There's a claim doing the rounds on social media, that women in the Middle Ages would poison their husbands, and then administer an antidote on their arrival home. The implication is that this would "keep the men close" as the longer they stayed away, the worse their symptoms would be.

Via BelaStyles on FaceBook,

There was a French city where, during the Middle Ages, the women had an odd habit. In the morning, married women would put a small dose of poison in the breakfast they had prepared for their husbands. Later on, when their men returned home during the evening, they would be given the antidote. In this way, the poison would not become harmful and affect them. There was a strict reason for this practice. Should the husbands remain elsewhere for too long, as the administration of the antidote got delayed, the men would end up experiencing symptoms like nausea, headaches, depression, vomiting, pain or shortness of breath. The longer the man delayed to return home to his wife, the sicker he would get. And, ultimately, when he finally returned home, his wife unknowingly gave him the antidote. In this way, within a few minutes, he quickly started feeling better. All of this worked as a trick, giving men the impression that being away from home would lead to pain and depression. Therefore, the husbands would become more attached to their homes and their wives.

I shared the link skeptically, but a friend has argued that this is common knowledge in Europe. She says there are several scholarly articles to support it, but none of the links she sent me seem to support the claim.

Her links were the following:

The paper about 17th century France seems the closest, but is specific to French aristocracy. Is there anything more substantial to support or refute the claim? My friend seems convinced.

  • If the wives are poisoning them and giving them the antidote how can the wife "unknowingly" give them the antidote when they return home late?
    – Joe W
    May 18, 2023 at 13:22
  • 3
    On Skeptics.SE, we require claims to be notable - they must be widely believed. It is hard to show that, so we accept a proxy of being widely seen or read. A popular article is perfect. Sometimes people confuse this meaning of notabiity with meaning the claim must come from a reliable source. That is not required. I have deleted such comments from this question, to avoid further confusing new users.
    – Oddthinking
    May 18, 2023 at 15:10
  • 1
    I also deleted pseudo-answers. Please use the answer boxes, with references,
    – Oddthinking
    May 18, 2023 at 15:11
  • 2
    @JoeW: I read the claim as the men were unknowing, not the women.
    – Oddthinking
    May 18, 2023 at 15:11
  • 4
    @JoeW: I think it is just clumsy writing. I only see one interpretation that makes sense, and I assume that is what they meant.
    – Oddthinking
    May 18, 2023 at 16:57


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