, as it became known, was an extraordinary episode that took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. When poisoning and black magic became widespread, arrests followed. Suspects included those among the highest ranks of society. Many were tortured and numerous executions resulted. The 1676 torture and execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers marked the start of the scandal which rocked the foundations of French society and sent shock waves through all of Europe. Convicted of conspiring with her adulterous lover to poison her father and brothers in order to secure the family fortune, the marquise was the first member of the noble class to fall. In the French court of the period, where sexual affairs were numerous, ladies were not shy of seeking help from the murkier elements of the Parisian underworld, and fortune-tellers supplemented their dubious trade by selling poison. It was not long before the authorities were led to believe that Louis XIV himself was at risk. With the police chief of Paris police alerted, every hint of danger was investigated. Rumors abounded and it was not long before the King ordered the setting up of a special commission to investigate the poisonings and bring offenders to justice. No one, the King decreed, no matter how grand, would be spared having to account for their conduct. The royal court was soon thrown into disarray. The Mistress of the Robes and a distinguished general were among the early suspects. But they paled into insignificance when the King's mistress was incriminated. If, as was said, she had engaged in vile Satanic rituals and had sought to poison a rival for the King's affections, what was Louis XIV to do? Anne Somerset has gone back to original sources, letters and earlier accounts of the affair. By the end of her account, she reaches firm conclusions on various crucial matters. The Affair of the Poisons is an enthralling account of a sometimes bizarre period in French history.

30 review for The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Frankly, the most exciting thing about this book is the title. When it's got a title like that, you wouldn't think it's possible for a book to be mindnumbingly dull. AND YET. I think my biggest problem is that there's so much detail, so many backstories to wade through for what felt like EVERYONE AT VERSAILLES, so much context, that I finished the book and still had relatively little idea of what the Affair of the Poisons actually WAS. Because to me? The book felt a lot like this: 1. Introduction Frankly, the most exciting thing about this book is the title. When it's got a title like that, you wouldn't think it's possible for a book to be mindnumbingly dull. AND YET. I think my biggest problem is that there's so much detail, so many backstories to wade through for what felt like EVERYONE AT VERSAILLES, so much context, that I finished the book and still had relatively little idea of what the Affair of the Poisons actually WAS. Because to me? The book felt a lot like this: 1. Introduction 2. Endless chapters establishing what life at Louis XIV's court was like, and establishing that Louis would basically sleep with anything in a skirt. Except during Lent when he was suddenly struck by a wave of "crap, God made me king, I should probably obey the commandments once in a while". 3. The trials of people accused of being involved in the Affair of the Poisons. 4. What happened to those who weren't tortured to death. Like...?!?!?!?! I feel like I was missing a massive chunk of the story. I understand that the author was limited to what's survived in the historical record, which is mostly court documents, but basically what I got was that someone was accused of poisoning their family members to get their inheritances and they were tortured and name dropped a few other people with suggestions that they'd performed abortions (not surprising considering all the bed-hopping going on in the aristocracy) and the whole thing spiralled out of control from there?? But I'm not entirely sure. Maybe if I'd read the Wikipedia page first, it would have made more sense... But on the whole, it was overly descriptive and incredibly dry reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is an interesting related history of a sweep of mistrust and suspicion and its outcomes under Louis XIV. It is not easy reading, as there is so much relational nuance and multi-name occurrence beyond all the French law/court jurisdictional structure. But its interest for me was in the play out of that psychological spread of fear and mistrust and betrayals far beyond the original poison scenarios. Social Psychology tract material; how one set of fears turn into nearly universal panics or mi This is an interesting related history of a sweep of mistrust and suspicion and its outcomes under Louis XIV. It is not easy reading, as there is so much relational nuance and multi-name occurrence beyond all the French law/court jurisdictional structure. But its interest for me was in the play out of that psychological spread of fear and mistrust and betrayals far beyond the original poison scenarios. Social Psychology tract material; how one set of fears turn into nearly universal panics or misjudgments. I skimmed some of the chapters that got into relationships that didn't much pertain to the societal "fear" and outrage. If you have approached the mindset of this period and place in depth and interest before, and have not seen it- I would suggest an old French movie called "Ridicule". Same time and place with another slant on cultural and societal attitude change practiced from the inside out. This is a time, and not the only one either, when policing rode on hearsay and tortured confessions, as much as on any physical proof.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    I wanted to become involved in this book, but it was so long winded that it was impossible. Too much description - if that can be a bad thing, too much filler, in between the necessary information needed to carry the story. I found my eyes glazing over...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Uncle

