I was doing some light reading yesterday and stumbled across a site that had posted their top 15 worst serial killers list. A commenter had added their dismay that Gilles de Rais hadn't made it on the list.
Having no previous knowledge on de Rais I did a google search. I spent the rest of the morning reading (when I should have been studying o.O) and compiled here, just for you, the information that I found.
Happy reading ;)
Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (AKA Baron de Rais) lived in France between 1404 and 1440.
At the time of his birth France was at war with England (The Hundred Years War) over who was the rightful heir to the throne.
As was typical in that time period, Gilles was raised by absent parents. He began his studies at the age of seven and proved to be a quick learner in every subject -- with the exception of politics.
In 1415 his mother died. Shortly after, and just before the quagmire that is now known as Agincourt, his father, Guy, was mauled to death while hunting wild boar.
Guy made sure that his will kept Gilles and his younger brother, Rene (two years junior), away from their grandfather, Jean d'Craon.
d'Craon, being one of the wealthiest people in France, challenged the will and the boys became his wards in the middle of 1416.
What Gilles learned from his influential grandfather was that as heir to the second richest man in all of France, he was above the law.
d'Craon made three attempts at marrying off his oldest grandson. Only the third, when Gilles was 16, finally happened. Gilles married Catherine de Thouars of Brittany on November 30th 1420. She was his cousin and they wed after Gilles kidnapped her, under instruction and tutelage from his grandfather. This marriage served to increase the family's already vast wealth.
Gilles was primary advisor and general to Joan of Arc. They fought together against the English during the war. In this he was able to partake in the carnage he seemed to enjoy so much. He was soon appointed the title Marshal of France which made Gilles the highest ranking soldier in France. He still hadn't learned how to politic, though, and his blunders made a lot of enemies for him.
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Gilles, as well as everyone else, abandoned her in her time of need. She was seen as a threat and so, she was thrown to the wolves.
Soon after, on November 15th, 1437, d'Craon died. He renounced Gilles on his death bed and stripped him as heir to the family wealth.
In May of 1440 (the 15th), Gilles kidnapped a cleric during a dispute. The Bishop of Nantes started investigating him from that point.
On July 29th the Bishop released his findings. A second investigation, this one by authorities, was concluded in September and Gilles and two of his servants were arrested on the 15th under charges that included sodomy, heresy and murder.
The court planned on torturing Gilles into confessing to the crimes, but he admitted to them on October 21st.
Gilles confessed that between the Springs of 1432 and 1433 he began assaulting children. No account survives of the actual first murders, but he also admitted to murdering or ordering the murders of countless children after he sodomized them. According to one of the servants who was arrested with him, sometimes Gilles would issue a fatal wound and sodomize the child while they bled out. Other times, the man alleged, Gilles would sodomize the dead.
Afterwards he would have the bodies burned in the fireplace in his bedroom and then have their ashes scattered.
The accounts were apparently so graphic that the courts ordered certain parts stricken from the records.
The number of victims was placed somewhere between 80 and 200, although a few have said that the number is as high as 600. All victims were between the ages of 6 and 18. They were both male and female.
The servants confessed and were sentenced to death. Gilles was sentenced on October 25th. He was allowed to make confession and was granted his request to be buried in the church of the monastery of Notre-Dame des Carmes.
Execution by hanging and burning was set for Wednesday the 26th of October. At 9 am the trio made their way to the place of execution on the Ile de Biesse.
Gilles told his body servants to die bravely and to focus on salvation.
His request to be the first to die was also granted and at 11 am the platform was set on fire. Gilles was hanged. His body was cut down before the flames consumed his body and his remains were claimed. The bodies of the servants were burned to ashes and scattered.
Gilles' daughter Marie erected a stone memorial at the site of execution which was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Was Gilles framed?
The Duke of Brittany received his lands after he was executed. He split them among his lords. This was a man who could have protected Gilles. He was also one of King Charles's lords - who played the king and continuously switched sides during the war.
The verdict was based on testimony. But confessions in cases of witchcraft and heresy were often extracted through torture. Gilles de Rais himself confessed under torturous circumstances. The courts didn't want to hear the truth. They wanted to hear guilt.
|Gilles de Rais|
For more information: