Athénaïs de Montespan was the longest-serving mistress of Louis XIV. She occupied a place of importance and influence at court and was even called the Real Queen of France by one court observer; yet her memory will forever be tainted by her alleged involvement in a scandal that would rock the reign of Louis XIV: the Affair of the Poisons.
Louis’s reign was marked by pre-Enlightenment discoveries in science and the king’s desire to destroy heresy and unite France under one Catholic orthodoxy. The Affair of the Poisons threatened these achievements, showing that France continued, to a large extent, to live in an age of darkness and superstition.
As the Affair of the Poisons unfolded, witches, poisoners and magicians identified their clients. One name was mentioned by several of them: that of Athénaïs, who was accused of using black magic to bring about the death of Louis and those who would be his mistress.
For the first time in fifty years, this book will tell the story of the Affair of the Poisons with Athénaïs as the central figure. It concludes that, while she did consult fortune-tellers, she was innocent of the charges against her. Instead, this will be the first study in English to show that her dame d’honneur and confidante, Mademoiselle des Œillets, was involved in a plot against Louis’s life, and that Athénaïs was wrongly judged by history as being equally guilty.
Poison: Love, Heresy and Death at the Court of Louis XIV
Dr Josepha Josephine Wilkinson received a First Class Honours degree from the University of Newcastle. She was the winner of the Third Year Prize for her work on The Little Apocalypse, which placed Mark chapter 13 into its historical context, and the Jewish Studies Prize for her historical study of the community at Qumran. She remained at Newcastle, earning an MPhil for her thesis on the historical John the Baptist (as close to a biography as is possible to do); her PhD traced historical traditions and legends of John the Baptist across several cultures as well as art, literature and film.
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