    Anne Somerset’s work often concerns historic royal scandals. Her book The Affair of the Poisons is a reexamination of the poisoning and occult scandal which rocked Paris in the late seventeenth century. The scandal made its way right up to the court of Versailles, eventually even implicating some members of the French king’s most intimate circle. The affair itself was an explosive mix of ambition, revenge, superstition, witchcraft, murder, and public hysteria. Somerset’s books are considered as Anne Somerset’s work often concerns historic royal scandals. Her book The Affair of the Poisons is a reexamination of the poisoning and occult scandal which rocked Paris in the late seventeenth century. The scandal made its way right up to the court of Versailles, eventually even implicating some members of the French king’s most intimate circle. The affair itself was an explosive mix of ambition, revenge, superstition, witchcraft, murder, and public hysteria. Somerset’s books are considered as “popular history”, though I personally do not find this term to be pejorative. Somerset’s research in The Affair of the Poisons is clearly exhaustive. The scandal itself was an incredibly intricate affair peopled with very complicated personalities. Yet the author is able to make the tale compelling, even gripping at times. She is also able to break some new ground, and arrive at some new and convincing conclusions about the sordid affair. Central to the story itself is the contradictory character of Louis XIV himself. Charismatic and charming, the king could also be ruthless and vindictive. His mistress Madame de Montespan was perhaps the most famous person to be rumored to involved in the poisoning scandal. Yet the investigations into her involvement were so secretive that the lady herself likely never knew how close she was to arrest, public disgrace, perhaps even execution. The king charged a special commission with rooting out the poisoners and occult practitioners plying their sinister trade in Paris. Yet the king’s own actions often compromised its effectiveness. The commissioners themselves were not above factionalism, and used their powers to punish their enemies. The commissioners were also almost laughably gullible, easily manipulated by charlatans and self-styled witches and warlocks.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    Far less exciting than the subtitle (or title!) makes it sound! There's a great deal of information about court proceedings and how investigation in the era was carried out (namely, torture, lots and lots of torture). Unfortunately, the amount of detail becomes deadening after a while, with very little to help contextualize the last few chapters, which became increasingly unfocused. I was hoping for more analysis of the charges, in terms of how realistic they were and the general social context Far less exciting than the subtitle (or title!) makes it sound! There's a great deal of information about court proceedings and how investigation in the era was carried out (namely, torture, lots and lots of torture). Unfortunately, the amount of detail becomes deadening after a while, with very little to help contextualize the last few chapters, which became increasingly unfocused. I was hoping for more analysis of the charges, in terms of how realistic they were and the general social context around belief in Satanic activity at the time, but the author only provides a very brief analysis in the final chapter. Worth reading for the depth of detail on French court lifestyle and politics of the time, although if that's your interest, you can stop about half-way through, when the details of the trials start to kick in.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rena Sherwood

    Incredibly tedious and at times exasperating account of a weird blip in French history -- someone accusing a bunch of people of plotting to kill the King through black magic and poisons. It's very complicated. The author does place a Cast of Characters at the front of the book to help you keep track of who's who. I found this an incredibly hard book as I do not know much aboout French history and thought this would be a fun way to learn. Oh, how wrong I was. You need to be somewhat familiar with Incredibly tedious and at times exasperating account of a weird blip in French history -- someone accusing a bunch of people of plotting to kill the King through black magic and poisons. It's very complicated. The author does place a Cast of Characters at the front of the book to help you keep track of who's who. I found this an incredibly hard book as I do not know much aboout French history and thought this would be a fun way to learn. Oh, how wrong I was. You need to be somewhat familiar with French history in order to really get this, some things are just hinted at instead of explained. Does have some mildly interesting illustrations and some gruesome torture details. The Inquisition of another sort seemed to have been alive and well durng the reign of Louis XIV. It's amazing anyone in Europe survived. Moral of the story: people will say anything to keep from getting executed. Imagine that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heather Lin

    Very informative, and I appreciate that the author was careful not to make assumptions. She told the story, presented the evidence, and left us to draw our own conclusions in most cases.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tim Nordstrom

    The premise of 'The Affair of the Poisons' sounds juicy: the court of King Louis XIV, the "Sun King," a Salem-esque rash of accusations of poisonings, murders, Black Masses, Satanism, involving some of the highest ranking members of French society, including the King's favorite mistress! The book is, unfortunately, a matter-of-fact recounting of accusation after accusation that often becomes tedious. To be sure, author Anne Somerset knows her stuff: everything is very detailed, includes well-reas The premise of 'The Affair of the Poisons' sounds juicy: the court of King Louis XIV, the "Sun King," a Salem-esque rash of accusations of poisonings, murders, Black Masses, Satanism, involving some of the highest ranking members of French society, including the King's favorite mistress! The book is, unfortunately, a matter-of-fact recounting of accusation after accusation that often becomes tedious. To be sure, author Anne Somerset knows her stuff: everything is very detailed, includes well-reasoned commentary and analysis, and seems to be meticulously footnoted. However, much of the book is simply recounting, in great detail, the background of a person who is accused, a very detailed account of the accusations -- usually so-and-so said the person did something, and that person knew someone else who may have said something about that, and that other person knew someone else who didn't like so-and-so... it can become hard to follow. We then find out what happened to that person and how they lived after the accusation. And then it is on to the next person. There are occasional bits of color that are interesting: Somerset writes about some of the food served at court banquets, what the royal apartments were really like (hint: they didn't smell good), and an incident involving two noblewomen hurling their excrement over a balcony at a play. Unfortunately, these get lost in the tedium. More importantly, I never got a great feel for the bigger picture or atmosphere surrounding all this: when I think of similar historical incidents (McCarthyism, or the Salem Witch Trials), I think of an atmosphere of paranoia, accusations, usually driven by one or a handful of strong personalities. The author does talk about this, but because much of the book just recounts individual accusations (and jumpes around in timeline a lot), it doesn't capture that, at least for me. If you're big into French history, this may be a good book for you. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bernadette

    This is a fascinating book, when I ordered I thought it was HF. It's a non-fiction book about a period of time I knew nothing about. The first crime in the book is about the Marquise Brinvilliers who was convicted of poisoning her father, her brothers and attempting to poison others in 17th c. France. Mme. Brinviller was a well connected Frechwoman and her crime and trial mesmerized France at the time. I was looking at Wikipedia about the first crime in the book and found that Dumas wrote a shor This is a fascinating book, when I ordered I thought it was HF. It's a non-fiction book about a period of time I knew nothing about. The first crime in the book is about the Marquise Brinvilliers who was convicted of poisoning her father, her brothers and attempting to poison others in 17th c. France. Mme. Brinviller was a well connected Frechwoman and her crime and trial mesmerized France at the time. I was looking at Wikipedia about the first crime in the book and found that Dumas wrote a short work about Marquise Brinvillier, the famous female French poisoner. The Dumas work is part of his Celebrated Crime series and free at manybooks.net! True crime, 17th c. France and Dumas!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Josie

