Bluebeard: an Account of Comorre the Cursed and Gilles De Rais With Summaries of Various Tales and Traditions  

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Bluebeard: an Account of Comorre the Cursed and Gilles De Rais With Summaries of Various Tales and Traditions (1902) by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly [1]

Contents

Full text

Front matter

BLUEBEARD


BLUEBEARD


AN ACCOUNT OF


COMORRE THE CURSED AND GILLES DE RAIS


WITH SUMMARIES OF VARIOUS TALES AND TRADITIONS


ERNEST ALFRED VIZETELLY



WITH NINE ILLUSTRATIONS


LONDON CHATTO & WINDUS


/i

75


,0**


f


V


e'


P^9FA»E

Preface

The scope and purport of this book being explained in the introductory chapter, I need oflFer no very lengthy prefatory remarks. It will be seen that the introduction glances at the folklore of the subject I have chosen, and that it is followed by accounts of Comorre and Gilles de Rais, two men who have long been mentioned in works of reference, all the world over, as the possible prototypes of Charles Perrault's *Barbe-Bleue/ The narrative of the career of Gilles de Rais forms by far the greater part of the book, which may be taken, therefore, as being chiefly an excursion (by no means the first I have made) into that field of historical biography in which one so often discovers that real life is a great deal stranger than fiction.

Although I mention in my introduction many stories associated with Perrault's tale, I do not claim that the list is exhaustive. My object has


345401


vi PREFACE ^

been to give a variety of examples of the stories constituting what folklorists, I believe, call ' the Bluebeard group.' Moreover, if I have glanced at the views of the solar mythologists and others, I have done so merely in order that those readers who are ignorant of folklore theories may in some measure understand how it is that various mythical origins have been assigned to ' Bluebeard.'

Turning to the question whether Perrault derived less, perhaps, the subject-matter of his story than the name of his ' hero ' from some such character as Comorre or Gilles de Rais, I have given a number of traditions and tales about those men, as well as accounts of their actual careers. The stories of Comorre are certainly more interesting than are the facts of his real life, although, within the limits of his sphere of action, he was a personage of real importance in his time* That time, however, is far removed from us — it is like a forgotten charnel- house, in which linger a few dry bones of history — and unless one possess the pen of a Thierry, as in the ' R6cits des Temps M^rovingiens,' it is difficult to make it live afresh. Nevertheless — ^apart from any Bluebeard theories — my account of Comorre, which differs in several respects from one which I contributed to the Gentlematis Magazine nearly a


PREFACE vii

quarter of a century ago {Eh^u fugaces iabuntur anni . . .), may be acceptable, perhaps, to the historical student, as I have now availed myself of the researches of M. de La Borderie, who has recon- structed the annals of a period of Breton history left by other writers in a state of absolute confusion.

But it will be found that the chief interest of this book, if I may be so bold as to claim interest for it, centres in the personality of Gilles de Rms. My attempt to narrate his extraordinary career in some detail is, I think, the first of its kind in the English language, though in France of more recent times numerous works respecting him have been written. Quicherat necessarily had to refer to Rais in his ' Proems de Jeanne d'Arc ' ; but the first modern French historian who gave an approximate account .of the Marshal's life and misdeeds was Michelet. The second, of note, was Vallet de Viriville, who wrote an article on Rais for the ' Biographic Didot,' and who afterwards transferred the informa- tion collected in that article to his well-known ' Hlstoire de Charles VII.' Then M. Paul L^croix — the Bibliophile Jacob — recounted the Marshal's trial, more or less correctly, in his 'Curiosity de I'Histoire de France'; M. Armand Gu^raud, the Baron de Girardot, M. de Sourdeval, and others,


Yiii PREFACE

particularly M. Paul Marchegay, contributed to the literature of the subject ; and at last, after long years, M. René de Maulde transcribed the Latin text of the documents in the Ecclesiastical Pro- ceedings against the Marshal, and Abb^ Bossard gathered together all the available facts, and pro- duced a work of considerable magnitude, which has remained^ in France, the standard authority on Gilles de Rais.

I have largely followed Abb6 Bossard, as was indeed inevitable, for nobody could attempt to write on Rais without frequently consulting the Abb6's book. But I have also studied the works of his forerunners, contemporaries and successors, as well as many of the documents, and have endeavoured to narrate the Marshal s career with more regard for chronological order than the reverend Abb6 observed. He, moreover, throughout his book, dedicated to Bishop Freppel of Angers, held a brief for a fellow-churchman — that is, Jean de Malestroit, the Bishop of Nantes who instituted the prose- cution of Gilles de Rais — whereas I have held a brief for nobody. I have written at greater length than Bossard on some phases of Gilles' life, whilst dealing very briefly with others on which it seemed to me unnecessary to expatiate. For several reasons


PREFACE ix

I r^rard the career of Rais as one of the strangest the world has ever witnessed If, as set down in this book, it should fail to interest the reader, the blame must attach to myself.

With respect to Comorre, as I have already men- tioned, one finds the truth inferior to tradition ; but the contrary may well be asserted of the extra* ordinary personage whom Michelet for ever branded as the Exterminating Beast. Beside the fiendish crimes of the high and mighty Marshal de Rais, those of Perrault's Bluebeard sink into insignificance. As for the question whether Perrault, when writing his story, derived any suggestion as regards either name or subject from the lives or traditions of Rais and Comorre, I need not discuss it in this preface, as I have dealt with it at length, first at the close of my account of Comorre, secondly at the end of the book. To those passages of my text I would refer the reader curious on the subject.

In the appendix to the volume will be found some remarks on the alleged Beaumanoir Bluebeard, the Montfaucon portrait of Gilles de Rais, and the latter's supposed connection with Jean Chartier the chronicler, as well as an excursus into the subject of Ys and other lost cities — Gradlon of Ys and his daughter, the Princess A^s, figuring incidentally in


X PREFACE

my account of Comorre. Now and again, too, I have added to my narrative sundry notes on legends and traditions of St. Gildas, St Herv6, the Wild Huntsman, etc. I have also prepared an index, which I hope will be found adequate ; and I must plead guilty to eight of the nine illustrations which accompany the text.

E. A. V.

Merton, Surrey,

Aprils 1902.


CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

PACK

CHARLES PERRAULT AND HIS TALES — MYTH, FABLE,

AND STORY- - - , - - i


COMORRE THE CURSED

A.D. 515—555

I. LEGENDS OF COMORRE — BRITTANY IN EARLY TIMES - 37

II. COMORRE'S CAREER — THE TRADITIONS AND PER-

rault's tale - - - - 70

GILLES DE RAIS, MARSHAL OF FRANCE

A.D. 1404 — 1440

I. DESCENT, PARENTAGE, POSSESSIONS, MARRIAGE, AND

FIRST CAMPAIGNS - - - ' ^^S

II. THE PATH OF GLORY — GILLES AND JOAN OF ARC — ^THE

CLOSE OF GILLES* MILITARY CAREER - - 141

III. SPLENDOUR AND PRODIGAUTY — 'THE MYSTERY OF •

ORLEANS'— THE HOLY INNOCENTS- - - 1 77

IV. THE RESIST OF PRODIGAUTY — THE SCRAMBLE FOR

THE RAIS ESTATES ..... 208


xii CONTENTS


rAfii


V. THB GRSAT P0RTRIS8 OF TIPPAUQISS — ALCHEMY AND

MAGIC -..-.. sjO

VI. THE HORRORS OP MACHBCOUL AND CHAMPTOCl— THE

CRIMES OF THE EXTERMINATING BEAST • ' ^SS

VII. FRANCESCO PRELATI, THE DEVIL-RAISER — ^THE SPURIOUS MAID OP ORLEANS — GILLES' LAST DAYS OF SIN, CRIME, AND VIOLENCE .... 282

VIIL THE PRIVILEGES OF THE CHURCH — ARREST, TRIAL,

AND EXECUTION OP GILLES, HENRIET, AND POITOU - 326 IX« WIDOW AND DAUGHTER — GILLSS DB RAIS AS BLUE-

BEAR1>— CONCLUSION - • 370


APPENDIX

A. THB BEAUMANOIR BLUEBEARD .... 400 a YS AND OTHER LOST CITIES • - -401

C. THE MONTFAUCON PORTRAIT OF GILLES DB RAIS • 405

D. GILLES DB RAIS AND /BAN CHARTIER - - - 407

INDEX - - - - • 409


ILLUSTRATIONS

CILLBS, BARON OF RAIS, UAKSHAL OF FSAKCR CASTEL riNANS, OR THE GIANT'S CASTLE - HACHECOUL, THE BIRTHPLACE OF OILLBS DE RAIS AN OLD GATE OF VANNES - - -

CHAHPT0C£ FROM THS VILLAGE SIDE A TOWER OF TIFFAUGSS CHAUPTOCi FROU THE FISHPOND - THE CASTLE AND CATHEDRAL OF NANTES - EXPIATORY HONUMENT ERECTED BY UARIS DE RAIS


Frtmtit^ttt

To fate p. 40


a64

336 38a


BLUEBEARD


INTRODUCTION

CHARLES PERRAULT AND HIS TALES MYTH, FABLE, AND STORY

Perrault's Writings— His Brothers— The Fame of his Faiiy Tales —His First VeDtures as a Story-teller— Was he helped by Children ?— Folk Tales traced from Myths—The Su^ested Solar Myth of Napoleon— The War between Light and Dark- ness—^' Bluebeard ' as a Solar Myth, and as an Example of the Contest of Day and Night— Blue-bou-ded Deities—' Bluebeard ' exemplifying Ferocity, Deliverance, and Inquisitiveness-^For- bidden Rooms in many Legends and Tales — Variations in the Number of Blnebeard's Wives — Possible Sources of Perrault's ' Riquet,' ' Sleeping Beauty,' and ' Cinderella ' — The Absence of Reference to ' Barbe-Bleue ' in French literature before Perrault's Time— His Treatment of the Tale— A Curious Vendean Version — Allied Historical Bluebeards: Comorre, Beaumanoir, GiUes de Rais.

It is not always the book an author most prizes — the one which he regards as his masterpiece — that wins for him the recognition and remembrance of posterity. Had anybody predicted to Charles Per- raulc. Comptroller of State Buildings and afterwards Secretary-General of Finance under Louis XIV.'s


2 BLUEBEARD

great minister Colbert, that his name would survive him only in connection with a little volume of nursery tales, he would doubtless have refused to believe it ; for did he not extol in polished phrases the age of the Roi Soleil, and contend, even against so redoubt- able an adversary as Boileau, on the subject of the relative merits of ancient and modern authors? And did not that acrimonious controversy long stir all the rival literary salons of Paris in a manner which seemed to indicate that even if it should end it would never be forgotten? Again, Charles Perrault penned some erudite reflections on the writings of Longinus, *the living library,' and made a metrical translation of the fables of Faerno, besides composing a poem on the art of Painting ; and, assuredly, even those minor literary performances must have seemed to him more worthy of fame, and more likely to secure it, than the stories of fairies, giants, dwarfs, and beautiful princesses which he put together for the entertainment of children late in the autumn of his life. Yet nobody nowadays reads the

  • Si^cle de Louis le Grand ' or the ' Parall^le des

Anciens et des Modernes,' whereas all Christendom remains familiar with Bluebeard, Cinderella, Hop o* my Thumb, Little Red Riding Hood, Riquet with the Tuft, the Sleeping Beauty, and the other heroes and heroines of the little volume of stories which Perrault published almost surreptitiously when nigh to his seventieth year.

Born in Paris in 1628, he was the son of an advocate, and the youngest of four brothers, all of


INTRODUCTION 3

whom cultivated literature. Pierre, the eldest (1608-80), wrote several books, the principal of which seems to have been a treatise on the origin of springs. He also was employed in the Finance department by Colbert, rising indeed to the rank of Receiver-General, from which position he was dis- missed, however, by reason of some irregularities in his accounts, though, according to his apologists, he was not really responsible for them. The next brother, Nicolas (i6i:-6i), became a ' Docteur- en-Sorbonne,' £md was one of the leading supporters of Arnault, in the famous controversy between the Jansenists and the Jesuits. Like Arnault, he attacked the latter in writing (a book of his, ' De la Morale des J^uites,' is still occasionally quoted), and on their triumph he figured, as a matter of course, among the seventy doctors expelled from the Sorbonne. Claude (1613-88), the next of the brothers Perrault, and the most versatile of them all, originally made medicine his study, but turned to architecture, and thereby became famous. As a literary man, he translated Vitruvius, and wrote on natural history, physics, mechanics, and other sub- jects ; whilst, as a disciple of art, he acquired con- siderable proficiency in painting and sculpture. But he is best remembered by the stately colonnade which adorns the Louvre, and which, curiously enough, was his architectural d^bui.

It will be seen from the foregoing that each of the brothers Perrault was a gifted and able man ; but of all their work the world nowadays cares only


4 BLUEBEARD

for the first effort of Claude and the last effort of Charles — the great colonnade and the fascinating fairy tales. The latter have the gift of perennial youth ; they have been printed in hundreds of forms, translated again and again into at least a score of languages, and illustrated by artists innumerable. Indeed, in the whole field of European literature, one will find no more universal book than Perrault's fairy tales — a book which has held its own for more than two hundred years, in spite of every rival ; for Grimm and Andersen, and all the other tellers and collectors of stories for the young, have never suc- ceeded in dethroning Perrault, however widespread may be the popularity which they have acquired.

On the disgrace of Colbert in 1683, Perrault retired from his official position, and although for some years longer he remained a very prominent figure in the literary salons then flourishing in Paris, he at last sequestered himself in his quiet home in the Faubourg Saint Jacques, where he died in May, 1703. His first attempt as a conteur was inspired by the success of his friend La Fontaine, and the first subject to which he addressed himself was the well-known story of ' Patient Grissel,* which he found in Boccaccio,^ who, according to some accounts, had it from Petrarch,^ though others say that the latter took it from the author of the

  • Decameron.' In England Chaucer appropriated

it, and it became the Clerk's Tale in the Canterbury

^ * II Decamerone,' x. 10,

2 ' De Obedientia et Fide Uxoria Mythologia.'


INTRODUCTION 5

series. Perrault's version was called ' La Marquise de Salusses, ou la patience de Griselidis,' and was issued in 1691 by Coignard. Its reception en- cours^ed him, and two years later he produced

  • Les Souhaits ridicules '^ (* The Ridiculous Wishes*),

which story was followed, in 1694, by * Peau d'Ane'^ (* Ass's Skin'), an arrangement of a popular tale long current in France, one version having been done by Bonaventure Des Periers in the time of Francis I. Finally, in 1697 appeared * Histoires ou Contes du Terns pass6, avec des Morality, '^ the general collec- tion of stories which was to insure Perrault's fame. It has been suggested that he may have given manuscripts of these tales to two publishers. At all events, those which had not previously appeared in Holland (where some earlier ones had been pub- lished) were seemingly issued there* at the same time as the general collection was produced in Paris.

^ * Le Mercure Galant,' p. 37.

^ ' Recueil de Pi^es curieuses et nouvelles,' vol L The Hague, Adrien Moetjens. Besides ' Peau d'Ane,' ' Les Souhaits ridicules ' and ' Griselidis ' are also printed in this volume.

' ' A Paris, chez Claude Barbin, sur le second perron de la Sainte Chapelle ; au Palais. Avec Privilege de sa Majesty.' 1697, lamo., 230 pp.

  • See vol. V. of Moetjens's * Recueil de Pieces curieuses,' etc

The title-page of this volume is dated 1696, but its Fourth Part bears the date 1697, and in this section will be found the Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, the Fairies, Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper (' Pantoufle de Verre '), Riquet with the Tuft, and Hop o' my Thumb. As M. Giraud has pointed out, the question arises whether the Paris edition can really be called the original one, however fabulous the prices paid for it in auction-rooms.


6 BLUEBEARD

Scholarly editors and commentators of our time — Messrs. Giraud,^ Deulin,^ Dillaye,* Lacroix,* Lang,* and others — have discussed, though they have not solved, the question whether these tales of Perrault's, or rather such of them as are in prose, were at least in part the composition of one of the ex-Comptroller's sons. M. Deulin finds in them more simplicity of diction than a perusal of Perrault's other works would lead one to expect, and is strongly inclined to the view that some child must have had a hand in them. Yet, if a man like the late Rev. C. L. Dodg- son — to take an example from English literature — could write both ^ Euclid and his Modern Rivals ' and * Alice in Wonderland, ' surely the author of

  • Le Si^le de Louis le Grand ' may have been quite

capable of penning * Les Contes du Tems pass6 ' without assistance. From one point of view, indeed, Mr. Dodgson's achievement was more remarkable than Perrault's, for he was only two-and-thirty when his * Alice' was published ; whereas Perrault was sixty- nine at the time of the appearance of his collected stories. At the former age very few men indeed, even if they are fathers, are inclined to the telling of

  • * Les Contes des F^s . . .' revised by Charles Giraud. Paris,

1S64, and Lyons, 1865. ^^o*

^ * Contes de ma M^re I'Oye avant Perrault,' by Charles Deulin. Paris, 1879. lamo.

  • 'Contes de Perrault,' etc., notice by F. Dillaye. Paris, 1880.

8vo.

^ * M6noires de Ch. Perrault,' edited by Paul Lacroix. Paris, 1878. i2mo.

^ 'Perrault's Popular Tales,' edited, etc., by Andrew Lang. Oxford, 1888. 8vo.


INTRODUCTION 7

nursery tales ; but the sexagenarian is frequently drawn towards childhood. If there be little ones about him, particularly children or grandchildren of his own, he pictures himself living afresh in them, he watches their play, listens to their prattle, takes them on his knees, and, to tell them stories, finds once more the simple style, the easy words of the tales told him by his mother or his nurse when he himself was but a little lad. In Perrault's case some doubt exists as to the age of his children at the time his ' Contes * were probably drafted. Certain it is that in the Paris collected edition they were put forth as the work of a child, P. d'Armancour, who in a dedicatory epistle addressed to ' Mademoiselle ' — that is, £lisabeth-Charlotte d'Orl6ans, sister of the Due de Chartres, afterwards Due d'Orl6ans and Regent of France — apologizes for his presumption in offering his work to that Princess.^ The royal privilege or authorisation to print and publish was also granted to P. d'Armancour, which M. Deulin tells us should be read as ' Perrault d'Armancour,' the name which a son of Charles Perrault assumed. And the explanation given for all this is that although the authorship of the ' Contes ' was merely a secret de PolichinelU^ Perrault did not care to put his name to a book which he regarded as being more or less trivial and frivolous. Yet it was this very book which brought him fame.

It is, of course, possible that he may have heard

^ 'Mademoiselle' was twenty years of age in 1697; in the following year she nuurried the Due de Lorraine.


g BLUEBEARD

some of his tales from children, and have endea- voured to imitate their natveU of style ; and, again, he may well have recalled stories told him in his boyhood. It is in any case certain that several of those which he gathered together are, in their essen- tial lines, very old, and figured in one or another form among popular myths, legends and traditions.^ In these days the popular old tales have been often associated with myths and beliefs of the early ages. One particularly notorious school of folklorists carried back virtually everything to the sun, the moon, the aurora. It was asserted that the names given in the mythopoeic age to the celestial bodies, and the changing scenery of the atmosphere, lost in time a part or all of their original meaning, until they were at last looked upon as the names of real deities and beings, in whose actions and adventures one might trace disguised descriptions of the sweep of the clouds across the face of the sky, and the victory achieved over them by the sun. * A thousand phrases would be used to describe the action of a beneficent or consuming sun, of the gentle or awful night, of the playful or furious wind ; and every word or phrase would become the germ of a new story as soon as the mind lost its hold on the original force of the name. Thus, in the polyonomy (the

^ A mere glance at Perrault's life and the circumstances under which his tales were published has seemed sufficient here. For fuUer information see the writings of Deulin, Dillaye, Lang, Lacroix, and the edition of the * Contes ' edited by A. Leffevre, Paris, 1882, which contains a good biographical essay.


INTRODUCTION 9

giving of several names to one object) which was the result of the earliest form of human thought, we have the germ of the great epics of later times, and of the countless legends which make up the rich stores of mythical tradition/^

Turning to the Vedic hymns, the sun was shown figuring therein as the bull, the beneficent ^^««^/^r of the beneficent fruitful power, which was the cow, typifying the dewy moon, or the dewy aurora.^ Elsewhere, also, bull and cow appeared as symbols of the chief celestial bodies. Soon, however, in one and another mythological system the sun takes to himself the guise of a man, a hero-deity, and, as such, accomplishes innumerable exploits ; poets transforming the war in heaven between the various forces of nature into the strife of gods and men on earth ; as, for instance, with the siege of Troy, which, according to solar mythologists, was merely a * repetition of the daily siege of the East by the solar powers that every evening are robbed of their treasures in the West' And at least it has been claimed by many mythologists that all the great ancient epics and cycles — the * Iliad,* the * Odyssey,' the ' Volsungs,' the ' Nibelungs,' * King Arthur and his Round Table,' * The Ram4yan4,' the * Mah4 Bh4rat4,' the ' Shah Nameh,' and so forth — ^present similarities of incident and episode which point to a

^ Sir G. Cox's ' Mythology of the Aryan Nations,' p. 4a, as quoted by Edward Clodd in ' Myths and Dreams ' (second edition, Chatto and Windus^ 1 891, p. 62.

  • Count Angelo de Gubematis' 'Zoological Mythology, or

Legends of Animals,' etc. London, 1S72, a vols., Svo.


lo BLUEBEARD

common derivation from old myth. The folk tales are in much the same position. ' The* fact abides that nursery stories told in Norway and Tyrol, in Scotland and the Deccan, are identical.'^ When identity is not absolute, great similarity is found, and one rises from the study of old tales with a keen impression of the limited number of plots at the disposal of the storyteller, who is ever travelling over ground explored by his predecessors, piecing together narratives of which one feature has figured here, another there, a third elsewhere.

But even should one assign a common mythic origin to the old tales, one is often forced to the conclusion that a certain amount of historical fact is blended with the fable and the symbolism to be found in them. We know nothing certain of King Arthur, whom the comparative mythologists regard as a mere myth, a variant of Sigurd and Perseus ; but, as Mr. Clodd has pointed out, in the romance woven around Arthur's personality, there was doubt- less something which corresponded to some probable event, fitted in with certain national traditions. The obscurity in which Arthur is enveloped is not proof of his non-existence. We might regard Alexander as mythical if merely the wondrous l^ends of him remained. Cyrus and Charlemagne might also become myths, if all true record of their doings were destroyed. And, in like circumstances, some thousands of years hence, it might be allowable for mythologists to adopt, in all seriousness, such

^ Qodd, Ar., pp. 70, 71.


INTRODUCTION 1 1

a view as that of the French ecclesiastic who showed us ' that Napoleon is cognate with Apollo, the sun, and his mother Letitia identical with Leto, the mother of Apollo ; that his personnel of twelve Marshals were the signs of the Zodiac ; that his retreat from Moscow was a fiery setting ; and that his emergence from Elba, to rule for twelve months, and then be banished to St Helena, was the sun rising out of the Eastern waters to set in the Western ocean after twelve hours' reign in the sky/i

This example — although many more might be adduced, even from among contemporary events ; for instance, the Boer War would make as good a myth as the Siege of Troy — will suffice to indicate the weak point in the theories of those who detect a mythical origin and belief in everything of the early ages that is nowadays wrapped in obscurity. Some counterpoise to a myth-making disposition may be found in the research and the labour of those ex- plorers and excavators who raise from the shrouding earth the relics of ancient civilizations ; while the march of history itself, with its thousand repetitions, its frequent similarity of incidents in one age and another, should warn one against yielding too readily to the tendency to found, merely upon repeti- tion and similarity, the theory of a common origin. Two rivers may flow in the same direction and find their outlet in one and the same sea, without rising from the same source ; as witness, for instance, the

^ Qodd, U.^ p. 64.


12 BLUEBEARD

Loire, which comes from the C^vennes, and the Garonne, which rises in the Pyrenees.

At the root of many of the mythical tales, accord- ing to some writers, one finds the never-ending battle between light and darkness, the former being usually symbolized by a hero, and the latter by a monster. Those taking this view have cited, for instance, the combats of Indra and Vitra, Traitana and Ahi, Ormuzd and Ahriman, Feridun and Zohak, Michael and Satan, Abel and Cain, David and Goliath, even Jonah and the fish, Osiris, Horus and Typhon, Apollo and Pythdn, Theseus and the Minotaur, Perseus and the sea-monster, Hercules and Cacus, Thor and Midgard, Siegfried and the Nibelungs, Sigurd and Fafnir, St. George and the Dragon, and Beowulf and Grendel, besides many others, such as those which may be found in the Arthurian and similar romances. But at the first glance, it might seem difficult to associate the subject of this present book, that is, one of the most popular of Perrault's tales — Bluebeard — with the great contest of the day and the night. Yet not many years ago commentators arose to do so. M. Hyacinthe Husson was content to picture Blue- beard as the sun devouring the aurora ; but for M. Dillaye^ he was the semblance of the dense and cruel night, who imprisoned and would slay his spouse the light, in whom was traced the highest expression of curiosity. For does not the light pry into everything, and even reveal everything to

^ Dillayei /.r., p. 217 et seq.


