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Welcome to criminalize a production of scandal and audio in partnership with a heart radio. Hello and welcome to Criminal Here, where we're exploring the intersection of history and true crime. I'm Holly Fry and Maria Rumaki, and this season we are talking about Lady Poisoners today.


Before we begin, we do want to let everyone know that there is content and discussion in this episode that contains descriptions of childhood trauma, specifically sexual abuse, which some listeners may find difficult.


In today's episode, we are going to look at the life of Marie Madeline Mackenzie, W.J. Milkis, the boy really did she kill her father and brothers? And if she did, was it for the family inheritance?


So Maria was born on July 22nd, 16th, 30 in Paris. She had two younger brothers and one younger sister.


There's really not much on record about her mom, although according to many accounts, she may have died during childbirth and her father was a man named Antwaun Good.


He was a civil lieutenant of Paris. So the family was wealthy, influential and very well known. People often joke that Marie was related to half the lawyers in Paris. Marie.


History tells us, was small. She was pretty and she was smart. And I think it's funny what details stick to stories throughout the decades.


Apparently, she also had excellent penmanship. Listen, that's a point of pride more than 200 years later, biographers writing her story couldn't quite reconcile Marie's, quote, uncommon physical attractions with what came to be known as her toxic hobbies. In one case, for instance, author Hugh Stokes described her as having a soft smile, blue eyes and a graceful figure. And then he went on to comment about her, quote, unbridled passions of a tigress.


I'm not sure how Mr. Stokes would have known that, but that is certainly an example of some healthy male chauvinism.




So Marie grew up, as we mentioned, in a wealthy home. So they had a townhouse in Paris and the chateau and a beautiful carriage and a household filled with servants to meet her every need.


But although her childhood may sound pretty ideal, narratives about her life suggest that it may have been that Marie was sexually abused by possibly as many as three servants in her family home when she was about seven years old. And at the age of 10, she may also have been sexually abused by one of her brothers, which is the situation that, as an adult, she referred to as an incestuous relationship. Now, despite all of this troubled situation in her home life as a child, Marie, as an adult was considered quite a catch when she was 21 years old.


She married an Army officer named Antoine Gobbler Maki Dublin village, and he was a commanding officer of a regiment and he was serving in Normandy at the time.


The couple was doing really well financially. However, Marie's new husband was an incorrigible gambler and the couple was very quickly in debt.


But still remember how we talked about Marie came from a wealthy family. She did, and she had a dowry in her dowry was substantial, equal to about hundred and two thousand U.S. dollars in today's money. But they were running through really quickly.


Stories about this marriage suggests that they had an arrangement where it was an open one, with both partners taking lovers outside of the marriage. Marie's extramarital affairs would, of course, have been gossiped about, but mostly things would have kind of just been overlooked. That is, if Marie had stayed within the high society's rules of decorum.


But Marie didn't really care about following their rules. Not only did she take a lover, she chose to do it with someone who was considered a bad boy.


Now, the sort of funny twist here is that it was her husband who actually introduced her to this person. That was Captain Jean Baptiste Gaudin descent Khoi, a young cavalry officer with very expensive tastes. And for Marie, this was an instant connection.


OK, so here's the thing about being in a wealthy society in 17th century France, no one really cared that you were having an affair. They just wanted to thoroughly discuss every single scandalous detail about it. Marie's father and her two brothers saw this as a public scandal, though, and as public humiliation.


And they really did care.


So when the Marquis de Villiers, who had left France to avoid creditors, made no effort to stop his wife's affair, it was ultimately her father who took things into his own hands. He secured the arrest of St. Khoi.


So Marie and Jean Baptiste enjoyed riding around Paris in her carriage, which had Marie's coat of arms embossed on the gilded doors. They were really anything but discreet when they drove around in my head.


This is the 17th century equivalent of hiring a limo driver standing out of your head, out of the room, if you like. We're having an affair as you drive through the streets.


Absolutely. Maybe with some champagne glasses completely.


Murray's father really did have a lot of influence, including with the king, and he was not afraid to use it. One afternoon when the lovebirds were out taking in the sights in this carriage, the carriage was stopped by the police and the police were carrying orders from the king that sent squad had to be imprisoned immediately.


So he was taken away immediately and he was incarcerated in the misdeal for probably less than a year, maybe give or take a year.