    In the late 1600s, Louis XIV of France authorized a secret counsel to investigate and prosecute instances of poisoning and black magic. Several prominent members of court -- who likely did no more than had their fortunes told on a whim -- were imprisoned, tortured, exiled and in some cases executed. Interesting, yes, but not 339 pages worth of interesting. The best parts are the beginning chapters about life at Versailles and descriptions of Louis XIV and various of his mistresses and how those In the late 1600s, Louis XIV of France authorized a secret counsel to investigate and prosecute instances of poisoning and black magic. Several prominent members of court -- who likely did no more than had their fortunes told on a whim -- were imprisoned, tortured, exiled and in some cases executed. Interesting, yes, but not 339 pages worth of interesting. The best parts are the beginning chapters about life at Versailles and descriptions of Louis XIV and various of his mistresses and how those affairs impacted life at court. It's like Real Housewives of Versailles! Skip the rest.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    This is an interesting overview of a poison scandal that wracked Paris during the later part of Louis XIV's reign. I don't think that the book is as interesting as the title would indicate. I would also suggest that before reading this, read Athenais. It recounts the life of Louis XIV's mistress of longest standing and overlaps with this book. Having that background made this book much more interesting. This is an interesting overview of a poison scandal that wracked Paris during the later part of Louis XIV's reign. I don't think that the book is as interesting as the title would indicate. I would also suggest that before reading this, read Athenais. It recounts the life of Louis XIV's mistress of longest standing and overlaps with this book. Having that background made this book much more interesting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Makayla Osipenko

    This book was definitely an interesting read! However, there was a lot going on and I found it jumped around quite a bit making it somewhat difficult to follow. Overall, this book was enjoyable and it was a good reminder that people haven't changed all that much. There's always this belief that our ancestors were very pious, strict, and prudish, but that wan't really the case. If you're into history and crime, then this book might be interesting for you to read. This book was definitely an interesting read! However, there was a lot going on and I found it jumped around quite a bit making it somewhat difficult to follow. Overall, this book was enjoyable and it was a good reminder that people haven't changed all that much. There's always this belief that our ancestors were very pious, strict, and prudish, but that wan't really the case. If you're into history and crime, then this book might be interesting for you to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebeca D'aubray

    Can't wait to read this book! Ive stumbled across it and the story of 'The Affair of The Poisons' when i was looking up my family history and trying to work out between myth and fact about my name! After months of researching i have linked myself back to Marquise de Brinvilliers, which is at the heart of the scandal. Cant wait to read of the events that took place! :) Can't wait to read this book! Ive stumbled across it and the story of 'The Affair of The Poisons' when i was looking up my family history and trying to work out between myth and fact about my name! After months of researching i have linked myself back to Marquise de Brinvilliers, which is at the heart of the scandal. Cant wait to read of the events that took place! :)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dianne Landry