INTRODUCTION 13

others? Happily, the supreme power, unwilling that mortals should have to exchange the benefi- cence of daylight for the cruelty of darkness, resolved to save the latter's imperilled victim, and sent to her relief two aurora, or rather the morn- ing and the evening stars^ — the A9vins of the ' Rig Veda,* the twin Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux.

Here one may well pause to recognise the ingenuity of M. Dillaye's theory. He turned the tale of 'Bluebeard' into as pretty a little myth as could well be devised.

Even the hue of the cruel husband's beard is indirectly accounted for by the bluish blackness ascribed to night by the poets of all ages. One was carried far from the theories in which Husson brought forward, as a prototype of Perrault s * hero,' a certain Egyptian deity, B^, who boasted an azure beard, whereupon another French commentator, following in the same track, turned to the * Rig Veda,' and quoted a passage which showed that Indra was blue-bearded also ; whilst Greek and Latin authors depicted Zeus himself, the almighty Jupiter,

  • with beard and eyebrows of such blackness ' {telle-

ment noirs) ' that they appeared to be bluish, like the plumage of ravens !' But another writer, Abb6 Bossard, whose researches^ will be largely followed in one section of this book, and who evinces, un- doubtedly, more scorn for myth than the occasion warrants, makes merry over the views of M. Husson

^ 'Gilles de Rais^ Mardchal de France, dit Barbe-Bleue,' by Abb6 Eugene Bossard. Paris, 1S86. 8vo.


14 BLUEBEARD

and his partisans. 'Just reflect,' says he, ' that the god B6s was perhaps symbolical of the Blue Nile^ and that the origin of the tale ' (' Bluebeard ') * would be wonderfully enhanced if one found it in the hidden sources of that famous river! Reflect that all the deities of the sea and the rivers, every Proteus of pagan antiquity, had blue hair and beard — cceruleus Proteus! And that the tradition of Bluebeard," in coming down without a break to Perrault and ourselves, passed through the hands of Homer and Virgil ! What a splendid origin ! But to those who are fascinated by that fine reason- ing we will address only one question : What will future critics think if, after several centuries, there should be discovered a certain religious statuette, which we saw recently, and which an artist deemed it good taste to decorate with a beard of azure, of a brighter blue than the raven s wing ? There can be no doubt of the answer. That statuette will help to carry through future ages the tradition in which the god BSs supplies one link ; and our great-gp^nd- nephews will rear upon it the theory which the Egyptian deity strengthens and illumines in so powerful a manner.'^

On the other hand, it may well be admitted that ' Bluebeard ' offers features which are very sugges- tive of a mythic origin. On considering the tale under various aspects one finds it in some measure typical of ferocity, deliverance, and, more particularly, inquisitiveness. The first and second subjects have

^ Bossard, /.^, p. 393.


INTRODUCTION 1 5

not attracted much attention from commentators, unless it be to connect one with the sun devouring the aurora, and the other with the battle between darkness and light; but the third theme, that of imprudent curiosity and its consequences, has led to much research, particularly on the part of M. Charles Deulin, who since 1876, when he published the result of his first investigations,^ has been followed and paraphrased by nearly all the editors of Perrault^ some of whom have, now and again, added to his ^^ references^ Taking ' Bluebeard,* then, as typical of ^ curiosity in woman, one may trace it back to the very beginning of the world, according to the Mosaic view. Eve and her apple, Lot's wife and her backward glance, immediately suggest them- selves ; while the key which Bluebeard hands to his wife reminds one irresistibly of Pandora's box. Psyche's lamp, and Elsen's question to the Knight of the Swan. The subject of human curiosity and its fatal effects has tempted story-tellers from the earliest times, which will appear only natural to those who incline to the view that curiosity with respect to their surroundings must have been one of the very first feelings of the primeval race.O And in a world which we cannot even imagine, of which, despite all the discoveries and suggestions of science, we have only the vaguest notions, a world in its genesis, still subject to extraordinary convulsions and phenomena, peopled with huge, strange, and

^ ' Revue de France,' tome xx. (number of March 30, 1876), p. 975 ei se^.


1 6 BLUEBEARD

fierce creatures, the consequences of curiosity must often have been dire to man, that comparatively puny being who, after first wondering, turned to examine the earth on which he found himself, con- fronted at his first steps by that mighty work of conquest which has been his task throughout the ages. Thus, in all such stories as * Bluebeard/ there lingers a lesson which must have come down to us from the remotest of our ancestor s^ /

It may be pointed out, in this connection, that if we, accepting Biblical traditions, regard curiosity as being more largely an attribute of woman than of man, this idea has been by no means universal. In- quisitive men are found in many of the old tales. They appear in Russian as well as Oriental stories.^ A familiar instance is that of the Third Calender in the * Arabian Nights'; and French examples are supplied by Elias, the King of Albanie, who mar- ried the fairy Pressina, and by Raimondin, the son of the Count of Forez, who espoused Pressina's daughter, the famous Melusina, from whom the Lusignans of history claimed to descend. Pressina gave birth to three children, Melusina and two others ; and during a certain time Elias was for- bidden to enter the room which his wife occupied. He infringed the prohibition, and Pressina dis- appeared, carrying her children to a mountain sum- mit, whence she showed them the land where they would have liv^^.t^n princely splendour had it not been for their father's fatal curiosity. Again, we

^ Lang, Z.^.


INTRODUCTION 17

find Raimondin breaking the vow he had made never to enter the room wherein his wife, Melusina, secreted herself every Saturday, on which day she was condemned to become a blue serpent.

Forbidden rooms and mysterious keys abound in the ancient fables. There is the forbidden room in which the treasures of Ixion are amassed, and which none may enter under penalty of being devoured by ever-raging fire. There is the forbidden chamber in which Jupiter keeps his thunderbolts, and the keys of which are known only to Minerva, as she herself teltis the Eumenides, in iCschylus. Ag^ain, there is a forbidden room, with a golden door and a golden key, in the already-mentioned story of the Third Calender, Agib, the son of King Cassib. This tale^ is occasionally quoted in connection with * Blue- beard,' to which, however, it bears little resemblance, save in the matter of the room and the key. Agib, after being wrecked on a lodestone mountain, is carried by a roc to the palatial abode of forty princesses, with whom he dwells for a year. They then absent themselves for forty days, and give him their keys, with permission to enter every room but one. On the fortieth day his curiosity impels him to pry into that particular chamber, and he there finds a black P^asus, which he mounts, and which carries him through the air towards Bagdad, deposits him on the terrace of a castle, and knocks out his right eye with a flick of its tail — even as it had done with ten curious young princes encountered by Agib

1 ' The Aiabian Nights,' Night 66.

2


1 8 BLUEBEARD

earlier in the story. In this case, then, the for- bidden room is scarcely like that of ' Bluebeard.' It suggests rather the one which figures in the tales collected by Bechstein — a room entered by two children, who find there a golden fawn harnessed to a golden carriage, in which they flee.

But, as M. Deulin and his followers have pointed out, there are many other forbidden rooms. Some will be found in 'The King Serpent,' *The Prince of Tr^guier,* ' Koadalan/ * Bihannic and the Ogre,' four of Luzel's * Contes Bas- Bretons ' ; in Miss R. H. Busk's 'Black King' ('The Folk Lore of Rome ') ; in MuUenhoflPs * Vigorous Franck ' ; in ' Faithful John,' one of the ' Kinder und Haus- marchen ' of the Brothers Grimm ; in ' The Widow's Son ' and the * Mastermaid,' of the * Norske Folke- Eventyr ' of P. C. Asbjornsen and J. Moe ; in the story of Maria Morewna in Ralston's * Russian Folk-Tales ' ; in one of the ' Swahili Tales as told by Natives of Zanzibar,'^ translated by Dr. E. Steere ; and in the adventures of Saktivega, which figure in the * Katha Sarit Sfigara ' (* The Ocean of the Rivers of Tales'), compiled in the twelfth century by Samodeva Bhatta of Cashmere. In this story, an epitome of which is given by Mr. Lang, the ' for- bidden room* takes the form of a certain palace terrace and three pavilions, which the hero is pro- hibited from approaching. When he does so, he

  • Not having seen this book, the writer cannot supply the title

given by Dr. Steere to the story referred to, but Deulin calls it

  • L'Esprit tromp^ par le fils du Sultan.'


INTRODUCTION 19

finds in each pavilion a dead maiden — a discovery that is certainly suggestive of * Bluebeard.' But there is no resemblance in the rest of the tale, which appears to be a confused medley of many incidents. We come now to an Esthonian legend set down by Kreuzwald,^ and cited by Gubernatis in his

  • Zoological Mythology.' Here we find a monster

husband who has already killed eleven wives, and who is about to murder the twelfth for having opened a secret room with a golden key (* perhaps the moon/ says Gubernatis!), when a youth, a friend of her childhood, who tends some goslings, comes to deliver her. Here the resemblance to * Bluebeard' is striking. It is true that Perrault does not even specify the number of his hero's wives ; he uses the word

  • several,' but it is none the less generally accepted

in both France and England that Bluebeard was married seven times. As F. W. N. Bayley wrote in the rhymed version of the story which he pre- pared for the * Comic Nursery Tales '^ : —

' In former times,

In the warmest of climes, A gentleman gloried in several crimes : Some terrible deeds he was known to have done, And 'twas hinted that murder was certainly one ;

For six of his wives

Had been rid of their lives In the darkest of manners under the sun.'

^ ' Ehsthnische Marchen,' aufgezeichnet von Fried. KLreuzwald, aus dem Ehsthnischen iibersetzt von F. Lowe, etc. Halle, 1869, post 8vo. (Tale 20).

  • One of the early publishing ventures of the late Henry Vizetelly,

father of the present writer.

2—2


20 BLUEBEARD

That, of course, is only a modern instance, and an English one ; but the idea of the seven wives has always prevailed in France, though occasionally the number becomes eight — that is, seven slaughtered wives, and another who is saved by her brothers.

It is useless to plunge into the so-called occult science of numbers. For some reason or other the Esthonian view is, or was, that there were twelve wives ; and those who are inclined to do so may trace those twelve Esthonian spouses back through the twelve Wise Masters, the twelve Paladins, the twelve Knights of the Round Table, the twelve Apostles, the twelve Roman Deities, the twelve sons of Jacob, the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, and so forth ; while the partisans of the seven French or English wives may take comfort in thinking of the seven Champions of Christendom, the seven Wise Men of Greece, the seven Wonders of the World, the seven Sleepers, the seven Virtues, the seven Mortal Sins, the seven Sacraments, the seven Seals of the Apocalypse, in addition to the yearly victims of the Minotaur, who, suggestively enough, were likewise seven in number. In this connection mention may be made of the Indian tale of the magician Punchkin, who changes into stone the seven princely husbands of the rajah's seven daughters, a tale having a counterpart in Norse folklore, for * The Giant who had no Heart in his Body *^ turns six princes and their wives into stone, whereupon * Boots ' (properly

1 ' Popular Tales from the Norse,' by Sir G. W. Dasent Edin- buigh, 1859. 8vo.


INTRODUCTION 21

  • Cinderson/ from * Askeladden '), the seventh and

surviving brother, undertakes to avenge them, and does so with the help of a raven, a salmon, and a wolf.^ In * Punchkin ' the magician's fate depends on the life of a parrot, which the seventh princess's son tears to pieces ; in the story of the giant the latter bursts when an egg^ in which his heart is hidden, is squeezed to pieces. The petrified victims are restored to life in both of these tales, whose likeness to Perrault's ' Bluebeard ' is, after all, of the vaguest

An incidental suggestion of Perrault's conU is to be found in the old Cornish tale of ' Tom and the Giant Blunderbuss,'^ in which it is said that the giant's wives were to be counted by the score. What became of them nobody could tell ; yet there were always more ready to take their places. Tom was curious on the subject ; and thus, while Blunder- buss was dying of his wounds, he sisked him : ' Did you kill all your wives ?' * No,' sighed the griant ;

  • they died natural.' One of them, named Jane,

survived, however, and Tom ended by marrying her. Italy also supplies two suggestive stories, one, quoted by Mr. Lang, being * The Devil Wooer,'^ wherein the heroines are limited to three, the ' per-

^ In like manner a fox, a redbreast, and a goldfish figure in a story of Comorre, one of the Breton Bluebeards, given /^j/, p. 47 et se^,

  • • Popular Romances of the West of England,' etc, collected

by Robert Hunt, F.R.S. New Edition, Chatto and Windus. London, 1896, 8vo., p. 55 et se^.

» • Italian Popular Tales,' by T. F. Crane. London, 1885, 8vo.


22 BLUEBEARD

feet number' of Pythagoras, which in the present instance may perhaps be regarded by believers in numerical science as symbolical of the three Fates, the three Furies, or even the Trinity, for, curiously enough, as soon as the three women are resuscitated the Devil hurriedly decamps, daunted by the idea of having to face that number of wives. The other Italian tale is the * King of the Assassins,' quoted by Gubernatis,^ who had it from a peasant woman of Fucecchio. Here again the sister-heroines are three in number ; as is also the case in the Highland story of * The Widow and her Daughters,' published by Campbell,^ and in the tale of * Fichters Vogel ' (*The Feather Bird'), which figures in Grimm's • Marchen.'^

These Italian, Gaelic, and German stories come from a common source, as an epitome of their in- cidents will show. In * The Feather Bird ' a sorcerer, who takes the form of a beggar and steals children, carries off the eldest of three pretty sisters, lodges her in a splendid house in a forest, leaves her with the keys, an egg which she is to carry about with her (eggs figure largely and in all sorts of ways in these popular tales), and forbids her to enter a certain room. She, however, infringes the prohibi- tion, and finds in the room a block, an axe, and a basin full of blood, into which, in her fright, she

1 * Zoological Mythology,' vol ii.

  • * Popular Tales of the West Highlands,' etc., by John Francis

Campbell. New Edition, Paisley and London, 1890-93. 4 vols., 8vo. (Na 41.)

» No. 46.


INTRODUCTION 23

drops the egg, which she is afterwards unable to cleanse. The man on returning home slays her;^ fetches the second sister, who shares her fate ; and, finally, the third, who cunningly leaves the egg in a safe place when she visits the secret room, where she miraculously restores her sisters to life by re- uniting their limbs. Then she makes the man carry them home in sacks, dips herself in a cask of honey and rolls among the feathers of her bed, till she looks like a marvellous bird, and cannot be recognised. In the result — the intervening incidents are immaterial — ^her brothers, who have been warned by her sisters, come to her rescue, and the sorcerer, who has returned home, is burnt to death in the house, which the brothers and other relations set on fire.

All the commentators point to the resemblance of this tale to ' Bluebeard,' and even Abb^ Bossard, the champion of the Gilles de Rais theory, admits that there is considerable analogy between the two stories. In the Gaelic version, given by Campbell, there are sundry variations. For instance, the beggar-man becomes a horse, and the house to which he carries the sisters is inside a hill. Then, the part of the denouncing eggs is played by a cat, whose services the two elder sisters neglect But not so the youngest, who is cleansed of her blood- stains by the grateful animal. Turning to the Italian tale of the * King of the Assassins,' one there

^ In some English adaptations of the story, the girls, instead of being killed, are simply shut up and starved.


24 BLUEBEARD

finds the cat replaced by a young dog, while the coffers in which the sisters of the Highland tale are carried off, when they are restored to life, are changed into jars. There are other incidents also in the Italian story which differentiate it from the others. For instance, the heroine resuscitates a certain French Prince Carlino, one of the Assassin's victims, and marries him ; and the Assassin, after placing a * soporific paper * under the prince s pillow, conceals himself in a golden column, whence he at last goes to the kitchen, to fill a large pan with boiling oil. The heroine, however, shakes the prince until he awakes, and in the end it is the Assassin himself who is burnt alive.

In connection with * Bluebeard ' Mr. Lang men- tions yet another tale — one of Kaffir origin^ — but for the time this section of our subject need be carried no further. The question which presents itself is. What materials were used by Perrault when he wrote this particular tale ? Was it derived by him from any of those which have been mentioned ? It is allowable to surmise that he borrowed his

  • Riquet with the Tuft ' from the ' Nights ' of Stra-

parola, even as he took his ' Griselidis ' from Boccaccio ; while ' The Sleeping Beauty ' may well have come from one of the romances of chivalry,

1 « Nursery Tales of the Zulus '—the Kaffir Tale of the Ox— p. 23a In * Household Tales collected in the Counties of York^ Lincoln,' etc., by S. O. Addy, London, 1895, there is one (No. 18) entitled 'The Glass Ball,' which is likewise included in the ' Bluebeard ' group. We also refer, at the end of our account of Comorre, to two suggestive Breton stories.


INTRODUCTION 25

if not direct from the old Scandinavian legend of Brynhild and Sigurd, which is generally regarded as its earliest known form ; though, indeed, almost every nation has some tradition about a sleeper — usually of the malq. sex — who will some day awaken, in order, as a rule, to perform some mighty deed, as in the case of Arthur, who, when he emerges from his slumber, is to make Britain the head and front of all the kingdoms of the earth.

Again^ 'Cinderella' is a story seemingly known in various countries before Perrault's time ; and although it is altogether unlikely that he ever heard of Sodewa Bai, the Hindu, or of Conkiajgharuna,^ the Georgian Cinderella, and may even have had no acquaintance with the German Aschenputtel, we know that he was a good classical scholar, and as such may well have been familiar, through Strabo or iElian, with the story of Rhodope, one of whose sandals was carried away by an eagle, which dropped it at Memphis, near King Psammeticus, who, after marvelling at its beauty and diminutive size, caused strict inquiry to be made for its owner throughout the known world, with the result that Rhodope was discovered, and, although at that time a courtesan, was married to the King. That Rhodope may have served as the original of Perrault's Cinderella is the more possible as she is described by some authors as having been originally a fellow- slave of iEsop's, in th^ palace of Xanthus of Samos, a circumstance probably known to Perrault, who, in translating

^ Miss M. Wardrop's ' Georgian Folk Tales,' London, 1895.


26 BLUEBEARD

Faernus, had familiarized himself with the then generally accepted accounts of iSsop, Phaedrus, and the writings ascribed to them. At all events, one may at least say that Rhodope, the slave, suggests Cinderella, the house-drudge.

But if in connection with the latter it is possible to point to a classical prototype, such as may well have been familiar to a writer like Perrault, no such suggestion can be offered with respect to ' Blue- beard.' If we regard the latter as an old-time story, adapted from popular oral tales, it is extraordinary that no earlier mention of it should be found in French literature. Neither irouv^re nor troubadour, neither historian nor moralist, neither chronicler nor poet, before Perrault's time, had ever referred to that legend of Bluebeard, great as is the position which it now holds in popular lore. No literary man ever wrote that name, Barbe Bleue, or alluded to Anne^ ma sceur Anne, before Charles Perrault did so. And it is remarkable that, disseminated among the people and kept alive by fireside traditions, the story should have left no trace in the works of Rabelais, Marot Montaigne, and all the other sixteenth-century writers, who were so partial to popular anecdote. As remarks Abb6 Bossard, who is here followed,^ it is as if Perrault had given new life to the story by drafting it in a literary form, had brought it into the full radiance of day by transferring it from the sphere of nurses and children to the more en- lightened sphere of literature.

^ Bossard, /.^., p. 396.


INTRODUCTION 27

Of all Perrault's tales, * Bluebeard * is the least marvellous, the most * realistic,' the most * up-to- date/ It is quite grand siicle, as a Frenchman might say. Bluebeard has town and country houses, coaches, gold and silver plate, and even sofas ! His wife is a fit companion for Madame de La Fayette, Madame de Motteville, and Madame de S6vigne ; and the brothers also are essentially of Perrault's time, for one is a musketeer and the other a dragoon. To Abbe Bossard it seems as if Perrault had stripped the story of everything that appeared to him un- worthy of the bon-ton and politeness of society as it flourished under Louis XIV. ; and the reverend critic further suggests that Perrault deliberately altered the popular tradition when he made Blue- beard's wife solicit a short delay in order that she might prepare herself for death by prayer to God.

In this connection Abb6 Bossard quotes a curious version of the tale which has long been current throughout La Vendue, though whether it be of earlier origin than the seventeenth century is un- certain. It is an interesting version, as the reader will perceive by the following extract^ : —

  • " You must die, and at once," said Bluebeard.
  • " If I must die," said the poor woman, **at least

allow me, I beg you, to go up to my room, where are my wedding-garments; for, as a last favour, I entreat you to let me wear them once again, that I may die bedecked in them."

^ Bossard, U,^ pp. 386, 38 .


28 BLUEBEARD

  • " Go/* said Bluebeard ; " but make haste, for I

have no time to wait"

  • More dead than alive, the poor woman went up

to her room. And, forthwith, she said to sister Anne, who happened to be there :

  • " Go quickly to the top of the tower, and tell me

if my brothers are coming."

  • Sister Anne went up swiftly.

• " Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nothing coming ?"

' ** Alas ! no ; I see but the dust of the sunbeams scattering, and the grass a-greening."^

' Meantime Bluebeard was shouting to his wife from below :

  • " Come down, wilt thou ? Or I shall go up !"

' " Husband, I have yet to put my pearl necklace round my neck."

  • '* Make haste ! For I have no time to lose,"

Bluebeard answered.

'Then his wife repeated in a still more urgent voice :

'"Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nothing coming ?"

  • ** I see but the dust of the sunbeams scattering,

and the grass a-greening."

  • '* Wilt thou come down ? Or I shall go up

there !" shouted Bluebeard.

' " Husband, I still have to put two golden brace- lets on my arms."

^ £e soldi quipotidroU et Fherbe qui verdoie, — To green, Thomson ; greening, Keats.


INTRODUCTION 29

  • ** Make haste !" Bluebeard answered, " for I have

no time to lose."

  • " Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nothing

coming ?"

' " I only see a cloud of dust which the wind is raising far away across the plain."

  • " For the last time, wilt thou come down ? Or

I shall go up there !" Bluebeard shouted.

' •* Ah ! for mercy's sake," his wife answered him,

  • ' I still have to adjust my wedding head-dress."

And at the same time, knowing naught else to say to him, that she might still tarry there : ** Anne, sister Anne !" she cried in a voice of terror, '* dost thou see nothing coming ?"

  • *' Ah !" said sister Anne, " I see two horsemen

on the horizon."

' But Bluebeard was becoming impatient ; so his wife said to him :

  • ** I am coming down, but let me still look for my

wedding-ring, which I had forgotten."^ And again calling to sister Anne : ** Anne, sister Anne," she asked, " do they come this way ?"

  • ** Yes," said sister Anne, " they are coming at a

gallop ; they are near, and I am signing to them to hasten.'*

  • At that moment, at the bottom of the tower,

Bluebeard called in so terrible a voice that his wife began to tremble in every limb, for fear lest he should come up to her room.

^ This is not out of the way, for the superstition which prevents so many Englishwomen from ever taking off their wedding-rings is scarcely known in France.


30 BLUEBEARD

' " I am coming down ! I am coming down !" she called to him.

' For all that, she did not hurry. Only she made a clatter with her shoes several times upon the same stair, to make him think that she was hastening.

  • *'Come down quicker than that !" said Bluebeard,
  • • for I have no time to wait."

'When she at last appeared before his eyes, she was pale and trembling, and clad in the same garments as she had worn when she went up ; for her fright had not allowed her to change them.

'"False one! traitress!" he said to her, "it is thus that thou didst ever deceive me! But thou shalt gain nothing by having waited."

  • " My lord," she said to him, falling at his knees,

" deign to pardon me !"

' But he has already raised his cutlass above her head. He is about to lay her low with one stroke, when all at once the door opens with a crash, the brothers of the unfortunate spring towards Blue- beard, and run him through the body with their swords.*

It is impossible to say whether this version of the story, current in La Vendue, is older than Perrault's. But it is a curious one, as illustrating the popular fancy. It would be easy to find many instances, even nowadays, of people desiring to be buried in their wedding clothes. There have been cases, too, of criminals putting on such garments before appear- ing on the scaffold. Lawrence, Earl Ferrers, did


INTRODUCTION 3'

so when he was hanged in i ;6o for murdering his land-steward. And thus there is a suggestion of quaint realism, such as would appeal to ttmaginatttm populaire, in Bluebeard's wife entreating a respite in order that "before dying she might deck herself in her bridal gown and ornaments.^ Moreover, one may perhaps picture her hoping that she m^ht soften her cruel husband by appearing before him in the garments she had worn when he wedded her. But either Perrault did not know this version — sup- posing it to be older than his own — or else, 3S Abb^ Bossard suggests, he was resolved to have none of it, being a religious man, one who held that the only proper thing for a woman to do, under such circum- stances, was to pray. It may be added that the peasants of La Vendue are also religiously inclined, yet there is nothing suggestive of any religious sentiment in their version of ' Bluebeard.'

