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Gilles de Rais (1404-1440): wealthy, nationalist nobleman, comrade at arms to Joan of Arc, liberator of Orléans and depraved pedophile, responsible for the death of more than one hundred eight- to thirteen-year-old boys.

Born in France in the midst of the bestial Hundred Years War, at a time when the country was being torn apart by invasion under the poor leadership of King Charles the Mad, de Rais’ education in violence began in the cradle. A member of one of France’s wealthiest families, he was groomed for his military prowess and began intensive military training at the age of seven. By the time Gilles was ready to begin his career, France entered an even more turbulent state of chaos: Charles VI passed away and the legitimacy of the young Dauphin, Charles VII, was challenged. The adolescent Dauphin was disinherited and the crown passed to the infant Henry VI of England. Unable to defeat the more powerful English army led by the Duke of Bedford, Dauphin Charles had to remain uncrowned, essentially trapped in the southern Loire Valley away from the French heartlands.

In 1429, salvation for Charles arrived in an unusual package. A teenage peasant girl from the village of Domrémy on the eastern French border with the Duchy of Burgandy, arrived at Charles’ court insisting that she could deliver the besieged city of Orléans back into his control. Joan of Arc successfully convinced Charles to back her in liberating Orléans, though the exact circumstances of the King’s acquiescence are unknown. Gilles de Rais followed Joan to victory at the Battle of Orleans and in many successful campaigns afterwards, proving himself as a warrior and developing an unquenchable thirst for blood. In 1431, the English captured Joan of Arc and put her on trial for heresy. After Joan’s execution, Gilles’ public career as a solider dwindled, but his private career in killing was just beginning.

The first murder attributed to Gilles de Rais was the murder of a twelve-year-old peasant, Juedon, apprenticed to a furrier. In his confession, de Rais admitted to luring the boy into his castle, dressing him up and allowing the boy to gorge himself on sweet meats and alcohol. When the boy had finished, Gilles led him up the stairs and informed of his fate. According to Etienne Poitou, de Rais’ manservant, Rais tied the boy to a hook with ropes to prevent his escape, then masturbated on his belly and thighs. After taking his victim down from the hook, Etienne stated that Gilles comforted him before killing him.

Subsequent murders followed in the same fashion; peasant children were lured to Gilles’ bedroom where he killed them by decapitating them, cutting their throats, dismembering them or breaking their necks. The braquemard, a short double-edged sword, was kept at hand for each murder. In his confession, Giles admitted that he often kissed the children once they were dead and delighted in removing the most handsome heads and limbs. He disemboweled many and confessed to sitting on the stomachs of his victims while they died, laughing all the while.

At this trial, de Rais made a full confession after being threatened with torture. He was careful to highlight that the murders had been for his own sexual pleasure and had not been part of a Satanic ritual. In Medieval France, murdering peasant children was seen as a lesser crime than heresy. Nevertheless, de Rais was initially excommunicated and sentenced to death. After falling to his knees and pleading tearfully to be reincorporated into the Church, the Bishop of Nantes repealed the excommunication, absolving him of sin before he was hanged. Etienne Poitou and other servants accused of involvement were also sentenced to death.

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2 Comments

  1. Creeeeeepy.

    Also, J, here’s your Googlebump.


    J

  2. What a creepy mofo. Also creepy: his servants who just did whatever he asked. There’s servitude… and there’s stupidity.

    Ugh.


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