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Gilles de Rais


 Gilles de Rais (also spelled Retz) (autumn of 1404 – October 26, 1440) was a French noble, soldier, and one time brother-in-arms of Joan of Arc. He was later accused and ultimately convicted of infanticide - torturing, raping and murdering dozens, if not hundreds, of children. Along with Erzsébet Báthory, another sadistic aristocrat acting more than a century later, he is considered by some historians to be a precursor of the modern serial killer.

Gilles de Rais was born in 1404 in the château of Machécoul, near the border of Brittany. His father was Guy de Montmorency-Laval, from the house of Laval who had inherited, via adoption, the fortunes of Jeanne de Rais and Marie de Craon.

His father died when he was nine, and his mother immediately married again and abandoned her two children to die two years later [sign in to see URL]. Gilles and his brother René must have felt alone in the world.

Their father's will made provision for them to be brought up by a cousin and educated by two priests; instead they were sent to live with their grandfather, Jean de Craon, who had a violent temper, but was too wrapped up in his own affairs to pay attention to his grandsons. His own son had been killed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, so that Gilles became heir to the entire vast fortune. He was an intelligent child who read Latin fluently and loved music. Gilles came from a family of medieval knights, so he was trained in the art if war and chivalry..

He already had a taste for the "forbidden" and secretly devoured Suetonius, with his details of the sexual excesses of the Roman emperors.

Five years later, he went to the court of the Dauphin, the uncrowned heir to the throne, and made a considerable impression with his good looks and fine breeding.

Jean de Craon sought to marry Gilles off to the heiress Jeanne de Paynol; this was unsuccessful. Jean de Craon then attempted to join de Rais with Beatrice de Rohan, niece of the Duke of Brittany, again with no success. Eventually he was able to substantially increase Rais's fortune by marrying him off to Catherine de Thouars of Brittany, heiress of La Vendee and Poitou, but only after first kidnapping her.

Later stories connecting Rais with the legendary wife-murderer Bluebeard may have stemmed from the fact that two of several previous marriage schemes were thwarted by the death of the intended bride. By his marriage to the extremely wealthy heiress, Gilles de Rais became one of the richest noble in Europe, From 1427 to 1435, Rais served as a commander in the Royal Army,

After the years of glory, Gilles seemed to have found life unbearably dull. During the course of the following year, according to his later confession, he committed his first sex murder, that of a boy. His grandfather willed his sword and cuirass to the younger brother René but died in the following year. Gilles was suddenly able to do what he liked.

One day, a young boy dubbed Poitou was brought to the château and raped, after which Gilles prepared to cut his throat. At this point, Gilles de Sille pointed out that Poitou was such a handsome boy that he would make an admirable page. So Poitou was allowed to live, and become one of Gilles' most trusted mignons.

Gilles' attacks of sadism seem to have descended on him like an epileptic fit, and turned him into a kind of maniac. A boy would be lured to the castle on some pretext, and once inside Gilles' chamber, was hung from the ceiling on a rope or chain. But before he had lost consciousness, he was taken down and reassured that Gilles meant him no harm. Then he would be stripped and raped, after which Gilles, or one of his cronies would cut this throat or decapitate him (they had a special sword called a braquemard for removing the head).

But Gilles was still not sated; he would continue to sexually abuse the dead body, playing with the head in grotesque manner, sometimes cutting open the stomach, then squatting in the entrails and masturbating. When he reached a climax he would collapse in a faint, and be carried off to his bed, where he would remain unconscious for hours.

His accomplices would meanwhile dismember and burn the body. On some occasions, he later confessed, two children were procured, and each obliged to watch the other being raped and tortured.

Gilles was not merely sexually deranged; he was also a reckless spendthrift. He surrounded himself with a retinue of two hundred knights, for whom he provided. He loved to give banquets and fêtes; in 1435, when the city of Orléans celebrated its deliverance by Joan of Arc, Gilles presented a long mystery play about the siege, with enormous sets and a cast of hundreds, playing, of course, the leading role himself. He also provided food and wine for the spectators. Like a Roman emperor he must have felt that he was virtually a god.

In a mere three years he had spent what would now be the equivalent of millions of dollars. Back at Machécoul, he had to sell some of his most valuable estates. His brother was so alarmed that he persuaded the king to issue an interdict forbidding any further sales of land. For a man of Gilles' unbridled temperament, this was an intolerable position. He went into a gloomy and self-pitying retirement.

Years before, when he first went to court, he had borrowed a book on alchemy from an Angevin knight who had been imprisoned for heresy. Alchemy was prohibited by law, and for a man with Gilles' romantic craving for "the forbidden," this must have been an additional incentive to learn more about it. Now, ten years later, with his coffers empty, he realised that black magic might be the answer to his problems.