    I really wanted to like this book but I couldn't finish it. There is far too much description. I didn't need pages to tell me that a person who should have been tortured wasn't because they had money. That can be told in 1/2 a page. As for the gossipy aristocratic women, I felt like they belonged on The View or Real Houswives of Paris. Just not a good book. I really wanted to like this book but I couldn't finish it. There is far too much description. I didn't need pages to tell me that a person who should have been tortured wasn't because they had money. That can be told in 1/2 a page. As for the gossipy aristocratic women, I felt like they belonged on The View or Real Houswives of Paris. Just not a good book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    One of the books I read last year in my French Revolution frenzy mentioned how the Sun King himself, King Louis XIV, unknowingly ate ground up murdered babies by evil mistress (Montespan), who got away with killing 1,000s of babies and bathing in their blood. The poisoner in the center of this plot, La Voisin--why even her Wikipedia page says: "Her purported cult (Affair of the Poisons) was suspected to have killed anywhere between 1000-2500 people [1] in Black Masses." But this is the worst cli One of the books I read last year in my French Revolution frenzy mentioned how the Sun King himself, King Louis XIV, unknowingly ate ground up murdered babies by evil mistress (Montespan), who got away with killing 1,000s of babies and bathing in their blood. The poisoner in the center of this plot, La Voisin--why even her Wikipedia page says: "Her purported cult (Affair of the Poisons) was suspected to have killed anywhere between 1000-2500 people [1] in Black Masses." But this is the worst clickbait history--there were no black masses, at most maybe two people were poisoned (who knows, could also have been appendix bursting or ectopic pregnancy)--but 319 arrest warrants were issued, 194 arrested, 36 executed, 2 died in torture, 17 banished, and 85 others condemned to Man in the Iron Mask-harsh-lifetime-in-dungeon sentences (even totally innocent people whose only crime was overhearing details of the case, got the manacled to wall in rat infested pit till death letter of cachet). There were two really obvious parallels with this affair and American history--the Salem Witch Trials and the Child Daycare Satanist Panic of the 1980s. And except for a bit at the end, where someone comments that every 10 years or so, the public would be wracked with a child-murder-Satanist-urban legend panic, there wasn't much made of that. The witch trials in Salem came a decade later after this--and really the prevailing belief in France was that witchcraft was nonsense and superstition--but that astrology and alchemy were scientifically advanced, with 1650-1680 seeing an alchemy boom, with more books published on that subject than any other. With the mania of people buying chemistry sets to practice at home, the belief that minerals grew in the ground like plants and were alive (why people thought that plants could be used to transmute to gold or silver), and con artists roaming around fooling people into buying fake recipes thanks to sleight of hand tricks. Astrology and horoscopes and palm reading were also faddishly popular--it was all connected with the belief that the sun revolved around earth and even the Vatican had a head Astrologer in the papal court. Women, mostly old women, sold cosmetic products (that white mercury powder base manufactured by many of the same alchemists), read a few palms, gave a horoscope, and did some midwifing on the side. The affair of poisons started when a drunken midwife/cosmetic seller bragged about the money coming her way when she sold some poison. She was reported, and then gave a bunch of names in torture (was interesting how virtually all of them recanted what they had just said after torture)--and the torture, breaking the legs with a press, had everybody talking. What started out as dinner boast, a slew of tortured confessions from the spiteful, totally innocent, or mentally ill, under the reigns of a power hungry magistrate who used the tribunal to bring down his political enemies. The biggest repercussion of all this is the arrest warrant issued for the Countess of Soissons, who was tipped off by the imminent arrest by the King, so she fled (just as he wanted, when she was gone her reputation was destroyed and she was never allowed back to France--most of the nobility who stayed and fought the charges got off, especially as the proceedings grew more absurd). Her son, Eugene of Savoy, was rejected by Louis because of this, so went over to Austria--and enjoyed many victories over the French later in life in the War of Spanish Succession, and spent 50 years checking France's power with Austria & Spain. One of those what ifs of history and she points out how nothing good ever came from any of this--it damaged France's place in world and made it infamous, it eroded public trust in institutions, and a bunch of unfortunate people were gruesomely executed. Ultimately it was viewed at the time as an embarrassment, where power overreached, and to put it out of public's mind. Montespan, the king's mistress, and mother of seven of his kids, was mentioned in some of the testimony, but a good part of the others' testimony also contradicted this and dates and things didn't add up at all, and the King continued to eat dinner at her apartment, all while getting daily updates on the trials. He ordered all the testimony mentioning her destroyed--and it was, except for 1 of the judge's copy of the torture interrogations, which was later found 150 years later, and got spread all over the penny tabloids and lurid books. In a way, I thought this was the most important part of this history--she mentions how all the current biographies of Montespan take the poisoning and black masses as true, even though the only document relating to it is so flawed. I know this is Age of Fake News and all, but the accusations were so gruesomely ridiculous and unproven (there were no bones dug up--even at the time, none of the judges thought there was actual dead babies). Just as how it started with whispers and gossip, it makes a good spooky story, and the author does a very good job of showing how those investigating it should be judged instead