It now has to be pointed out that, whatever the folklorists may have to say on the subject, the vox populi throughout France has long assigned to Blue- beard a locfd habitation and a name. Historians, such as Daru, Michelet and Wallon, and more particularly the native writers of Brittany, Anjou and La Vendue, have long re-echoed the popular assertion that the real Bluebeard was the offspring of that strange wild land of Brittany, the ancient Armorica, which has given to the world, and pre- served for our generation, so many weird and quaint

' The same occurs in S^billof s Breton siory oT ' Barbe Rouge,' epitomiied ftat, pp. 107, toS.


32 BLUEBEARD

l^ends and traditions. But whilst all French writers, apart from the mythologists, agree in assert- ing that the original Bluebeard was a Breton, there is difference of opinion with respect to the actual man whose career served as the basis of the tradition. Some hold that he was a certain Conomor, Comorus, Comor, Comorre, or Commorre, as the name is variously written, a Breton usurper of the sixth century. One writer, however, has suggested that he was a member of the famous house of Beau- manoir, originally of Maine, but connected with Brittany ; while many urge the claims of the high, powerful, and redoubtable lord, Gilles de Laval, Baron of Rais, Count of Brienne, and Marshal of France, the first specially appointed protector of Joan of Arc, and the companion-in-arms of Riche- mont, Dunois, Ambroise de Lord, Boussac, and many of the other paladins who at last succeeded in driving the English from France, in such wise that nothing of it remained to them, save the one port and stronghold of Calais.

Passing, then, from the folklore of the subject as glanced at in previous pages, an attempt will now be made to recount, as far as the writer can ascertain, and as far as is, for various reasons, convenient, the careers of two of the historical personages to whom the dishonour of having been the original Bluebeard is imputed. It is unnecessary to discuss sundry suggestions that Perrault's hero was a Turk — with a harem, of course ; and it is not proposed to dwell on the life of our much-married Henry VI IL, though


INTRODUCTION 33

Perrault, while writing his story, may well have

remembe ^ >hat libidinous monarch. As for the

allegatio " "^'^anQir — a mere allqra-

tion, ur ^ ' ^ •noticed

briefly

and t\

First,

called

his a

cons

intf

mo'

foU

pe


V

f


  • . . . -^

, ■ . ,1




id'


the celebrateQ «..

example of the manner m «».^

^ See/ostf Appendix A.


'J


34 BLUEBEARD

should be approached and treated. And after Abb^ Bossard, there are Vallet de Viriville, Quicherat, and Wallon, Paul Lacroix and Paul Marchegay, Armand Gu6raud, E. Cosneau, and many others of repute, to help one to narrate, in its essential features, the extraordinary career of one of the bravest captains, one of the most splendid prodigals, one of the most superstitious and credulous beings, and one of the very vilest monsters, that ever lived.


COMORRE THE CURSED

'COMOR AR MILIGUET'


3—2


COMORRE THE CURSED

'COMOR AR MILIGUET' Or. A J). 515-555

I LEGENDS OF COMORRE — BRITTANY IN EARLY TIMES

The River Blavet and its Scenery — Qu^fcan, Broceliande^ and Arthurian Legends — Comorre's Castle of Finans — The Legend of Comorre and St. Tryphine according to the ' Grandes Croniques ' and Brother Albert of Morlaix— St. Gildas destroys the Walls of Finans as Joshua destroyed those of Jericho— Comorre is cursed and takes the Form of a Bisclavaret or Werewolf— The Comorre and Tryphine Legend as a Fairy Tale — Other Memories of Comorre in Brittany — The Legend of the Ferry of Cloar-Camo<^ — Comorre as Charon — From Legend to History — Confusion of the Early Annals of Brittany — La Borderie's Effort to reach the Truth— The Fate of Ancient Armorica — Hun, Alan and Saxon — Emigrations from Britain — Armorica becomes Brittany — Early Breton Rulers contemporary with Comorre — Gradlon the Great and the Submerged City of Ys — Werok of the Vannetais — Riwal of Domnonia — Withnr of Leon.

Some five -and -thirty years ago one of the finest trout -Streams in France was the now partially canalized Blavet, which, taking its source near the squalid Breton hamlet of Querien — in a wild district of the department of Les C6tes - du - Nord, a


38 BLUEBEARD

region all up-hill and down -dale, fwith stretches of marshland intervening between [lofty hills — flows southward through the adjacent department of Le Morbihan, and, uniting with the Scorff, meets the sea just below Lorient. Now and again the Blavet, in its upper reaches, is pent between rocky hills ; but at times come furrowed slopes planted with buckwheat and colza, with intervening patches of brushwood, interspersed with clumps of beeches, or fringed with pines. Then the slopes retreat, offering a wider bed to the river, which pursues its course between verdant pasture-lands, where poplars and pollard willows dot either margin. Behind the apple-trees, clustering on some neigh- bouring hill, the thatch roof of a homestead may be occasionally descried ; but presently appear shady woods, in which one espies quaint gray rocks, now overgrown with moss or stonecrop, and now decked round about with eglantine or holly. The rushes bend to the breeze beside the deep blue water, in which a sunbeam dances ; small tributary rivulets gleam awhile amid fern, heather, and trailing peri- winkles, and then leap onward in miniature cascades, while, in the surrounding thickets, thrush and black- bird pipe right joyously.

Beyond Gouarec, before the Blavet quits Les Cdtes-du-Nord, it skirts first the woods of L'Abbaye and Le Fao, and then the forest of Qu6n6can, which extends over some seven or eight thousand acres of Le Morbihan. Here the river is for a time shut in


COMORRE THE CURSED 39

by steep gray heights intersected by narrow gorges ; but a glimpse is obtained of the ruined abbey of Bon-Repos, founded by one of the Rohans, and devastated during the great Revolution ; and then, never heeding the huge overhanging rocks which for centuries have been threatening to fall and im- pede its progress, the river turns into the forest, which is a remnant of that great primeval, central forest of Brittany, still existent in early historical times. Fragments of it are yet found here and there ; one of them, towards Paimpont, even now retaining among the peasantry the ancient name immortalized by imperishable romance — that name of Brekilien, or Broceliande, which recalls Arthur, Merlin, Viviane, and even the fierce Esplandian, that son of Amadis and Oriana whom the lioness suckled. In the remnant of the old central forest existing near Landerneau you will be shown the ruins of the abbey built on the site of the castle of Joyeuse-Guarde which Arthur gave to Lancelot ; in the fragment near Paimpont you may see Merlin's magic fountain of Baranton, as well as the hawthorn bushes in which he was spellbound by the artful Viviane ; while on a hill towards St. M6en is the site of the palace of Gael, where Arthur himself dwelt (so you will perhaps be told) after his passing from Britain into Brittany. Thus, on learning that Qu^n^can, also, is a remaining portion of the vast woodland associated with the hero-king, who is to return one day to Britain, * full twice as fair, to rule


rv


■f


40 ^ BLUEBEARD

over his people/ you may well expect to find some- thing Arthurian there also.

The fotest is dark, weird, impressive. One of its black gorges is called the Stang-en-Ihuem, or Valley of Hell ; there are huge and fantastic rocks among the clumps of oak-trees, and a very large dolmen called ' the house of the small people ' is to be found near the hamlet of Gouvello, in such wise that you feel yourself in a spot which the Druids must have chosen for their meditations and their mysterious rites. And fairyland also comes to mind. This is a fit home for the Korriganets, those spirits of native princesses who, having refused to embrace Christi- anity when it was first preached in Armorica, in- curred, it is said, the Divine displeasure, and were set the endless task of creating the springs and fountains which were to supply the water of baptism and health to true believers. And here also may well abide the Poulpiquets, those black, hideous, hairy dwarfs who built the dolmens, and whom every peasant in the old days vowed that he had seen on at least one occasion — most frequently after a drink- ing bout. Thus, some Breton Oberon may per- chance still hold his court in yonder glade, among the dark trees and the strange rocks which occasion- ally affect the aspect of grim giants or ogres, suggest- ing, indeed, that Quen^can may be the very forest where * Petit Poucet ' and his tribe of brothers were purposely * lost' And as nothing Arthurian is to be discovered in this particular part of old Brekilien, may one not content oneself with some relic or


COMORRE THE CURSED 41

suggestion of fairyland ? The suggestion is supplied by the forest itself; the relic is close at hand, for yonder, old peasants will assert, is all that remains of Bluebeard's famous castle.

At the point, indeed, where the Blavet changes its eastern for a southern course, nigh to the lock of Guer- l^dan, it washes the base of a conspicuous gray, rocky promontory, the summit of which, showing traces of a stone fortification, is bright with purple heather, offering a lively contrast to the green foliage of the trees on the margin of the stream. The river skirts this promontory on three sides, which rise almost perpendicularly from the water to a height varying from one to two hundred feet. It would be almost impossible to scale those cliffs, and even from the land side the summit is difficult of access. For long ages this towering promontory has been known as Castel Finans ; and, according to tradition, it was here, in the sixth century, that Bluebeard had his stronghold, and murdered his hapless wives.

Some forty years ago, whatever may be the case nowadays, the peasants of C16gu6rec, Ste. Brigitte, S^glien, Lescouet, St Aignan, and all the other villages and hamlets in or around the forest, signed themselves at the mention of the miscreant's dreaded name, for was he not * Comor ar Miliguet, ' • Coniorre the Cursed,' one on whom the saints of Brittany had called down the judgment of Provi- dence ; and being thereby denied access both to pur- gatory and to heaven, did he not roam Qu6n6can at night in the guise of a wolf, seeking whom he might


42 BLUEBEARD

devour? Imagination supplied most of the details of his career ; but of the facts of his last great crime and the miracle which followed it there was no doubt whatever.

The legend has been briefly recorded by two of the older Breton historians ;^ and in rather more detail, most of which is imaginative embroidery, by Brother Albert Le Grand, a Dominican of Morlaix, who, in 1636, published a quaint work on the ' Life, Deeds, Death, and Miracles of the Saints of Armorican Brittany/^

  • C6mor, a Breton King of the sixth century,* says

Alain Bouchard, * had already put several wives to death, and Gu^rok, Count of Vannes, refused him his daughter Triphine. Vanquished at last by the King's pressing solicitations, he ended by granting her to him, on the promise, which at the request of King Comorus M. [Messire] St. Gildas made to him, that she should be well treated, and restored to him, healthy and whole, when he should demand her of him.'^ Brother Albert, on his side, asserts that Comorre had already had four wives, all of whom had perished, and that, being known for his cruelty

^ Alain Bouchard, in his 'Grandes Croniques,' Nantes, 1531, folio, p. 52 ; and Dom Lobineau, in his ' Histoire de Bretagne,' 1707, folio, p. 75.

^ His full name was Albert Le Grand de Kerigouval, but he is generally catalogued as Le Grand or Legrand. Three editions of his book are known to exist : (i) *La Vie, Gestes, Mort et Miracles des Saints de la Bretagne- Armorique,' par le Fr^re Albert Le Grand, de Morlaix, Dominicain ; Nantes, 1636 ; (2) ' La Vie,' etc., Rennes, 1680 ; (3) * Les Vies,' etc., Brest, 1837.

' Bouchard, /.^., p. 52.


COMORRE THE CURSED 43

and his vices, he resorted to strats^em in order to obtain the hand of Tryphine. Having attracted Gildas the Wise, Abbot of Rhuys, to his court, whither the holy man repaired in the hope of con- verting *that ravenous wolf into a meek lamb,' he prevailed on him to propose a durable peace and alliance to the Count of Vannes, on condition that the latter would give him the hand of his daughter, whom he promised to treat with all kindness, honour, and affection. The good Abbot, who desired above all things to put an end to disastrous wars, pleaded the cause of Comorre to the Count and his daughter so successfully, that in spite of their repugnance they accepted Comorre's proposals, on the express condition, however, that if he should some day lose his affection for Tryphine he was to send her back to her father without ill-treatment. The marriage took place ; but some time afterwards Tryphine discovered that her husband invariably killed his wives as soon as he found them to be in a certain condition ; and she was so terrified thereat (she herself being enceinte) that she resolved to flee^ According to one legendary account, she had a warning vision of the dead wives; according to another, she read her husband's fell purpose in his glances. • At all events, early one morning, mounted on her haquenie (an ambling nag), and attended, it would seem, by a few servants, she fled from her home. But Comorre, discovering her absence, followed in hot pursuit, and Tryphine, perceiving his approach, dismounted, and sought a retreat in a


44 BLUEBEARD

thicket, where her husband discovered her. ' Then/ says Brother Albert, *the poor lady flung herself upon her knees before him, her hands raised to heaven, and her cheeks bathed in tears ; and she implored his mercy ; but the cruel monster, unmoved by her weeping, seizes her by the hair, deals her a great sword-cut on the neck, and lops her head from off her shoulders/

While the murderer quietly rode back to his eyrie overlooking the Blavet, the servants, who had accompanied Tryphine without daring to defend her, hastened to her father's home. The Count of Vannes set out to succour his daughter, but found her dead ; and in his desolation, after he had removed her body to Vannes, where it was placed on a funeral couch in the great hall of the castle, he remembered that he had only given Tryphine to Comorre at the request of Gildas, who had promised that she should be restored to him 'healthy and whole * if ever he should require it. So he sent for the holy man, and, showing him the body of Tryphine, he asked him if that was how it had been agreed he should receive his cherished daughter, the child of his heart, from her husband. The reproach filled Gildas with emotion ; he knelt beside the decapitated body, and with all the people present he prayed unto Him who restored Lazarus, even four days after his death, to Martha and her sister Mary. The prayer ended, he approached the body, and, taking the head, placed it on the neck ; and then, speaking to the defunct, he said to her aloud :


COMORRE THE CURSED 45

  • Tiyphine, in the name of Almighty God, Father,

Son, and Holy Ghost, I command thee to rise upon thy feet ' (sur doui) ' and tell me where thou hast been.' ^ The lady rose, and, before all the assembled people, she said that the angels had been preparing to place her in Paradise, among the saints, when the words of St. Gildas had called her soul back to earth. But Comorre was not to go unpunished. The Abbot of Rhuys, we are told, betook himself to the monster's castle of Finans, where the gates were closed at his approach. And, having vainly de- manded admittance, the holy man took up a handful of dust and flung it against the walls, which, like those of Jericho at the sound of the trumpets of Joshua, immediately crumbled to pieces, at the same time seriously injuring Comorre, who was able, however, to flee to another castle which he pos- sessed—one near P^demec, some six miles from Guingamp, famous for its pilgrimages. Then, as he still continued his career of crime, undaunted by the warning of heaven, thirty Bishops of Brittany assembled in solemn council on the adjacent height of the Menez-Br6, on which Guin Clan, the pro- phatic bard,^ is said to have lived, and which is now crowned by a chapel dedicated to St. Herv6, whither people afflicted with neuralgia resort in

^ Albert Le Grand, Lc. Alain Bouchard sajrs : 'The saint betook himself to the body, and by his prayers and by his tears he obtained from heaven the resuscitation of Sainte Triphine.'

' According to some theories Guingamp derives its name from that semi-mythical personage ; but the more probable etymology is Gwen<amp, white field.


Hcrrc TirtuaDy fM C si ded over the ltc of Bishops cxmimed to ponisii Comorre, mho V2S solemnly anatfaemazued br tfaem. And

jcgtso^iY account — ^with a terrible malady* finom vfakb be died, his soul being borne away in a stream of blood. Nerertbeicss. in part, perfas^is, hrra;isr St. Herre is tbe patroo of s h ephe rds and the gxardxan of sbeepfalds against the attacks of vol ves,^ there is a traditioo that Comorre stiD vanders at night round the Menez-Bre, or in the glades of Qoenecany in the form of a great toIC ^Hio can <mly be OTercome b>' a stab with a knife in the centre of the forehead. The widespread werewolf super- stitioa. which onhr the steadfast mardi of education can dispd« was at one time shared by aD the peasantry of Le Morbihan. Les Cotes-du-Nord, and Finistere ; and it is not surprisii^ that those dwell- ing in the vidnitv of spots associated widi die

the guise of a ^isc/myar/^ as the werewolf^ or loup gmram^ is g^anerally called in Brittany.

We have the assurance^ that less than half a

^ One of the iegeDds of Si. Hem anient in Mortahm is to the dBea tbat a vol( haTing deroored an ass wbich the sunt employed in pSd^ii^ his knd, was coodenned bj him to take the place of the animal he had eaten, and became dKXvw^ghhr domesticated, during at night the same pen as the saint^ ^Mcp» and never m ole stin g them. For kmg centuries lambs w«fe the osoal offer- ings of the Breton peasantry at the vanons shrines of Sl Herr^ sc a tte ied thioi^ their province.

< ' Pderimiges de Bretagne (MorhihanV bj Hippoljle Vicdeau, second edition ; Faris^ iS59> p^ 40.


COMORRE THE CURSED 47

century ago the murderer of Tryphine was often recalled by the Morbiban peasantry, who designated him now by the name of Comorre, now by that of Finans, from the castle on the Blavet where his wives were said to have been slain. Moreover, in addition to what may be called, perhaps, Albert Le Grand's semi-official version of the legend of the tyrant and St. Tryphine, others existed — oral ver- sions, based on the same facts, but differing in points of detail, according to the vagaries of the popular fancy. A quaint example of how an old Church legend becomes partially transformed into a modern fairy tale is supplied by one adaptation of this Comorre and Tryphine story, which was current in the neighbourhood of Vannes about 1860-63.^ So well, indeed, does this version illustrate the changes wrought in ancient tales by time and the fancy of successive narrators, that one may give it here, slightly abbreviating it in parts, in order to avoid repetition.

  • Count Guerech of Vannes,' we are told, * was a

wise prince, and in proof thereof had chosen for his counsellor St. Gildas, Abbot of Rhuys, the most sensible man of his time. It was by the advice of that holy Abbot that Guerech gave the hand of his daughter, the lovely Tryphine, to the fierce Comorre,^ Count of Tr^guier, and the Bluebeard of the age.

1 * Ldgendes Bretonnes (Souvenirs du Morbihan),' by Count d'Amezeuil (C. P. Aclocque). Paris, 1863, post 8vo., p,iijet seg.

^ ' Conamor ' in the work dted, but we prefer to adhere to the modem spelling which we have hitherto followed.


48 BLUEBEARD

Tiyphine, who had heard of the blackness of Comorre's soul — he was accused of having already killed four wives — long refused him her hand ; and he, infuriated thereby, raised a powerful army, and sent word to Guerech that if he did not deliver his daughter to him, he would tear her from his arms by force. Guerech was brave, but had few soldiers, so he sent for St. Gildas, and requested his advice.

' " Count,*' said the saint, '* your daughter must marry Comorre."

  • " But what if he should kill her ?" asked Guerech.
  • **God will provide for it," replied St. Gildas.
  • And, having spoken those fine words, he sought

the maid, and prevailed upon her to marry the Count of Tr^guier.

  • He, full of love, carried her to his fine castle of

L6on, the most splendid of the region, and gave many entertainments and tourneys, in which he him- self took part in honour of his lady. Tryphine, at first astonished by his gallantry, became used to it, and at last sent word to her father that her husband was better than she had been told, and that she had even begun to love him slightly. But all at once an unforeseen occurrence changed her joy into mourn- ing. Festivities of all sorts followed one another at the castle, which was never empty, for fresh visitors arrived there every day. Among them was Comorre's cousin, the Count of Nantes, who came with a mag- nificent retinue of lords and ladies. One of the last was conspicuous for the brilliancy of her beauty ;


COMORRE THE CURSED 49

her name was Oltrogotha,^ and her father was the Marquis of Ass^rac

  • But she was a perfidious, cunning, evil-minded

woman, whose soul was as hideous as her face was beautiful. She became jealous of Tryphine's happi- ness, and resolved to destroy it She allowed Count Comorre to court her ; and to inflame him the more, she one day let herself fall from her horse whilst hunting in his company, in such wise as to show him how shapely were her ankles. Count Comorre returned home afire with passion; and that very evening he began to illtreat Tryphine. The poor lady wept all night, and at daybreak, with her eyes still full of tears, she left the castle, and wandered through the neighbouring forest, in order that she might dream and sigh at her ease.

' She had been walking along for about a quarter of an hour, when she met Master Fox in the com- pany of his wife. And at the sight of the smiling pair she envied their happiness, and exclaimed :

  • " How happy are the animals I They live in

quietude, and love one another. And none come to interfere with their happiness."

  • " That is because we are sensible, " said the Fox

on hearing Tryphine's words.

  • " Am I not sensible ?'* Tryphine asked.
      • You are a good girl {donne JiUe)" replied the

Fox, "but your husband is a wicked rascal, and for

^ A variant of Ultragotha, the name of King Childebert's wife, who was associated with the legends of St Samson, and indirectly connected with Comonre's real career. See/tfx/, pp. 961 97.

4


50 BLUEBEARD

that reason I will give you some advice. Flee from him at once, for otherwise you will perish, for he is in love with Oltrogotha, and longs to see you dead."

'"Alas! then I am lost," cried Tryphine, for how can I hope to escape him !"

  • " Be not alarmed," said the Fox ; ** you have more

than once allowed me to carry off a cockerel or a pullet for my dinner, so I wish to save you." And, tearing three bristles from his breast, he added :

    • Take these ; they are a talisman, and will preserve

you from all danger."

  • *' But what am I to do ?"

' " Hope and wait Simply call on St. Gildas when any great danger threatens you, and you will then be saved. . . . And now farewell, Tryphine ; be brave !"

  • Then the Fox and his spouse, after bowing most

politely, went their way.

' The Countess did not know what to do with the three bristles, but she at last placed them in her alms-bag, and sighed : "I fear that the Fox was making fun of me. Why is it that everybody seeks to distress me ?"

' ** There is only Comorre who wishes you ill, Tryphine, my dear," said a voice near her.

' The poor lady looked around, and could only see a pretty Redbreast chirping on a bush.

' " Who spoke to me ?" she asked.

  • " I, the Redbreast, for I love you, Tryphine,

because you threw me bread-crumbs when I was


COMORRE THE CURSED 51

hungry, and let me warm myself at your hearth when I was cold."

••'You are so charming, my pretty little Red- breast ! Who would not have done as I did !"

• '• I love you, Tryphine, and wish to save you," replied the bird. •• Your husband, Comorre, has set assassins to watch for you and kill you. Take these three feathers, call on St Gildas, and you will be saved."

•Then the Redbreast, resuming his song, flew away.

•The Countess, who felt more and more astonished, put the three feathers with the three bristles, and went on until she reached a splendid pond, where a multitude of gold and silver fish were playing at hide- and-seek.

' '* Ah !" she said again, •• how happy you are, little goldfish, for none thinks of tormenting you. You always live and die in peace !"

' Her words were heard by a beautiful Fish, with glittering scales, who protruded his pointed head out of the water, and at the sight of her face, wet with tears, inquired : •• Why, what is the matter^ Trjrphine ?"

• •* Dear little Fish," said she, •• you do not know what the Fox and the Redbreast have told me."

• •• Alas ! they have told you no doubt of some fresh deed of cruelty done by Comorre, your hus- band," said the Fish.

• •' You are right ; he wants to murder me."

• *• Murder you !" cried the little Fish, turning a

4—2


52 BLUEBEARD

somersault in the water^ such was his amazement.

  • • You ! who gave us such fine wheaten cakes ! Oh !

that shall not be ! Take these three scales, call on St. Gildas, and your enemies will at once be put to flight."

  • Tryphine took the three scales, which were of a

beautiful golden red, and placed them with the bristles and the feathers. Then, as night was coming on, she retraced her steps to the castle. The guests were dancing in the great hall without griving a thought to her; for Oltrogotha occupied her place beside her husband. At the sight of her rival, anger and jealousy took possession of Try- phine, and wrung her soul. She sought a means of avenging herself on that perfidious creature, as well as on her unfaithful husband. In her fury her hand pressed the catch of her alms-bag, which opened unknown to her ; and as she saw her rival smiling at her spitefully, she suddenly exclaimed : '* Ah ! great St Gildas, deliver me from that woman I"

' Scarcely had she spoken than the three scales of the Goldfish sprang out of her alms-bag, and fastened themselves upon Oltrogotha, who was instantly changed into a hideous sturgeon, which the scullions seized in astonishment, and carried away to the kitchen.

  • But when Comorre beheld that transformation,

his rage was beyond description, for his heart was burning to cinders with love for the infamous Oltrogotha, and he was convinced that this change in her was the work of Tryphine.


COMORRE THE CURSED 53

•'•Guards!" he cried in a terrible voice, "seize that woman, and let her be burnt as a sorceress !*'

' ** Help me, St Gildas 1" she murmured, while she trembled from head to foot.

  • Then the feathers flew from her alms-bag, and

the guards were changed into birds, who began to fly and chirrup under the gilded ceiling of the great haU.