The records are little squishy on that, but it wasn't as though he became an antisocial hermit while he was incarcerated. He was a social gent, and he quickly befriended his cellmate, a man named Egidio Exelis, who was an Italian chemist who was also proficient in the art of poison.


So it said that Murray used a poison called Aquata Fana, which was widely used in Italy and had learned to make it from Sentara.


And he is said to have learned the method for making it from Zedillo when Santa died suddenly in July 16. Seventy two people started to say that he died in the act of stirring up a batch of Arquit to Fana as the legend goes, not realizing his protective glass mask had cracked as he leaned over the fire. He was not protected from the poisonous fumes from the poison that he was compounding.


This is definitely one of those stories that sounds great, but the truth of his death is actually hardly this titillating or ironic. His real story is that he died after having some kind of long illness and it wasn't really ever suspected that he was part of the deaths of Marie's family.


No one mentions whether or not he made poisons, but just that he wasn't suspected in those deaths.


When he died, though boring as his actual passing may or may not have been. No one came to collect his belongings and if they had, they would have noticed that he left a note on one particular red leather trunk asking that it be delivered to Marine. So left unclaimed. That trunk was examined by the authorities, as the authorities would do, as were about 30 letters which he had received from Marie while he was in prison.


Oh, the paper trail. Oh, here it starts. So contained within her writings were some very interesting pieces of information that were eventually used against her.


So this is one example. In one letter, she promised to pay sent the equivalent of 35000 U.S. dollars about a week after the poisoning of her father occurred, which I'm sure was so he could buy himself something real, pretty, nothing nefarious.


But here's the thing. The contents of the trunk. Yes, in this trunk were packets of various poisons and each packet was labeled with the effects that it would produce.


I mean, I'm actually conflicted on this because I really like a well-organized trunk. But I also have a big problem with well, labeled poisons.


I mean, you don't want poorly labeled poises, I mean, but you do want to well labeled and I actually really wonder which package it was the one that produced the vomiting, extreme stomach pains, burning sensation throughout your whole insides.


Those are the symptoms that Maria's dad suffered with four months before he died in 66.


Murray was his caretaker, but his condition didn't improve, which we've we've heard that story before, we've told poised old caretaker.


Watch out for your caretaker and your tea. His cause of death, according to his doctor, wasn't actually poison. They were convinced that he had died of complications of gout.


And to address the rumor mill, Murray had an autopsy performed on his corpse and nothing suspicious was reported. She was so lucky.


Maybe so early. Inheritance money that came up after her father's death was divided among Murray and her siblings. Antoine, who was her eldest brother and the heir of the family, received a larger chunk of the cheder.


And really, what about Marist Brothers here? She's gotten her father out of the way, but if she was looking for money, those two still stand in between her and the inheritance, but not for very long.


Right. That is true.


It might not be for very long, just as had happened with their father. They also started suffering from vomiting and inability to eat abdominal cramps, bloody stools, swelling weight loss and a constant burning feeling inside their stomachs. All of this right before they died.


This seems like one of those advertisements for like a pharmaceutical commercial where they've got at the bottom all of the terrible, all the horrible things that might happen to you just from taking aspirin, you know, but it will fix that one problem you have.


Again, in this case, Marie cared for her six siblings. One of her brothers took 72 days to die. The other died after five months.


Seventy two days? What is that about? A two and a half months. And the other took two and two with some change. Yeah. Yeah, that's a long time ago, it sounds.


So it's probably felt like years to them. Can't even imagine the brother's death certificates reported they had passed away due to natural causes, amazingly. And if you're keeping score, all of Marie's immediate male relatives are now dead, but not the husband.


So actually, if you like us, tend to indulge in a little bit of gallows humor, this moment in Marie's story might make you chuckle. So it said that Marie actually did try to poison her husband, perhaps as many as five or six times with the intent that she would finally be able to marry her lover, Sanskar. But each time she did, Santa Quogue panicked and gave him the antidote.


And this happened over and over on repeat, like you see, if you remember, they were friends. He's the one who introduced him to Marie. They've known each other for a long time. Apparently, there was no bad blood between them.


Oh, no. So Marie then also began plotting the poisoning of her sister and allegedly also possibly maybe her sister in law who had inherited money from Marie's brother.


