Madame de Montespan Allegedly Sacrificed Babies

Madame de Montespan

As king Louis XIV’s beloved wife was pregnant, Madame de Montespan recognized her opportunity to ingratiate herself with the king of France, arguably the most powerful man in the world.

To the dismay of every woman in Louis XIV’s life, before long, she had usurped them, earning the title of official mistress to the king, a role that, believe it or not, came with more influence than being his wife did.

Needless to say, Madame de Montespan’s husband was not happy about the news.

She met her husband, a man by the abbreviated name of Louis Henri, shortly after her first fiance murdered his brother in a duel.

I’m aware that the last few sentences are crazy, yet, still, I must warn you, this story only gets much more troublesome from here.

Early Marriage to Louis Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin

What happened to that original fiance you might ask? The man fled to Spain in exile out of fear for his life, apparently, he may have cheated during the aforementioned duel.

Amidst the fallout, the social standing of teenage Madame de Montespan – at the time, referred to by her first name, Athenais – was in crisis, as her judgment of character was being called into question, people gossiped “how could she have been engaged to such a man.”

Devastated by the loss of his brother, Louis Henri appeared at her front door to mourn, because that makes a lot of sense, and together they wallowed in the loss of his brother.

She definitely couldn’t have actually been crying over the guy that murdered him, her beloved fiance – out of the realm of possibilty.

Moving forward, rather quickly, just a week after the duel took place, the two sorrowful lovebirds mustered the emotional wherewithal to get married, this is when Athenais inherited the name Madame de Montespan.

Together, they lived off an annual allowance provided by Madame de Montespan’s parents, which afforded them a modest but respectable house.

There was trouble brewing in paradise though, come to find out, Louis Henri was prone to gambling and borrowing money he couldn’t pay back, two habits that do not go well together.

It’s said on more occasions than one he’d receive the allowance meant to feed his wife and children for an entire year, then blow through it in just weeks.

His wife often dragged him to lawyers who would help them find ways to settle their debts.

Climbing the Social Ladder

When she wasn’t fixing her husband’s mistakes, Madame de Montespan fashioned a dashing reputation among members of the Royal Court, before whom, she danced at balls and participated in ballets.

She quickly became known as one of the most beautiful women in all of France, nonetheless, it was her intellect, wit, and grace that won over the hearts of noblemen and catapulted her up the Royal social ladder.

Madame de Montespan was eventually granted a position within the household of the queen, and while over time the queen and sitting official mistress caught on to her true intentions, they underestimated this new rival to the point they invited her to private dinners with the King, so he could be entertained while they were both pregnant with his children.

As her intimate relationship with king Louis XIV blossomed, Madame de Montespan relocated herself closer to the Parisian residences under the pretext it would allow her to serve the Queen better.

The story goes, one fateful day, the king happened to spot Madame de Montespan taking a shower, at which point the voluptuous 25-year-old darling obligingly dropped her towel, and with the soft dampened cloth went the competition for this King’s heart, as it now belonged to her.

Madame de Montespan’s Affair with King Louis XIV

Shortly after the romance ignited, king Louis XIV’s former mistress left court entirely and Madame de Montespan’s husband, perhaps rightfully so, had a full-blown public meltdown.

Louis Henri went on an absolute rampage through the Parisian salons, denounced king Louis XIV as adulterous, produced a text that compared the king to certain biblical figures (probably not the good ones), and eventually broke into the royal palace to search room by room for his wife, berating each person he encountered along the way.

What Louis Henri didn’t know, was his wife had a bun in the oven, and the kid didn’t belong to him. I’ll give you three guesses as to who the father could be but you’re just gonna need one!

Eventually, Louis Henri’s behavior devolved into physical abuse as he stalked his wife and lurked the halls of royal mansions searching for her, from time to time getting his hands on her.

What’s more, he gleefully told those who would listen that he had been frequenting the filthiest of brothels and looked forward to transferring an illness to the king through his wife.

There weren’t really any laws regarding how a husband treated his wife, thus king Louis XIV couldn’t do a whole lot about the chaotic behavior.

That is until Louis Henri challenged the authority of the king by levying accusations against the appointment of the Dauphin’s governor. The claims got him swiftly carted off to prison, where he was told upon his release to stay away from court and remain on his country estate.

Louis Henri accepted his condition, and left for the countryside.

Shortly after arriving home, he arranged a fake funeral, during which his children and family were dressed in full mourning as a dummy of his wife was buried. Following the ceremony, he rolled off in his carriage, draped in black and featuring large antlers on the roof.

