U is for Ursinus

Sophie Charlotte Elizabeth Ursinus, a Prussian and a poisoner, makes her grisly appearance in Household Words, Volume XII in September 1855. In 1803 she was arrested for the attempted murder of a servant. She was then accused of murdering her husband and aunt, both having died rather suddenly, and the aunt’s considerable fortune going to Madame Ursinus. Both supposed victims were disinterred, but no trace of arsenic was found.


Her ingenious defence against the accusation of the attempted murder of her servant was that, tired of life, she was practising on her servant so as to ascertain the dose that would kill her. The murder charges did not stick, but she was sentenced to life imprisonment in the fortress of Glatz where she wrote her memoirs and entertained distinguished visitors. She was released after 30 years and lived a life of piety and benevolence.

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