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hopcke

    Given the complexities of the subject, this book is astoundingly well written. The first three chapters provide a rather comprehensive view of Louis XIV's court and why the particular focus of this book, the Affair of the Poisons, was as significant as it was--super informative and educational in general about that era of French history and that particular moment in long reign of Louis XIV. Then, the actual ins-and-outs of the investigation and the various actors are presented in minute detail b Given the complexities of the subject, this book is astoundingly well written. The first three chapters provide a rather comprehensive view of Louis XIV's court and why the particular focus of this book, the Affair of the Poisons, was as significant as it was--super informative and educational in general about that era of French history and that particular moment in long reign of Louis XIV. Then, the actual ins-and-outs of the investigation and the various actors are presented in minute detail but in a way that one can actually follow. In the end, the reality behind this affair is that about a handful of rather louche Parisian underworld characters trading in superstitions and essentially snake oil made fantastic and ultimately what turned out to be specious and unprovable claims of criminal behavior against various members of their own class and certain members of the aristocracy, including the King's own mistress. About 80% of what was claimed by them was untrue and unprovable, but the author does a wonderful job presenting exactly why, culturally and politically, this witch-hunt took on a life of its own and became somewhat legendary. And the meticulousness of her research through the archives and her astute analysis of the evidence, the motivations of all involved, including Louis XIV, are very impressive. Highly recommend!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura Leilani

    What part of this book was the most disturbing? Was it the priests, who the church knew were celebrating black mass but chose to look the other way? Was it the wealthy people, resorting to poisons and witchcraft to further their greed and ambitions? For me, it was after the affair was closed: the number of people who had been jailed but had never come to trial. They were left to rot in prison. This book is fascinating. The amount of research that went into it is astonishing. The author gives a w What part of this book was the most disturbing? Was it the priests, who the church knew were celebrating black mass but chose to look the other way? Was it the wealthy people, resorting to poisons and witchcraft to further their greed and ambitions? For me, it was after the affair was closed: the number of people who had been jailed but had never come to trial. They were left to rot in prison. This book is fascinating. The amount of research that went into it is astonishing. The author gives a well rounded explanation of everything. She gives us plenty of proof for various arguments, such as who would benefit from people’s arrests. Although this takes place in the late 1600’s, in many ways it’s such a modern story. People wanting to party and not caring about anything; women willing to do anything to get a powerful, wealthy, well connected boyfriend; people willing to frame others in order to further their own careers; people who get arrested and decide to use it as an opportunity to bring down their enemies; and rich important people getting lighter sentences than poor ones. People never change! This book is hard to put down. I felt like I was watching this fiasco unfold in front of me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heddalonina

    I enjoyed reading the Affairs of the Poison. It is a well researched, well written book about the 17th century scandal including an in-depth retelling of the interrogations and accused based on transcripts from public records of the time. Chapters focused on the interrogations, trials and executions of the accused illustrated the archaic, cruel and ultimately ineffective techniques used to discover information about people involved in the scandal resulting in multiple executions, imprisonments a I enjoyed reading the Affairs of the Poison. It is a well researched, well written book about the 17th century scandal including an in-depth retelling of the interrogations and accused based on transcripts from public records of the time. Chapters focused on the interrogations, trials and executions of the accused illustrated the archaic, cruel and ultimately ineffective techniques used to discover information about people involved in the scandal resulting in multiple executions, imprisonments and lives ruined by the proceedings. The book discusses at length the efforts of the first police chief in Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie, to pursue and punish the accused while trying to avoid publicly incriminating King Louis XIV mistress, Marquise de Montespan, Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart. 
 It also provides an in-depth description of court life under the rule of Louis XIV and provides insight into his character and the culture of the court. 
I agree with other contributors about the number of names and titles to track which I found especially challenging while reading about the interrogations and who was accusing who of what. I found myself taking notes of who was who and the author does provide a glossery of names at the beginning of the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I'm a little torn between 4.5 and 5 stars for this one. If you're already fairly familiar with the life of Louis XIV and the court of Versailles during this time period, then some parts of this may feel a little repetitive for you and you may end up skimming a couple chapters. Otherwise, Somerset is incredibly detailed and in-depth, and tells you absolutely everything you need to know to understand what happened during the Affair of the Poisons. So if this is the first time you're reading about I'm a little torn between 4.5 and 5 stars for this one. If you're already fairly familiar with the life of Louis XIV and the court of Versailles during this time period, then some parts of this may feel a little repetitive for you and you may end up skimming a couple chapters. Otherwise, Somerset is incredibly detailed and in-depth, and tells you absolutely everything you need to know to understand what happened during the Affair of the Poisons. So if this is the first time you're reading about Louis XIV and his court you don't need to worry about doing any further reading to better understand the context of what Somerset is saying. All in all very thorough, well written, detailed, but for myself I didn't need a lot of the extra information Somerset provided. (Also, after reading this more detailed account of the Affair of the Poisons I realise just how inaccurate the portrayal of the scandal was in the TV series Versailles… which is probably why I didn't exactly love season two…)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tarah Luke

