Since ancient times people have been looking for the most effective ways to send their neighbors to their forefathers. Poisons play an important role. It is unknown who was the first to use poisonous mushrooms. Perhaps it was the leader of some ancient tribe, and the fatal properties of concrete mushrooms were experienced beforehand by a certain “mushroom man”.
The brief reign of the Roman emperor Caligula was saturated with poison from beginning to end. Caligula poisoned his predecessor, the emperor Tiberius. The emperor in general was a delicate connoisseur of poisons. He made up various mixtures and tested them on slaves. However, not only slaves got it. After the murder of Caligula, a huge chest of poison was found: each poison was signed by the emperor and was called by the name of poisoned person. The chest was thrown into the sea and caused damage to the environment, similar to the crash of an oil tanker.
The emperor Nero even had Gallic poisoner Locusta. During the entire reign of Nero this sweet woman was preparing poisons for his enemies. The first victim was his predecessor Emperor Claudius. Then Nero began to poison everyone.
Let’s go to Italy of XV century. After all this country takes a considerable place in the history of poisonings. In 1492, the Spanish ruling couple, Isabella and Ferdinand, who dreamed of having support in Rome, spent a fantastic sum of money to bribe the papal conclave and make their protégé Rodrigo de Borgia a pope. The adventure was a success: Borgia became Pope Alexander VI. Together with Alexander VI, his son Cesare (later the cardinal) and daughter Lucretia played an important role in intrigues, conspiracies, and eliminations of disagreeable persons (mainly through poisoning). As a rule, they used Cantarella, which probably contained white phosphorus, copper salts, arsenic. And then some so-called missionaries brought poisonous plants from South America.
As legends say, either Lucretia or Alexander VI himself had a key that ended in a tiny point. This point was rubbed with poison. The key was given to the intended victim with a request to open some secret door “as a sign of absolute trust and disposition”. The point scratched the guest’s hand slightly… That was enough. Lucretia also wore a brooch with a hollow needle. A fervent hug was enough. Cesare Borgia had a ring where there was a cache of poison. So he could imperceptibly add poison to the glass of his enemy. He had another ring. On the outside, it was smooth, and on the inside it had something like a snake’s teeth, through which the poison got into the blood by shaking hands.
But the death of Alexander VI could be commented on by proverb: He that mischief hatches, mischief catches. The wicked pope decided to poison several cardinals at once. But something went wrong and the poisoned wine was drunk by the killers themselves. Alexander died after four days of torment. Cesare, who was about 28 years old, survived, but remained disabled.
And now let’s look into France of the XVII century, where there were no less monstrous events. “Poisoning,” wrote Voltaire, “persecuted France in the years of its glory, just as it did in Rome in the era of the best days of the republic.”
Marie-Madeleine-Marguerite d’Aubray, Marquise de Brinvilliers, was born in 1630. At a young age she married, everything was fine, but a few years after her marriage, the woman fell in love with Officer Godin de Sainte-Croix. Her husband was not shocked at all, but her father was indignant and Sainte-Croix was imprisoned in the Bastille. Marquise de Brinvilliers decided to get rid of her father. And this terrible story began. The Marquise became an unselfish sister of mercy in the hospital, where she tried the poison on the sick. She gave his father small portions of poison for eight months. When he passed away, it turned out that his sons received all his property. So, the young beauty poisoned two brothers, a sister, a husband and children. Her accomplices were arrested and confessed, her beloved died in the laboratory. The Marquise tried to escape, but was captured in Liege, convicted and executed in Paris on July 17, 1676.
And soon La Voisin (Catherine Monvoisin) became known as a master of poisoning. Her “official” profession was fortune telling, but she earned fame as a “queen of poisons”. La Voisin said to her clients: “Nothing is impossible for me”. She predicted the close death of the rich relatives to their heirs, and helped to realize her predictions. Voltaire called her drugs “powders for inheritance.” The end came when La Voisin was implicated in a conspiracy to poison the king. After her execution, they found arsenic, mercury, poisonous plants, as well as books on black magic and witchcraft in the secret room of her house.
The French Queen Catherine de ‘Medici (1547-1559) came from a famous family of Florentine poisoners. In endless court intrigues, poison was her main weapon. She has a whole staff of poisoners, who made poisoned cosmetics, perfumes, as well as poisons that were put on gloves, fans and women’s jewelry.
The British Graham Frederick Young (1947-1990) poisoned his stepmother, father and grandmother at the age of 14.
The tribes of tropical Africa since ancient times had the custom to give the person accused of a crime “judicial elixir” – a decoction of the fruits of poisonous plants. If a person remained alive, then he was not guilty.
Egyptian priests had the secret powder, which was poured into the bed of the victim. This powder through the skin penetrated into the blood – and the person died.
The poison could save from shame. For example, Cleopatra, in order to die and not be dishonored by Roman legionaries, used a cobra hidden in a basket of fruit.
The most successful poisoner in history was Thofania d’Adamo, who lived at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries and was the representative of a whole dynasty of poisoners (along with her mother and daughters). She became famous for making poisonous water without taste, color and smell (it was called Aqua Tofana). In addition, the family invented powder based on arsenic. It could be safely used, but as soon as the powder was dissolved in water, it turned out to be the strongest poison. She sold poison and it was just her business. Despite the patrons of the lady, she was still arrested and sentenced to death. At the investigation, the woman confessed that no less than 600 people died because of her poisons. According to some historians, the famous Mozart was poisoned with Aqua Tofana.
Empress Dowager Cixi was the ruler of the entire Chinese empire (1861-1908). She poisoned people during court meals, and no tricks helped: neither the silver plates that checked whether food was poisoned, nor the eunuchs tried food, nor prayed to the goddess Guanyin. Pu Yi, grand-nephew of Cixi, the last emperor of the Celestial Empire, later recalled that he ate food only after it was eaten by his younger brother.