The Middle Ages are infamous for their barbaric interrogation-and-torture practices and their bloodcurdling scandals, which usually involved innocents sinning against the church or consorting with demons, and subsequently being sentenced to execution. However, few debacles have topped the notorious Tour de Nesle affair, which involved the daughters-in-law of King Philip IV of France and their adulterous suitors – all of whom (quite literally) had their balls cut off as a result of their transgressions.
Philip IV had three sons: Charles, Louis, and Philip Jr. Louis was wed to Margaret, daughter of Robert II, AKA the Duke of Burgundy. Philip Jr. married Joan, the daughter of the Count of Burgundy. And Charles was betrothed to Blanche, Joan's sister. But the king also had a daughter, Isabella, who would go on to accuse all three of her sisters-in-law of adultery.
The events that ensued would forever come to redefine the term, "chamber of horrors." Never mind Bill, Monica, and the fatally stained blue dress ... the French Tour de Nesle scandal was the medieval sex scandal to end all sex scandals.
The Whole Ordeal Began With Embroidered Purses
As the story goes, the whole drama began when young Isabella gifted her sisters-in-law with three exquisitely embroidered handbags. Later that year, a large celebration was held, and during the course of the evening, she happened to notice that "two Norman knights" – the brothers Gauthier and Philippe d'Aulnay – were in possession of the aforementioned purses.
From this, Isabella deduced that her sisters-in-law were potentially having an affair, and after she confided her suspicions in her father, the king launched a full-scale investigation into the matter.
The "Adulterers" Were Put Under Surveillance
Never one to castrate, torture, and decapitate without at least some evidence, King Philip had the knights and his daughters-in-law followed. As legend has it, the trail led straight to the Tour de Nesle, a magnificent fortress on the Seine. Upon arrival, investigators discovered that the grand old edifice had been turned into a lurid "love den." All errant parties were promptly arrested, and the interrogations began.
The Knights Were Castrated, Tortured, And Decapitated
After a series of "interrogations" (AKA, relentless and intricate tortures), the d'Aulnay brothers were found guilty and officially charged with "lese-majeste," which translates to "treason by way of insulting the king." Their penalties were in no way merciful.
According to historians, the knights were first castrated, and their genitals thrown to the dogs. Afterward, they were broken on "the wheel," a device that spins its victims around as their limbs are systematically shattered with iron bars.
At last came what can only be described, under the circumstances, as "the best part": an end to torture in the form of decapitation; though other sources claim that the two were merely hanged. The Trump/Maples sex scandal appears positively rosy in comparison, does it not?
The Girls, Too, Were Put On Trial... And Were Found Guilty
Philip's daughters-in-law, as some might have guessed, did not emerge from the whole ordeal unscathed. After a series of trials, Blanche and Margaret were found guilty. Their heads were promptly shaven, and both were sentenced "to life-long imprisonment."
After a year in jail, Margaret died under what some history buffs refer to as "mysterious circumstances," while Blanche served eight years in a harrowing underground dungeon before she was assigned to live out her remaining days in a nunnery. However, she would die just a few years later ... largely due to the untreated ailments she had suffered during her long years in rat-infested confinement.