Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

GILLES DE RAIS

An Innocent Man

Torture in medieval times
Torture in medieval times

So, does Gilles de Rais belong in the rogues gallery or with the pantheon of heroes? Consider that his testimony and that of his accomplices was given under threat of torture. Faced with the rack or some other horrific torture, who wouldnt confess to the crimes of which he was accused? By the time he went to trial, he must have known that his life was forfeit. Judges in the 15th century wanted confessions and punishment, not the truth. Gilles would not have been allowed to go to the gallows and stand before the crowd to make a speech of his innocence. He would have been tortured into confession and then executed.

But then, what of the complaints of the parents of the missing children? They had no reason to lie, much less lie about a very powerful nobleman. It is unlikely that Gilles killed hundreds of children he was blamed for the death of one boy who disappeared while on a 60 kilometer walk between his village and Machecoul but where there is smoke

The truth about Gilles de Rais will never be known. But two things are clear, his confession was coerced and therefore tainted. The other is that because of his vile reputation, a brave man and stalwart fighter will never get the recognition for his service to his beloved France.

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