One wonders how many products currently in our collective medicine chests we think are helping us stay well and look younger are actually killing us.

Takes a lot of scratch to poison oneself with gold though.  BUT if one is the cougar mistress of a lavish living King, I guess cash is not an issue.

Drop dead gorgeous: A portrait of Diane de Poitiers in her youth (above) by an unknown artist and the last portrait (below) showing how closely the skull from the dig fitted her image. Experts believe she died from gold poisoning .

Dying to look good: French king’s mistress killed by drinking gold elixir of youth
By Claire Bates  |  22nd December 2009  |

Miracle beauty products may be a staple on women’s dressing tables today, but they’re not a recent invention.

The mistress of the 16th-century French king, Henry II, drank gold in an effort to preserve her youth, according to a study published in the British medical journal.

Unfortunately the remedy eventually killed her.

Above: The lock of Diane's hair preserved at Anet Castle Below: Close up analysis revealed de Poitiers had gold in her thinning hair

When French experts dug up the remains of Diane de Poitiers last year, they found high levels of gold in her hair.

Since she was not a queen and did not wear a crown, scientists said it was hard to see how jewellery could have contaminated her hair and body.

Experts now say she probably consumed drinkable gold, believed at the time to preserve youth and treat a host of other ailments.

The French court believed gold harnessed the power of the Sun, which would be transferred to the drinker. Alchemists often acted as apothecaries and prescribed solutions made up of gold chloride and diethyl ether. These were popular at the French Court.

It is very likely Diane de Poitiers was killed by her desire to look young. Unusually she was 20 years older than her royal lover.

Diana de Poitiers was well-known for her athletic prowess and represented as Diana the Huntress (below) Her remains will be returned to her original tomb in Castle Anet.

Contemporary reports mention the famed beauty had an unusually white face without the need for makeup and that she looked as fresh as a 30-year-old when she was over twice that age.

French forensic experts who analysed her bones found traces of mercury, which was used in the preparation of gold remedies. The noble was famed for her athleticism but her remains also revealed she suffered from thinning hair and fragile bones, which are common symptoms of chronic gold intoxication.

The body of the French king’s favourite was only discovered in 2008. After the king’s death Diane de Poitiers had been banished from court by his widow Catherine de’Medici to the chateau in Anet given to her by the king.

She died there, aged 66, in 1566 and was buried in a grand tomb in a specially built funeral chapel. However her grave was desecrated during the French Revolution and her body flung into a common grave outside the chateau’s walls.

Scientists Joel Poupon and Philippe Charlier, who usually works in hospital morgues in Paris, worked together to identify de Poitiers in the recently opened Normandy grave.

The bones belonged to someone of her age and athletic physique. Crucially one of the legs revealed a healed fracture – de Poitiers was reported to have broken her leg in a riding accident.

Now French revolutionaries and modern scientists are finished with de Poitiers, her remains will soon be returned to their original resting place in the chateau tomb.