  • This time Comorre's anger knew no bounds ;

he drew his great sabre, and with one slash he cut off* the head of the beautiful Tryphine. But oh! what a miracle ! Scarcely had the head touched the floor when the eyes looked at him again, and the lips, although they were already turning blue, murmured the words : " St. Gildas, help me I"

' At this a frightful commotion shook the castle, a horrible rending resounded amidst the shrieks of the guests and the servants. Then no other sound was heard save the weeping of the wind among the foliage. The castle was destroyed, a great forest had taken its place, ^ and animals of the most various kinds ran, terror-stricken, hither and thither.

' Tryphine, who had remained erect despite the awful blow dealt her by her cruel husband, found herself on a spot where four roads met, with her head in her hands, after the fashion of St. Denis ; and before her stood St. Gildas and her father. The latter wept at the sight of his dear daughter in such a pitiable condition.

^ This is a reminiscence of the Castel Finans legend See p. 45-


54 BLUEBEARD

' ** Count !" cried the Saint, [the fairy-tale at this point becomes a legend again] " dry your tears. It is not fit that you should weep like an old woman. God is great, and, in His justice, He knows how to punish crime, and also how to reward virtue/'

' Thus having spoken, the Saint touched the head with his abbatial crozier and added : 'Mn the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, head, take thy place again ; and thou, Tryphine, appear before us more beautiful than ever."

  • The head obediently took its place between the

shoulders, and Tryphine appeared to them full of dazzling grace and beauty.

  • Then all three fell upon their knees, and

with a canticle of gratitude thanked God for His exceeding goodness. And afterwards they took the road to Vannes, where St Gildas quitted his friends to repair again to his beautiful abbey of Rhuys. Guerech and Tryphine lived long years in restfulness and peace, and when they died they both found places in heaven by the side of the Almighty.'

Le Morbihan is not the only part of Brittany in which traditions of Comorre and his crimes have lingered.^ The present writer well remembers having heard of him some thirty years ago in the vicinity of Guingamp, near the spot where he was cursed Again, his memory abides at Carhaix, where,

^ In Le Morbihan itself there is a spot, north-west of Camors, where some vestiges of a castle called the Porh-houet-er-Saleu (The Court of the Wood of the Halls) are said to be the remains of one of Comorre's residences.


COMORRE THE CURSED 55

as will presently be shown, he first ruled. There are traditions of him also both in the neighbourhood of Goueznou (Finist^re), where he is said to have had a castle, and at Cloar-Camoet in the same department, where, in 1879, an English writer^ found the remains of another castle ascribed to him with a belief that the banks of the river Laita were haunted by his dead wives, whose cries and gestures troubled the reason of those who heard them. This is mentioned in connection with a curious legend of a young man, whose betrothed is carried to the shores of the departed by a sorcerer called Miliguet, that is

  • The Cursed ' — a name so widely given to Comorre

that one need not hesitate to identify the sorcerer with the so-called Breton Bluebeard.

He appears in the Carnoet legend in the guise of a mysterious ferryman, who plies for hire at a certain haunted part of the Laita, and * loses many souls.' Loik Guern and Maharit, two Breton lovers, are returning home one evening, when, on approach- ing the ferry, Loik momentarily quits his betrothed, whereupon she is urged by the ferryman to get into his boat. She does so, and, without waiting for Guern, the old, wild-looking man pushes off from the bank. But the boat, instead of going towards the opposite shore, swings round, and shoots rapidly down the river. Maharit is at first

^ Mrs. Macquoid, ' Pictures and Legends from Normandy and Brittany.' London (Chatto and Windus), 1879, P* ^^ ^^ ^^- '^^ Carnoet here mentioned should not be confounded with the larger place of the same name in Les C6tes-du-Nord.


56 BLUEBEARD

astonished, then dismayed; but the ferryman pays no heed to her, and, carried along by the current, the boat descends the river with increasing swift- ness. ' Maharit bent towards the shore. ** Loik, Loik!" she cried. The words died away on her lips, for she saw shadowy forms standing on the gloomy banks ; they stretched their arms towards her with menacing gestures, and she drew back shuddering. She knew these were the spirits of the murdered wives of Comorre. Then Maharit uttered a loud cry, and fell lifeless in the bottom of the boat.'^

Loik Guern, on finding that his betrothed has disappeared, seeks her vainly in all the neighbour- ing villages and the surrounding forest. Three days later, however, while he is seated in despair on the river-bank, he is told by an old beggar-woman, who seems to him to have sprung out of the ground, that if he has lost Maharit it is because she had forgotten to make the sign of the Cross on getting into the boat, and had spoken and looked behind her, thereby giving the cruel ferryman power over her, in such wise that he has carried her to the shores of the departed. Then, after the old woman has pleaded hunger, and Loik has given her a loaf of black bread, she tells him what he has to do to recover his betrothed. He must first cut a branch of holly at midnight in Camoet forest, near the Stag's Leap, a spot haunted by the Korrigans. This branch must be steeped in holy water at the

^ Macquoid, /.^., p. 21.


COMORRE THE CURSED 57

chapel of St Leger ; and, at dusk, Guem must go with it to the ferry. There he is to call the ferry- man, and, when he has got into the boat, he is to look neither around nor behind him, 'for every night the banks of the river are haunted by the dead wives of Comorre, and their cries and gestures will trouble his reason/ But he will neither see nor hear them unless he looks about or behind him. He must tell his beads diligently ; and, above all, he must make the sign of the Cross reverently. And when he has come to the thirty-third bead of his rosary, he must raise the blessed holly branch, and show it to the ferryman, and then, in the name of Christ, command him to take him living to the shores of the dead. Miliguet will tremble at the sight of the branch, lose all his power, and obey the behests of Guem.

When the latter asks the old woman what will be the end of it, she answers that she can see no farther, that Guem must do as she has bidden him, and wait in hope for the end. Then she disappears as suddenly as she had come.

At midnight the young man cuts a branch of holly at the appointed spot, dips it in the holy- water stoup at the chapel, and entreats the aid of St Leger. At dusk on the following evening, having hidden the holly branch under his jacket, he betakes himself to the ferry and calls the man. Miliguet appears, and Guern, entering his boat without a word, begins to tell his beads silently but fervently. But by the time the boat has reached


58 BLUEBEARD

the middle of the stream he is so overcome by the remembrance of his lost Maharit that he pauses in his prayers, and, forgetting the old woman's caution, looks behind him. Then his beads slip from his trembling hands into the water, where- upon the cries of Comorre's wives ring out, and the boat, caught by the current, swings round and dashes down the river.

  • Guern roused himself, and remembered the holly-

branch ; he drew it forth and waved it before the silent ferryman. '* Conduct me to the shores of the departed," he said ; " take me to my betrothed !" But in his agitation he forgot to say the word

    • living." The boatman took no heed : the boat

drove on. Then, with an impulse over which he had no control, Guern, in wild despair, struck the ferryman with the consecrated branch. The strange man uttered a terrible cry, threw down his oars, and plunged into the dark water. Still the boat drove madly on — on — on ! Guern could never tell how long — till it struck with awful violence against a rock, and was dashed to pieces beneath a gnarled oak that bent over the river.

' For years afterwards, at all the Pardons of Clear, of St. Leger, and their neighbourhood, was to be seen a pale, distracted-looking man, who ran hither and thither among the crowd. He cried out pite- ously, while tears ran down his furrowed cheeks, '* Ah ! my friends ; ah, for the love of God and the saints, take me to the shores of the dead !" The young people used to look at him with surprise and


COMORRE THE CURSED 59

pityi but the older folk only shook their heads, and said : It is the poor madman of the ferry ; it is Loik Guern/"!

Here, then, assuming Comorre and Miliguet to be the same, and there can be no doubt in the matter, we find the Breton * Bluebeard ' transformed after death into a kind of Charon, who makes it his business to hurry folk, and particularly young maids (when, as we are told, they forget to make the sign of the Cross on entering his boat), to some Stygian shore, where their souls are for ever lost

But the reader will naturally inquire what truth, if any, lies beneath all such stories. Did such per- sonages as Comorre and Tryphine really live, or are they mere myths, personifications, for instance, of evil and good, darkness and light ? For an answer to that question one must go to history, and there, indeed, they will both be found, though, in many respects, their lives and their fates were not such as the legends tell us. It is never an easy task to disentangle the historical facts of far-off centuries from the mass of romance and superstitious lore that enwraps them. Moreover, Brittany is one of the lands whose history in early Christian times is most shrouded in romance, superstition and false- hood. On approaching the subject one is imme- diately confronted by Arthurian heroes and their

^ Macquoid, /.^., p. 27. Mrs. Macquoid had the legend, which she has given in perhaps too polished a form for some of the folk- lorists of nowadays, from an old woman, one of the professed story-tellers of Brittany, who are akin to the well-known droll- tellers of CorawalL


60 ELUEBEAKD



niififhty dMorp)ex one die more, oome ^mioos diarters und dc'cyK often ferried bf nbbejs so give tfaem a piHiif^w title to knds diey had nyiMiyiiaip d ; whilst fHirty c^ir^midefs «nd btsKcrans umyrsHj/ &cts« now ^^ h)iic4(<^ dK" TffiiitsitNtt ol sQoie pci^ m«i^>ifint)v s^^mrnent or Ajuwatius so ^ke Chnrdi, n%AW to onKMKt' ^Mne )VAtHiK\ ?K^w to docTv «MdKr wAiidb shcj htid

?ii^|iM^ ^or^T ^^>«m^MW9$ies: joine ns m ^«^:v4^ «^I^rMw^^ «Ai^!itfrir^ sai£

9i^vl^>i- Kt<«klw<MQ!K ,N :ftin]^yaT^ t^tfe «saec in sSad.^ .>c^,\vm^ i*^ •:!s;^':h^ lu^ 4lir »if«t: tr :j*nn,*

^•* v^ >^<pK^ 4Vm^ 4iiir n<wniff m


f t ^ » •




COMORRE THE CURSED 6i

authors of these histories have treated their subject For instance, Count Dam, the first, believes in Conan Meriadec and all the spurious Kings of Brittany chronicled by Geoffrey of Monmouth ; and, incidentally, he confounds our Comorre (whom he speaks of as the personage * on whom the roman- ciers have conferred a frightful immortality, under the name of Bluebeard'^) with a certain Canao, otherwise Conober, to whom reference will be made hereafter. Next, M. de Courson, while making a serious effort to arrive at the truth, and showing that the so-called kingdom of Brittany was in reality ruled by a number of chieftains, falls into numerous errors, again confusing one personage with another, after the fashion of Count Dam, and citing charters and deeds which are now regarded as apocryphal Finally comes M. de la Borderie, with his monu- mental * History of Brittany,' the outcome of long years of patient study, in which he revises many views expressed by him in earlier works, corrects his predecessors, and, whilst availing himself of anecdote and legend to relieve the monotony of discussion and strict historical narrative, strives, without prejudice, to picture for us the ancient Brittany, such as it really was. Thus our version of the real Comorre's career will be based in a large measure on his researches.

But before turning to Comorre again it is as well

^ It w9l be noticed that Dani's book was published in 1826. Something will be said on the subject of the above quotation when we discuss the story of Comorre.


62 BLUEBEARD

to explain the state of Brittany at the time he lived ; and to do so one must go back to a somewhat earlier time. The Bretons, so it is nowadays generally held, are only in a small degree the descendants of the Armoricans of the Roman era, though they belong to a kindred race. They descend principally from the Britons who dwelt in England. The Armoricans, at the collapse of the Roman Empire in Gaul, were decimated by the incursions of Hun, Alan, and Saxon. Aetius, for reasons on which the historians are not agreed, virtually assigned Armorica to the Alans, and whatever be the l^ends about the intervention of St. Germain of Auxerre, they traversed at least some part of it, which they ravaged with fire and sword. Abundant relics of Roman times have been discovered (often chancewise) in Brittany — methodical excavation would bring to light many more ; and in almost every spot where tokens of Roman or Gallo- Roman civilization have been dis- interred, traces of fire and destructive fury have been found. The wonderful vitrified * camp of Peran ' is perhaps the most remarkable example of all ; but there are many others, all pointing to conflagra- tion, rapine, and massacre. Some of the Armoricans saved themselves by withdrawing into their great central forest, but those along the coasts more often fell victims to the Saxons, who swept down on the shores of Armorica — even as they swept down on those of Britain — and devastated every spot where they landed. La Borderie mentions Saxon descents in or about the years 351, 353, 358, 368, and 37a


COMORRE THE CURSED 63

It was on the shores of the peninsula, and on the inland borders of Armorica, that Gallo-Roman civilization flourished. Roman roads certainly traversed the country, but there were no consider- able cities or townships^ in the central part, which was chiefly wood and mountain. Thus it was only occasionally that the Saxons found it worth their while to go any great distance inland. They de- stroyed Armorica chiefly by ravaging its coasts. A few little colonies of theirs are known to have existed, but it would not seem that they ever made any serious attempt to establish themselves in the country. The island of Britain proved more attrac- tive to them, and Armorica was left little better than a waste, whither the Britons, pressed by Pict, Saxon, and Angle, betook themselves for refuge.

The exodus from Britain, says La Borderie, began soon after the first Saxon victories there, probably about 460. Breton records point to immigrations on a large scale in or about 468, 470, 510, 513-15 ; and, indeed, these immigrations extended over a period of 150 years. Some of the emigrant Britons even entered Gaul, notably those led by * Riothamus ' (or • Riothime,' as French writers call him), who brought 1 2,000 men to fight the Visigoths in Berry, but who did not sail expressly from Britain in order to help the expiring Roman dominion, as historians formerly contended, for he was already established

^ Pontivy, for instance, dates from the seventh, and I^ud^c from the tenth century. Many other examples might be cited in support of this view.


64 BLUEBEARD

on the Loire when his services were solicited. He is regarded by various French writers as having been in all probability the first of the British chiefs to emigrate in consequence of the condition of Britain. Without entering into the migrations of prehistoric times, one may admit that Britons had passed in small numbers from one country to the other before the Saxons appeared upon the scene ; but from that time the emigrant Britons became so numerous, and the Armoricans were so few, that the latter, even if minded to do so, could offer no resistance to the continuous immigration. The new- comers changed both the name and the language of the country, and often gave to the ruined Gallo- Roman cities, which they raised again under a new guise, and to the various other townships which they founded, names that recalled those of places where they had dwelt in their native island. American, Australian, and other colonists have frequently acted in a similar manner in our own times. Further, the Britons carried Christianity to Armorica. French writers generally agree that, although at the end of the fourth century there were Gallo- Roman mission- aries at Nantes, Rennes, and Vannes, and a few Christians scattered here and there about Armorica, no great diffusion of Christianity is to be found in that country until after the arrival of the British immigrants.

Among the British chiefs who, in the fifth century (dr. 470-75), landed in Armorica or Brittany, as one may henceforth call the region, there was a certain


COMORRE THE CURSED 65

Gradlon or Grallon, who, according to La Borderie, came from the vicinity of the Tyne and the wall of Severus, and who established himself in a part of the country which became known as Cornouaille,^ the equivalent of our Cornwall. This chief acquired the appellation of Gradlon Mur, signifying Gradlon the Great ; and early writers describe him as having engaged the Saxons, at the mouth of the Loire, with such good result that he captured five vessels and decapitated five chiefs. He is said to have founded the famous abbeys of St. J^fut and Landevennec, but the latter's charters, often quoted by early historians, were forged, says La Borderie, in the eleventh century, and evidence of the ninth shows that the abbey was really the creation of St. GuinoU (Wingaljeus), on whom Gradlon be- stowed nothing. Whilst it is certain that Gradlon really existed, much that is recorded of him is un- true ; for the compilers of romances and legends associated him with all sorts of marvellous things, notably the notorious lost city of Ys, which he was said to have founded on the jutting headland bound- ing the Bay of Douarnenez on its southern side. Ys may have existed, and have been submerged by the sea, as the legends assert ; but that it was- destroyed by Heaven in consequence of the profli- gacy of Gradlon's court, and notably that of his daughter Afes, is quite another matter.* We only

• Quimper was probably its chief city.

  • The legend of Ys, though gimikr to that of other lost cities,

is an interestiDg one ; and as M. de la Borderie has made some

5


66 BLUEBEARD

know that when Gradlon died he was buried at Landevennec, where, according to Brother Albert of Morlaix, the biographer of the Breton saints, his tomb still existed early in the seventeenth century.

He had a son, named Riwelen Mur Marc'hou, who predeceased him ; and about 510, when he had been dead some four or five years, his State passed, it seems, into the possession of a chief called laun Reith, the leader of another exodus from Britain.

While Gradlon still ruled Cornouaille, a certain Weroc or Werok (otherwise Guerech) held another part of Brittany, the region of Vannes, which became known as the Bro- Weroc or Browerech ; and, about 513-15, a British chief named Riwal, landing at the mouth of the Couesnon, established, with the coun- tenance of the Franks, a State called Domnon^e in French and Domnonia^ in Latin, an appellation borrowed from Britain. This State would seem to have extended over the present department of Ille-et-Vilaine, and a portion of Les C6tes-du-Nord. In the northern part of Finistere, named L^on, there was another British chief whom La Borderie calls Withur (510-30). Then there are indications of various chiefs having exercised authority at different points of the coast, and of others established in or

ingenious suggestions with respect to its origin, a few particulars are given in our Appendix B.

^ The name is written in various fashions. At times it becomes Damnonia, at others Dumnonia. In England the form Danmonium — as applied to ' Old Cornwall,' or Devonshire, as far east as Exeter — ^appears to have been current, as it is frequently given by Hunt in his ' Popular Romances of the West oi England.'


COMORRE THE CURSED 67

about Broceliande ; whilst at Rennes, Nantes, and Vannes (the city of that name, it would seem, was not held by Weroc, though he ruled some of the adjacent country) there appear as time goes on sundry Prankish Counts and Dukes, Wardens of the Marches as it were, representing the Merovingian Kings. The long controversy between French and Breton historians with respect to the alleged con- quest of Brittany by Clovis has ended in the recogni- tion that it never took place, but that as the power of the Merovingian princes increased, they exercised a kind of suzerainty over the country — a suzerainty which the Breton chiefs accepted or denied, as seemed best suited to their interests, and which, judged by the endless disputes and wars which sprang from it wholly or in part, suggests in various respects the relative positions of Great Britain and the South African Republics prior to the present Boer War.

The foregoing rough sketch^ of the origin of Brittany and its state about the time when the real Comorre made his first appearance in history may,

^ It is, of course, one of the roughest ; but those whom the subject may interest must turn for particulars to La Borderie's History, of which an abridged English adaptation might well be made for the use of students who are not familiar with the French language. This is the more desirable by reason of the connection of Brittany with England at various times. For instance, the Breton Dukes were often important factors in the foreign policy of the Plantagenets. But if there are numerous English works on Norman, there is, the present writer believes, virtually none of value on Breton, history. The picturesqueness of Brittany alone seems to have appealed to English writers.

5—2


68 BLUEBEARD

to some readers, seem an unpardonable digression ; but it must be pointed out that the chiefs who have been mentioned, or their heirs, or their possessions, figure repeatedly in the story of Comorre s life. Moreover, the somewhat intricate nature of that story has induced the writer to attempt a chrono- logical table, which will explain Comorre's connection with the various petty States and rulers that have to be mentioned in narrating his career.


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COMORRE's career — THE TRADITIONS AND PERRAULT's

TALE

Carhaix and Princess Abs— Comorre's Original Dominions- He assists Harwian, the Bard, to win Rivanone — He is a Great Helper of the Monks — He annexes Portions of Cornouaille and Leon — He seizes Domnonia and marries the Widow of lona, whom he is said to have killed — ^The Mutilation and Murder of Melar — Comorre regards Judwal, his Stepson, with Distrust — The Dream of Comorre's Wife — Judwal's Flight— Comorre strikes a Saint, and is thrown from his Horse by Heaven — His Quarrels with the Clergy — His Wife vanishes : did he kill her ? — He solicits the Hand of Weroc's Daughter, Tryphine — St. Gildas of Rhuys— The Oratory on the Blavet— Gildas assists Comorre to marry Tryphine — Comorre urges Weroc to divide his Territory — Weroc refuses — Comorre vents his Rage on Tryphine — Her Flight and Comorre's Attempt on her — Interpretation of the Legend — ^Tryphine's Son and After-Life — Comorre is solemnly cursed — Conoo and his Brothers — St. Samson of Dol brings Judwal back to Brittany — ^Three Batdes and the Death of Comorre — The End of Tryphine's Brothers — Comorre confounded with Conoo — Growth of the Comorre Legend — ^The Paintings at St. Nicholas de Bieuzy — A Breton Tale of Redbeard, another of a Much-married Giant — The Possible Derivation of * Bluebeard * from the Comorre Legend.

Comorre makes his first appearance in history at the town of Carhaix, in Finist^re, which, before his time, had been one of the chief cities and fortresses


COMORRE THE CURSED 71

of Roman Armorica — the Vorganium of the Osismii» the Vorgium of the Theodosian table. Very numerous remains of the Roman dominion have been found at Carhaix — remnants of aqueducts, bricks in abundance, vases, bronzes, innumerable articles of pottery, silver coins and medals of various Emperors ; while seven distinct Roman roads, radiating chiefly towards different points of the coast, have been traced in the vicinity of the town. Situated at an altitude of some 500 feet above the sea, amid forest and mountain, it was probably the only inland fortress of the Romans in that part of the country. According to some accounts, it was occupied after the arrival of the Britons by Gradlon of Cornouaille, from whose daughter, A^s or Ah^s, it is said to have derived its modern name. M. de la Borderie, however, on the ground that the British immigrants often gave British names to their new homes, suggests that Carhaix took its appellation from Carhayes, a little place north-east of Falmouth. Yet, remembering the situation of the spot, and all the roads that radiate from it, one may perhaps be allowed to surmise that Carhaix is only a corruption of Carfax.

The true Breton, at any rate, clings to the etymology of Ker-A^s. The Roman road which goes from Carhaix towards the Raz, where Ys is said to have been submerged, is called Hent-A^s,

  • the road of Aes,' by the peasantry, who, well within

our times, still sang a woeful ballad of Gradlon's hateful daughter : * See ! she is coming ; let us carry


72 BLUEBEARD

big stones to the roads. Big and little stones, to the roads, let us carry them all I Better death than A^s ! For taxmasters come in her train. The white plague, the black plague, and cruel war with eagles, with wolves, and with ravens, all follow Aes T^ In this ballad, derived, it may be, from ancient Armorican sources, the semi-fabulous Princess of Ys, whom the legends describe as having been thirty feet in height — for Brittany, like Cornwall, believed in an age of giants — is simply a symbol of the Roman dominion, its fiscal system, and the harshness of its pro-consuls. And perhaps it was the oppression of feudal times and the hateful corvie of the old French monarchy that helped to perpetuate until our own day that cry of the downtrodden peasantry, toiling on the highways.

But whatever may be the origin of the name of Carhaix, it is there, on the ruins of Vorganium, that Comorre is found between the years 515 and 5 20, perched, among forest and mountain, like some baron of later days on the banks of the Rhine. He was certainly a Briton, but whether an immigrant or a native of Brittany cannot be said. And nothing is known of his personal appearance, though one may assume that at the date mentioned he was a young man, bold, enterprising, and in some things unscrupulous. He is occasionally called a praefect

^ Adapted from a ballad called 'Groacli Aes' given in the 'Annuaire historique et arch^ologique de Bretagne' — Ann^e 1861-2. Rennes, 1861-2, x2mQk Groacli here means a malignant fairy.


^H


COMORRE THE CURSED 73

of Childebert, the King of the Franks, but it seems more correct to say that he was one of those petty Breton chiefs who had placed themselves under the patronage, among the tributaries perhaps, of the Merovingian rulers of France. He exercised sway over the northern part of the basin of the Aune, a poor and arid r^ion, then called Pou-Caer — the Land of the City — and afterwards by corruption Poher — a region bounded on one side by the Montagnes Noires, and on the other embracing, perhaps, both slopes of the Montagne d'Arr^e. And remembering the Roman roads which crossed Comorre's possessions, one may surmise that he subsisted, in part, by toll, and, perhaps, occasionally plunder.

At the same time he protected and assisted those travellers who brought with them the recommenda- tions of King Childebert. Indeed, he is first mentioned by the hagiologists in connection with a certain Harwian, a British bard, who, after resid- ing some time at the Frankish court, was consigned on his homeward way to Comorre's care. Harwian, however, whilst sojourning with the so-called Count of Pou-Cagr, cast loving eyes on a maiden named Rivanone, who lived with her brother Rigour (Rigurius), and who was piously inclined. Eager to marry the damsel, Harwian applied to Comorre for his help, which was accorded. If one account may be believed, force was used to overcome the maid's resistance, and, on being wedded to Harwian, she bitterly bewailed her fate. She cursed the ties


74 BLUEBEARD

she loathed, she cursed the man who had married her by force, and when she found herself likely to become a mother, she cried aloud that she hoped her child might never see the light of day. And that dread wish was fulfilled ; the child, who in later years was to become famous as St. Herv6, and who was destined to curse, in the name of the Breton clergy, the Fman who had forced his mother to wed a stranger — was bom blind !^

In those rough times, perhaps, little heed was paid to the wishes of a maid when a man desired to wed her, and Comorre may have felt no prickings of conscience with respect to his share in that transaction. For the rest, whether from piety or policy — a desire to get on in the world — he be- friended the clergy ; we are told that he was at this time very devoted to the saints, a great helper of the monks. He protected an anchoret, afterwards known as St. Hernm or St. Harn, who dwelt on the borders of Broceliande, where he assisted him to build a chapel or church, with which the present village of Loc-Ham originated. But Comorre was ambitiously inclined, and made expeditions down the Elorn as far as the remains of a Roman station on the site of Brest, annexing some of the country thereabouts, for Gradlon, who in all probability had

^ This is based on the account borrowed by La Borderie from some of the hagiologists ; but there is a very different version describing the marriage as a love-match ; and even fragments of a song, in which after Harwian's death Rivanone is represented bitterly bewailing the loss of her beloved bard, are quoted.


