In times of war, you don't always get to pick your bedfellows. Capitalists and communists, crusaders and Mongols, Antifa and K-Pop stans … sometimes you have to team up with the enemy of your enemy to defeat the greater evil. Which makes it awkward when that enemy of your evil enemy turns out to be a child-molesting mass murderer who performed ritual sacrifices to demons.
Joan of Arc, one of the purest heroines produced outside of an Afghani poppy field, didn't change the Hundred Years' War on her own. Fighting alongside her was a Wonder Woman-like team of elite soldiers. One of her brothers-in-arms (let's say, the creepy Scottish one) was Gilles de Rais, a great fighter with a really troubled past and a really bad mullet
At the young age of 25, de Rais was assigned the protector of Joan of Arc while also being appointed the nation's highest military rank: The Marshal of France. But his career, like his ward, was short-lived. After Joan of Arc's death, de Rais retreated to his dead parents' lavish estate. There, the powerful Breton nobleman nearly bankrupted himself on renovations, servants, and shitty theater plays he wrote himself. He also spent a lot of money piously erecting a private chapel named the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, which he stocked to the brim with choirboys. And what could possibly go wrong when an untouchable megalomaniac develops an interest in choirboys?
For years, Gilles de Rais was a horror story whispered by the local peasantry. His manservants (imagine them hunched and pale) would scour the countryside for pretty boys whose heads de Rais wanted to admire -- preferably, after detaching them from their bodies. Boys, and girls in a pinch, got dressed up in fineries and given a lavish meal, just so de Rais could see the look on their faces when they realized that the dessert would be rape, torture, and, eventually, death.
In the span of only a few years, potentially over a hundred children were murdered by de Rais. Some he burned, some he had disposed of in ditches. Occasionally, the suddenly frugal serial pedophile would task a corrupt priest with sacrificing corpses to a demon named Barron to reverse his financial misfortune. But after several expensive attempts to summon this demonic accountant, de Rais gave up and went back to regular sodomy and murder.
The Church did eventually persecute de Rais -- for attacking a clergyman in broad daylight. At that point, his heinous acts came to light, and, under the threat of torture, he confessed that he had taken "so many children he could not determine with certitude the number" and had killed and "ejaculated spermatic seed in the most culpable fashion." For his crimes, de Rais was executed by a combination of burning and hanging -- better to be safe than sorry.
But to this day, France is divided in their opinion of Gilles de Rais. Some think of him as the evilest Frenchman in history, serving as the basis for Charles Perrault's dreaded Bluebeard character. Others contend to this day that he was set up by the Church and the state (that all of his holdings went to the presiding noble judge is quite suspicious) with France even holding a new mock trial for him in 1992, judging him to be not guilty. After all, who are you going to believe: a hundred grieving parents, or Joan of Arc's old drinking buddy?
For more weird tangents, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
Top Image: Eloi-Firmin Feron