So this seems like a good moment to take a breather, have something very non-poisonous as a delightful treat. And when we return, we are going to talk about how Marie's homicidal tendencies were finally discovered. Welcome back to Manila, where we're getting ready to talk about how Mari probably did not poison as many people as some stories might like us to believe.


According to the charges against her and 16 75, Marietje was said to have conspired with her lover to poison her father in 16, 66, then her two brothers and 16, 70, all in order to inherit their estates.


Among the gossip about her, it was said that it was her lust, greed and vengeance that motivated her.


But there is a fairly large rumor that has also gotten stuck to Marie's story, and we really need to address that.


So some accounts of her life and her poisonings accuse her of poisoning at least 50, maybe more people during visits that she made to hospitals. And she was doing these visits allegedly as a way to test the potency of her poisons.


Such a good Samaritan, I know, ignored. To be clear, Marie was not charged with any such killings. There is really no good record of her even making these visits, just hearsay that she did it. None of these killings ever came up at her trial, nor did she confess to any such things. And as far as we could see, she very likely did poison some people. But based on the research that we've been able to turn up, those victims were her family.


They were not random strangers that were hospital patients.


It does make for a rounded out story, but it's not a true story.


They just can't understand how anyone could have such an organized poison truck if they didn't do a lot of experimentation.


Well, we didn't find any sort of like makeshift 17th century spreadsheet about all of the boys the world.


But so her letters.


Right. So you're mentioning the trunk. And so the letters are with the trunk.


And once those letters were exposed, she fled from Paris and she lived on the lam for probably very long.


Years later, she was arrested in Belgium and she was brought back to Paris to ensure that she confessed to her alleged crimes.


Authorities turned to that classic stand by torture. And at this time, the water cure was a popular interrogation method and it was used extensively to elicit confessions. It was legal in the eyes of the French court, and it actually stayed that way until the 18th century.


So today there's a modified version of the water cooler that continues to be used around the world. It has an emphasis on the individual having the sensation of drowning rather than having to consume completely lethal amounts of water.


You'd know it today as waterboarding rather than the water cure.


And it was legally used by the U.S. and the CIA as recently as 2003.


But the one that we're talking about now in regards to Marie was about that lethal drinking of water that Maria just mentioned. So when interrogated with the water cure, an individual was forced to drink extreme amounts of water in a very short span of time. This can result in all sorts of highly uncomfortable and potentially fatal problems, including gastric distension, water intoxication, coma and water toxemia.


So it was also known as the question, and it involved forcing eight pints, which for all of us Americans out here is a gallon of water into a person's stomach.


If you were even luckier, you got picked for the extraordinary question, which involved double the amount of water, six pints. Murray was given the extraordinary question during her interrogation, she confessed to the poisoning of her father and to her two brothers.


So while Murray's conviction was based on the information that was obtained through the contents of her lover's letters, it really relied on her confession. And that confession is very problematic. As we said, it was given under torture, which should always be a red flag about anyone's presumed innocence or guilt. Right.


Assuming she survived the extraordinary question and she was found guilty, she was convicted of the homicidal poisonings of her father and her two brothers and for her own potential financial gain, she was also found guilty of attempting to murder her sister, which she did not confess to during that interrogation.




Right, let's go back to that interrogation for a minute, because Marie had a few other interesting remarks during it.


It said that she repeatedly told her torturers and we're quoting here, half the people I know, people of quality are involved in this same kind of thing. And I could drag them all down with me should I decide to talk.


She was not wrong. But aside from her immediate accomplice being her beloved, Marie never did implicate anyone else.


And she went on to be executed in July of that year, 16, 76, and maybe because they couldn't decide on which was the better method or they just really, really, really wanted to make sure that they killed her.


Marie was first beheaded and then she was burned.


We should discuss France at this time because poisonous accusations were happening at a fever pitch in the country. And Marie's trial was a very hot topic of conversation.


So this was a. When there were advancements happening in pharmacology, which is great, that's actually not the point of what's going on here, though.


This was also a time when Parisian society couldn't get enough things like sciences and fortunetellers and Potente love potions. At this time, black magic was a thing and it was something to be feared. And it also garnered ceaseless fascination in the 17th century.


How poisons affected the body was still poorly understood, and it was really hard to detect poison as a cause of death, as we've talked about.


In other cases, it was really difficult to place a poisoner at the scene of the crime because of these key problems.


