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The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV Paperback – 2 Aug 2004

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (2 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753817845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753817841
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 4.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


The Affair of the Poisons is a beautifully researched account of this extraordinary case...With her customary intelligence and lucidity, Anne Somerset meticulously unravels this complex, fascinating affair and presents an informed opinion on what really happened. (Lucy Moore BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE (November)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

An historical page-turner - a fantastic mixture of intrigue, crime and passion.

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Format: Paperback
King Louis XIV's court was the most glamorous and powerful in Europe at the time, so it's easy to imagine the shock-waves that were generated when several of its core members were accused of poisoning, child sacrifice and devil-worship (David Icke would have been in his element!). At the core of the story are La Voisin, a thoroughly unscrupulous woman who plied her trade as a fake fortune-teller and backstreet abortionist, and her one-time lover, Lesage, who was a sort of predecessor of Aleister Crowley, in that he convinced many people he was a genuine magician, and in spite of his less-than-handsome appearance, had enough charisma to seduce plenty of ladies.
When this unwholeseome twosome were brought into police custody on suspicion of supplying poisons to members of the Parisian elite, they hit upon the idea of delaying their inevitable torture and execution by supplying the police with ever-increasing tales of murder and attempted murder amongst the very highest echelons of society. A sort of grotesque version of the "Arabian Nights". Eventually they implicated Madame de Montespan, a long-time mistress of the King, who had borne him no less than 7 children during her "career", but who was now past her prime, out of favour, and desperate to get back in it. She was accused of taking part in Satanic rituals in order to restore her standing at court.
All this was aided by the chief of police, who was rather too diligent in his rooting out of scandal. Eventually the situation became quite farcical, with the entire population of Paris seemingly conniving to poison each other! (I couldn't help being reminded of the Satanic Abuse scandals at the beginning of the 1990s).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives an appalling picture of life in the 17th -18th century (in France) and a most cruel portrait of a king (Louis XIV).

The King
The ‘Sun’ King was everything but sunny. His main preoccupation was his ‘glory’ and, for him, this glory could only be achieved through WAR. (‘War is undoubtedly the most brilliant way to acquire glory’, ‘to increase his kingdom’s power and prestige’). He was rightly called ‘the terror of Europe’.
He sits at the root of ‘the fatal events of our times’ (E. Spanheim). During the Dutch war, many people were burned alive in their homes.
Besides war, there were the BUILDINGS: ‘nothing indicates the grandeur and spirit of princes more than buildings’ (Colbert).

His court
Versailles was a top location, but its main characteristic was stench through extremely bad sanitation (defecations and urinations in public inside the palace) and hygiene.
For the courtiers it was a world of boredom: ‘one gets up early in the morning, one dresses oneself with care, one spends all day on one’s feet awaiting a favorable moment to get oneself seen, to present oneself, and often one comes back as one went, except that one is in despair for having wasted one’s time and trouble’. They were immensely ‘superstitious, backward and deluded’.
The court was also a ‘bordello’ for all tendencies.
The top classes were obsessed by power. The infighting to become the favorite of the King was deadly: ‘all at court would have given themselves to the devil for love of the King (Primi Visconti)’. The court was full of ‘jealousy and spite, intrigue, ambition and avarice’.
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Format: Hardcover
By means of focusing on a particular series of incidents, known as the Affair of the Poisons, Anne Somerset has written one of the most penetrating studies of Louis XIV ever published. The wave of hysteria and scandal which broke over the court of Versailles in 1677 starred a Rogues' Gallery of Poisoners, Blackmailers, Devil-Worshippers, Witches, Torturers and Cruel Inquisitors which makes the events portrayed in the Witches of Salem seem like an episode from a tea-party. The most fascinating thread in this history as written by Anne Somerset is the insight which the author gives us into the character and methods of Louis XIV. She describes and lays bare the mixture of superstitious vacillation and guilt-ridden indecision with which Louis dealt with an affair which implicated those closest to him in affection and family. This not the usual bland picture of the Sun King's magnificence, unerring powers of judgement and political genius. When we consider that Somerset's portrait of the King, although admittedly in cameo form, is competing with the works of Saint Simon, Madame De Sevigne, Voltaire and more recently, Nancy Mitford - among many others - this book is a very considerable triumph of scholarship and historical writing. As a bonus, The Affair of the Poisons is full of the highly enjoyable blend of sly wit and analytical clarity with which Anne Somerset has made her reputation as a scholar and historian - and it has the hallucinatory cinematic quality of Patrick Suskind's great novel, Perfume.
The Affair Of The Poisons is the rarest of historical works: one which reads like a compulsively page-turning thriller; and yet is the product of painstaking and unique research from original sources. Truth has never been more clearly shown to be stranger than fiction, than in this powerful book.
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