    Interestingly, this all occurred about the same time as the Salem Witch Trials in America. I’m wondering if they might both be connected in some kind of broader intellectual sort of way—the French episode occurred because of alleged threats to Louis XIV’s personal safety (= stability of France itself) while the Salem trials take place during a period of controversy (= attacks on the strength and stability of the Puritan idea and the ending of ultra-strict Puritans). An argument could be made abo Interestingly, this all occurred about the same time as the Salem Witch Trials in America. I’m wondering if they might both be connected in some kind of broader intellectual sort of way—the French episode occurred because of alleged threats to Louis XIV’s personal safety (= stability of France itself) while the Salem trials take place during a period of controversy (= attacks on the strength and stability of the Puritan idea and the ending of ultra-strict Puritans). An argument could be made about how these individuals affected the strength of the states they were in and underlines the political fragility of both. Fascinating.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this a while ago, and I don't think I ever finished it. However, I think it's clear I'm not going to read it any time soon, so I have marked it as read, and rated it a fair, middle rating, based on what I remember of it from years ago. I did enjoy what I read, but it is very in depth and there's a lot of court intrigue and relationships to remember. I think the detail and intrigue is what made me put it down in the end, as I just couldn't keep up with everything that I was reading, and di I read this a while ago, and I don't think I ever finished it. However, I think it's clear I'm not going to read it any time soon, so I have marked it as read, and rated it a fair, middle rating, based on what I remember of it from years ago. I did enjoy what I read, but it is very in depth and there's a lot of court intrigue and relationships to remember. I think the detail and intrigue is what made me put it down in the end, as I just couldn't keep up with everything that I was reading, and didn't much care about the end result.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I recently listened to a podcast discussing The Affaor of the Poisons and was really looking forward to an in-depth read on the subject. Unfortunately, this was a total snooze fest. It is impossible to keep all but the very key players in the story straight (there are literally hundreds of names mentioned in this book, some referred to alternately by first or last name.) It’s clear the author did an incredible amount of research, but it isn’t at all tied together in any intriguing way. It’s basi I recently listened to a podcast discussing The Affaor of the Poisons and was really looking forward to an in-depth read on the subject. Unfortunately, this was a total snooze fest. It is impossible to keep all but the very key players in the story straight (there are literally hundreds of names mentioned in this book, some referred to alternately by first or last name.) It’s clear the author did an incredible amount of research, but it isn’t at all tied together in any intriguing way. It’s basically a list of names and alleged events with nothing to make it at all interesting.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phil Syphe

