It may be one of the oldest product liability cases in the world. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published findings suggesting that Diane de Poitiers, a famous mistress of 16th-century French King Henry II, may have died from consuming too much drinkable gold.
Drinkable gold was a common thing among the most wealthy women of the time. It was believed to preserve youth.
Experts tested the remains of Diane de Poitiers and found high levels of gold in her hair and body.
Diane de Poitiers was Henry II’s favorite mistress and was often painted or drawn by artists due to her beauty. She remained a beauty into her 50s according to artists at the time and was a trusted adviser to the King as well. When Henry II was wounded in a jousting tournament, Queen Catherine de’ Medici (his wife and queen) banished Diane de Poitiers and eventually sent her to live out her life at a remote chateau after he died.
Putting aside the history, the tort would be interesting for any sixteenth century personal injury lawyer. The manufacturers of liquid gold could not claim that they never endorsed consumption of their product since, even if there was another use of the product, this was foreseeable misuse given the passion for drinking gold at the time in the Royal Court. There is an obvious design defect and warning defect. They could claim that it was “scientifically unknowable” at the time that gold could cause medical problems, of course. There is also the possibility that the drinkable gold was not a commercial product but prepared in the royal kitchen. This would move the matter outside of products liability and into the area of negligence. It would turn on what a reasonable person would do. At the time, gold was viewed as healthy. Moreover there remains a question of contributory or comparative negligence.
It would have been a challenging but potentially rewarding case for any carriage chasing personal injury lawyer.
As for eating gold, it is a practice that has hardly gone out of practice, here.