It was also really hard to get a poisoned conviction. And in a society where everyone thought they might be poisoned at any moment, this was very distressing.


I'm sure it was distressing.


Can you imagine? You're like, wow, that lemonade tastes a little funny. I better die tonight.


So accusations were really quick and they were ruthless, and as many of the people that Marie refused to name during her interrogation were in fact later compromised in the following scandal, in the years that went on after her trial.


And it went as high as the court of King Louis, the 14th French paranoia about poison got so bad that anyone with a stomach ache really worried that they had been done in it is said that the king even forced some of his servants to become his royal food tasters, certainly not the first monarch to do so.


This frenzy that was happening at this time called the affair of the poison's.


It went on for about five years, roughly between 16, 77 and 16, 82 in 1880. There's a very good record of the number of people who had been implicated. So there were at that time 442 suspects and 367 orders of arrests that had been issued, of which those 218 had been carried out.


Of those found guilty, 36 had been executed. Five were sentenced to the galleys, which were detention centres at that time rather than warship's. They just kept rowing for no good reason, which reminds me of going to the gym.


23 were exiled.


And none of these numbers include any of the related suicides that surely happened or the number of people who had been put in prison or had been exiled.


Furthermore, many of the accused were never actually brought to trial. Instead, they were just imprisoned for life. Some people, likely more than 100, were condemned to perpetual imprisonment by arrest warrants that had been signed by the king.


And it was Murray's trial that had really kicked things off. Those who were charged in the years following her trial, directly after her execution as well, were all upper class, lower class men, women.


Everyone was a suspect during this scandal, which essentially just boiled down to being a witch trial.


Yeah, alchemist's counterfeiter's and poisoners. And really anyone and everyone could be accused. It seemed like if you had any skill that not everyone understood, you're automatically suspicious. Yeah, no kidding. Of the many who were accused amid the rumours of a royal poisoning plot, a good number of them were French aristocrats and prominent persons at the court of the King, whose class did not save them from charges of witchcraft and poisoning.


Welcome back to Criminal Year, where we are about to talk about how Marines poisonous ham may not have really been about inheritance. Medema, seven year, for instance, was a French aristocrat who's remembered for her witty letter writing. Now, this is actually important, not just talking about letter writing, most of her correspondence of the penmanship.


I bet she had a lovely hand.


I bet she practiced. Most of her correspondence actually was addressed to her daughter.


But today, her letters are considered to have both historical and literary significance in France.


And she's become a bit of an icon in French 17th century literature. She has a connection to Marie.


She was present at Marie's execution in July 16 76, and she recounted the whole event, including such details as, quote, Her poor little body was thrown after the execution into a very big fire and the ashes to the winds so that we shall breathe her.


She also observed that and here's another quote from one of her letters Never has such a crowd been seen, nor Paris so excited and attentive.


Marie's trial was really popular almost as a sort of entertainment. Everyone followed it, and those living in her time and place might have concluded that her behaviors were sociopathic. There is even a quote about her from the time that says heart. She had none, not even for the men she loved.


But it's tricky, and modern eyes may be a little more likely to see the tragedy. That could be Marie's story. Her story may not be about inheritance nor about revenge for having had a lover imprisoned.


Instead, with today's better understanding of childhood abuse, this may, as Maria said, not be about inheritance at all. What was found while we were researching Marie's life is that this may be really more of a story about a young girl who was repeatedly sexually abused, including at the hands of her own brother, and was not equipped to manage that trauma because who would be, would be.


And it's not like she could call up her local, you know, to pick from 20 therapists and write down to help her out. This was not the case.


So for a society that was enthralled by this entire trial, poisoning for love or money would have been a much easier story to pass and get behind.


Absolutely. And if Marie was really a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it could and almost certainly would have impacted her as an adult in so many ways.


She may have had post-traumatic stress disorder. She may have experienced really intense and unwanted emotional responses and feelings, as well as intense and unwanted physiological sensations. She just probably didn't feel good a lot. She may have felt unable to create close and intimate relationships with other people. And this is just a smattering of possibilities of how her untreated trauma could have impacted her. We're not seeing that people who have untreated or treated trauma are murderers, but at all.


But there are many things that happen to you when things happen to you as a child that you just can't understand as an adult. And it could be Marie.


Yeah. You know, she definitely did not receive any kind of care for this trauma.


