It is a historical account of supposed demonic possession, superstition and religious fanaticism in 17th century France, based on events which took place in the small town of Loudun in Poitou.
Urbain Grandier was a priest burned at the stake at Loudun, France on August 18, 1634. He was accused of seducing an entire convent of Ursuline nuns and of being in league with the devil. Grandier was probably too promiscuous and too insolent to his peers. He had antagonised the Mother Superior, Sister Jeanne of the Angels, when he rejected her offer to become the spiritual advisor to the convent. He faced an ecclesiastical tribunal and was acquitted.
It was only after he had publicly spoken against Cardinal Richelieu that a new trial was ordered by the Cardinal. He was tortured, found guilty and executed by being burnt alive but never admitted guilt. Huxley touches on aspects of the multiple personality controversy in cases of apparent demonic possession within this book.