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Sep/17/2007, 10:21 pm Link to this post Send Email to RealmWalker   Send PM to RealmWalker AIM
 
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Re: Gilles de Rais


Gilles then asked a priest named Eustache Blanchet to find him a magician. Several were tried, but the results were poor until one of them, a man named Fontanelle, succeeded in conjuring up twenty crows whereas the others were not even able to conjure up a few birds. But Fontanelle also claimed he had conjured up a demon called Barron; Gilles was then advised that his only way of learning to make gold was to agree to sell his soul to the Devil. Despite his taste for killing children, Gilles remained a devout Catholic; so deciding to invoke the Devil must have seemed a far more frightening step than murder.

But finally, he and his cousin Gilles de Sille locked themselves in the basement of his castle at Tiffauges, together with Fontanelle, and prepared to converse with demons. The magician warned them solemnly not to make the sign of the cross, or their lives would be in great danger. Sille stayed by the window, prepared to jump out; Gilles ventured fearfully into the magic circle and watched the beginning of the conjuration. The legend says that the three men were brutally ejected from the donjon before the roof collapsed. Fontanelle disappeared, either killed or escaped.

However, Gilles needed money so badly that there seemed no other way than continuing with his magical experiments. In 1439, he sent the priest Blanchet to Italy to search for a more skilled magician; Blanchet returned with a "clerk in minor orders" called François Prelati, a young man of great charm--and also, apparently, a homosexual. It is hard to know whether he was simply a confidence trickster or whether he had some genuine knowledge of the magic arts; but Gilles found him immensely attractive and trusted him completely.

Prelati told him that they would have to offer a child's blood and parts of its body as a sacrifice to the Devil; Gilles agreed but still refused to take the final step, of selling his soul to the Devil. Prelati told him that in that case, he would have to continue the conjurations alone. During one of these sessions, Gilles and his cousin heard loud thumps from inside the room; they looked in and found Prelati "so hurt that he could hardly stand up." He explained that he had been beaten by the demon Barron, and had to take to his bed for several days, during which time Gilles nursed him tenderly.

On another occasion, he rushed out to tell Gilles that he had finally conjured up a heap of gold. Gilles rushed back to see it, but Prelati was there first; as he opened the door, he staggered back and shouted that a huge green serpent guarded it. Gilles fled. When he returned, the gold had vanished, leaving only piles of dust...

During his years of murder, Gilles often came close to discovery. In 1437, his family heard that he intended to sell the castle of Champtoce, in spite of the royal interdict; they hastened to seize it. Gilles was terrified; he had left the mutilated bodies of dozens of children there. He was also afraid that the castle of Machécoul would be next--the remains of many children had been thrown into a locked tower. He and his companions removed about forty dismembered bodies from Machécoul. When he regained control of Champtoce in 1438 he hastened to remove another forty or so corpses, which had apparently remained unnoticed. Meanwhile, the Duke of Brittany had imposed a huge fine on Gilles, aware that Gilles would be unable to pay. He also began an investigation into the disappearance of hundreds of children.

In July 1440, Gilles made a fatal mistake. He had sold a castle called Mer Morte to Geoffroy de Ferron, treasurer to the Duke of Brittany, Gilles' suzerain. For some reason, Gilles decided that he was entitled to repossess the castle, which had not yet been occupied by its new owner. The keys, it seemed, were in the hands of Geoffroy's brother, a priest called Jean de Ferron. Instead of waiting until Jean de Ferron was in his home, he led his men into the church of St Etienne de Mer Morte soon after mass, and had the priest dragged outside, where he was beaten. By entering a church and permitting violence, Gilles had committed sacrilege, a capital offence.

Gilles' companions later revealed that, even on this expedition to recover his castle, he had been overcome by his craving for rape and murder. After leaving the church, he had halted for the night in the town of Vannes and taken lodging in a house near the bishop's palace. One of the ex-choristers of his private chapel, André Bouchet, had brought him a ten-year-old boy. Since his present lodging was not private enough for rape and murder, the boy was taken to another house near the market, and there sodomised and decapitated; the body was thrown into the latrines of the house, where the smell was less likely to cause its discovery.

Bishop Malestroit seized this opportunity to bring Gilles to court, on charges that he had secretly been preparing since July 29. The bishop was joined by the Inquisition, which pressed for a charge of heresy and a civil trial was called for in the ducal court.

On September 13, 1440, the Bishop summoned Gilles before the court. Preliminary hearings took place on September 28, October 8, 11 and 13, and the formal trial opened on October 15. The Duke of Brittany, John V, sanctioned a concurrent trial, which started on September 17. Gilles was at first arrogant and defiant but after six sessions, on Friday, October 21, 1440, he was tortured until he promised to confess "voluntarily and freely".