IT


/


COMORRE THE CURSED 75

previously held the r^ion, Mi^as now dead, and all was confusion under the laun Reith line of Comouaille. At all events, charters of the eleventh century mention as then still existing in a ruined state a stronghold raised by Comorre at Lan Goueznou, which derived its name from St. Goueznou, another holy man whom the Count of Pou-Caer is said to have protected

But he cast covetous eyes towards L^on, a fertile region on the north, far richer than his original possessions, or even Cornouaille, for (as the legends say) the giants, after arriving in Brittany from Britain, had, in reward for their welcome in L6on, cleared its soil of all the stones they could find there, hurling them revengefully into Cornouaille, whose inhabitants had given them the coldest of receptions. But L6on was held by a certain Withur, who, like Comorre himself, had accepted the suzerainty of Childebert, and thus, until Withur's death, which took place about 530, the ruler of Pou-Caer did not venture to encroach on his neighbour's territory. Circumstances changed when Withur died, and Comorre then appropriated the greater part of L6on. His earth hunger, his craving for dominion, increased with years. The incidents of his career conclusively prove that he dreamt of making himself sole master of Brittany. Riwal had founded the state of Domnonia about 515, and his son Deroch (520-35) was more than once at logg^i'heads with Comorre. The latter at last found his opportunity in the time of Deroch's son, lona.


76 BLUEBEARD

who ruled Domnonia from 535 to 540, and who married a daughter of Count Budic I. of Comouaille. Between Comorre and lona there was intercourse, outwardly of a friendly character. But one day the subjects of these chiefs heard that lona was dead — killed by some accident whilst following the chase. Soon, however, the most sinister rumours were in circulation. None dared to accuse Comorre openly, but it was whispered that he had rid himself of lona in order to gratify his ambition. One thing is certain : lona was scarcely dead when Comorre married his widow ^ and virtually appropriated his possessions.

The chroniclers generally assert that the lady was forced to this match,^ but it is possible that she did not accept it unwillingly ; for whatever Albert of Morlaix may assert of Comorre's passions, saying that * he only took wives to gratify his lust, and treated them rather as concubines than as law- ful spouses/ it seems certain that Comorre and lona s widow, for a time at all events, lived together in good accord. We do not know whether Comorre had been previously married, though such may well have been the case, for at this time (dr. 540) he was certainly over forty years of age.

^ The writer has searched several works for her name, but has failed to find it.

^ The original authority for this statement appears to be the ' Vita S. Leonor ' (St Lunaire), in the * Acta Sanctorum * of the Bollandists, Antwerp edition, § 13. It should be pointed out, however, that there was bitter enmity between Comorre and St Lunaire, as our narrative will show.


COMORRE THE CURSED 77

By her first marriage with lona, his wife had a son named Judwal, the rightful heir to the State of Domnonia, which Comorre ruled with the title of regent. He is found living with his wife and step- son at Pou-castel, near Beuzit (previously Buxidus), west of Lanmeur, near the northern shore of Finis- t^re. Early in the nineteenth century an esplanade and a moat were still to be seen there, testifying to the existence of the destroyed castle.^ From this spot Comorre, still under the suzerainty of Childe- bert, ruled more than half of Brittany, Domnonia, Poher, and L6on ; and, content for a time with his increase of power, he behaved, it would seem, with propriety and prudence.

But one must now turn to Cornouaille, where Budic, the father of Comorre's wife, had been suc- ceeded by his son Meliau, who, dying in or about 537, had left his possessions to his only child, a boy named Melar or Meloir. Rivod, Meliau's brother, had been entrusted with the regency and the guardianship of the young count ; but he be- came more and more jealous of the boy as the latter grew in years. A mere regency did not satisfy him, and in order that the lad might never be able to exercise sovereignty, he treated him with a cruelty more ferocious even than that which is imputed to our English Richard Crookback. He caused the boy's left foot and his right hand to be cut off, so as to prevent him from ever mounting a

^ Albert Le Grand, edition of 1837, M. de Kerdanel's notes, p. 619.


78 BLUEBEARD

horse or using a sword. And incredible as such fiendishness may seem to people nowadays, there is really no reason to doubt the statements of the hagiologists and the chroniclers, for we know, by the researches and narratives of many modern his- torians, what horrible and loathsome deeds were perpetrated in those Merovingian days by ambitious princes eager to prevent children from ever ui^ing their claims.

But the mutilation of Melar — inspired perhaps by Prankish practices of which Rivod had heard — was foreign to the Breton character, and filled the people of Cornouaille with indignation. Many of the clergy and the chiefs assembled, and although they were unable to deprive Rivod of the regency, they removed Melar from his custody and placed him in that of one of his cousins, named Keryaltan. And the legends add, but this the reader may believe or not, as he pleases, that the unfortunate youth was provided with a hand of silver and a foot of iron.

Rivod, however, if baulked, was not defeated. He resolved to rid himself of Melar altogether ; and with this object he strove to corrupt Keryaltan. The two men soon came to an agreement. Kery- altan, as the price of his crime, demanded, and was promised, certain lands. The legends say that he asked for all the territory that he might be able to see from the summit of a certain hill. Then, every- thing being agreed, he confided in his wife Barilia, who, at the first moment, was fascinated by the


COMORRE THE CURSED 79

prospect of a great increase of wealth. But pity for the unfortunate, mutilated youth afterwards came upon her ; and she resolved to save him. For this purpose she carried him with a few attendants to Comorre's castle,^ which seemed to be the safest place of refuge, for Comorre s wife was the sister of both the deceased Meliau and the regent Rivod, and therefore Melar's aunt. It was reasonable to expect that she would take pity on her nephew. From some accounts the flight would seem to have been a very dramatic one ; but the fugitives ultimately reached Pou-castel, and were made wel- come there.

Unhappily Keryaltan, hungering for his promised lands, followed them, feigned contrition, and was reconciled to his wife and the unfortunate Melar. Then, one night, when all suspicion had disappeared, he stole, accompanied, it would seem, by his own son, into Melar s chamber, and promptly despatched the sleeping youth, one account saying that with a single stroke of his sword he severed Melar's head from his body. Then the assassin fled, re- paired to the residence of Rivod, and claimed his due. But at the moment when he reached the summit of the hill, whence he was to designate the territory which was to form his reward. Heaven — so say the legends, which intrude upon one at each step of Breton history — was pleased to intervene, and Keryaltan fell to the ground blinded. M. de la

^ *Ad castellum Comori, Regis Francorum praefecti, cum epdum, trans Montem, aufugit' — 'Acta Sanctonim (S. Melar).'


8o BLUEBEARD

Borderie suggests that, if any such incident occurred, the miscreant may have had a stroke of apoplexy, consequent, it is to be presumed, on his exertion in climbing.

Melar, meanwhile, had been buried in the church of Kerfeunteun, now Lanmeur. The present edifice dates from the eleventh century, but a crypt of much earlier date still existed in 1867. In this crypt, whose vaulted roof was upheld by thick squat pillars, on which twining serpents were carved, there was to be found an old statue of Melar (who after his death was ranked as a saint), a statue showing him with only one foot and one hand in accordance with tradition ; but the stone coffin in which his remains were laid behind the high altar of the upper church disappeared long ago. It is believed that St Melar's bones were for safety carried to Paris in the tenth century, when the Normans preyed on this part of the Breton coast.

It may be that this dreadful tragedy had rendered Pou-castel odious to Comorre and his wife. At all events they are next found dwelling at another of their castles, between Corseul (the famous capital of the Curiosolites) and Plancoet in Les C6tes-du-Nord. Roman remains have been found on the site, and it is known that the Breton chiefs often turned the half-demolished fortresses of the Imperial days into residences. At the present time, however, the spot where Comorre dwelt is occupied by the ruins of the feudal castle of Montafilant, which, from the twelfth century onward, was owned by the houses of Dinan,


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Laval, ^ and Toumemine. Comorre's residence there became before long the scene of incidents which ultimately led to his overthrow. He began to regard his stepson Judwal, the heir of lona, with suspicion. He doubtless foresaw the day when this youth would be claiming his rights, and, in- fluenced perhaps by the example of Rivod with respect to Melar, he may have resolved to imitate it- The legends, of course, describe what happened in a very melodramatic manner. One night, it is said^ Comorre's wife had a dream, in which she saw her son crowned and wearing all the apparel of sovereignty. She imprudently recounted this dream to her husband, who responded that she would never see it fulfilled, and who determined from that hour to slay this Judwal who might some day rise up to dispossess him. Some knowledge or idea of Comorre's intention came to his wife, who immedi- ately warned her son.

Judwal fled for protection to St. Lunaire, who then (czr. 545) dwelt at a monastery he had estab- lished on the sea- shore. A village bearing the saint's name now stands on the site of that monas- tery,^ whither Comorre promptly pursued his stepson. But with St Lunaire's help Judwal had already

^ To which Gilles de Rais, the other reputed * Bluebeard,' belonged. A Toumemine, too, was Gilles' first guardian.

' St. Lunaire is between Dinard and St. l^nogat The church is partially of the eleventh and partially of the fifteenth centuries. There is a twelfth-<:entury tomb of the saint with an effigy show- ing him clad in his pontifical vestments, with the staff of his crozier thrust between the jaws of a monster.

6


82 BLUEBEARD

embarked, bound for Prankish territory ; and when Comorre galloped up to the monastery and imperi- ously demanded the surrender of his stepson, the holy man pointed, perhaps derisively, to a bark which was already quitting the bay. In his exceed- ing wrath Comorre struck the Abbot, and, accord- ing to some accounts, would still have attempted pursuit, but his horse suddenly became unmanage- able, reared, and fell with its rider, who had one of his thighs broken, and long lingered between life and death. The moral, of course, was that one ought never to raise one's hand against an Abbot.

When Comorre recovered, however, he sought revenge by persecuting the clergy. He threatened St. Tudual, behaved haughtily with St Malo, and would have made short work of St Lunaire if the latter had not been protected by Childebert. More- over, the people had now begun to murmur. It was said on all sides that Comorre had attempted Judwal's life, and the mysterious death of lona was also imputed to him. Thus confronted by the enmity of the monks and the discontent of his subjects, it was necessary that he should remain on good terms with the King of the Franks, particu- larly as the latter had received Judwal at his court, and might be disposed to assist him in recovering his inheritance. For some years, indeed, this menace hung over Comorre's head, inclining him to good behaviour in all that served the Merovingian interest. However, Judwal having fled the country, Comorre dropped the title of regent, and, according


COMORRE THE CURSED 83

to some writers, became known as * Dux Domnonicae regionis.' There was probably some agreement between him and Childebert, he undertaking to spread the Prankish authority, and the King pro- mising to detain, in semi-captivity, lona's heir.

At this point Comorre's wife suddenly vanishes from the scene. It is not known when or how she died. La Borderie says that Comorre treated her kindly and well, apart from his sudden jealousy of her son. Did his conduct alter after the latter's flight? Did he quietly put the mourning mother out of the way ? If so, would not the dark deed have been cast in his teeth a little later by some of the Breton clergy and the hagiologists ? But though he is constantly reproached with the death of lona and the attempt on Judwal, nothing is said of ^is wife. The silence is absolute, until, in later centuries, the tradition arises that this man Comorre had several wives, all of whom disappeared in so mysterious a manner that nobody could ever tell what became of them. To the very silence of the hagiologists and chroniclers one may, perhaps, trace the origin of the legend of wives fiendishly slaughtered.

We assume that Comorre's wife died, because the next notable incident in his career is his application, some time in 547 or 548, to the Count of the Van- netais for the hand of the latter s daughter, Tryphine. For nearly half a century the Vannetais had been ruled by one of the most notable, and, considering the exceptional duration of his sovereignty, perhaps

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one of the most diplomatic, of the Breton chiefs, Weroc (otherwise Guerech), whose eminence and im- portance are shown by the fact that the region he held took and long retained his name — Patria Warochii, Bro-Werech. This Weroc had six children, five sons and a daughter, and if Comorre solicited the latter's hand it was probably from a desire to extend his rule yet further. But Weroc, a pacific, ex- perienced man, ripe in years, was aware of Comorre's rapacity and unscrupulousness. He remembered also the mysterious death of lona and the attempt on Judwal, and was at first by no means inclined to place his daughter in the hands of the ruler of Domnonia, even though the latter had chosen as his matrimonial ambassador a man whom all revered.

It is now that St. Gildas enters into the story, and it may at once be said that there is no intention here of attempting to solve the problem of how many saints of that name there may have been. Con- fronted by the contradictory statements of hagio- logists and chroniclers, Ussher and Bale long ago came to the conclusion that there must have been at least two St. Gildases — the Badonian and the Albanian ; and some subsequent writers even dis- tinguished both of the foregoing from the Gildas the Wise who wrote the famous unreadable * Liber querulus de Excidio Britannia^.' Others again have imagined even seven and eight saints of the name ; but Professor Tout, in his article in the * Dictionary of National Biography,' is of opinion that there was only one. This may be right or wrong ; but in any


COMORRE THE CURSED 85

case an article which, however great the ability dis- played in it, evades many points of bitter contro- versy is not likely to end a discussion that has lasted for centuries among those interested in the subject M. de La Borderie having been followed in many respects in the course of the present narrative, it may be allowable to take his view in this instance also. He, after studying the latin * Lives ' of the Abbot of Rhuys, and also the manuscript ' Histoire de Saint Gildas de Ruis, 6crit en Tan 1 668, par un B6n6dictin,*^ arrives at the conclusion that the Gildas who became renowned in Brittany was bom in or about 493-94 ; that he was a discjple of St Illtyd ; that he attained to the priesthood when five- and-twenty years of age (518); that he went to Ireland and ministered there ; that he returned to Britain about 530 ; ' that he found a refuge in Glamorganshire, whence he was driven by the raids and invasions of the time ; and that, after writing the first part of his ' De Excidio, ' he repaired to Armorica, landing on the isle of Houat off the coast of Le Morbihan in or about the year 538. Later dates than these have been suggested both for the birth of Gildas (516) and for his arrival in Brittany (550) ; but the last does not fit in with revised Breton chronology.

In order that one may the better understand Gildas's intercourse with Comorre, it is necessary to pursue the subject somewhat further. In coming to Brittany, Gildas's first object was probably quietude

^ Biblioth^ue Nationale, Paris, MSS. Fond 16822.


86 BLUEBEARD

and repose ; but he belonged to the Church militant, and before long, when he saw the inviting green peninsula of Rhuys on the horizon before him, he crossed from Houat to the mainland, and eventually established there the famous abbey which bears his name, and which six centuries later was ruled by the unhappy Abelard. From this spot Gildas at last made journeys through Brittany, perhaps for the purpose of ascertaining its condition, preaching, and disseminating religion, for pagans still existed in the country. He had with him a companion, a brother- monk called Bihi, afterwards Bieuzy,^ and the pair of them entered and explored the great forest lands and the moors, where Gildas beheld all those Druidical remains the sight of which exasperated him. Eventually, on the banks of the Blavet, at a spot midway between the present towns of Pontivy and Baud, they found a little grotto in which they resolved to dwell awhile.^ The grotto being small, they resorted to excavation. It is now about 22 feet in depth and from 1 6 to 1 8 feet wide, and a stone, which rings sonorously on being struck, and which Gildas and Bihi are said to have used to summon the faithful to prayers, is preserved in it. On the overhanging rocks is a stone cross, and the spot is still known as the Oratory of *La Roche sur Blavet.* Near at hand, in the hamlet of Castennec, where the notorious * idol of Quinipily ' was first discovered, and where the Roman station of Sulim

^ He was subsequently killed by a pagan.

' ' Histoire de S. Gildas,' etc, Bib. Nat, Paris.


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— on the road from Carhaix to Vannes — is supposed to have been situated, abundant relics of the im- perial age have been discovered ; and it is possible that Gildas*s oratory was less lonely in his time than it is now. Almost in front of it, but on the other side of the Blavet, is the chapel of St. Nicod^me, renowned alike for its stone spire, which is 160 feet in height, and for its pilgrimages ; for the saint is credited with the power to preserve both the faithful and their cattle from epidemics, in such wise that numerous oxen and calves are presented at the chapel, and sold by auction for its benefit, every year.

But, to return to St. Gildas, it may be assumed that he was at his oratory on the Blavet when Comorre requested him to solicit the hand of Tryphine from he ^ather Weroc. Comorre, on his side, must have ' s a at Castel Finans,^ probably the extreme limi^fr-'f his possessions in this part of Brittany, and, as the crow flies, only some fifteen miles from Gildas's oratory, though by road the distance may be two or three and twenty. It is virtually certain that when Comorre summoned Gildas the latter consented to assist him in his suit,^ being influenced by the fear that a terrible war might ensue if the marriage should not take

^ Sec antey p. 41. Roch le Baillif asserts in his * Petit Traict6 de I'Antiquit^ et Singularitds de la Br^tagne-Armorique,' Rennes, J 577> that he himself found in the old ruins of Castel Finans, other- wise Castel G^ant, various ancient silver coins, some marked illegibly, others on which could be distinguished a tower and the inscription Castri Gigantis.

« La Borderie cites * D. Viu !!.• S. GUd«, § 21 ; Mabillon edition, p. 145/


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place. And though he was acquainted with Comorre's grasping disposition, he was not dis- posed to think that Tryphine would suffer at her husband's hands. In any case, he pledged his word to Weroc that she would be well treated, and by dint of persuasion obtained the old chiefs reluctant consent to the alliance.

Thus Comorre and Tryphine were married, and for a short time there seemed to be every prospect of peace and harmony. Then, however, Comorre threw off the mask, and revealed his motive in desiring the match. In addition to his daughter, Weroc had five sons, the names of only two of whom have come down to us. One of these sons, the eldest, was named Conoo or Canao, while the other (who seems to have been the youngest of the five) was known as Macliau or Madiavus. Comorre, it may be inferred, became friendly with Macliau, who, as the sequel will show, was jealous of his brother Conoo, as the latter would inherit the Browerech territory whenever Weroc died. Now Weroc was an old man, perhaps seventy years of age, if not more, and it was unlikely that he would live much longer. Thus Comorre suddenly pro- posed to him that he should divide his possessions, giving one half of them to Macliau and the other half to himself (Comorre), as husband of Tryphine. No doubt some suitable provision was proposed for the old ruler of the Vannetais, but the latter was not tired of governing, and he indignantly rejected Comorre's suggestions.


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Comorre, thwarted in his designs, and restrained, perhaps, from plunging Brittany into war by the direct orders of Childebert, or by the thought of Judwal, could not conceal his fury, but cast angry glances upon Tryphine, whom he had only married for purposes of aggrandizement His manner un- doubtedly filled her with alarm. Perhaps she had heard horrible stories of him from some of those about her ; perhaps he actually threatened her with violence. At all events, one morning, attended by a few servants, she stole down from the height of Castel Finans for the purpose of placing herself in safety.

Modern investigation has shown that the great Roman road from Rennes to Carhaix passed by way of Mur-de-Bretagne, Caurel, Gouarec, and Ros- trenen ; and La Borderie thinks that, on quitting Castel Finans, she sought that road, then, on find- ing herself pursued, plunged into the forest land, and was overtaken by her husband about four miles north of the present village of Gouarec, at a spot where now stands a church of St. Trephine, in which some say she was buried, and which was first raisedf perhaps, to commemorate her tragic adventure.

That view, however, may be erroneous. Brittany numbers several churches and chapels of St. Trd- phine, St Tr6fine, and St Triphyne, as she is variously called. There are two in the very region mentioned by La Borderie — the one he specifies, and another in the vicinity of Callac ; and thus the


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presence of a church dedicated to Tryphine in any particular spot does not seem sufficient evidence that this spot was the scene of Comorre's murderous onslaught. Moreover, in fleeing from her husband, Tryphine must have been anxious to reach her natural protectors, her father and Gildas ; and thus, instead of seeking the Roman road from Carhaix to Rennes, she would rather have directed her course towards that which ran from Carhaix to Vannes. In any case, she was pursued and overtaken by her husband.

Albert of Morlaix says that this occurred near Vannes, an assertion which, given the distance from Castel Finans to that city, is nonsensical. Besides, there is evidence which tends to show that, although Weroc ruled over what is called the Van- netais, he did not hold Vannes itself, some Prankish Warden of the Marches being stationed there. And as Tryphine was undoubtedly overtaken in a wood- land, it seems more reasonable to suppose that this woodland was the present forest of Qu6n6can. The historical, or perhaps it is best to say the semi- historical, account agrees with the legend in telling us that the unfortunate woman heard the approach of her pursuers, and hid herself among some bushes. But Comorre galloped up, and scoured the wood like an expert sportsman who knew how to unearth his game. He discovered his trembling wife, he drew her forth, and, raising his blade, he dealt her a terrible blow on the head, inflicting a horrible wound and stunning her. She sank senseless to the ground,


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and the ruffian, believing her dead, rode back to his castle.^

Albert of Morlaix, in his legend, asserts that Weroc was informed of the tragedy by his daughter's servants, that he recovered the * decapitated ' body, caused it to be laid in state in the great hall of the castle of Vannes, and then ' posted ' ( * prit la poste *!) towards the Blavet to consult Gildas, who hospitably kept him to dinner before going to attend to the dead woman, who, being dead, was no doubt well able to wait. But wherever Tryphine fell, whether north of Gouarec or in the vicinity of C16guerec, she was certainly nearer to Gildas than to her father; and one may accept the view that Gildas, after being informed of the tragic occurrence, was conducted to the spot where the unhappy woman lay, found her still senseless — suffering, no doubt, from concussion of the brain, in addition to which her skull may have been fractured — and then by dint of extreme care and skilful science — a science derived perchance through St. Illtyd from those expert * medicine-men * the Druids — revived and healed her. As soon as possible he led her back to her father, and bade him take every care of her and of the child whom she would soon bring into the world. All this seems simple enough ; but the ignorant, as was natural in those days, regarded the recovery of Tryphine as a resurrection, a miracle performed by Heaven at the intercession of the saintly Abbot of Rhuys.

^ La Borderie, U.


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That the latter, in his indignation, betook himself to Castel Finans to upbraid Comorre for his cruelty, that the gates were closed at his approach, that the watch on the rampart had orders to decline any parley, may be well believed ; but the legend of the handful of sand thrown at the castle walls, and the crumbling of those walls immediately afterwards, is merely an example of many legends devised, in later ages, to account for the destruction of one or another famous stronghold.

The reader may ask, however, what became of

Tryphine after the * miracle.'^ Albert of Morlaix

asserts that when she was brought to life again her

gratitude to Gildas was so intense that she vowed

never to leave him. But the holy man rebuked her,

saying *it was not meet for a woman to follow a

^ In a canticle sung every year at Auray on the occasion of the festival of St. Gildas (January 29) the following occurs :

' Sancti Gildasi, Qui Tryfinam suscitasti, Quam tyrannus occiderat Inter sylvarum pascua.'

The resuscitation of Tryphine is not the only miracle ascribed to St. Gildas in the Breton legends. There are many others. Perhaps his most wonderful legendary adventure was a trip he took on the sea with four demons, who had disguised themselves as monks, and who, at some distance from the shore, suddenly dis- appeared together with their boat, leaving the holy man standing upon the water, with one foot resting on a comer of his cloak, and his staff caught in another corner of it, in such wise that the garment served him as a sail to catch the sudden breeze which, coming from heaven, wafted him safely to land. There is a similar legend about some women of the Isle of Arz, and another of St Nennoch crossing the sea from Britain to Brittany in a stone trough.


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monk/ And as she evinced great piety, he promised that after her delivery * he would dedicate her to the service of God in a monastery of holy virgins.* This, apparently, was done. All the available accounts agree in saying that Tryphine founded a convent and dwelt therein after giving birth to a son, who, like herself, received canonization after his death.^ The Bretons call him St. Trever, the French Tremeur or Tremor6, and it would seem that he was educated at the abbey of St. Gildas of Rhuys ; but the writer has failed to ascertain any- thing else about his career, apart from the fact that on the west door of a church dedicated to him at Carhaix there are or were a series of carvings stated to represent certain incidents in his life, one of them showing him as a Breton St. Denis — that is, holding his head in his hands. It is asserted, indeed, that he was decapitated by his father, but this seems unlikely, for he cannot have been more than seven years old at the time of Comorre's death.