And in fact, one time that she did mention it, she mentioned that the relationship that she had with her brother, she mentioned it as a relationship, as like a a an adult sexual partnership when she was ten.




Her perspective on things was a little off as well. She's describing what are very adult concepts as though that was something she could have even conceived of as a child, right? Not right.


So we're never going to know her true motivations or even if her statements about her childhood experiences were true. But knowing that she may likely have had all this serious trauma in her past can help inform us as we think about her overall tendencies and her motivations and her behaviors. Good or bad, right.


Poor woman. To move on so that we always do end on a more fun note, yes, Maria, what's your poison?


OK, so I had a funny. What's your poison for this week? Bring it on.


It's a little embarrassing now because whatever I feel we should all just maybe do our own version of the water cooler.


Feeling dehydrated?


No, I think yours is probably much better. Yes. This is where I confess to you that I hate water. I know it's good for me. I try to drink it. I choke it down. But the water cure sounds particularly horrifying to me. I just don't I just don't like it.


You are my soul sister. I have to put something in it.


I was not a water drinker when I was a kid.


I'm not as an adult. I'm like, what does it taste now? It has a flavor, but it's always icky. Yes, yeah. Yes.


I'm not a water drinker. I again, I try. I know. Fight dehydration, but.


Yeah, but you can fight dehydration with the lemons and oranges in your drink and scurvy. Yes. Yes.


So I wanted to come up with something that suited Marie's story and her time and place and I looked at a few. There are some fun drinks called Love Letters of the Last Love Letter that are all lovely.


But what I ended up falling in love with as an idea was their recipe from a cookbook, a French cookbook from Sixteen Sixty. And that cookbook is looking for Julia Flint. Soire And this is a recipe for how to make lemonade in the 17th century French style. Here is how you make it. It starts with just one pint of water and then the juice of six lemons. You also have to juice two oranges. You put half of one of the lemon peels that's been pressed in.


You put half of one of the orange peels from an orange that you have pressed in. And here's the kicker, then you put in half a pound of sugar. That is insane. It's a lot of sugar.


Oh, my God. But then you take all of this citrus juice and water and sugar and you pour it back and forth between two vessels to mix it until you feel like it's pretty well mixed and then you want to strain it. The original recipe calls for you to strain it through one salvia Terblanche. That's a white napkin. Oh, I just used a regular kitchen strainer.


I'm not so fancy. And then so is it.


My my does it really need to be like I like pulp the pulp state. It's pretty OK, especially because you have those peels that you throw in as you're transferring the water back and forth like pieces of pulp break free of those. So we tried it at my house just in case it's lemonade, non-alcoholic form. And it is a lovely lemonade. In fact, all of that sugar, it might be too sweet for some people, but because you have so much fresh squeezed lemon juice in there, which is very acidic, it backs off of that a little bit.


It nice. It counters it. But then what we did to make it a yummy cocktail, we used a one botanicals the grapefruit and rose vodka. Oh, beautiful. And just put an ounce and a half in of that. You could also do it with just a grapefruit vodka. And if you have rosemary, it would also be lovely. It was the rose your thought or was that in the actual original recipe?


Because I think that sounds delicious. No, that's fine. That's fine. That's a great addition. I want to put rose flavoring in everything and have a little problem. I love it. This was such a beautiful drink. And it's one of those things where I will maybe overshare. My husband think he's not a big drinker. He doesn't love cocktails like I do. But he had originally said, I'll just stick with the regular lemonade. And then I made mine with the grapefruit and rose vodka.


And then he tried it and said, Can I just keep this? So it was a very delicious cocktail.


And then I was like four gold stars from him. That's a huge endorsement from him.


If it were not for the fact that it would take me half an hour to cut and juice all that citrus, I would be making this every day. Our lemons were particularly small, so I used seven instead of six and it did take some time. And I'm a little clumsy still with the juicer. And the oranges are too big for a regular juice like lemon squeezer. Yeah, yeah. So you got to cut them smaller. I'm not a graceful I'm pretty good at it, but I'm not very graceful about it.


Like the end result is usually I could put it together, should be how it tastes, how it got put together. I'm not even a big citrus person and I loved it. So that's a sea I am clear with.


I think this drink is the best one that we've done so far. Like I'm going to absolutely make this sounds great. I think you should.


So that concludes this episode of Criminal. Thank you so much for joining us here.


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