The extensive witness testimony convinced the judges that there were adequate grounds for establishing the guilt of the accused. To procure additional evidences of his alleged crimes, his servants and four alleged accomplices were also tortured. In all, 110 witnesses (including informers) were heard. After Rais admitted to the charges on 21 October, the court canceled a plan to torture him further into confessing. The transcript, which included testimony from the parents of many of the missing children as well as graphic descriptions of the murders provided by Rais's accomplices, was said to be so lurid that the judges ordered the worst portions to be stricken from the record. In sum, Gilles was accused of being a "heretic, apostate, conjurer of demons... accused of the crime and vices against nature, sodomy, sacrilege and violation of the immunities of Holy Church."

On the 25 October, the ecclesiastical court handed down a sentence of excommunication against Rais, followed on the same day by the secular court's own condemnation of the accused. Forty-seven charges were levelled against Gilles, including conjuration of demons, abuse of clerical privilege, and sexual perversions against children. The invocation of spirits charge was embellished with accusations of human sacrifices. After tearfully expressing remorse for his crimes, Rais obtained rescindment of the Church's punishment and was allowed confession, but the secular penalty remained in place.

Charged and condemned with him were his mignon Henri Griard and his page Etienne Corillaut, called Poitou.


---
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Sep/17/2007, 10:24 pm Link to this post Send Email to RealmWalker   Send PM to RealmWalker AIM
 
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Re: Gilles de Rais


On October 26 1440, Gilles de Rais was brought to the main place in Nantes, to be strangled and burnt with his two associates, Griart and Poitou.

But before he died, he sang the De Profundis in a voice louder than all the rest while standing under the gibbet. He urged his henchmen to "thank God with him for a manifest sign of His love," and to continue praying for a little while longer.

He prayed on his knees, and the hundreds of spectators prayed with him. In his agonies of guilt, he said to the families of the murdered:

“You who are present--you, above all, whose children I have slain--I am your brother in Christ. By Our Lord's Passion, I implore you, pray for me. Forgive me with all your hearts the evil I have done you, as you yourselves hope for God's mercy and pardon”.

When de Rais was theatrically executed, the children's parents, his judges, and hundreds of spectators, gave way to floods of tears. His fellow criminals followed soon after.

His corpse was placed on a pyre, but his relatives were allowed to remove his body before the flames reached it, and he was interred in the nearby Carmelite church. His two companions were less lucky; they were burned alive.

The precise number of Rais's infanticides is not known, as most of the bodies were burned or buried. The number of murders is generally placed between 80 and 200; a few have conjectured numbers upwards of 600. The victims ranged in age from six to eighteen and included both sexes; although Rais preferred boys, he would make do with young girls if circumstances required.

It is important to note here that Gilles was not allowed any testimony in his defence, nor was he given any legal advice or council. The proceedings of the trial were highly irregular, even for trials of heresy. Not one of his 500 servants was summoned to give defensive evidence and his own attendants were tortured and, having testified against Gilles, freed. This treatment is consistent with how the ecclesiastical courts handled witches and heretic trials during this time. Some historians have alleged that Rais was framed for murder and heresy by elements within the Church as part of a diocesan plot to seize his lands.

The fifteenth century chronicler Monstrelet indicated his suspicion of the motives of Gilles trial, noting, "The greater part of the nobles of Brittany, more especially his own kindred, were in utmost grief and confusion at his disgraceful death. Before this event, he was much renowned as a most valiant knight at arms". The Duke of Brittany was so certain of the verdict that he disposed of his own share of Gilles' lands fifteen days before the trial began.

Anthropologist Margaret Murray and occultist Aleister Crowley are among those who have questioned the traditional account relayed to us by the ecclesiastic and secular authorities involved in the case. Murray, in her book The Witch-Cult of Western Europe (pp. 173-74), surmised that Rais was a witch and follower of a fertility cult centered around the pagan goddess Diana. According to Murray, "Gilles de Rais was tried and executed as a witch and, in the same way, much that is mysterious in this trial can also be explained by the Dianic Cult."

According to Thomas Mann, de Rais embodied "the religious greatness of the damned; genius as disease, disease as genius, the type of the afflicted and possessed, where saint and criminal become one."

Rais's profile and notoriety has intrigued and inspired many other modern French thinkers and authors, such as Michel Tournier, Pierre Klossowski and Georges Bataille.



---
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey

http://beyondthemystery.forumotion.com/

http://thesilverquill.createforum.net/index.php?
Sep/17/2007, 10:26 pm Link to this post Send Email to RealmWalker   Send PM to RealmWalker AIM
 


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