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)

Monday 26 October 2020

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Coming soon...

After the book was published I told you: Watch this space. In that same year, 2018, I began filming a short documentary. This -

Yes, this is the seventeen-year-old me again, at Champtocé, having a bad hair day. 

Here are a few stills -

The film features animation by Robbie Ward

Much of the filming was done in my house.
If you are lucky, you might glimpse my doll collection.

This is what director Edmund Stenson says about the film -

"They say never meet your heroes. But what if your hero, like Margot K. Juby’s, is a 15th-century serial killer? Gilles de Rais was a nobleman, decorated military statesman — and one of the grisliest murderers in recorded history. Or, at least, that’s what we're told. Margot’s fastidious, 20-year long research project suggests otherwise: de Rais, was, in fact, the victim of a vast conspiracy. She’s so sure that she has “Gilles de Rais was innocent” tattooed on her arm.

The Martyr interweaves the story of how Margot developed a passion for all things de Rais, with a gothic, animated retelling of the nobleman’s life. Along the way, the film uncovers an unbelievable plot by the French intelligentsia to exonerate the nobleman, and a potential conspiracy at the heart of the medieval French court. Painting an eerie — yet compassionate — portrait of unrequited love, The Martyr is a film about the dark obsessions that shape all of us." 

Some snapshots taken during the last shoot, in April 2019. Ed is on the left, in blue cap, in all pictures; on the right is Dimitris Mastroyiannis, camera & sound man. 

(All pictures by William Braquemard)

Further details here

Grants being hard to come by at the moment, there is a donate button on the page. Donors will be credited and given a sneak preview of the film.