Examples of deadly or poisoned costume and accessories

  • A gift of poisoned gloves was thought to have been used by Catherine of Medici (1519-1589) to murder her daughter’s future mother-in-law, Jeanne de Navarre. Her death in 1572 set off the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Huguenots. Further information on the web, for example: (Russian article) http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/32318719
  • There are many legends of poisoned khila’t (honorary robes) from India, dating from the 1600’s to the early 1900’s.
  • Poison rings or lockets were popular in Europe in the sixteenth century. Poisons could be discreetly dropped into the food or drink of one’s enemy, or could be used for suicide if the wearer needed to escape capture or torture.
  • Dangerous accessories caused a man to be condemned death

Dangerous accessories

Dangerous costume accessories caused the death of the Danish King’s physician in 1772. A pair of garters was found in the possession of Johan Struensee, the physician of King Christian 7th of Denmark, when he was arrested in 1772.

The garters were presented as incriminating evidence when he was accused of intimacy with Queen Caroline Mathilde and misuse of power. He admitted to having bought the pink pair of silk garters for the Queen, at her request, but explained that she had paid for them herself. The Queen’s chambermaid gave testimony that she had been ordered by her mistress to help her tie them every day, as they were especially dear to her. She had no knowledge of the second pair.

After the notorious trial, the garters were kept in the files of the Royal Archives as evidence and are today deposited in the Royal Danish Collections.

The affair between Queen Caroline Mathilde and the King’s physician resulted in his being arrested, imprisoned, convicted of misuse of power, subsequently executed, drawn and quartered. Their tragic story has since been the subject of numerous books and a popular film.

Caroline Mathilde, sister of King George of England, was sent in exile and died just a few years later of a fever. Her son, Prince Frederik, later became king of Denmark, while her daughter with Struensee, Louise Augusta, was given status of princess and raised at the Danish court. Louise Augusta was always close to her brother, was well-educated and active in court politics. She married a count - and her daughter Caroline Amalie married the future king of Denmark, Prince Christian (8th) Frederik and became Queen of Denmark in 1840.

The garters are made of a brightly colored silk and silver ribbon, now quite degraded, with white ribbon ties. The central area is edged with a narrow ruche of pink silk ribbon. They are lined with white silk and lightly padded with cotton wool. There are stains on the reverse, perhaps from perfume. Royal Danish Archives and Royal Danish Collections, Denmark.

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