With her husband out of the way, Madame de Montespan and king Louis XIV would go on to have eight children together.

The Affair of the Posions

In 1677, a major murder scandal exploded onto the conscience of French society, it was called the Affair of the Poisons. Evidence and rumors of witchcraft and poisoning implicated many elite members of society, including people closest to the King.

Apparently, Madame de Montespan wasn’t just banking on her beauty and personality to seduce Louis XIV, as various accounts and testimonies claimed that around the year 1665, she began visiting the infamous fortune teller and poisoner, La Voisin.

La Voisin started out fortune telling, and having been a midwife who delivered babies, began providing “abortion” services with her team, and helping impoverished women get rid of their unwanted babies after childbirth.

La Voisin might have told the latter she’d find homes for the children, or she might have told them nothing at all.

I’d imagine that this is when she began concocting and perfecting elixirs that would have the desired effect on a human specimen.

During her fortune-telling sessions, La Voisin noticed similarities among her clients’ wishes about their future: almost all wanted to have someone fall in love with them, that someone would die so that they might inherit, or that their spouses would die so that they might marry someone else.

She could deliver the solution to their problems, for a profit, of course.

While many of her clients opted for poisons to bring about an untimely death, Madame de Montespan required not for her victim to die, but rather, fall in love with her.

La Voisin had just the thing, she manufactured love powders, which included the bones of toads, the teeth of moles, Spanish fly, iron fillings, human blood and mummy, and the dust of human remains. The final ingredient, one can imagine being derived from the remains of aborted babies she had burnt in her garden’s oven.

Madame de Montespan was instructed to spike the king’s drinks with the prescribed elixir.

Madame de Montespan’s Alleged Human Sacrifices

Despite following directions, it didn’t seem to be working, what more was there for her to do?

Call upon the devil and pray to him, La Voisin determined, pray to the devil for the king’s love, and then, as a way to express Madame de Montespan’s gratitude for her request, sacrifice a newborn baby’s life by slitting its throat with a knife.

Next, the baby’s body would be crushed, as the drained blood and mashed bones would be used in the mixture.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Hermon reveals in her book Sex with Kings,  that Louis XIV’s food was tainted in this way for nearly thirteen years, until the witch was captured.

When the King’s interest in Montespan seemed to wane, Montespan again employed La Voisin, who provided a series of black masses officiated by Étienne Guibourg, a roman catholic priest who turned out to be an occultist.

The Black Mass

A black mass was one of the most premium services La Voisin had to offer her clients.

During the ritual, which was intended to mock the layout of a traditional catholic mass, a long black velvet pall was spread over the altar, and upon this the royal mistress laid herself in a state of perfect nudity.

Six black candles were lit, the celebrant robed himself in a chasuble embroidered with esoteric characters wrought in silver, the gold paten and chalice were placed upon the naked belly of the living altar, and the priest bestowed Satan’s new recruit with a kiss.

All was silent save for the low monotonous murmur of the blasphemous litergy. An assistant crept forward bearing an infant in her arms.

The child was held above the altar, a sharp gash across the neck, a stifled cry, and warm drops fell into the chalice and streamed upon the white figure beneath.

Madam de Montespan stated her petition, which went, “I want the king’s affection so that he will do everything I ask for myself and I want him to give up La Valliere and look with favor on my relatives, my servants, and my retainers.”

The blood-gargling infant was then handed to La Voisin, who, according to Columbia University professor of history Jaques Barzun, cut the infant’s heart out and set it aside to be burnt and reduced to powder “for the king’s use.”

The corpse was ultimately flung callously into an oven fashioned for that purpose which glowed white hot in its fierceness.

Credibility of Allegations

In addition to teaching at one of the world’s most prestigious universities for many years, Jaques Barzun published more than forty books on Western culture over the course of his life, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was designated a Knight of the French Legion of Honor.

If Barzun was comfortable enough to include this scenario as fact in his magnum opus book, From Dawn to Decadence, that’s good enough for me to understand that these horrific events more than likely did occur.

During a police investigation after La Voisin’s arrest, Eleanor Hermon reports that the remains of 2,500 infants were uncovered in the witch’s garden.

However, some skeptics argue there is no reliable evidence of these findings or that the search ever took place, as Anne Somerset did in her book The Affair of the Poisons.