Comorre, after his murderous attempt on Tryphine, would appear to have embarked on a career of violence, excesses, and exactions, the outcome, per- haps, of his mortification and resentment at having failed in his designs upon the Vannetais. Though he could assume friendliness with a man like Gildas

^ As the Protestant reader may wonder at the great number of the Breton saints, ft is as well to point out that canonization was then conferred by Bishops and Churches, without reference to the Court of Rome. It is asserted that the first canonization by Papal authority was that of St. Udalricus in 993 (* Recueil des Historiens de France,' preface, vol x.).


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when it suited his purpose to do so, he had repeated quarrels with the Breton clei^y. It may be also that he was jealous of the latter^s increasing wealth and influence, and desired to keep it in check. But in those days the ruler who came into conflict with the Church was seldom victorious, and though Comorre contrived to hold his own for a few years longer, his fall may be directly traced to his struggle with the priesthood. It is certain that a council of Bishops assembled on the Menez Br6 near Guingamp to deliberate on the subject of his misrule and the crimes imputed to him. There was a vast concourse of prelates and people. The death of lona was recalled ; the attempts on Tryphine and the absent Judwal were denounced, and Judwal's rightful claims to Domnonia were urged. This council was held in the year 550, or perhaps a little earlier. St. Gildas does not seem to have attended it. Perhaps he was still on the Blavet, or had returned to Rhuys.^ But another very famous Breton saint was present.

^ He died, it is said, on the isle of Houat on January 29, 570. According to one legend there was a dispute among his monks as to where he should be buried, and a boat, in which his remains were at last placed, sank between Houat and the mainland. At this the monks were in great distress, but, three months later, the boat was washed up near Rhuys, and St. Gildas's body was found in it, fresh and whole, 'even as on the day when he died,' the salt water having miraculously preserved it Glastonbury is said, by some English writers, to have been Gildas's resting-place, but a skull and arm-bones, alleged to have been his, still figure among the relics of Rhuys. The oldest part of that abbey, however, is of the twelfth century. It is known to have been destroyed by the Normans in the tenth.


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This was the blind St. Herv6, at that time neither deacon nor priest, but merely an exorcist. To do him honour, as he was late in arriving, the council deferred its business for a whole day. The result of its deliberations was the solemn cursing of Comorre for his crimes and his tyranny. Throughout Brittany he received the name of *Comor ar Miliguet' — a name still universal in the sixteenth century, as D'Argentr^ has recorded in his history.

Nevertheless, Comorre showed a bold front. The thunders of the Church had no terrors for him ; he was not the man to quail before any St. Dunstan. For a time, indeed, he seems to have taken more interest in what was happening in the Vannetais than in the proceedings of his priestly adversaries. Old .Weroc having died, Conoo, his eldest son, had succeeded to his possessions, and, fearful of the rivalry of his brothers, had savagely put three of them to death. A similar fate seemed likely to overtake the remaining one, Macliau, who was thrown into a dungeon, and only released after humbling himself and renouncing every right. Even then he did not deem himself in safety, but fled to his old friend Comorre, with whom, a few years pre- viously, he had proposed to divide the Vannetais. Comorre concealed him, and when Conoo*s envoys came to claim the fugitive, he pointed to a tomb — perhaps a tumulus — which he had raised, and told them that Macliau was dead.

In the end, however (552), Macliau renounced all

claim to dominion, put away his wife, and accepted


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priesthood and the tonsure in order to secure eleva- tion to the bishopric of Vannes. This fact is cited, among several others, as showing that the Vannetais or Browerech ruled by Weroc and Conoo did not include the city of Vannes, for Macliau, who still meditated revenge, would never have placed himself again in Conoo's power. Thus it is argued that Vannes was garrisoned by the Franks.

A few more years went by, Comorre and the cler^ still at variance. But one of the latter, Samson of Dol — St Samson, as he became — had repaired to the court of Childebert to solicit the release of Judwal, the rightful heir of Domnonia. Suitable pledges were doubtless offered with respect to the Prankish suzerainty over Brittany, and, after a time, Childe- bert, apparently, was willing to sacrifice Comorre, But we are told that Ultragotha, Childebert's wife, had cast lascivious eyes on young Judwal, and would not let him go. Naturally enough, the legends step in at this particular point ; the opportunity was too good a one to be missed by them. They pretend that Ultragotha caused a poisoned beverage to be offered to Samson at the royal table, but that when he made the sign of the Cross over the cup it was shivered to pieces, while as the liquor dropped upon the cup-bearer's hand ulcers immediately formed on it, Samson, however, considerately curing them by another sign of the Cross. In like manner he rendered an untamable horse, which was presented to him by the Queen, as gentle as a lamb, and had only to pronounce the Lord's name in order to cause


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a monstrous lion to recoil in respect and fear when the wicked Ultragotha summoned the beast from Hades in the hope that it would devour the holy man. Finally, all her enchantments having failed, her opposition ceased ; but when Samson celebrated Mass for the last time before quitting the court with Judwal, she impiously turned her back on the altar, and in punishment for her irreverence she was struck dead — an assertion utterly at variance with the historical account, which shows that Ultragotha sur- vived her husband.

Having removed Judwal from Childebert s court, Samson found him an asylum on one of the Channel Islands, either Jersey or Guernsey, and it was arranged that he should remain there until all was in readiness for a rising in Domnonia. When, about 554-55, the young man, like some * Bonnie Prince Charlie,* landed on the Breton shore, he was met by a crowd of eager adherents. 'Come and avenge lona! Avenge your father!' they cried to him. • We will help you !'

Judwal's forces appear to have been mustered near Dol ; but Comorre was not idle, he still had his partisans, whatever might have been the harshness of his rule and the effects of the solemn cursing of the Church. A first battle was fought — perhaps between St Malo and Chiteauneuf — ^and he was worsted in it But although he retreated, he still held the field. A like result, however, attended a second engagement, and at last the contending parties met for the third time on the wild heather-

7


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lands south of Morlaix (Finist^re), between the forest of Gerber and the first slopes of the Mon- tagne d'Arr^e. Spots bearing very significant names are still shown there ; for instance, the Rosarc'ham, the slope of the battle; the Ban Lac'h, the knoll of the massacre; and the Roc'h Conan, the rock of the chief. And here, then, on the scene of his early exploits, his first march upon L^on after Withur s death, Comorre turned to bay and met his fate. A wound laid him low, says the Mabillon Life of St. Samson, but another account of the same saint's career (Angers MSS.) describes his end more graphically : ' Comorre was vanquished ; a javelin from the hand of Judwal struck him down ; he died.' And, the usurper killed, the rightful heir reigned in his stead.

Such, so far as fact can be disentangled from l^end, seems to have been the life and fate of the man who for a century has been openly called

  • the Breton Bluebeard.' Some years ago a large

block of schistous slate, designated as the ' Men Bez Comor,' was shown on a spot named Brank Halleg, or the Willow Bough, near the hamlet of Mengleuz, which adjoins the battlefield. Beneath that block of slate, said the peasants, lay the bones of the tyrant, awaiting the sounds of the judgment trump.^

Before examining Comorre's career in connection with the l^ends based on it, some mention must be made of incidents which occurred after his death.

^ Some historians cite a second Comorre, a mler of L6oa ; but La Borderie declares that there was never any such personage.


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Conoo, or Canao, the ruler of the Vannetais, who had put three of his brothers to death and com- pelled Macliau to enter the priesthood, was, like Comorre, a stern, harsh ruler, a terror to his sub- jects. Ambition came to him as it had come to the usurper of Domnonia, but unluckily for his schemes, after the death of Childebert, he gave an asylum to Chramn. the son of Childebert s successor, Clothaire. Chramn, after various quarrels with his father, followed by a reconciliation, had remained appre- hensive of future punishment (we here follow Gregory of Tours), and therefore fled to Brittany with his wife and children. It may be that Clothaire only desired a pretext to invade Brittany, or else he regarded the hospitality accorded to Chramn by Conoo as an unpardonable action. In any case he collected an army and invaded Conoo*s possessions. A battle ensued on a spot west of Vannes, near the shore of the 'inland sea,' and Conoo — these Bretons were as brave as they were savage — fell fighting. But Chramn, who had a bark waiting on the shore, might have escaped had he not desired to save his wife and children, who had taken refuge in a hut. In trying to do so he was made a prisoner. If he expected any mercy from his father, he was deceived. By Clothaire's orders he was bound to a bench in the hut, which was set on fire, in such wise that he was burnt to death there with his wife and his daughters. Directly Macliau, the Bishbp of Vannes, heard that Conoo was dead, he cast his priestly vestments aside, took his wife back, let his hair grow again, and asserted

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loo BLUEBEARD

his rights to sovereigfnty. But it was a sovereignty of little account for a time, for the Franks spread through the Browerech and ravaged it At last Macliau came into possession, and subsequently seized Cornouaille also; but the young Theodoric (son of Budic II.), whom he then drove away, returned, surprised him, and showed him no mercy. He was slain, with one of his sons named Jacob, in or about 577. Thus died the last of St. Tryphine's brothers.

If these final incidents, particularly those connected with Conoo, have been related, it is because con- fusion long existed among the chroniclers and his- torians, as well as in the popular mind, with respect to Comorre and Conoo. Many writers confounded the two men, with the result that their readers were confronted by a perfect monster — a ruffian who had killed lona of Domnonia, who, perhaps, had mur- dered even lona's widow after forcibly making her his wife ; who had certainly threatened the life of Judwal ; who had killed three of his own brothers, persecuted a fourth (Macliau), and decapitated his second wife (and sister) Tryphine. Briefly, a monster whose whole life was assassination, and whose deeds might serve as the basis of a far more horrible tale than * Bluebeard.' And Conoo being confounded with Comorre, a perfect pot-pourri of Breton history ensued. It became necessary to imagine all sorts of things in order to reconcile conflicting dates and events. It would require many pages Co point out all the blunders made by


COMORRE THE CURSED loi

writers of one and another century, and it is not proposed to do so here. Those curious on the subject may compare M. de La Borderie's history with the others.^

Some of the older chronicles and histories of Brittany must indeed be read, so far as they deal with the early centuries of our era, in much the same spirit as one might read the ' Chansons de Geste/ whose writers, between them, took the events of three or four centuries, and adapted them to the reigns of a trio of rulers. Those writers, whatever their claims, were, as a matter of fact, but versifiers and romancers ; and their versions of history need not surprise, though they may well puzzle, one, particularly as when — to quote a recent work on * L'6pop6e Romane* — one finds 'certain religious legends respecting the Vandal invasion of France in 406, and a more or less authentic Arlesian martyr of the fifth century, St. Vezian, transferred from the Merovingian to the Carlovingian period ; Charles Martel being made to fight against the Vandals in Lorraine; St. Vezian falling beneath the blows of the Saracen **Aucebier" (Alsamah), who invaded the south in 721 ; then that invasion \ being confounded with that of " Desrame " (Abder- rhaman) in 732, and finally identified with the

^ We have not followed M. de La Borderie blindly in our n'arra- live. We have checked several of his statements, and have occasionally drawn somewhat different conclusions from the facts, conclusion»such as M. de La Borderie, a devout Catholic, would not have drawn ; but he may be consulted with advantage for references to authorities, etc.


I02 BLUEBEARD

struggles waged by Guillaume of Toulouse from ygo to 806/ Nor was this all, for 'Vezian's character was changed ; he was made a knight, and his name was altered to Vivian, which was better known in the West of France/^

This passage has been quoted because the fate of Vezian in the * Matter of France ' illustrates the f^e of Comorre at the hands of many historians and popular raconteurs. It must be added, however, that the errors of the Breton writers arose in part from a n^lect of philological considerations.

Throughout this narrative the usurper of Dom- nonia has been called Comorre, the form of his name which has prevailed in modern times ; but his real name was Conomor, meaning Conoo the Great, according to La Borderie, who objects to the etymology of Courson and others, who took * Cono * as the equivalent of Conan, and made the name signify 'great chief* Now, Conoo of the Van- netais, called sometimes Canao, is also repeatedly referred to by both the hagiologists and the older chroniclers by the names of Conober, Conoberus, Conoborus, Chonobarus, and so forth. Conober signifies Conoo the Little or the Short, and it is allowable to surmise that this was a nickname given him by his contemporaries for the express purpose of distinguishing him from Conomor. Had a little attention been paid to this matter some hundreds of years ago, when it was first assumed that the two

1 ' Les Personnages de F^pop^ Romane,' by Vicomte Ch. de la Lande de Calan, Paris^ 1901.


COMORRE THE CURSED 103

men were identical, there might have been much less confusion in the particular period of Breton history to which they both belonged. It may be repeated that they were quite distinct Comorre or Conomor never ruled the Vannetais ; Conoo or Conober never encountered the forces of Judwal between St Malo and Chiteauneuf. He fell at the time when Chramn was taken prisoner in the battle fought west of the city of Vannes.

That confusion should have arisen in the popular mind respecting the two personages is a different matter. Fourteen centuries now separate us from the days of Comorre and Conoo, and even if there had been books to tell the Breton peasantry the truth, they, with their fervent belief in legend and tradition, would scarcely have accepted correction. It is more than probable that the stories told of Conomor and Conoo had already become entangled and blended in their minds many hundreds of years ago. One man had heard a tale of how the tyrant had murdered his brothers ; another was sure that his victims had been his wives. The brothers were added to the wives, perhaps, and by degrees became part and parcel of them, in such a way that the tyrant was believed to have killed quite half a dozen spouses, and the foundation was laid for a tale of the Bluebeard kind. Brittany used to have its itinerant story-tellers ; moreover, the Bretons often crossed their peninsula, going in pilgrimage from one pardon to another, when they not only told and heard marvellous stories of Our Lady and the


I04 BLUEBEARD

Saints, but narrated and listened to other curious legends, Arthurian, Druidical, and medieval. The years rolled on, and at last, from one to the other end of Brittany, in the lands which Conomor had usurped, and in those where Conober had ruled, there only remained the memory of one tyrant—

  • Comor ar Miliguet' One thing is virtually cer-

tain : the Comorre remembered in our days in the vicinity of Camors, and again at Cloar Carnoet, the Comorre transformed into a ferryman, was Conoo, who reigned in that region ; whereas the Comorre of Castel Finans, Carhaix and the Willow Bough, was Conomor, the usurper of Domnonia.

It must be admitted that, however widespread the tradition in these later centuries, there is no proof of Perrault having borrowed his tale of * Bluebeard * from the Comorre legend. No ancient chronicler ever refers to Comorre as * Barbe-bleue.' Nor does the writer know of any very old story connecting the two. Daru, in his * Histoire de Bretagne,' published in 1826, refers, however, to the novelists {romancters) who had conferred * a frightful immor- tality on Comorre under the name of Bluebeard.' And in this connection the writer remembers having read in his youth (which was spent in France) an old novel which he has vainly endeavoured to trace recently. It was a two- volume work, issued either at the end of the eighteenth or early in the nineteenth century, and its title was * Le Roi Comor ' or some- thing very similar. No doubt it was one of the books referred to by Daru. The latter's statement


COMORRE THE CURSED 105

at least shows that Comorre was associated with Bluebeard in his time — that is, in the twenties of the nineteenth century ; and this is of some little interest, because various critics of more recent times have asserted that the two were first coupled in 1850, when certain paintings were brought to light in a chapel dedicated to St. Tryphine at St. Nicolas de Bieuzy,^ which is in the immediate vicinity of St. Gildas's oratory on the Blavet. These paintings were then said to be of the thirteenth or fifteenth century, and their discovery created quite a stir on account of their identity with the chief incidents of Perrault's tale. They decorated the lambris of the chapel, the subject depicted in the first compartment being the marriage of Tryphine to a Breton lord (Comorre) whose beard was coloured a bluish black ; next the husband was shown quitting his castle on some warlike expedition, and handing his wife a little key ; and then appeared the mysterious chamber with the bodies of the murdered wives — seven in number — hanging in it. Afterwards came the terrible inter- rogatory, with Bluebeard scowling at his unhappy wife ; farther on, she was portrayed praying on her knees, while Sister Anne anxiously scanned the road from a little window. And finally, while the cruel husband was shown passing a noose round his wife's neck, Tryphine's brothers and St. Gildas appeared, the first ready to run their swords through Comorre's body, and the last all anxiety to revive the victim.

^ 'Bulletin arch^logique de T Association Bretonne,' 1850, toL iL, p. 133.


io6 BLUEBEARD

Now, if these paintings — brought to light from under the ever-recurring coat of whitewash which has blotted out so much artistic work in churches all the world over — ^had really belonged to the thirteenth, or fifteenth, or sixteenth century, if they could even have been traced to the earlier part of the century in which Perrault wrote, they would have proved conclusively that he derived his famous tale from some adaptation of St Tryphine's story .^ But those who first examined the paintings, and thought them very ancient, perhaps by reason of their damaged condition, were quite mistaken. Several years later the paintings were scrutinized by more competent persons, whose verdict was that they had been painted early in the eighteenth century. And sub- sequently, after various researches, M. Rosenzweig, the departmental archivist, ascertained the very year of their execution — 1704.*

Thus another legend has been swept away. In 1 704 Perrault's tales had been six or seven years in circulation. It is known that quite a furore arose when they first appeared ; that they were in demand on every side. The artist who executed the paint- ings at St Nicolas must have been acquainted with them. Whatever his name, he was no peasant ; he came from a town, a city, where books were read ;

^ There is a quaint old Breton mystery in which she figured as a princess of Hybernia wedded to Arzur, the hero-king, and perse- cuted by her jealous brother, Kervoura. ' Sainte Tryphine et le Roi Arthur,' edited by F. M. Luzel. Quimperl6, 1863, 8vo.

' Bossard, /.^., p. 402. From the ' Statistiques archtologiqoes de TArrondissement de Pontivy,' article on ' Napol^ooviUe.'


COMORRE THE CURSED 107

and for some reason or other, on being called in to paint the l^end of St Tryphine, he depicted, in lieu thereof, the story of Perrault's Bluebeard. Was it, then, his shocking audacity in this respect which subsequently led some indignant curi to cover the paintings over ?

The course taken by the painter is, indeed, at the first glance, so suggestive of rank impudence as to make one pause. He may have been a sceptic. Indeed, his portrayal of Tryphine with a rope about her neck is strongly suggestive of scepticism. He declined to believe that the unlucky woman could be revived by St. Gildas after decapitation ; but he knew that people who are hanged may occasionally be cut down in time to have their lives saved. Thus, in Brittany of all places in the world, in one of its most superstitious regions, too, one finds a Voltairean spirit displaying itself at a time when Voltaire was only ten years old But, however sceptical the painter may have been, he cannot have desired, he would not have dared, to insult his priestly patrons, from whom he expected payment for his work, by depicting something which had no relation whatever to the subject that he had been commissioned to treat. What had he been told of the legend of St. Tryphine before he started on his work 'i Assuredly he must have heard something which had brought 'Bluebeard' to his mind. He must have had some basis to work on ; he must at least have been told that Tryphine's husband had killed several wives. Everything indicates, indeed.


io8 BLUEBEARD

that there were stories of Comorre current in the region at that time — 1704 — which suggested Per- rault*s tale. If one only knew what they were, one would probably be able to say whether Perrault did or did not derive his Bluebeard from some Comorre legend, told perchance by some Breton servant to his children ; for it does not appear that he himself was ever in Brittany.

So far as the writer has been able to ascertain, no legends of Comorre and Tryphine appear in M. S6billot*s numerous books on the folk-lore of Upper Brittany ; but in one volume^ a * Bluebeard/ or, rather, a * Redbeard,' story is to be found. Here we have a husband who has lost seven wives,^ and lived ten years with the eighth, whom he at last hates to such a degree that one Sunday, on returning home from high Mass, he resolves to kill hen When he tells her his purpose she contrives to slip a note into the ear of a little dog, which she sends to fetch her brothers. And afterwards she asks permission to put on her wedding garments (as in the Vendean version of * Bluebeard *), while her husband, taking his sabre, sings :

' I'm sharpening, I'm sharpening my knife To kill my wife, who is upstairs.'

Then, as at intervals he calls to her to comedown,

1 • Litt6ature Orale de la Haute-Bretagne,' by P. SAillot Paris, 1881, 8vo. (* Barbe-Rouge,* pp. 40-43).

^. The Bretons are very partial to the number seven. There are many tales of seven brothers, seven sisters, seven children, and so forth.


COMORRE THE CURSED 109

she responds with various excuses : she has only just slipped on her petticoat ; she is putting on her stockings ; she is combing her hair ; she is looking for her large coif; she has only to put in another pin. And meantime she looks out of the window, and at last perceives several horsemen, to whom she makes signs. Redbeard hides in the corridor when the soldiers knock, but they find and kill him, and one of them ends by marrying the widow.

S^billot also gives a story of a giant with seven wives,^ the last of whom rids herself of her cruel husband with the help of a soldier. In this tale the giant is a magician who will always remain invulner- able unless a certain egg should be crushed on his breast. The egg is inside a pigeon, which is inside a hare, which is inside a wolf, which is inside the griant's brother, who lives some leagues away. When the wife has learnt the secret from her husband, she confides it to the soldier, who, after various adven- tures, secures the egg, which the lady duly crushes on her husband's chest, with the result that he immediately expires.

This, however, is a tale of a familiar type (the egg business suggesting ' The Giant who had no Heart in his Body'), whilst Redbeard may be merely an adaptation of Perrault's story. Thus one remains confronted by the tradition of the tyrant Comorre who killed many wives, and who became here a werewolf, and yonder the ferryman of hell.

^ 'Contes Populaires de la Haute-Bretagne.* Paris, 1880 (Na 19, p. 61 ei seq.).


no BLUEBEARD

And the vox pofmli^ so fiu* as can be ascertained, having always pointed to Brittany as the original home of ' Bluebeard/ it may be said in favour of those who picture Comorre as the prototype of Perrault's ' hero/ that at the time when Perrault wrote, the Comorre l^ends were certainly far more familiar to the Breton peasantry than they are nowadays. And owing to the confusion between Conomor and Conober, the ' Miliguet/ the cursed one, was regarded as a most bloodthirsty, in- human monster. Hagiologists, members of that Breton clergy with which he was so long at variance, had painted him in the blackest colours, making his crimes even worse than they really were. Chroniclers had taken the same line, and legends of horror and infamy had spread among the people. But before expressing any decided opinion upon Comorre's connection with ' Bluebeard,' it is pre- ferable to turn to another period and examine the claims of the second candidate to the odious honours, Gilles de Rais, a man by the side of whom Comorre might be accounted a saint.


GILLES DE RAIS

MARSHAL OF FRANCE 1 404- 1 440


GILLES DE RAIS

MARSHAL OF FRANCE

I 1404.1424

DESCENT, PARENTAGE, POSSESSIONS, MARRIAGE, AND

FIRST CAMPAIGNS

The Descent of Gilles from the First Barons of Christendom — The Blood Royal of France— Genealogical Tables— The Ancient House of Rais — ^Jatie the Sensible adopts Guy II. de Laval — He assumes the Name and Arms of Rais — Birth of Gilles — His Education and Accomplishments — He loses his Parents — His Guardian, Jean de Craon — His Great Barony and other Possessions — His Successive Betrothals — His Fiancees all die — He turns to the Career of Arms — ^Hie English Invasion and the Civil War in France — The Struggle of Montfort and Penthi^vre in Brittany — Duke Jean V., seeking Beautiful Damsels, is trapped and imprisoned — Gilles de Rais at the States-General of Brittany — The Duchess as Maria Theresa — The Penthifevres ravage Rais — ^Jean V.*s Curious Vows in his Captivity — Gilles raises Men and joins Alain de Rohan — The Penthi^vres vanquished and the Duke released — Rewards for Gilles — He marries Katherine de Thouars and again takes the Field — ^The Penthibvres finally sentenced — Gilles assumes the Government of his Fiefs.

Gilles, Baron of Rais, first and last of his name, sprang from four of the most illustrious houses of

8


114 BLUEBEARD

medieval France. On the side of his father, Guy de Laval de Rais, he claimed descent from the Mont- morencys, the first Barons of Christendom ; whilst on the side of his mother, Marie de Craon, he could boast connection with the blood royal, for she descended from the famous Renaud of Nevers and Adela of France. Nor was that all ; for Gilles' grandfather, the renowned Brumor de Laval, had married the daughter of Clemence, sister of the immortal Bertrand du Guesclin. Again, Gilles' mother represented not only the opulent house of Craon, but the doughty lords of Machecoul also, and was allied to the Thouars, the Beau^ays, the Roche- forts, and the Beauvaus — all names which are written on splendid pages of French history. Finally Gilles could claim that some of the blood of the ancient house of Rais, whose wealth he inherited, flowed in his veins ; for Eustachie, only daughter of Chabot L, Baron of Rais, had married Gerard de Machecoul in the thirteenth century, and Girard Chabot IL had, about the same period, espoused Jeanne de Craon ; whilst Jeanne la Folle, the * Crazy Jane of Rais ' — a grand-daughter of Gerard Chabot III. and Marie de Parthenay — had afterwards become the wife of Foulques de Laval. Thus Montmorency- Laval, Rais, Craon, and Machecoul all met in Gilles and his younger brother, who became known as Rend de La Suze, from property in Maine which had come to his mother s family by matrimonial alliance.

To Gilles as Baron of Rais one might have applied, with the alteration of one word, the famous


GILLES DE RAIS 115


GENEALOGY OF GILLES DE RAIS.

I.— HOUSE OF LAVAL.

Guy DE Montmorency,

Sixth of the name ; called ' of Laval,^ Younger son of Mathieu II., Lord of Montmorency and Constable of France.

I

Guy DE Laval VII.

I

Guy DE Laval VIII.

I

Guy DE Laval IX.

Brother of Foulques de Laval, who married Jeanne la Folle

(' Crazy Jane ') of Rais, who died 1358, and had :

(Junior^ or * Brumar * Branch),

Guy de Laval I., called Brumor.

Married : (i) Jeanne de Montmorency ;

(2) Tiphaine, daughter of the Chevalier de Husson

and of Cl^mence, sister of Bertrand

Du Guesclin, Constable of France.

I

Guy de Laval II., de Rais.

t 1415- Adopted by Jeanne la Sage ('Jane the Sensible') of Rais,

which name he takes ; married, 1404, Marie de Craon.


GILLES DE BALi. BEN^ DE LA 8X7ZB.

1404-1440. t 1474-

Married Katherine Married Anne de

de Thouars, by whom Champagne, by whom

he had : he had :

I I

Marie de Rais. Jeanne de Laval.

Married Married Fran9ois de

(i) Pr^ent de Coedvy, Chauvigny, Prince

Admiral of France, of D^ls. 'became Baron of Rais.


(2) Andr^ de Laval, Andr^ de Chauvigny,

Lord of Lohdac, Prince of Dtols.

Admiral and Marshal t 1520.

of France. No Issue. No Issue.


8-


ii6 BLUEBEARD

lines subsequently addressed to Austria, when, through the marriages of the children of Maxi- milian I., Bohemia, Moravia, and Hungary fell to the house of Hapsburg :

  • Bella gerant alii, tu felix Radesia nube ;

Nam quse Man aliis, dat tibi r^[na Venus.'

For the vast estates of which Gilles became possessed were not the fruits of feudal warfare ; they had been gathered together mostly by the marriages of his forerunners. His father, Guy de Montmorency- Lavaly Knight and Lord of Blaison and Chemill^ in Anjou, acquired great wealth by a curious combina- tion of circumstances. The last Baron of Rais, Chabot v., had died childless, and the ancient house had but one representative left, Jane the Sensible (Jeanne la Sage), whose marriage with Jean de Parthenay had been annulled on the ground of consanguinity, and who had no hope of children. She therefore cast her eyes upon her cousin Guy de Laval, but the mere tie of relationship did not entitle him to succeed to her property ; for a decree of disherison had fallen on his grandmother, the Crazy Jane of Rais, on account of a love match she had made with a mere squire, Jean de la Musse, prior to her marriage with Foulques de Laval, a decree barring her rights and those of all her ' descendants to the barony of Rais. Only a special act of adoption on the part of the last heiress of Rais could give Guy de Laval the rights which that decree had annulled. Jane the Sensible expressed her desire to adopt him, and indeed, in 1401, she did so, solemnly


GILLES DE RAIS


117


GENEALOGY OF GILLES DE RAIS.


i

GODBFROY,

Lord of La Maurice.


II.— HOUSE OF RAIS.

[Old Line.] GARSIR& Living in II 6i.

Harcoubt or Arcoit. t 1190.

I Garsir£ or Garsile. 1220-1225.

Raouu 1 237-1 248.

Married Fran9oise Salvagie de la Motte-Achard» by

whom he had issue one daughter, Eustachie, who

married (1254) Girard Chabot, younger brother d

Thibaud Chabot, Lord of Aulnesand Rocheservi^re.

, I [JVew Line.}

Chabot I. 1 254-1 264.

I


I


1 —

RaouL No issue.


GiRARD Chabot II.

1265-1298.

Married:

1. Emma de Chateaugonthier.

2. Jeanne de Craon (t 1264).

3. Marguerite des Barres (t 1289).

By the second he had : I


I

EUSTACHIB,

Md. Gerard de Machecoul. (Table III.)


I GERARD Chabot III.

1 298-1 336.

Married Marie de Parthenay.


I Guillaume.

No issue.


Gerard Chabot, eldest son, Married Katherine de

i_


died before his father. Lavali and had :


I Jeannb la Follb.

Married Foulques de Laval.

See Table I.


I GERARD Chabot IV.

1337-1344.

Md. Philippe Bertrande

de Rouxeville.

I


I Jbannb la Sagb.

1371-1406.

Her marriage annulled.

Adopted Guy de Laval II.,

father of Gillbs db Rais.


GERARD Chabot V.,

  • The Posthumous.'

t 1351 ; married Marguerite de Sancerre. No issue.


ii8 BLUEBEARD

acknowledging him to be her heir, on the express con- dition, however, that he should renounce the name and arms of Laval and assume for himself and his descendants those of Rais. In default thereof Jeanne chose as her successor Jean, son of Katherine de Machecoul and Pierre de Craon, Lord of La Suze in Maine, and of Ingrandes and Champtoc6 on the borders of Brittany and Anjou. But Guy de Laval did not for a moment think of refusing an inheritance which would so largely increase his fortune. On September 23, 1401, he accepted the stipulated condition, and on the last day of the month relinquished the name and arms of Montmorency- Laval, and took the name and arms of Rais, diose arms being or with a cross sable. ^

For some reason or other — none of the writers on the subject have been able to account for it — Jane quarrelled with the successor whom she had chosen, and in his stead selected another and rather more distant cousin, the Katherine de Machecoul who has been previously mentioned, and who was now ( May, 1402) a widow with one son. Guy, the first chosen heir, was indignant at this alteration, and cited Katherine and her son Jean de Craon before the Parliament of Paris in order that the provisions in their favour might be set aside. It would appear that the lawsuit was for a time conducted with great bitterness by all parties, but a settlement

^ *Gilles de Rais,' etc., by Abb^ Bossard. See posi^ Ap- pendix Cy on the Montfaucon Portrait of Gilles.


GILLES DE RAIS ii


GENEALOGY OF GILLES DE RAIS-


III.— HOUSE OF MACHECOUL.

Raoul DE Machecoul. t 1160.

Bernard.

I

AlMERY.

I

OUVIER I.


Olivier II. t 1264.

I

ouvier iii.

G£rard. Married Eustachie, daughter of Chabot I. of Rais (Table II.)

by whom he had three children.

GERARD.

Married Ahette de Thouars.

I

Louis.

Lord of La B^naste and Le Coustumier.

Married Jeanne de Beau9ay.

I

Katherine DE Machecoul.

Married Pierre de Craon (Table IV.) ; had three children

of whom Jean was father of Marie de Craon,

the mother of GiLLES de Rais.


no BLUEBEARD

was eventuaUy effected on the basis of a marriage between Guy and Jean de Craon's only daughter^ Marie. All rights to the barony of Rais were ceded to the former, and the wedding was celebrated on February 5, 1404*^ Of this marriage two children were bom : first Gilles de Rsds* and secondly his brother Ren& There was formerly considerable controversy as to the date of the former^s birth, many authorities suggesting the year 1396, and others 1406 ; but Ahh6 Bossard has fully established the fact that Gilles came into the world at the castle of Machecoul in September or October, 1404,^ a date which shows that he evinced extraordinary precocity in his youth, marrying at the age of sixteen, acquiring military skill and almost renown before a score of years had passed over his head, and attaining to the exalted rank of Marshal of France when he was only five-and-twenty.

Two years after his birth Jeanne la Sage of Rais departed this life, and her territories passed to Gilles* father, of whose subsequent career not much is known. It is difficult even to say how Gilles and Ren6 were educated, though we have it on record that both were very talented. Gilles spoke Latin elegantly, and cultivated several of the arts. We find him in after-life illuminating manuscripts, and preparing enamels, with which he enriched the bindings of his books ; we see him studying science, cultivating music, initiating, and perhaps helping to

^ ' G^n^alogie de^ plus iUustres Maisons de Bretagne,' Du Paz. ' Bossard ix.^ pp. 5-8.


GILLES DE RAIS 121


GENEALOGY OF GILLES DE RAIS.

IV.— HOUSE OF CRAON.

RsNAUD I.y Count of Nevers. Married Ad^le of France.

I

Robert db Nevers, Called Lord of Craon. Married Avoise de Sabl^

Renaud I., Called the Burgundian, Lord of Craon.

Amaury, or Maurice I. de Craon. Married Tiphaine de Champtoc6 and d'Ingrandes.

HUGUES.

I Maurice II.

I

Amaury II.


Maurice IV. Maurice V.

I

Maurice VI.

I

Amaury III. Married Beatrix de Roucy, Lady of La Suxe.


Pierre de Craon.

Lord of La Suze> Ingrandes and Champtoc^.

Married Katherine de Machecoul (Table III.).


I

Pierre.

t 1415- No issue.


I

Jeanne.

M. (i) Ingerger d'Amboise IL

(2) Pierre de Beauvau.


Jean de Craon.

Lord of La Suze, etc.

Married Beatrix de Rochefort, and had

one daughter, Marie de Craon, wife

of Guy de Laval de Rais, and moUier of

GiLLES DE Rais.


122 BLUEBEARD

compose, theatrical mysteries and moralities — to say nothing of an alleged treatise on the Art of Evoking the Devil. Thus, he certainly had many gifts in addition to the brilliant courage and the military coup dcdl which, at an early age, brought him to the front as a captain. One so gifted surely ought to have left behind him a name of eminence, instead of one asso- ciated with crime and turpitude. Alas ! in our own time we have seen the fall of a man of culture and high literary talent, who ended ignominiously, from lack of moral principles. As for Gilles de Rais, there was doubtless great truth in the words which he spoke when he stood at the bar of justice :

  • Fathers and mothers, all ye who hear me I

Keep yourselves, I entreat you, from all lax rearing of your children ! For my part, if I have committed so many and such great crimes, the reason is that in my youth I was always allowed to do as I listed and follow the bent of my desires.'

Those are words for every age, and well may they be applied to ours ; for in no period of civili- zation can one find such an absence of parental control and guidance as is nowadays manifest among virtually every class of the community.

Gilles, unfortunately, lost his father when he was only eleven years old ; and his mother soon after- wards married Charles d'Estouteville, Lord of Villebon, in such wise that her children were re- moved from her control. Guy de Rais, prior to his death in October, 141 5, had evidently feared for the future of his young children, as is evidenced by his


C m


• • « 


• • ••#


GILLES DE RAIS 123

willy in which he appoints a distant relative, Jean de Touraemine, Lord of La Hunaudaye and husband of his ' dear cousin de Saffr6/ as ' guardian and defender of his sons and heirs, Gilles and Ren6, and legitimate administrator of their estates/ In the ordinary course of things one might have expected that their guardianship would have been entrusted to their mother's father, Jean de Craon, but the latter was old and prone perhaps to extreme indulgence. Thus Abb6 Bossard may be right in suggesting that Guy feared the result of confiding the boys to their grandfather, and preferred to select a younger and stronger-minded guardian. In some way or other his plans were frustrated. A few months after Guy's death Jean de Tournemine dis- appears from the scene — perhaps he died, or was unwilling to discharge his office — in any case, the boys passed into the care of their maternal grandfather. A memorial with respect to Gilles' property, drawn up a year or two after his death, says :

'After the demise of the said Messire Guy de Rais, father of the said Messire Gilles, this Messire Gilles remained a minor, and of tender years {6as age\ under the guardianship {baiiy and rule of the said Messire Jehan de Craon, his maternal grand- father, who was old and ancient, and of exceeding great age {sicy^

^ • Bail — tutelle^ tuteur/ (Ducange's * Glossaire Fran9ois.') ' 'M^moire des H^ritiers de Gilles de Rais,' folio 6, recto (cited by BossardX Setpasf, footnote, p. 140.


1 24 BLUEBEARD

Moreover, every original document, pertaining to Gilles' career, in which mention is made of Jean de Craon, describes the latter as aged, weak, and indulgent. Yet what we know of his public life shows him to have been a man of considerable acumen, entrusted at times with important political duties ; and the truth would seem to be that, on finding himself the guardian of two high-spirited and perhaps self-willed boys, his destined heirs, he proved a doting grandfather, while still remaining a man of good counsel and even energy in affairs of state, one on whose assistance the Duke of Brittany could rely in difficult circumstances. Briefly, he must have been one of those men, by no means rare, whose private and whose public life are in some respects contradictory.

One of the very first matters to which Jean de Craon gave attention, when Gilles and Ren6 de Rais became his wards, was the finding of a wife for the former. Gilles was a first-rate partly for on reaching his majority he would come into possession of the great bulk of his father's property, besides eventually succeeding to most of Jean de Craon's wealth ; for Ren6, being a younger son, was entided to comparatively little. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to enumerate all the possessions of Gilles at the outset of his career ; but some idea of their extent may be gleaned from a few available data. For instance there was first the barony of Rais itself — the senior barony of Brittany — a great stretch of country, bounded on the north by the


GILLES DE RAIS 125

Loire, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean ; and ex- tending on the east to the farther shore of the Lac de Grandlieu, and on the south to the frontier of Poitou. The isle of Bouin likewise formed part of the territory of Rais. Machecoul, which had previously belonged to another house, but was now included in the barony, was the principal fortress of the region, which also numbered the castellanies of L6g6 and St. l^tiehne de Mer-Morte on the south, Bourgneuf and Pornic on the western coast, and Vue near the Loire, whilst, in the interior, were Prin9ay, La B6nate, and Prigny or Prign6.

The barony had long been r^arded as the key of Brittany on its southern side, for Poitou and Brittany as semi-independent States had more than once been at war together. The soil was very fertile ; the salt marshes on the coast yielded considerable revenues ; while there was abundant plough-land and forest- land on the banks of the Loire and in the direction of Poitou and the Vendean Bocage. It is thought that the region derived its name from a Gallic city, Ratiastum or Ratiatum, the exact site of which has not been ascertained. In the Latin of the Middle Ages the barony is called Radesia and Radesie, and in French Raiz, Rays, Rayx, and Rais. Ahh6 Bossard, who is here followed, states that Rais was the prevailing form in the time of Gilles. It was only in 1581, when the barony was raised to the rank of a duchy in favour of the Gondi family, with which Gilles had no connection whatever, that the modern spelling, Retz, was introduced.


126 BLUEBEARD

But this great tract of country was not the only possession of the fortunate Gilles. From his father and his maternal grandfather — we here slightly anticipate events — he inherited the lands and lord- ships of Fontaine- Milon and Grattecuisse, the lands and castles of Blaison, Chemill6, BrioUay, and Loroux-Bottereau — all in Anjou ; the lands and castles of Champtoc^ and I ngrandes, on the borders of Anjou and Brittany ; the lands and lordships of Ambrieres, St Aubin-de- Fosse- Lou vain, LaVoulte, and S6n6ch6, in Maine ; and of Auzence, Clou^ Lignon, La Mauri^re, and Breuil-Magnon, with the stronghold of La Motte Achard, in Poitou ; besides the castles of Verri^res and Treilli^res in Brittany, a house at Angers, and a splendid mansion, the

  • H6tel de La Suze,* at Nantes ; whilst he even

levied certain tolls on the Loire, and a charge on the revenues of the ducal forest of Broceliande.

Owner of or heir to all those lordships, lands, and castles, the youthful Gilles could surely have no difficulty in finding a damsel of high degree willing to place her hand in his. Jean de Craon looked about him, and on January 14, 141 7, when his ward was only thirteen, he betrothed him to a Norman maiden, Jeanne, daughter of Foulques Peynel, Lord of Hambuie and Bricquebec. But no marriage ensued, for Jeanne Peynel died. Then Jean de Craon again looked around, and this time a splendid alliance was arranged. A contract of marriage was prepared between Gilles, Baron de Rais, and Beatrix, the eldest daughter of Alain IX., Viscount de Rohan


GILLES DE RAIS 127

and Count de Porhoet, by his wife Marguerite, daughter of Duke Jean IV. of Brittany. It was a seemly match. The houses of Rohan and Laval were already distantly allied, through the marriage of a daughter of the famous Olivier de Clisson and Katherine de Laval with Alain VIII. of Rohan. Thus the contract was signed at Vannes in the presence of the most illustrious members of the Breton noblesse on November 28, 14 18. But, before there could be any wedding, Beatrix de Rohan, like Jeanne Peynel, died.

Some legendary accounts of Gilles de Rais say that his grandfather chose two or three other Jianc^es in turn, and that all were thus snatched away. In Italy, in such a case, people would have regarded both grandfather and grandson as possessed of the evil eye. In Brittany and the adjacent province of La Vendue, these numerous alleged betrothals, always followed by the death of the fiancieSy gave rise, in later days, to the tradition that Gilles had been married repeatedly, and that all his brides, save the last, had mysteriously disappeared. In that one legend alone lay the germ of a • Bluebeard ' story. But tradition, in all likelihood, exaggerated the facts, as it often does. One may admit the possibility of Jean de Craon having sought other brides for his grandson, between the two girls who have been mentioned and the one who ultimately became the young man's wife ; but, if so, history has not preserved their names. In the interval, moreover, Jean de Craon, as will be shown, had


128 BLUEBEARD

other and most important cares ; whilst Gilles turned to that career of arms in which his grand- father Brumor de Laval and his great grand-uncle Bertrand du Guesclin had previously achieved renown.

It was not, however, in order to charge the English that the youth first learnt to couch his lance, though they, at this time (1419), had been prosecuting the conquest of France for some years. And here, in order that the times in which Gilles lived may be understood, it is as well to recall a few famous historical events.

Henry V. of England had landed in Normandy for the first time in August, 141 5, Agincourt had followed in October of that year ; then the English King had returned in 141 7, and by the middle of the autumn had subjugated all Lower Normandy. France was torn by dissensions ; plunged into civil war by the rivalry of Jean-sans-Peur (John the Fearless) of Burgundy and Bernard VII. of Armagnac, the Constable of Charles VI., that sorry King who had lost his reason, largely if not entirely in consequence of the frantic debauchery which had marked his earlier years, notably at the time of a certain progress that he had made through the South of France, when he had abandoned him- self to excesses which had wrecked his frame and impaired his intellect. Isabeau of Bavaria, his wife, the memory of whose chaste and virginal beauty at the time of her marriage is perpetuated by a painting now in the galleries of the Louvre,


GILLES DE RAIS 129

had been polluted by her surroundings, and had taken to courses similar to those of the King. Removed from power by Bernard d'Armagnac, she had escaped his control, and entered into an alliance with Jean-sans-Peur, although the latter was the murderer of her first and most notorious lover, Louis d'Orleans, brother of the King, her husband. And in May, 1418, the Burgundians had made themselves masters of Paris. Bernard VII., dis- guised as a beggar, had sought a refuge with some poor citizen who had delivered him to his enemies. The Armagnacs of the capital had then been butchered, and Charles, the Dauphin and heir of France, had fled to Bourges (June 21, 14 18) — all this occurring while the English were making steady progress.

Jean V., Duke of Brittany — which State had remained virtually neutral both in the great inter- necine struggle and the war with the English — had twice endeavoured to patch up an s^reement and alliance between the contending factions of France, in order that they might present a united front to the invaders ; but his efforts had proved fruitless. Thus Henry V. had taken Rouen, and made himself master of the whole of Normandy. There had been conferences, in which Henry had demanded the hand of Katherine, the young and handsome daughter of Charles VI. and Isabeau. And meanwhile the Dauphin, with Tanguy-Duchitel as his Mardchal des guerres^ had carried on a desul- tory warfare, occasionally with detachments of the

9


I30 BLUEBEARD

invaders, but chiefly against the partisans of the Duke of Burgundy. Further attempts at a recon- ciliation between the latter and the heir of France had come to nothing. Finally the Duke had been murdered at Montereau (September, 14 19), to the great profit and advantage of the English King, who, by the terms of a treaty between himself, Charles VI., and Philip the Good, the new ruler of Burgundy, covenanted to avenge the death of John the Fearless. It was at this time that the Dauphin betook himself to Languedoc in the hope of ensur- ing its fidelity to his cause, while civil war suddenly broke out in Brittany, as the result of the revival of ancient feuds — a revival brought about by the action of the Dauphin himself.

Even as France had been torn asunder by the struggle between Burgundy and Armagnac, so Brittany, indeed, had long been rent by the con- tentions of the houses of Montfort and Penthi^vre. Duke Artus II., who died in 1312, had been twice married, and the century-old feud had originated in the rival pretensions of the children of his two wives. There had been wars, attended by various changes of fortune, women on both sides embittering and prolonging the struggle. At times the Penthi^vre branch had seemed to triumph in the person of Charles de Blois, the husband of its heiress ; but Jean de Montfort, thanks to Chandos, was victorious at Auray, and thereby secured recognition as the sole sovereign Duke of Brittany. Yet Penthi^vre did not entirely disarm ; and when Olivier de Clisson,


GILLES DE RAIS 131

Constable of France, who at the outset had been a partisan of the house of Montfort, gave his daughter Marguerite in marriage to Jean, son of Charles de Blois, the feud acquired fresh force. Marguerite brought up her four sons in hatred of the Montforts, married the eldest, Olivier de Blois, to a daughter of Jean-sans-Peur of Burgundy, and was at one moment hopeful that the latter would place his son-in-law in possession of the Breton throne. In the result Jean V. of Brittany — of the Mont fort line — ravaged many of the domains of the Penthi^vres (1409), and brought English auxiliaries into the duchy to help him to maintain his authority, by which means Marguerite and her sons were temporarily restrained from urging their claims, though their ambition re- mained as great as ever.

It so happened that throughout this long struggle the ancestors of Gilles de Rais had supported the cause of the Penthi^vres. The Lords of Machecoul and Rais, who belonged to South Brittany — and those of Laval, who were allied to them by blood — had fought, side by side with Charles de Blois, Du Guesclin and Clisson, s^ainst the Montforts, who had recruited their partisans chiefly in the northern and eastern parts of the duchy. But when young Gilles stepped upon the scene, in 1420, circum- stances had changed, and one finds him, with most of the old adherents of the Penthi^vres, ranged on the side of Montfort against the heirs of Charles de Blois.

The fact is a treacherous plot had beem devised

9—2


132 BLUEBEARD

against Duke Jean V. by Marguerite de Blois, act- ing in conjunction with the Dauphin. The latter, as Regent of France, had applied to Duke Jean for a military contingent to assist him, less in fighting the English than in contending with the Burgun- dians ; and the Duke, who had previously striven to reconcile the contending factions of France, had not complied with the royal demand. The Dauphin was anxious to revenge himself, and as he could not do so personally by force of arms, he resorted to a stratagem. He gave Marguerite de Blois sealed letters, recognising as legitimate the claims of her house to Brittany, and authorizing Olivier de Blois, Count de Penthi^vre, her son, to seize and hold the person of Duke Jean, he having shown himself to be a rebel and enemy of the kingdom by his refusal to succour his liege lord.

The Duke was trapped. At that time he did not suspect the machinations of the Penthi^vres, who feigned all friendship and loyalty ; and when Olivier, on his mother s behalf, invited him to their castle of Champtoceaux on the Loire, near Ancenis, barely two days* ride from Nantes, he repaired thither in all confidence. The Duke was young (about one- and-thirty), with fair hair and attractive features —

  • a right handsome and amorous prince,' says one of

the old chroniclers ; and Marguerite de Blois, it seems, proposed to lure him into captivity by pro- mising him the society of some * young, beautiful and lively damsels.'^ Indeed, to quote another old

^ 'Preuves de THistotre de Bretagne,' etc., by Dom Morice, ToL i., p. 476.


GILLES DE RAIS 133

chronicler, on being asked to repair to Champto- ceaux, he was told that he would find there * a gracious banquet, and would be served by the most comely damsels he could wish for, and would have right pleasant pastime ; to which the Duke willingly condescended.'^

But by an artful stratagem Duke Jean was sepa- rated from his escort. On approaching Champ- toceaux it was necessary to cross a wooden bridge, thrown over a little river, La Divatte. Olivier de Blois had caused the planks of this bridge to be loosened, and, on reaching it with the Duke, he began to jest about its bad condition. As it was impossible to ride across, Olivier, Jean V., and the latter's younger brother, Richard, with one or two servants, dismounted, taking their way on foot over the loose planks. Then, before the ducal escort could follow, some of Olivier's men, still jesting, flung the boards into the water. Thus the Duke could not retreat, nor could his guards join him. And now, instead of 'young, beautiful, and lively damsels ' and ' right pleasant pastime,' Jean V. found himself confronted by Olivier's brother Charles, with forty horsemen, who carried him to a dungeon, and provided him with coarse fare in lieu of ' a gracious banquet.'

