Chateau-Fort-Liberia and the ‘Affaire des Poisons

Château Fort LibériaBuilt in 1681 by Vauban, and linked to the town of Villefranche de Conflent by ’les milles marches’, Château Fort Libéria is  still in excellent condition today, and boasts a museum of caving and archeology, along with all of its original features.

A shuttle takes you up to the chateau from Villefranche de Conflent – or if you are feeling fit, you can access the chateau on foot via the underground tunnel known as the ’milles marches (1000 steps!) Give yourself at least 20 minutes for this climb!

Several infamous lady poisoners were chained up in the ’prison des dames’ of the chateau Fort Liberia as a result of the murder scandal known as the ‘affaire des poisons’ (poison affair) which rocked France during the 17th century.

Following the trial of the *Marquise de Brinvilliers, who had allegedly conspired to poison her father and brothers in order to inherit their estates, there was paranoia amongst the nobility.

A number of other mysterious deaths meant that Louis XIV himself become alarmed and had his servants taste all his food before eating. There followed a period of hysterical pursuit of murder suspects, during which a number of prominent people were implicated and sentenced for poisoning and witchcraft.

It is believed that the tradition of clinking glasses together for a toast before drinking arose from this paranoia. FIND OUT MORE

Many of the condemned were transferred to France’s safest fortresses such as Salses, Fort les Bains and chateau Fort Liberia, where they were chained up and imprisoned for life.

Chateau de Salses

Marie-Madeleine-Marguerite d’Aubray, Marquise de Brinvilliers (1630 – 1676)

Madame de BrinvilliersMadame de Brinvilliers was notorious for poisoning her father, brother, and two sisters in order to inherit their property, with the help of her lover army captain Godin de Sainte-Croix. There were also rumours that she had poisoned poor people during her visits to hospitals.

After several years on the run in England and the Netherlands, Madame de Brinvilliers was tried and convicted on all charges of poisoning, having been forced to confess. She was sentenced to death and in July 17, 1676, was put to the “extraordinary question” (forced to drink sixteen pints of water), beheaded and burned at a stake.

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