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Giles de Rais

Giles de Rais
Giles de Rais Wikimedia Commons

Everyone knows of Joan of Arc (read more here) and her leading the French in the Hundred Years War. Though, in all honesty, she was little more than a symbol for them and was not a great warrior of even a good tactical leader. She made many blunders that nearly cost her and her entire army's lives more than a few times.

But what of her second in command? That duty most often fell to Giles de Rais.

This name is know for much more than helping lead Joan's army though. After the fall of Joan, Giles went on a rampage of pedophilia and murderous rampage.

The son of Marie dCraon and Guy de Rais, Giles was born into one of, if not the most wealthy families in France at that time. Rarely seeing his parents, as theirs was a marriage of political importance and not love, Giles was raised until the age of 7 by nurses. He then went to court training and it was noted that while he had great military skills, he was not ever good at the political realms.

His mother died soon after, and shortly after that, his father died in a boar hunting accident. Guy has not wanted his children to be raised by Marie's father, Jean dCraon. Jean and Guy had had very bad blood between them, with Guy having to renounce his family crest in order to obtain the wealth of the dCraon clan, only to have Jean then take it back from him. Guy had specifically left in his will that his cousin, not Jean, would then raise his children. However, Jean challenged the will and in 1416, Giles and his brother Rene were taken to Jean dCraon to be raised.

Jean dCraon was described as a man driven only by power and wealth. He used his grandson in order to enlarge his own lands and wealth and taught Giles that as the heir to both the de Rais and dCraon empires, Giles was above the law.

At 14, Giles rode out to Champtoce as a squire. He excelled in his duties there.

After a couple of failed political marriages arranged by his grandfather, Giles was persuaded to abduct his cousin Catherine to marry her. After three of her rescuers were captured and thrown into the dungeons, including her uncle, the church actually recognized the marriage as legit and the two were bound in matrimony.

From there we go into the deeds he did as the second in command of Joan's army in helping to bring the Dauphin to the throne. Giles was crafty in his military skills and without his "behind the scenes" so to speak leadership role while Joan received the credit, it is hard to say whether or not the story of Joan would have been one of a comedy of failures.

When Joan was captured, and the Dauphin was convinced not to pay to have her ransomed back, Giles was left with little choice but to abandon his duties to her. In Spring of 1431, Joan was burned at the stake for being "a witch".

But who was the real monster? Up to this point Giles had not delved into his true self, yet.

A year later, Giles grandfather Jean dCraon died. At this point, Giles life in the political realms ended and his life in the darkness began.

In the same year that his grandfather died, Giles de Rais admitted during his trial that the murders began with the abducting of a 12 year old apprentice who was to carry a message to another castle. Along with his cousin Giles de Sille and a man known as Poitou, they kidnapped the child, pampered him with a lavish dinner and drinks that included stimulants, and then took him to a room where they revealed what was to come of him. Poitou told of this in his testimony as well. He claims that de Rais hanged the boy by a hook around his neck while rapping him. He would let the boy down several times and comfort him and then repeat the act. A true psychopathic serial killer was coming out in Giles. When the child's parents came looking for him from de Sille, they were told that the boy was kidnapped by thieves.

Poitou and Giles de Rais confessions were pretty clear in that there were numerous other child victims that were decapitated, throat slit, hanged, and many other torturous devices used to perform the final act. But they were all rapped by Giles, sometimes before the slaying sometimes during, and even some rape occurring after the child had been slain. Giles confessed to kissing the children after they had been killed in nearly all occasions.

He kept a crematorium fire burning in his castle at all times, being careful not to let the smell become too pungent as to attract attention. De Sille told grieving parents who became suspicious of the disappearing children that the children had been kidnapped and sold to the English to be trained as pages. The town people did suspect de Rais and de Sille, but dared not speak out openly for fear that de Rais's men would punish them.

There is also some speculation that Giles de Rais dabbled in trying to summon demons and the like to gain more power, though much of this could have easily have been confession due to torture and not much more than a witch hunt. In a time that anything "out of the ordinary" was the work of a miracle or that of witchcraft, depending on which way the wind was blowing, it is fair to say that Giles, after witnessing Joan's "miracles" may have tried to delve into dark magic, but his attempts, of course, were that of utter failure and true laughter as he was reportedly swindled.

Having killed well over 30 children, and having the peasants actually see two of his co-conspirators dispatch a body, it was not until Giles de Rais got himself into more political trouble and kidnapped an important priest that he "went too far"

The priest, in retaliation, gathered information from peasants and grieving parents and in July of 1440 went public with what he found. Giles de Rais's enemies jumped on this opportunity and Giles was soon after taken into custody.

Giles and several of his co-conspirators were confessed by torture, albeit their stories coincided very closely. Granted, some of their confessions may have been simply the work of torturing someone to the point that they will agree to anything. However, when the several of the bodies were found and other conspirators who were not being tortured told the same tales, ti is safe to say that this was not entirely a case of the church forcing confessions of actions not performed.

There are some that still say that Giles de Rais was a victim himself due to being born to loveless parents and being raised by a grandfather that had no use for him other than to grow his own wealth. This is sickening. There are numerous people who have been brought up in much worse conditions that did not resort to pedophilia, necrophilia,and murder.