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)

Sunday 10 July 2022

Beyond Copypasta

Time for another Bluebeardery and Copypasta post, I think, as we've been serious for a long time.

Some people come up with the most bizarre ideas and I'd love to know where they get them from -

But, sadly, they never tell me. They drift off, never to return. A proper cliff-hanger, you might say. 

Some commenters have noticed that the Shrek villain Lord Farquaad looks like Gilles de Rais, though they usually get it back to front and wonder why Gilles de Rais looks like Farquaaad. Clearly because Eloi Féron way back in the 19th century took his influence from Disney, dude. Others go even further astray -

Obviously, a topic like this offers great opportunities to be as edgy as hell, but that only works if nobody pops up to tell you how you got it all wrong -

It's important to point out to me how very weird I am for caring about the most egregious historic miscarriage of justice of all time -

And that old chestnut, "Gilles de Rais is my ancestor!" Which doesn't give them quite the épater les bourgeois distinctiveness they imagine -

I often think I should organise a get-together of all his descendants. Might be fun. 

Selection of idiocies -

Finally, the kind of foot-stamping that always draws me in -

Why do I respond to these idiots? Because, unless they dirty delete as they occasionally do, these posts are there for good. What I try to do is refute the lies in an entertaining way for future browsers. My motto has always been: seize the narrative. Looking at recent comments on more serious forums, it seems to be working. 

[The comments in this post were taken from Twitter and YouTube]