Eclipsing violent centuries
Like a dark scar over France
Enter the nascent Gilles de Rais
A warrior and a scholar…
Or such is one modern-day interpretation of the infamous fifteenth century soldier Gilles de Rais, also known as Bluebeard, a general to the executed Jeanne of Arc. Some have called him a serial killer, a child rapist, a black magician. He may have been all three or none of the above; history is uncertain. What is certain is that his disturbing trial records reveal much about a corrupted judicial process with its requisite self-interested nobles and ecclesiasts.
But what of Bluebeard himself? The “dark scar” was made when Jeanne of Arc went up in flames right in front of him. As she writhed on the stake, his sanity, likewise, was reduced to ash. Soon he plunged headlong into necromancy, alchemy, and the dark arts. Was he trying to bring his beloved Jeanne back from the dead? Perhaps.
Whatever the case, he was arrested, tried, and executed soon after Jeanne’s famous trial. His chief crime? The ritual sodomy and murder of hundreds of children in his alleged necromantic rituals. The details in the trial records are grisly, but the evidence is scant. No one complained about the mad nobleman until the Inquisition came calling. No one reported any missing children. No bodies were found. He was burned for his crimes just the same.
Ever one for the spotlight, Monsieur de Rais accepted the inevitability of his execution and made it the event of the season. Christ, too, was unfairly executed, reasoned the condemned man, so why not enjoy the illustrious company and put on a show for the credulous masses?
And so the theatrical production that was Bluebeard’s execution took place with great pomp and circumstance, the final scene a contrite sinner going up in a blaze of glory. The crowd was enthralled. The nobles and ecclesiasts were enriched with the condemned man’s lands. Bluebeard was immortalized in his own version of the crucifixion. It was truly an absurd moment; just another instance of religion gone awry.
The Bastard of Bourbon, another of the Maid’s generals, sums up the situation quite nicely in a recent novel:
“Fucking goddamn Catholics,” muttered the
Bastard under his breath as he threw the book to the
floor in disgust, slamming down another shot of
bourbon. He’d never cared for religion ~ they’d gotten
it all wrong.
 Lyrics taken from the Cradle of Filth album Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder, 2008.