    My main reason for reading this was for the opening section on Madame de Brinvilliers of whom I’ve been fascinated by for several years now. I was, therefore, disappointed with the short amount of space given to La Brinvilliers, especially when two whole chapters in this book have next to nothing to do with the Affair of the Poisons. The two chapters in question feature irrelevant info like this: “A performance of Alceste then took place in the marble courtyard, converted for the evening into a su My main reason for reading this was for the opening section on Madame de Brinvilliers of whom I’ve been fascinated by for several years now. I was, therefore, disappointed with the short amount of space given to La Brinvilliers, especially when two whole chapters in this book have next to nothing to do with the Affair of the Poisons. The two chapters in question feature irrelevant info like this: “A performance of Alceste then took place in the marble courtyard, converted for the evening into a sumptuous theatre, decorated with orange trees in tubs on marble pedestals and lit by crystal chandeliers. Five days later a concert was held in the Primi Visconti observed that though the King occasionally appeared relaxed in private, he would instinctively straighten his bearing and assume a more dignified expression if he thought there was any chance he could be glimpsed through an open door.” Louis XIV’s court and his mistresses are a backdrop and it’s pure filler material to devote one chapter to his court and another to his mistresses. Granted, Madame de Montespan features in the Affair of the Poisons, but we don’t need to know her life story; focus on her involvement with anything poison-related. I am interested in Louis XIV and France’s Bourbon kings, as I am with the likes of La Montespan, Madame de Maintenon, et al., but when I choose to read a book on a specific topic, I expect it to be about that specific topic, not about info that has little or nothing to do with it. Going back to my main point of interest, namely Madame de Brinvilliers, I feel this could’ve been much better presented. As someone who likes their history presented chronologically, I don’t like that it opens with La Brinvilliers’s trip to the scaffold. Hugh Stokes’s bio on La Brinvilliers might’ve been published in 1912, but it’s in-depth and lively detail is a much more entertaining read than this book. He puts quotes from La Brinvilliers’s torture session and trial in dialogue, whereas Ms Somerset uses reported speech, which makes for passive prose. Very dry. I realise, of course, that Stokes’s tome was all about La Brinvilliers, so I didn’t expect too many pages dedicated to her in this book; however, as already mentioned, it could’ve been expanded if those two irrelevant chapters were cut. I did, at least, glean a couple of new things about La Brinvilliers's life that weren’t featured in Stokes’s bio, as certain topics – namely incest – would’ve been too taboo in the 1910s. After the two irrelevant chapters we get on with the Affair of the Poisons. I was interested in this period of history before I started reading this book, particularly in La Voisin, and therefore expected to be engaged throughout. Sadly, I found it very hard going. With so much detail, it proved an exhausting read, and I found it hard to remember who was whom. It doesn’t help that the author refers to people by their title one minute and by the first name the next. With so many people involved, this really confuses matters. Also, filler material keeps creeping in, which slows an already slow-paced narrative. While I enjoyed this in parts, it was overall too dry and descriptive with way too much irrelevant information.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Dense, dense, and more dense - but wonderfully researched. The highlight for me of this book wasn't so much the actual description of the Affair of Poisons (which happens about maybe two thirds of the way into the book), but the vivid description of King Louis XIV's court. I personally was so engaged by that that when it came to actually addressing the trials that took place, it was harder for me to focus. Dense, dense, and more dense - but wonderfully researched. The highlight for me of this book wasn't so much the actual description of the Affair of Poisons (which happens about maybe two thirds of the way into the book), but the vivid description of King Louis XIV's court. I personally was so engaged by that that when it came to actually addressing the trials that took place, it was harder for me to focus.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    An excellent overview of the Mme. de Brinvilliers poisonings and how they related to l'Affaire des Poisons years later. I appreciated the information about Louis XIV and his court (and his various mistresses) but by the time the book actually got to its titular subject, I wanted a color-coded flowchart and a timeline. It got more difficult to keep track of who everyone was, who they were accusing, when, and of what as the book went on. An excellent overview of the Mme. de Brinvilliers poisonings and how they related to l'Affaire des Poisons years later. I appreciated the information about Louis XIV and his court (and his various mistresses) but by the time the book actually got to its titular subject, I wanted a color-coded flowchart and a timeline. It got more difficult to keep track of who everyone was, who they were accusing, when, and of what as the book went on.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    read the first chapter for a wikipedia article that I wrote and decided to read the rest just because I had spent the effort getting it from the library and figured there would be more fun information in it-- and there was! Mme de Montespan seems rather coolio and love a good secret marriage between Louis XIV and Mme de Maintenon

  27. 4 out of 5

    Darla Ebert

    There is a lot of repetitiveness in the stories but then there was (allegedly) a lot of poisoning going on not to mention immorality, at the court of Louis the XIVth. I got bogged down in all the French names but nevertheless persevered. The stories themselves, dressed down, were interesting. Just wordy at times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    always interesting to learn more about the royal french court. Poison, and witchcraft are two topics I can read at any time

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Very thoroughly researched but it starts to feel bogged down by all the detail.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Daphne Vogel

    Summary: "It's good to be the king." Summary: "It's good to be the king."

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.