Louis XIV in his coronation robes.

As the historian, Frantz Funck-Brentano, has noted,

“Louis XIV did not have a big enough character to sacrifice his self-estime for the public good, to consent to such an humiliation in the eyes of his subjects and of Europe, before whom he had never ceased to display his pride.”.

Meanwhile, the words of the Voisin’s daughter, Marie-Marguerite, and those of the Filastre – she is burnt on the same day that the Chambre is suspended – have raised questions in Louis XIV’s mind.  Their statements tend to lead to the belief that Madame de Montespan has attempted to poison another mistress of the King, the young and ravishing Marie-Angelique de Scoraille, Duchess de Fontanges, and perhaps even the King himself, through amorous revenge.  And the request that the Voisin had wanted to place with the King could have been prepared for this purpose…  Not much more will be known unfortunately, and Mme de Montespan’s guilt about this remains problematic, particularly as Louvois, always scheming, has probably done all that he can to make her look guilty.

Thanks to the removal of the “particular facts” which name her, the favourite will escape the claws of justice.  But during a glacial interview, her royal lover will sharply signify the end of their relationship to her, with no hope of a return.

***

The Marquise de Montespan became Louis XIV's mistress in 1667.

In hindsight, it is hard to imagine that Francoise Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan, really wanted the King’s death, which Colbert sensibly points out to Louis XIV.  On the other hand, she could have been manipulated in the framework of a plot coming from outside France, probably from England.  In this business, the role of her chambermaid, Mademoiselle Des Oeillets, is rather troubling.  It is she who, in spite of her denials, serves as the intermediary between her mistress and the Voisin.  But one day, according to Guibourg, she comes to see the Voisin with an “English lord” to take possession of a preparation susceptible of making “the King die in langour”.  A statement even more credible because it was amply confirmed by the daughter of the Voisin and, on 17 September 1679, Lesage had already declared to the lieutenant general de police, Gabriel Nicolas de La Reynie, that:

“During a certain trip that the King made to the frontier, Des Oeillets had a lot of commerce with the Voisin […].  The Voisin had a lot of money at this time, talked of leaving the kingdom, and that she would have 100,000 ecus.  These people were looking to do a job and go away.”

Mme de Montespan does not appear to know about this plot, which is well in the English fashion:  100,000 ecus to get rid of a King at the height of his power, and who is making Europe tremble, is not too expensive.  As for the deep motivations of the chambermaid, it must be remembered that Mlle Des Oeillets was formerly one of the King’s innumerable mistresses, and that she has never forgiven him for having dumped her.  Feminine vengeance associated with English politics, the scenario has all the appearance of probability.

***

The Poisons Case will come to an ambiguous end.  If the principal guilty people are executed, others, because of the “particular facts”, escape justice and will be locked up until the end of their lives in royal fortresses, like Abbot Guibourg – of whom La Reynie writes that he

“cannot be compared to any other in the number of poisonings, on the commerce of poison and malefices, on sacrileges and impieties”

and that he

“slit the throats and sacrificed many children” -,

or like Anne Guesdon, the chambermaid of the Marquise de Brinvilliers, who will die at Villefranche in 1717.  Others will not be bothered at all, starting with the Des Oeillets who will finish her life very piously, and who, in her Will, will ask that a perpetual Mass be said “for the health and prosperity of His Majesty”…

The Chambre de l’Arsenal was dissolved on 21 July 1682.  That same month, the King signed an important edict prepared by Colbert and La Reynie.  By severely controlling the commerce of toxic substances, by rigorously proscribing magical, alchemical or divinatory practices, and by forbidding anyone, except for doctors, apothicaries and chemistry professors, to possess a laboratory and to conduct experiments in them, this edict uncontestably constituted a very great progress.  The Poisons Case will at least have had this fortunate consequence.

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