The congress was abolished by the memorable order of 18 February 1677, but trials for impotence were not. The parties were no longer made to meet, but the visit was still ordered.
In this way, the case of the Marquis de Gesvres and of Mlle de Mascranny, his wife, was judged.
The experts found an undeniable frigidity in the husband. How did they come to this conclusion, if they hadn’t seen him in action?
The experts chosen by the husband were Doctor Gayant and the surgeon Marechal, who declared that nothing was lacking in their client, from the point of view of conformation, but that they couldn’t affirm conjugal capacity, “not having seen any movement”.
As for the two other experts, Doctor Hecquet and the surgeon Chevalier, they recognized, too, that the conformation was good, but appearance was not sufficient, and the state should appear.
This condition filled, it was not yet sufficient. Traces had to be seen on the wife. This meant that the Marquise had to be visited. But, before arriving at this point, the Marquis managed to delay things for a long time, alleging one illness, then another, and receiving no less than six visits from doctors to verify them.
The case had an unforseen epilogue. The Marquise died before the end of the trial, thereby saving her husband’s honour.
Voltaire showed what he thought of the morality of these scandalous practices, in a sentence which resumes, in its concision, all that can be thought of them:
“These trials were just shameful for the wives, ridiculous for the husbands, and unworthy of the judges.”
Once again he has hit the nail on the head.