Gilles De Rais Biography
Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (1404 – 1440). He was born in Brittany, France. Noble and French military considered one of the first serial killers and pedophiles in history, according to the archives of the time he murdered more than 100 underage men, whom he tortured and raped after his death. He received a careful academic training and began his career as a military man while young. He was under the orders of the Duke of Brittany, John V, during the period of tensions between Montforts and the Penthièvres; and later defended King Charles VII of France, fighting alongside Joan of Arc in the framework of the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453).
After retiring from the military career in 1435, he led a disorganized and criminal life that led him to be tried years later. The figure of this popular murderer has been linked to Bluebeard, creepy character in the work of Charles Perrault.
FAMILY AND BEGINNINGS
Born into a wealthy family established in the region of the Pays de la Loire; Gilles had as parents Guy de Laval and Marie de Craon, descendants of the most powerful families in the region. This wealthy couple fathered Gilles and his brother Rene, who were orphaned in the mid-1410s, at which time their grandfather, ignoring the will of his father took custody. Before the death of Guy de Laval, he left one of his relatives in charge of his children, who were to take Laval’s father-in-law away from the immense fortune of his children, however, when his father-in-law died, Jean de Craon became legal guardian of the heir of the family, thus obtaining control of the immense fortune of the Montmorency-Laval.
At that time the heir had a large area of territory, which covered from Maine to Anjou and from Brittany to Poitou. Under the care of Jean de Craon, Gilles received careful academic training and military training. He mastered Latin, read the work of the classics and became a music fan. Since his grandfather was focused on managing his parents’ fortune, Gilles gave free rein to his wishes without any supervision, he didn’t have someone to guide him, so he was used to doing what he wanted when he wanted it.
MILITARY CAREER AND PERSONAL LIFE
Thanks to his military training, he began his career at the end of the 1410s. At the age of 14, he put himself at the service of John V, Duke of Brittany, participating in the small clashes caused by tensions between Montforts and the Penthièvres. At 17, he returned to the family castle, to fulfill the wishes of his grandfather who sought to unite him in marriage with a wealthy young descendant, but not achieving such a union he was ordered to kidnap his cousin Catherine de Thouarscon of 15 years, with which married in April 1422.
Refusing to accept such a union the Thouarson family, sought to end the kidnapping by negotiating with the young man’s grandfather, however, he locked the negotiators in the dungeons until the family accepted their terms. In a short time, Catherine’s father died and the church endorsed the union, which made them the owners of the family’s fortune. In the following years, Gilles disregarded his wife and his only daughter, Marie, born in 1429. It is believed that his little interest in Catherine was due to homosexual tendencies of the young man, although it should be noted that there is no information to confirm it.
Away from his family and focused on his military career, Gilles joined the campaign of French soldiers in the framework of the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453). He defended the interests of the French dolphin, Carlos VII, fighting alongside the prominent French heroine Joan of Arc, whom he met in the late 1420s; At that time he was appointed Marshal of France.
Fascinated by the skill and beauty of heroin, Gilles became his right hand, fighting alongside it in each battle until he was captured and sentenced to the stake in Rouen in 1431. Affected by the death of the heroine and his Grandfather in 1432, Gilles decided to retire from military life to devote himself to the management of his property.
Based on the family castle, Gilles led a disorderly life marked by excesses, his obsession with sex and witchcraft. His lifestyle led to his fortune decreasing and he had to sell a large part of his property, which exasperated his relatives who decided to limit his power to keep some of his family fortunes. The chaotic situation of the young man was taken advantage of by his peers, who hoped to gain some of his fortune. Among those interested was the Duke of Brittany, who managed to seize one of his castles, which caused the anger of the military. Humiliated Gilles, kidnapped a young priest, brother of the duke’s treasurer, an act that became the perfect excuse to accuse the young man before the authorities.
Following the kidnapping of the priest, an arduous investigation into the activities of the noble began carried out by the prelate and the duke. This investigation allowed the crimes perpetrated by the nobleman in his properties to come to light, according to the testimonies of the time, every time the nobleman visited a property a minor disappeared. Numerous cases of disappearances, kidnappings, and witchcraft were found, whereby the authority intervened. After he was accused of murder, witchcraft, and sodomy in September 1440, his employees were interrogated, who reported on the terrible acts performed by the nobleman in his castles.
They commented that the nobleman used one of his servants to attract young men, whom he tortured and killed using various methods. Once dead, he abused them or used their bodies for other acts. At the end of the investigation, the nobleman was questioned, who agreed to have perpetrated such atrocities in the children. It is worth mentioning that the nobleman and his employees were questioned at a time when torture was used to obtain confessions so that at present some investigators have questioned the investigation and the conclusions of it.
Also, many historians have commented that his trial and death was due to the interests that the duke had for his territories and not for the crimes of which he was accused. Gilles died by hanging, on October 26, 1440, in Nantes, after being convicted of the murder of more than 140 children (the figure ranges from 80 to 200).