6 Historical Deaths That Read Like Crazy Myths (But Aren’t)

5. Diane De Poitiers Drank Gold To Stay Young

As we’ve previously covered, bullshit celebrity health fads have existed for as long as humans have been gullible enough to think that volcanic water and chunks of rocks inserted into their nether regions might make them superior physical specimens. In most cases, these scams don’t end with much worse than people spending too much on water. But when these schemes go bad, they can go all the way bad, and end with people slowly self-murdering themselves — something that Diane de Poitiers could attest to. You know, if she hadn’t died.

In ye olden times, one big health trend was drinking gold. That’s not a euphemism; people would mix gold flecks into a concoction of chemicals and chug it back in the hopes of retaining a youthful appearance. In the 16th century, Diane de Poitiers, a French noblewoman and mistress to King Henry II, was one of many addicted to aurum potabile. And did it work? Surprisingly, by some accounts, yes:

I saw her at seventy years of age beautiful of face, also fresh and also pleasant as she had been at thirty years of age … and especially she had a very large whiteness without any make-up. But it is well said that, every morning, she would use some drinks made up of drinkable gold and other drugs given by good doctors and apothecaries.

Unfortunately, she soon started to feel some unwelcome side effects. It weakened her entire body and caused malformed teeth, fine hair, and porcelain-esque fragile bones. The white complexion that guy was complimenting? That was anemia. She would die at the age of 66, a couple years after a riding accident she never really recovered from. Did drinking poison have any effect on this? It’s hard to state definitively 500 years later, but yes, let’s say it very definitely did. When her body was exhumed and examined by archaeologists, they found that her hair contained levels of gold 500 times higher than normal, as well as absurd amounts of mercury. Her skeleton was basically the T-1000.

Apparently, your only choice of chaser for your homebrewed Goldschlager is mercury or drinking actual knives.

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