The Life and Crimes of Gilles de Rais

Apr 10, 2024 | History, Videos

The life of French nobleman and military hero Gilles de Rais is a tragic one. Born in 1404 to a well-off family, he was orphaned at a young age when his father died in a hunting accident and his mother soon followed. With no parental guidance, he went through adolescence with bad temper and recklessness that would eventually shape his future. When the Hundred Years’ War broke out between France and England, de Rais found himself fighting alongside Joan of Arc as one of her most trusted advisors, leading them to victory at the siege of Orléans in 1429.

But despite his success on the battlefield, dark secrets lurked beneath the surface for de Rais. It has been speculated that from 1431 until his arrest in 1440, he abducted and killed almost 150 children in what has become known as the first instance of modern serial killing. He was accused of heresy, practicing the dark arts, and torture by various contemporaries such as theologian Jean Toussaint who testified against him during trial. After being found guilty by the court, de Rais was promptly executed by hanging in 1440.

In recent years however, historians have questioned the validity of these claims due to lack of evidence and fear or torture among witnesses. There have also been suggestions that it may have been part of a political conspiracy against de Rais orchestrated by Duke John V of Brittany who received all of Gilles’ properties following execution. The mystery behind Baron Gilles de Rais remains unsolved until this day and is explored further in an excellent documentary titled “Baron Gilles de Rais: The Medieval Serial Killer”. This gripping film offers viewers an intimate look into one of history’s most notorious figures – a man whose story continues to fascinate many centuries later – making it essential viewing for anyone interested in true crime stories from centuries past.

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