Before explaining a reason why there may not be any evidence left to review, I’d like to round out Madame de Montespan’s occultist activities with two more accusations that there is less corroboration concerning but persist within the realm of possibility, one being she poisoned rivals vying for the kings love; the other, she plotted to kill the king himself when he fell out of love with her.

Though she may have desired the latter, she is not mentioned as physically serving a role in the alleged scheme, beyond perhaps tipping the conspirators off as to the whereabouts of the king.

Part of what heavily implicated Montespan was that she was not only said to have been seen meeting with La Voisin, but her personal maid, Mlle Desœillets, was one of the most frequently noted visitors to the fortune teller’s business.

Furthermore, Madame de Montespan’s close companion and fellow mistress to the king, Claude de Vin was said to have made more than fifty visits to the poisoners and occasionally served as Montespan’s replacement in black masses.

The final nail in the proverbial coffin: during interrogation, La Voisin, her daughter, and her former associates admitted to Madame de Montespan ordering aphrodisiacs and a black mass ritual to keep the King’s interest on her alone.

Was There A Cover Up?

What we do know is, as the fallout from the scandal gripped the nation, his highest-ranking “noble” men and women were having charges of poisoning levied against them, whispers of witchcraft echoed through the royal halls, and protestors took to the streets with claims of missing babies, Louis XIV entered damage control mode.

He had certain evidence and testimony thrown out entirely, as well as pressured guards not to torture La Voisin after her arrest, despite an official permit to do so being issued.

She was likely never tortured, and in fact, kept in a drunken state throughout her imprisonment, whether to discredit the things she did say or avoid her being forced to share an extensive client list while under excruciating pain.

The King banned all public attendance at the hearing involving Madam de Montespan, removed her name from the file, and she was certainly never interrogated, or confronted by her accusers.

Imagine, how would it look if the public came to find out the king fathered four families’ worth of children with a woman who worshipped satan and sacrificed babies in the process, plus there’s Claude de Vin, who he also had a child with. Probably not the best look for his brand.

Addressing the king’s need to avoid shocking scandal, the man tasked with investigating the Affair of the Poisons, legendary Paris Police Chief La Reynie, admitted: “The enormity of their crimes proved their safeguard.”

The Affair of the Poisons implicated 442 suspects: 367 orders of arrests were issued, of which 218 were carried out. Of the condemned, 36 were executed; five were sentenced to the galleys and 23 to exile; this excludes those who died in custody by torture or suicide.

Additionally, many accused were never brought to trial, but placed outside of the justice system and imprisoned for life by a lettre de cachet – some of these poor souls being Montespan’s accusers.

A lettre de cachet was signed by the king of France, countersigned by one of his ministers, and closed with the royal seal; they contained orders directly from the king, often to enforce arbitrary actions and judgments that could not be appealed.

Madame de Montespan’s Reward and Guilt

Regardless of whether he believed the accusations to be true or not, Louis XIV put some distance between he and Madam de Montespan following the scandal – don’t blame the guy.

In 1691, no longer in royal favor, Madame de Montespan retired to a catholic convent with a pension of half a million francs.

In gratitude for her departure, the king made her brother a marshal of France; he had already made her sister the abbess of the wealthy Fontevraud Abbey.

During her long retirement, Madame de Montespan donated vast sums to charities; she founded hospitals for the elderly and orphans, a boarding school for orphaned girls, and a refuge for Paris’ most impoverished citizens.

She may have felt a particular duty to orphans considering the babies that were allegedly horrifically slaughtered in the name of her adulterous appetite were likely originally “aborted” or given up to La Voisin by mothers who did not desire their children, for one reason or another.

Hence, at best, were it not for she and La Voisin’s devilish deeds, their one shot at life would have been as an orphan.

Madame de Montespan’s last years were given up to a very severe penance, which to those unfamiliar with the term, is voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.

Barzun wrote, “Montespan had been converted by Bishop Bossuet – or so he believed – but she still showed a restless spirit and nursed the ambition of recapturing her long-forgotten husband – in vein.”

Despite never taking her back, LouisHenri did later proclaim his love for Montespan and even appointed her as the executor of his estate.

Madame de Montespan died on May 27, 1707, at the age of sixty-six, likely due to heart disease.

As she passed in and out of consciousness on her deathbed, she asked forgiveness of everyone, her last word was “pardon.”


If you enjoyed this story on the royal mistress Madame de Montespan, check out our list of The 10 Best Books on Marilyn Monroe!