Some crimes so grotesque,
They can even horrify
Continuing with the ‘very bad deaths’ trend, today’s subject is Gilles de Rais. A hero of the Hundred Years’ War! Marshal of France! A good bud and comrade of Joan of Arc! Shame he didn’t stop there.
You know the story ‘Bluebeard’, with the serial wife murderer? Gilles was the inspiration for that. Except replace ‘wife’ with ‘child.’ Number of victims: anywhere between 80 to 200.
I will not go into too many details, because I’m sure you like keeping your meals down. Suffice to say, it seems like in the years after Joan’s execution, Gilles went a little off the rails. The spree lasted from 1433-40, ending only when he kidnapped a cleric while fighting with a church. The Bishop of Nantes stepped in to investigate the incident and hoo boy, he found out a lot more than he bargained for. Apparently, people from the surrounding villages had been noticing and complaining about disappearing children for years, but nobody listened to them because they were peasants. Gilles and his accomplices confessed in short order. They were executed by a combo of hanging and burning, which is nicer than how his victims checked out.
You’ll find his occasional defender, including famed anthropologist Margaret Murray, who claimed he was a framed and persecuted witch. This is nonsense. By the standards of medieval history, there’s a mountain of evidence that he was guilty as hell.
My theory? Some can’t handle the fact that Joan of Arc could be a spectacularly bad judge of character.