Madame de Montespan,Louis XIV and the Spanish Fly

The Spanish fly is an aphrodisiac known to people from all over the world. Although illegal in most countries today, it is still talked about and many legal libido enhancing drugs have been named after it. However, back in the old days was used by both the common man and by the rich and powerful.

Well Known Historical Uses of this aphrodisiac

The famous Greek physician Hippocrates was the first to describe the features of the spanish fly and made plasters that would raise blisters. However, it was much later, in the Roman times, when it was discovered that Cangharidin in the green beetle acts as an irritant and can put genitals of both men and women “on fire”. Men can have their erections last longer and women feel aroused as well, however, it is also highly dangerous because even a slightest overdose can cause horrifying blisters in the mouth and throat of the user and may even end with death. Still, this didn’t stop people from using it on themselves and on others.


Here are some of the most infamous historical uses of this aphrodisiac:

  • In Roman times, the wife of Augustus Caesar, Livia, put some into food and served to her guests hoping they would start acting inappropriately so she could later take advantage of the situation and blackmail them for her own gains.
  • It is well known that Henry IV, who lived from 1050 until 1106 used spanish flies frequently. He must have been good with choosing the right dosage as he died of other causes and there were no signs of it harming him physically.
  • In 1772, the notorious Marquis de Sade used spanish fly to poison several prostitutes in his home. He was hoping to set them on fire, but since he put too much of it in their food, they instead started vomiting and fell down in agony. He was prosecuted and sentenced to death for this and other crimes, but he managed to escape.

We have left out the most known case in history, where Madame de Montespan used Spanish Fly on Louis XIV as it demands special attention.

Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan

Ever since 1666, Madame de Montespan had been pursuing Louis and at the same time was openly resenting the Queen. She finally met Louis XIV in 1667 at a ball and soon made her way into his chambers.  Soon she had her position secured and in 11 years gave birth to 7 children by Louis XIV. The first three children were raised by her relative, but later the King legitimated his children.Francoise Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart or marquise of Montespan was the favourite mistress of Louis XIV for many years, they even had seven children together, however, three of them died at a young age. The king respected the opinion of the marquise and even the people often considered her the true Queen of France.

In 1677 a royal scandal broke loose when it was discovered that she had been poisoning the King and conducting rituals to win over the heart of the King.

She allegedly started visiting a witch by the name of Catherine Monvoisin who helped her create a potion for the King. Together the witch and Madame de Montespan prayed over the devil to bring her Louis XIV love. And what is even worse, they sacrificed newborn babies by slitting their throats to get their wish.

The body of the sacrificed baby would be used to drain blood and use it together with the bones to create a mixture for the King. But this wasn’t the only poison she gave to the King. She also spiked his food with Spanish Fly to make the King lust after her even more.

The poisoning of the King took place 13 years and finally ended when the witch was captured by the police.
During the investigation, more than 2,500 dead infants were found in her garden, some of these babies had been used in creating potions that Madame de Montespan had requested. In fact, there is talk that she supposedly had a priest perform black mass (including infant sacrifice again) while she was naked and soaked in blood.She would use just the right amount of the cantharidin to make sure the King was always in fire and when this took place, stayed close by to Louis XIV’s love.  Fortunately she was wise enough to keep the dosage low so that the King didn’t see any harm and the only symptom was his increased sex drive. Louis died of other causes and whether or not those long years of unknowingly taking Spanish Fly with his meals had any effect on his genitals is not known.

Unfortunately, none of the evidence were inconclusive and she didn’t have to face charges. Still, the scandal forced her and the King apart, at least in the eyes of the public. The King still visited her often in her quarters as he loved talking to her.

Does that mean that her love potions worked? Did Spanish Fly work its magic? Or perhaps the King was attracted to “true Queen of France” because of her gorgeous blue eyes, curvy body  and witty intelligence? We will never know…

The Spanish Fly Today

Sacrificing babies, creating love potions, having numerous mistresses, giving birth year by year to 7, 10 or 20 children… these times are long gone. However, people still talk about this famous aphrodisiac and we even see this name in several products.

The actual Spanish Fly, the aphrodisiac, the emerald-green beetle is rarely used anymore on people. In fact, it is illegal in the US, Canada and most other countries of the world. Sometimes it is used in animals to get them to mate, but even that may end sadly for them.

But thanks to the stories and the history, the name has stuck. Now when people say or think “Spanish Fly”, they don’t necessarily mean the “bug”, they mean aphrodisiac, they talk about something that enhances their sex drive, helps men get longer and stronger erections, raises libido in women. There are completely safe (even herbal) supplements and drugs for that.

If you encounter something like this, don’t worry. You are not being poisoned by someone looking to get your love.. well, they might want your love, but without the poisoning part. Today’s Spanish Flies are safe, unless they are made of real blister beetles. It is just that thanks to the history, this name is easier to sell.

So whether or not all of that really happened, whether or not Madame de Montespan really got the Kings attention thanks to a love potion made of the Spanish Fly, it doesn’t really matter. What we have is an interesting story from the past to go with the plain facts of history.

Wikipedia-Louis XIV
Wikipedia-Françoise Athénaïs

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