The Marquise of Brinvilliers
|Bulgakov took notes from Brokgauz-Efron on the Marquise of Brinvilliers,
a French poisoner who worked with her lover Jean-Batiste de Godin de St.
Croix and who was beheaded in 1676. Brinvilliers poisoned her father, two
brothers, and a sister for their inheritance.
Brinvilliers being tortured
As soon as Sainte-Croix was released, he made his way to Glazer's shop and
shared his goods and knowledge with his lover. In order to perfect her new
trade before attempting it on her family, she made the rounds of the city's
hospitals, testing her concoctions on the patients. She then poisoned her
father, and soon thereafter poisoned her two brothers, who had inherited
her father's fortune. She attempted to poison her children's tutor, Briancourt,
with whom she had shared romantic relations, but his quick wits saved him.
His intelligence also saved the lives of Madame's sister-in-law and sister,
cloistered in a convent, who she also tried to poison. She even went so
far as to poison her own daughter, merely because she thought her stupid!
She regretted it immediately afterward however, and made her drink a great
quantity of milk, as an antidote.
|Small, graceful, and pretty, Marquise de Brinvilliers was also corrupt,
ruthless, and cold-blooded. Her beautiful blue eyes charmed those around
her, making them easy prey for her poison. Early in her marriage to Antoine
Gobelin de Brinvilliers, she became enamored with a certain cavalry officer
who went by the name of Sainte-Croix. So blatant were they in their affair,
that her father, in attempt to save the dignity of the family name, had
Sainte-Croix imprisoned. Furious at this turn of events, the Madame de Brinvilliers
began plotting the murder of her own father. In prison, Sainte-Croix had
learned the poisonous trade from Exili, the well-known adventurer and professional
poisoner in the employment of the ex-Queen Christina of Sweden.
Cartoon of Brinvillier's execution
Sainte-Croix finally betrayed her upon his death, with incriminating
documents found among his belongings. After several years on the run in
England and the Netherlands, Madame de Brinvilliers was tried and convicted
on all charges of poisoning. She was forced to do public penance, was put
to the torture, both ordinary and extraordinary, and was beheaded on the
scaffold erected for the purpose on the Place de Grève. Thousands
had gathered to watch the public execution, and it was said that the ashes
of her burning body were breathed in by the masses, who continued to carry
out deeds in her spirit. The painter Le Brun captured the look of horror
and distortion on her face as she was carried to the scaffold in a dirty
dung cart, in a painting entitled "Indignation."
Text and images from Melissa de Graaf's World
of Lully and Molière