The case for the defence

Born 1404
Executed 1440
Exonerated 1992

It is now widely accepted that the trial of Gilles de Rais was a miscarriage of justice. He was a great war hero on the French side; his judges were pro-English and had an interest in blackening his name and, possibly, by association, that of Jehanne d'Arc. His confession was obtained under threat of torture and also excommunication, which he dreaded. A close examination of the testimony of his associates, in particular that of Poitou and Henriet, reveals that they are almost identical and were clearly extracted by means of torture. Even the statements of outsiders, alleging the disappearance of children, mostly boil down to hearsay; the very few cases where named children have vanished can be traced back to the testimony of just eight witnesses. There was no physical evidence to back up this testimony, not a body or even a fragment of bone. His judges also stood to gain from his death: in fact, Jean V Duke of Brittany, who enabled his prosecution, disposed of his share of the loot before de Rais was even arrested.

In France, the subject of his probable innocence is far more freely discussed than it is in the English-speaking world. In 1992 a Vendéen author named Gilbert Prouteau was hired by the Breton tourist board to write a new biography. Prouteau was not quite the tame biographer that was wanted and his book, Gilles de Rais ou la gueule du loup, argued that Gilles de Rais was not guilty. Moreover, he summoned a special court to re-try the case, which sensationally resulted in an acquittal. As of 1992, Gilles de Rais is an innocent man.

In the mid-1920s he was even put forward for beatification, by persons unknown. He was certainly not the basis for Bluebeard, this is a very old story which appears all over the world in different forms.

Le 3 janvier 1443... le roi de France dénonçait le verdict du tribunal piloté par l'Inquisition.
Charles VII adressait au duc de Bretagne les lettres patentes dénonçant la machination du procès du maréchal: "Indûment condamné", tranche le souverain. Cette démarche a été finalement étouffée par l'Inquisition et les intrigues des grands féodaux. (Gilbert Prouteau)

Two years after the execution the King granted letters of rehabilitation for that 'the said Gilles, unduly and without cause, was condemned and put to death'. (Margaret Murray)

Saturday 5 January 2019

Bluebeard fellators vs Troll

A little light relief, on the basis that I like my revenge served icy cold. This happened a year ago and I held back from posting it at the time. Now I shall just add ice cubes, anonymise the guilty party (while making sure he can find this when he self-googles, and believe me he is big on self-googling) and post. I'm doing this not entirely out of malice -  he makes several bogus points that can be answered in a more appropriate forum. And it will be an object lesson in what happens to trolls who are stupid enough to abuse strangers in public.

On the whole, I have been very lucky on the internet, given that I'm loudly proclaiming a minority view which a few people find outrageous. Most people are polite and engage in reasoned debate. All that was to change when I saw the above Facebook post. Really? My blog is the third most stupid thing on the internet this year? Somebody's not really trying.

Now, I have a rule about commenting on Facebook posts. If it's on a Page, then it's fair game and I can try and start a discussion. If it's on an individual's wall as a public post, I sit on my hands, because it seems rude to barge in, however ill-advised I may think that public posting on controversial themes is. This was different, though. This was somebody insulting me in public and I couldn't let that go. After some thought, I decided on a lighthearted approach -

All quite civilized so far. I really didn't expect a reply; I was just advising him that I'd seen his post. He did reply, however, and from then on it all went downhill fast. He posted a long screed asserting his belief that Gilles was guilty, showing no specialist knowledge or any sign that he had read deeply into the subject or was even especially interested. I replied at half the length, essentially reiterating the arguments I have made repeatedly, on this blog and elsewhere. At this point nobody insulted anybody: we simply disputed the facts.

And then this happened -

He blocked me! Apparently he couldn't argue with all those "nitpicky little uncited and out-of-context assertions" which build up to make a strong case for Gilles de Rais' innocence. I have never been asked to give citations on a Facebook discussion (and wasn't here) and, in any case, I was only quoting evidence from the trial. Which he's surely read, right? (The ice age? It's in the book, with full citation). I have no idea what he meant by "out-of-context"; he gave his argument, I replied to the point he made in that first sentence.

This should have been the end of the matter, but Mr X had failed to take into account the vagaries of Facebook and the dangers of public posting. Several of my friends had seen the exchange and decided to pile into the thread in my defence. And a lot of them took screen-grabs for me. 

This is how he replied to one of them -

There are some perfectly crazed allegations in there. My "bizarrely hostile behavior", for one. "Going full attack dog" - not my style at all, as a simple Google search will establish. And hardly self-promoting, as I use a pseudonym much of the time - the same one I use for this blog, Morbid Morag. Research? Well, if he read the blog he'd know about that.

He just carried on getting weirder. Werewolves now! And sockpuppets - he couldn't believe that I might have friends who have been following my researches.

Note that - whole minutes of research on his part!

I think this may be my favourite insult (the innocent have been anonymised). 

"A non-trivial number of people who crave the dick of long-dead serial killers". Clearly the laws of libel hold no fear for this brave keyboard warrior.

Bluebeard-fellating! (He hasn't read what I have to say about the Bluebeard myth, obviously). By this point he was already blocking everyone who supported me. 

You may be feeling sorry for him by now. Why is this nasty lady persecuting what is clearly a precocious fifteen-year-old? Unfortunately, this foul-mouthed troll hunched over his laptop in his bedroom playing computer games and hurling libellous abuse at strangers on Facebook is actually a well-known lawyer in his late thirties.