Gilles de Rais
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Let's talk about, arguably, one of the evilest people from history. Some historians call him "The Evilest Man in the World." We can go ahead and call him that—just don't tell my high school English teacher because she'd smack your hand with a ruler and insist "evilest" isn't a word and that it's actually "The Most Evil Man in the World."
The (Most) Evil(est) Man in the World
Gilles de Rais was a lord in 1400s France and best known for the horrific torture and murder of more than 600 young boys and girls (mostly boys.) Or maybe 200. No? 100? Oh, the number of victims is unknown.
Okay, let's start again, then.
Gilles de Rais was a nobleman in 1400s France and best known as being a Satan-worshipping murderous pedophile. There were victims, and he did stuff to them and then would have a hearty laugh about it.
Yes. Many children. Much Satan.
Like any other pedophile found within their followers or ranks, the Catholic Church took swift, transparent, and moral action. They immediately prosecuted Gilles de Rais in an entirely fair trial, found him guilty, and executed him.
Let us all remember the six hundred victims on this numbered memorial:
- Jeudon...something. Oh, Jeudon is a surname. Something...Jeudon—a twelve-year-old boy that went missing. A body was never found, and no physical evidence ever turned up.
- Let's see, who else...?
Man, it was tough to get through all those names and details.
Let's take a quick look at Gilles de Rais to find out just how he became such a monster.
Gilles de Rais was born into a noble family around 1405. His mother and father were both dead by the time he was around ten years old. His grandfather then took over raising him, and by "raising him," I mean scheming for money, of course. His grandfather was massively successful by anyone's measure of child-rearing, as he substantially increased the family wealth with a successful marriage plot of Gilles de Rais to a wealthy heiress.
He then entered into a military career that resulted in prestige, titles, land grants, and appointed Marshal of France. He fought and led victories in the Hundred Years' War and was even a companion-in-arms to Joan of Arc. How the Hundred Years' War Began (8-minute video)
Begin Detour: Joan of Arc
You've probably heard of Joan of Arc before, but let's clarify a few points about her as they are essential to understand how Gilles de Rais came to worship Satan and torture/murder children.
- Her name wasn't Joan of Arc. It was Jehanne la Pucelle, "Joan the Maid," or simply la Pucelle, "the Maid."—this is how she referred to herself. We do know this.
- How did she end up as Joan of Arc? Well, an ecclesiastical court in 1431 kind of forced her father's surname on her, d'Arc. In the region of France where she grew up, daughters typically took the surname of their mothers. There's a bit of confusion on what that was. Her mother's name could have been Isabelle Romée, Isabelle de Vouthon, or something else. No one really knows.
- She wasn't burned at the stake for being a witch. She was put on trial because she was a military and political threat. The church wanted to try her for witchcraft but confirmed her virginity at the beginning of the trial and had to drop it. You can't be a witch if you don't fornicate with the horned one.
- She was burned at the stake for unforgivable crimes and sins of wearing men's clothing and claiming that God talked directly to her (All communication with God should go through the proper church designated channels.) In fact, they burned her body three times and then cast the remains into a river.
- Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who was in charge of the church court and prosecution, was posthumously excommunicated for breaking church rules in pursuit of secular politics. He was well known for being pro-English.
- The same church that put her on trial for heresy and burned her at the stake later declared her a saint. (Read more at history.com)
End Detour: Jehanne la Pucelle
Anyway, this is about Gilles de Rais being the first-ever serial killer and a pedophilic Satanist, so let's get back to demons and child murder.
A few years into Gilles' military career, he joined the teenaged Jehanne la Pucelle as one of her commanders. (This was after she terrified the king of France, took an army, and ended an already six-month-long siege in only four days.)
After he became a war hero and known as the savior of France, he retired from his military career. He went on to invest in real estate and became so wealthy that his riches rivaled the king. With his fame and fortune, he turned into one of the most well-respected people in the country. Of course, the English and their allies still hated him and la Pucelle for the whole 'winning' thing.
So, what did Gilles do with all of his newfound money and power?
First, he built the Chapel of the Holy Innocents and then created a theatrical show titled Le Mystère du Siège d'Orléans. He funded the entire thing out of his own pocket and made it completely free of charge—even including unlimited food and drink for spectators. Gilles was so into his free-for-the-public production that he sold off most of his property and estates to keep it running.
Gilles' family members thought he was insane and appealed to the Pope to disavow Gilles' Chapel of the Holy Innocents and put a stop to him selling off their inheritance. The Pope refused. But, lucky for the family—King Charles VII took it up and declared Gilles a "spendthrift." Gilles was banned from selling property, and everyone in France was forbidden to enter any contract with Gilles—effectively bankrupting him overnight.
Five years after, Gilles decided to take back one of his properties by force. He led a crew of about 70 men and seized a château in the village Saint-Étienne-de-Mer-Morte. Word quickly got back to church, so they arrested and prosecuted him for violating ecclesiastical property. (The same pro-English group of French nobles, English, and Burgundians that went after la Pucelle.) While they were at it, the church rounded up several people to testify that Gilles spontaneously decided to become a Satanic child murderer sometime after his grandfather died. As we all know, that is one of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, Satan-worshipping murderous pedophilia.
The Duke of Brittany was given authority to prosecute Gilles and proceeded with a completely fair trial. There was never any physical evidence presented, and only a handful of witnesses testified against Gilles. Many people came forward to testify that the accusations were completely false, but those were thrown out. After getting the conviction, the Duke of Brittany (ahem, the prosecutor) received all the titles to Gilles' former lands.
With the mountains of evidence involved, it was a simple win for the prosecution's case. All it took was to threaten Gilles with torture and excommunication to get him to agree to a confession that the prosecutor and church so kindly put together for him.
Gilles de Rais was hanged along with two of his friends. He encouraged his friends to die bravely and think only of salvation. As for Gilles, his execution brought a just end to his horrible reign of terror.