Brinvilliers, Marie de (1630–1676)

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Brinvilliers, Marie de (1630–1676)

French poisoner. Name variations: Marie-Madeleine Marguerite d'Aubray, marquise de Brinvilliers. Born Marie-Madeleine Marguerite d'Aubray in Paris, France, in 1630; beheaded and body burned on July 16, 1676; daughter of Dreux d'Aubray (a civil lieutenant of Paris); married Antoine Gobelin, marquis de Brinvilliers, in 1651.

Of noble birth, Marie-Madeleine d'Aubray has been described by writers of her day as pretty, petite, and much-courted, with an appealing air of childlike innocence. In 1651, she married French army officer Antoine Gobelin de Brinvilliers, then serving in the regiment of Normandy; in 1659, her husband introduced her to his friend Gaudin de Sainte-Croix, a handsome young cavalry officer of immoderate tastes and shoddy reputation. Marie and Gaudin were soon lovers. Though the affair eventually led to a public scandal, the marquis de Brinvilliers, who had left France to avoid his creditors, made no effort to stop it. Marie's father Dreux d'Aubray, however, was outraged and obtained the arrest of Sainte-Croix on a lettre de cachet. For a year, Sainte-Croix was a prisoner in the Bastille, where he supposedly acquired knowledge of poisons from his fellow prisoner, the Italian poisoner Exili. When he left prison, he plotted with his willing mistress revenge upon her father.

Methodically, Marie began to experiment with the potions that Sainte-Croix, possibly with the help of a chemist, Christopher Glaser, prepared, and she found readily available subjects in the poor who sought her charity, and the sick whom she visited in the hospitals. Using a variety of deadly concoctions, it is said that Marie de Brinvilliers poisoned over 50 victims. One of her poisons, aqua tofana, was supposedly invented by her Italian counterpart Tofana .

Meanwhile, Sainte-Croix, completely ruined financially, expanded his original plan. He decided to not only poison Dreux d'Aubray but also Marie de Brinvilliers' sister Thérèse d'Aubray and her two brothers. With her relatives dead, Marie would come into possession of the large family fortune. In February 1666, satisfied with the efficiency of Sainte-Croix's preparations and with the ease with which the poisons could be administered without detection, Marie poisoned her father, and in 1670, with the connivance of their valet La Chaussée, her two brothers. A postmortem examination suggested the real cause of death, but no suspicion was directed to the murderers.

Before any attempt could be made on the life of Thérèse d'Aubray, Sainte-Croix suddenly died in 1672, during one of his experiments, possibly by inhaling lethal fumes. As he left no heirs, the police were called in and discovered papers among his belongings that revealed the murders and implicated Marie and La Chaussée. The latter was arrested, tortured into a complete confession, and broken alive on the wheel in 1673, but Marie de Brinvilliers escaped, taking refuge first probably in England, then in Germany, and finally in a convent at Liége, where she was caught by a police agent disguised as a priest. A full account

of her life and crimes was found among her papers. Prevented from committing suicide, she was taken to Paris, where she was beheaded and her body burned on July 16, 1676. (See also entry titled French "Witches.")

suggested reading:

Roullier, G. La. Marquise de Brinvilliers. Paris, 1883.