Had he thought more of his devoted wife arid less of the belles damoyselleSy he might have escaped this unpleasant adventure ; but it would be difficult


1 (


Les Grandes Cronicques,' etc, by Alain Bouchard.


134 BLUEBEARD

to name any prince of that age who really had any inclination to conjugal fidelity.

Brittany, however, rose at the news of its Duke's imprisonment, and on February 23. 1420, we find Gilles de Rais, with his grandfather, Jean de Craon, attending the States - General of the duchy and swearing on the cross to employ their bodies and their estates, and to g^ve their whole hearts and even the last drop of their blood to effect the deliverance of their prince. Duke Jean's wife, Jeanne of France, sister of the Dauphin, appeared before the States in tears, with her two young children beside her, and spoke to the Breton nobles, even as, some centuries later, Maria Theresa spoke to the magnates of Hungary. And the Breton nobles acclaimed her, vowed to die for her, and promised her every assistance. The young Lord of Rais arose, and offered money and men ; Alain de Rohan was appointed Lieutenant-General ; and it was settled that an Embassy should proceed to England to beg the release of the Duke's brother, the gallant young Artus de Richemont, who had been a prisoner there since Agincourt, in order that Brittany might have the advantage of his services in this hour of trial. The Duchess Jeanne wrote personally to Henry V., entreating him at least to lend her Artus for a time, if he would not release him altogether.

But the Penthi^vres, full of hope, and relying on the promises of the Dauphin, who was now in Languedoc, invaded and ravaged the barony of Rais


GILLES DE RAIS 135

and the possessions of Jean de Craon, south oi the Loire, whilst carrying the unhappy Duke of Brittany and his brother from castle to castle in Anjou, Poitou, and even Saintonge. Duke Jean showed no great courage, it is said, but he had reason to fear the worst from his captors, in whom was per- sonified the hatred of a hundred years. And thus it is not surprising that he should have offered to consent to anything provided that his life were spared. Further, that in return for salvation on earth, he should have vowed to make the most costly presents to famous shrines, to give his weight in gold to the church of the Carmelites at Nantes, and his weight in silver to St. Yves of Tr6guier, and even to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, was, after all, but natural in that age, when super- stition was still so prevalent. More practical, per- haps, was his promise (of the piecrust variety) that he would never more ask his subjects for subsidies if they would only deliver him. They certainly made all efforts to do so, and if the Penthievres carried the Duke — tied to a horse and half starving — from castle to castle, night being the time selected for these journeys, it was in order to deceive and elude his partisans.

A force of 50,000 Bretons, it is asserted, had responded to the call of Alain de Rohan. Among the leading contributors to that host was young Gilles de Rais, who marched at the head of his own levies and his grandfather s vassals. The strength of the force equipped at his expense, the splendour


136 BLUEBEARD

of his armour and equipage, the gallantry displayed by this boy in his sixteenth year, attracted universal attention. Flatterers already flocked around him and fanned his ambition and vanity.

While the barony of Rais was being ravaged, and Gilles' castle of La Motte-Achard in Poitou fell into the hands of the enemy, the latter's strong- holds of Lamballe and Guingamp were besieged. Both ultimately surrendered, and then La Roche- Derrien, Jugon, Ch&teaulin, and Broon in like manner opened their gates. Finally the partisans of Jean V. directed all their efforts against Champ- toceaux, to which fortress Marguerite de Clisson had at last retired with her family and the captive Duke. She ended by capitulating and surrendering her prisoner, though some accounts say that she only did so by the advice of the Dauphin, who had. thrown her over. At all events, on July 5, 1420, her son Jean, Sire de TAigle, came forth from Champtoceaux in all humility, and handed the Duke of Brittany over to his subjects. Marguerite and her forces, to whom the honours of war had been accorded, were suffered to depart ; and Duke Jean V., having issued orders that the fortress should be razed to the ground, made a triumphal entry into Nantes. In the rejoicings which ensued there was no more conspicuous personage than the youthful Gilles de Rais, all splendour and prodigality.

Various confiscated lands were assigned, by way of recompense, to him and Jean de Craon, the Duke declaring that he knew not how-to requite their


GILLES DE RAIS 137

services ;^ and in some respects the proffered rewards were excessive, for the Breton Parliament, while acknowledging the good and loyal conduct of Rais and La Suze (as Jean de Craon was called), remonstrated, and, eventually, annual charges on various revenues were granted in lieu of territory — of which, assuredly, both Gilles and his grandfather already had quite enough.

In that same hour of victory a wife was found for the young Sire de Rais. On the limits of Poitou and Brittany, near the boundaries of his own fiefs, were several large and rich domains destined to pass into the possession of a girl of high lineage, an only child, who was of much the same age as Gilles. This girl was Katherine de Thouars, daughter of Miles de Thouars and Beatrix de Montjean. And her inheritance comprised the important and wealthy barony of Tiffauges, and the lordship and castle of Pouzauges, both in La Vendue ; with Savenay in Brittany, near the Loire, between Nantes and St. Nazaire ; Grez-sur-Maine ; and Confolens, Chaba- nais, Chiteaumorant, Lombert, and other lordships in Poitou. Young Gilles, on his side a high-born and wealthy noble, who, however few his years, had already borne himself gallantly in the wars, and had been complimented and rewarded by the Duke of Brittany, was regarded as a very fit suitor for Katherine's hand. He was promptly accepted, and the marriage was celebrated on the last day of

^ ' Cartulaire des Sires de Rais,' Nos. 16 and 249. See note, p. 140.


138 BLUEBEARD

November, 1420, Gilles then being rather more than sixteen years of age — not fourteen, afi Vallet de Viriville surmised.^

But the Penthifevres, though sorely worsted, were not yet absolutely crushed. On being summoned to appear and answer for their conduct before the States of Brittany, which again assembled at Vannes about the end of 1420 — both Gilles and his g^rand- father attending as councillors of the duchy*-they entered no appearance. Jean V., indulgendy enough, prorogued the States twice in order that the leaders of the vanquished faction might attend ; but they either disdained or feared to do so. Thereupon, at the last meeting of the States, February 25, 142 1, all their property in Brittany was confiscated, to be divided by the Duke among his relations and friends. To carry the decree into full effect, it was once more necessary to appeal to arms. Gilles de Rais there- fore quitted his bride to attach himself, with the Lords of Rohan, Rieux, and Laval, to the person of Artus de Richemont, whom Henry V. of England^ had released on parole. However, Clisson and Les Essarts, the two strongholds remaining to the Perithi^vres, were very speedily reduced, and the

1 « Histoire de Charles VII.,' etc., by Vallet de ViriviUe. Paris, 1863, vol. ii., p. 412.

^ They were almost related, for Artus de Richemont, like Dake Jean V., was the son of Jeanne de Navarre by her first husband, the Duke of Brittany, after whose death she became the second wife of our Henry IV. By her influence with her stepson (Henry V.) the captivity of her son, Artus de Richemont, in England was made supportable.


GILLES DE RAIS 139

duchy of Brittany was then for ever lost to that tenaciously ambitious house. On February 16, 1422, the Breton Parliament^ declared the Penthifevres to be gfuilty of felony, treason, and Use-majesU : con- demned them to decapitation, and ordered that their heads should be set in turn upon the gates of Nantes, Rennes, and Vannes ; excluded them and their de- scendants in perpetuity from all honours in the duchy ; prohibited them from bearing the name and arms of Brittany, and once again pronounced the confiscation of all their belongings. They escaped death by avoiding Breton territory, to which — as a price was set upon their heads — they never returned. But if war was in this wise brought to an end in Brittany, it still raged in France, where the Dauphin, with little apparent hope of success, was struggling s^ainst the victorious English. In that struggle Gilles de Rais was to take part after the lapse of a few more years, which he doubtless spent in Brittany, Anjou, and Poitou, leading for the most part a life of pleasure, and contracting habits of prodigality. At least this is the only inference to be drawn from certain passs^es in a document which has been previously cited — the 'M^moire' of his heirs after his death. In one part of it we read : 'The said Messire Gilles ... by the inducement and counsel of certain of his servants and others, who desired to enrich themselves with his wealth,

^ Not a legislature but a court of justice, which (as shown on p. 137) had the right of remonstrating when the ducal edicts were against the common weal.


I40 BLUEBEARD

did take unto himself the government of all his lands.' Further on, this statement is repeated and emphasised. We are told that Gilles was ' so swayed by the falsity, craft, and malice of his ser- vants that he took in hand the rule and management of his lands and lordships ; and from that moment did with them as he pleased, without seeking the advice of his grandfather, or listening to him further in any respect' He is said to have been twenty, or thereabouts, at this time, but it is virtually cer- tain that he was a year or two youngen As a noble he would probably have attained his majority on reaching his eighteenth birthday. That he found himself in very bad hands is repeatedly evidenced by the * M^moire.* For instance, nothing could be more significant than these words : * He was ever pressed by the counsel and the exhortations of those who were around him, and who wished to enrich themselves at his cost* And again : * He was seduced by the false craft and damnable covetous- ness of his servants.'^

Unfortunately, we have no precise information respecting his doings at this period, which must have strongly influenced his subsequent life. Sur- rounded by parasites and flatterers, he disappears from view, and only comes into prominence again when he has nearly completed his twenty-first year.

^ ' M^moire des H^ritiers/ etc., and Letters Patent of Charles VII. under date January 13, 1446, in the ' Cartulaire des Sires de Rais ' (now at Serrant), published by M. Paul March^;ay in the 'Revue des Proirinces de POuest,' Nantes, 1853-6.


II

1425— 1434-5-

THE PATH OF GLORY — GILLES AND JOAN OF ARC — THE CLOSE OF GILLES' MILITARY CAREER

The Anglo-French War — Cravant and Verneuil — Gilles at St James-de-Beuvron — Malestroit, Chancellor of Brittany — Gilles at Rainefort, Malicome and Le Lude — The French chased by Talbot— The Crisis of Charles VIL's Fortunes— The Royal Favourite, La Tr^mouille — The Maid of Orleans — Joan and Gilles — A Curious Compact — The Relief of Orleans — The Fight at Patay — The Coronation at Rheims — Gilles created Marshal of France — He escorts the Holy Oil — Charles VII. and Joan of Arc — ^The March on Paris — Gilles and the Maid at the Attack on the St. Honor^ Gate— The Withdrawal to the Loire — ^The Arms of France granted to Gilles — His Associa- tion with the Maid — His Expedition to Louviers — His Presence at Beauvais and Lagny — He fights at Sill6 and Conlie — His Withdrawal from Active Command — His Military Services and the Historians.

The years during which one loses sight of Gilles de Rais were gloomy ones for France and the French monarchy. The death of Henry V. of England on August 31, 1422, and that of the wretched Charles VI. towards the end of the following month of October, in no wise tended to improve the circumstances of the unlucky King of Bourge^, as the Dauphin-


142 BLUEBEARD

regent was derisively called. John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, governed the northern provinces of France on behalf of the infant Henry VL; and the English work of conquest proceeded steadily, helped by the alliance with Burgundy, into which unholy compact Brittany seemed likely to enter; for Duke Jean V. was sorely embittered against the Dauphin, who, contrary to repeated promises, had failed to dismiss from his council and court the various personages compromised in the enterprise of the Penthievres.

Thus, at the moment when Henry V. was near his death, Breton ambassadors arrived in Paris, and a little later arrangements were made with Bedford, by which Brittany engaged to help the English to secure possession of La Rochelle. The Dauphin, however, heard of what was brewing, and, in his anxiety — for La Rochelle was the only port by which he could communicate with his allies of Scot- land and Castille — he hurried to that city, and placed it in a state of defence. The Anglo- Breton designs were frustrated ; and when the royal levies of Sain- tonge found that a Breton force had crossed the frontier, they attacked and defeated it at Montaigu (October, 1422), driving it back into the neighbour- ing barony of Rais. It is not known whether Gilles was present on that occasion, but the geographical position of his territory points to the conclusion that the measures against La Rochelle were concerted

there. ^

^ Massiou's ' Histoire de Saintonge,' vol iL, part 2, p. a6i ; Thibaudeau's ' Histoire de Poitou,' vol. ii., p. 4.


GILLES DE RAIS 143

In spite of the failure of that enterprise, Brittany and England remained on good terms, and it seemed more probable than ever that the former would give the latter active support, especially as about Easter, 1423, Artus de Richemont, brother of the Breton Duke, wedded one of the two daughters of the Duke of Burgundy, her sister at the same time being espoused by Bedford. Thus the position of the Dauphin-regent, or Charles VII., as he may hence- forth be called, appeared more and more desperate. Before long, moreover, his forces sustained two memorable defeats. The first was at Cravant, on July 31, 1423, when the Franco-Scottish army, led by the Marshal de S6v6rac and James Stuart, Lord Damley, was totally defeated by the Anglo- Bur- gundians under Salisbury, Suffolk, and Jean de Toulongeon. Yet more disastrous for the French arms was the Battle of Verneuil, on August 17, 1424 — a battle less familiar to Englishmen than Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, but as well worthy of remembrance as any of those famous fights. Bedford led the Anglo-Normans, some 14,000 strong, and did powerful execution in the fray. The French King's army of 20,000 men — chiefly Scots, Lombards, and Spaniards — was decimated by the English archers. Most of its leaders fell, and with them 9,000 of their men, Bedford's losses being estimated at about one-third of that number.^

After that * bloody daye of old Vernoyle ' the cause of Charles VII. seemed almost hopeless. He ^ Vallet de Viriville^ /.r., vol iL, pp. 412-418.


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had as yet shown none of the high qualities which marked the latter part of his reign. Supine and indolent, he left everything to favourites, and had it not been for the intervention of three women, Yolande d'Aragon, Joan of Arc, and Agnes Sorel, who between them ended by making almost a great ruler of him — so true it is that certain men are entirely the work of women — he would^ perhaps, now figure in history as one of the very weakest princes that ever reigned.

In the crisis of his fortunes it was Yolande d'Aragon, his mother-in-law, who came forward with good advice. Artus de Richemont, scurvily treated by the Duke of Bedford, had retired, in high dudgeon, into Brittany ; and Yolande pre- vailed on Charles to send for him and create him Constable of France. This — in spite of the opposition of the favourites and other obstacles — was effected in March, 1425, and it has been sur- mised by some writers that Gilles de Rais then accompanied Richemont to the French court There is no proof of it, however ; indeed, Gilles* adhesion to the French cause appears to date from Sep- tember 8, 1425, when, in the company of his grand- father, Jean de Craon, he was present at an inter- view between Charles VII. and Duke Jean V. at Saumur. After the appointment of Richemont and the negotiation of a truce with Burgundy, Yolande d'Aragon had employed Jean de Craon in the delicate task of drawing France and Brittany together, and the Saumur interview was the result


GILLES DE RAIS 145

of Craon's diplomacy,^ Chiarles VII, having solemnly undertaken, once again, to remove from his court the favourites and other personages inimical to the Dukes of Brittany and Burgundy, besides formally disavowing all connection with the sequestration of Duke Jean V. by the Penthifevres.

It is n(OW, then, that we find Gilles de Rais con- sorting with the French court Handsome, clever, possessed of a ready wit, and — what was of far more importance in those days — a very large fortune, it is certain that he was well received by the nobles who surrounded Charles VII. But he did not linger among the pleasures of Saumur or Chinon. Ever since the earlier part of 1425, Richemont had been endeavouring to raise men in Brittany — a task attended by considerable difficulties until the recon- ciliation of Saumur. Now, however (February, 1426), Jean V. himself desired active hostilities against the English, particularly as they had seized Le Mans, the appanage of his ward and son-in*law, Louis III. of Sicily, Duke of Anjou and Count of Maine. Thus the young Baron of Rais was able to come forward, raise seven companies of men at his own expense, and join the banner of Richemont.

He fought for the French cause for the first time at the attack on St James-de-Beuvron, a little town on the Norman frontier (between Avranches and Foug^res), which, with its castle built by William the Conqueror, was held by three English captains —

^ Chartier's 'Troubles sous Charles VII.* Nevers, 1553, p. 53 (cited by Bossard).

10


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Ramston, Branch, and Burdett, who commanded some 700 men. Richemont had perhaps 16,000 followers; but they were raw Breton levies, and when some of the English soldiery stole out of the stronghold and appeared on one of their flanks with shouts of 'Salisbury and St George!* the Bretons, imagining that a large English relieving force was at hand, were seized with panic, and fled, despite the efforts of Richemont and his captains. Many were drowned in their flight, others were put to the sword, and the English took possession of eighteen banners and immense booty.

Jean de Malestroit, Chancellor of Brittany and Bishop of Nantes, said to be an accomplice of the English, with whom, it appear, he had often n^o- tiated on behalf of the duchy, and from whom he had received a pension and lands in Normandy, was openly accused of having planned or helped on this disgraceful rout ; and when Richemont, who with a few captains remained on the lost field till midnight, returned to Rennes, he caused Malestroit to be arrested. The Chancellor, however, escaped punishment by dint of excuses, protests, and promises.^ The incident has been mentioned here because this same Jean de Malestroit in after-years sat in judgment on Gilles de Rais. He will appear more than once in this narrative, for if it is im- portant that the reader should be made acquainted

1 Guillaume Gruel's * M^oires de Richemont,* p. 364^. V. de Viriville, /.r., voL ii., p. 15. < Le Conn^table de Richemont/ by £. Cosneau, Paris, 1886, 8vo., p. 121.


GILLES DE RAIS i47

with the character of Gilles, the culprit, it is also essential that something should be said of the character of his judge.

After the disaster of St James, the Duke of Brittany sued the Earl of Suffolk, then the English Lieutenant in Lower Normandy, for a three months' truce, which was granted on onerous conditions, and not renewed. Moreover, if the English for a time refrained from invading Brittany, they carried war yet farther into Maine, where they seized several castles, including La Suze, then belonging to Jean de Craon, and afterwards to Gilles* brother Ren6. About the end of 1426 various French forces were disposed in this region in order to resist the English advance. There was one body of men under Ambroise de Lor6, a second under the Sire de Beaumanoir, and a third under Gilles de Rais,^ who acted on some occasions independently, and at times in conjunction with the others. The chief duty of these captains appears to have been the defence of the country around La F16che, but they also made frequent efforts to retake the various neighbouring fortresses which the English had occupied.

Richemont repaired to the region after the relief of Montargis, at which the English were badly beaten by that energetic rascal La Hire and the young Bastard of Orleans. The Constable drove the enemy out of Galerande,^ while Ambroise de

  • Jean Chartier's * Chronique de Charles VII.,' etc., Elzevir

edition, Paris, 1858, 8vo., vol. i., p. 51 et seq,

  • Near Chateaugontier (Mayenne).


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Lor6, directing his efforts on Rainefort,^ assaulted that castle with such good effect that he had already carried a part of the boulevard or rampart when night set in. At ten on the following morning the English garrison agreed to surrender on the morrow if no succour should then have reached it; but a few hours later Gilles de Rais and Beaumanoir arrived to reinforce De Lor6» and capitulation was then no longer delayed. The English were spared, but some French renegades among them were hanged by the orders of Gilles, in spite of De Lor6*s remonstrances.

In this connection it may be mentioned that both Henry V. and the Duke of Bedford had more than once made examples of those who, after swearing allegiance to England, had* passed over to the other side. Indeed, all such renegades are, by the uss^^es of war, liable to the death penalty.

Rainefort having been reoccupied, Gilles and Beaumanoir marched on Malicorne, near La Fl^che ; but this fortress resisted stubbornly until first De Lor6, and then the Sire de Chartres, arrived upon the scene with powerful artillery. Malicorne was cannonaded and assaulted, but only at the last extremity did the English captain capitulate. He and his compatriots were held to ransom ; ' but those of the language of France who had surrendered to the said Lords of Rais and Beaumanoir were all hanged.'^

^ ' M6moires concemant la Pucelle' (Petitot), vol. viii., p. 129.

' Bourdign^'s ' Chroniques d'Anjou et de Maine,' 1529 (Quatre- barbes' and Faultrier's reprint). Angers, 1842, voL ii., p. 155. J. Chartier, /.r., vol i., p. 53.


GILLES DE RAIS 149

From this time Gilles and Beaumanoir are con- stantly found together. It would seem that they were not only of much the same age and disposi- tion, but that some ties of relationship existed between them. They are found joining De Lori at Ambriferes, where they again defeat a small Eng- lish force ; and soon afterwards they appear under the walls of Le Lude, one of the region's strongest castles, situated on the left bank of the Loire. Here the English captain, Blackburne by name, had re- solved to fight to the last extremity, and in order to reduce Le Lude artillery again had to be employed. At last the assault was given, led by Gilles de Rais in person. He was the first to reach the summit of the rampart, where, encountering Blackburne, he fought and slew him. The English, seeing their captain fall, speedily surrendered.^

The capture of Le Lude opened the road to Le Mans, whose inhabitants were eager to throw off the foreign rule; but an enterprise on that city could only prove successful if it were undertaken by a large force. This was brought together by Guillaume d'Albret and La Hire, joined by Beau- manoir, Rais, and others. Talbot, who commanded at Le Mans, was momentarily absent at Alen9on, and, with the connivance of the inhabitants, the French, towards the end of May, 1428, made them- selves masters of the town after very little resist- ance. But the English garrison, which withdrew

  • Bourdign^, /.r., vol. ii., p. 156. 'Chronique de la Pucelle*

(Biblioth^ue Gauloise), p. 250. J. Chartier, /.r., vol. i., p. 57.


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»,:


into a part of the fortifications, sent messages to Talbot, who at once set out with all his forces. His advance guard, under Matthew Gough, arrived at Le Mans before dawn, thus surprising the French, who had spent the previous day drinking heavily, and were in no fit condition to fight They fled, chased to Le Lude by Talbot, who afterwards put to death those inhabitants of Le Mans by whom they had been admitted to the city.^

With this discomfiture, the share of Gilles de Rais in the campaign seems to have ended. He was now altogether in the French service, for the Duke of Brittany had long previously ceased to support the cause of Charles VH. Bedford, enraged by the Breton attempt on St, James-de-Beuvron, had sent Warwick and Talbot against Brittany early in 1427, and Jean de Malestroit, the Bishop-Chancellor, *a traitor sold to the English, '^ had speedily come to terms with them. Finally, in January, 1428, Jean V. had acknowledged Henry VL as his only li^e lord, and disowned all alliance with France ; Scales and Talbot repairing on this occasion to Nantes, where the Duke — a puppet in the hands of the wily Malestroit — loaded them with gifts by way of pur- chasing their forbearance.^

Thus Charles VII. was again reduced to his own

  • V. de Viriville, /.r., vol. ii., p. 27.
  • /did., vol L, p. 480. Cosneau, /.r., p. 121.

^ The Lavals, the Lord of Rais, the Viscount of Rohan and the Bishop of St. Malo refused the oath to the English. (Letters patent of Charles VIL, Loches, June 28, 1428.) Cosneau, /^^ p. 531.


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resources, and never had his position been more critical. The Duke of Bedford having decided to carry the war beyond the Loire, the Earl of Salis- bury marched triumphantly on Orleans, reducing, as he proudly wrote to the City of London, forty towns, castles, or fortresses on his line of march. At last, on October 12, 1428, the memorable siege of Orleans began. Who was to save France ? Richemont, the Constable, a brave captain, whom fortune had deserted at St James-de-Beuvron, was no longer beside Charles VII.; for he had not only acquired the surname of the Justiciar, but had also incurred the royal distrust by his summary treatment of the favourites, some of whom he had driven away, whilst others — the infamous Pierre de Giac and the aspiring Le Camus de Beaulieu — had been put to death by his commands. In the result, a third favourite, George de La Tr^mouille, fearing that his own influence might have a similar ending, had induced Charles VII. to exile Richemont from the court, and deprive him of active command.

In the Constable's absence, however. La Tr^- mouille was not the man to take his place. He, the favourite, was no captain. In that age, which, whilst warlike and bloodthirsty, was also full of intrigue, venality, and grasping egotism. La Tr^- mouille, like Philip of Burgundy, represented the latter characteristics. Yet Vallet de Viriville has assuredly painted him blacker than he really was. It is exaggeration to r^ard him as a Burgundian henchman, treacherously installed by the side of the


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French King. He played his own game, not that of Duke Philip. Possessed of a natural talent for intrigue and diplomacy, he was essentially an egotist, a jouisseur^ fond of pleasure and particularly of money. That he w^s venal is certain — he is known to have practised usury, to have built himself a large fortune on the ruins of his country ; but, whatever may have been his jealousy of others, his enemies have assuredly gone too far in basing on three or four coincidences a theory that he planned the ruin and downfall of Joan of Arc from the very hour of her advent. His disastrous management of public affairs is amply explained by the fact that he was a diplomatist, not a soldier. And what France needed in that terrible crisis was a captain of genius. No diplomacy could cope with the wily arts of Philip of Burgundy, or prevent the progress of the English, whose banners, now planted about the Loire, might soon advance into Southern France.

But already at that hour the saviour of the country had arisen. In a little village by the Meuse, in the remote province of Lorraine, there was a maid in her seventeenth year, a tall, comely, thoroughly healthy, strong and active girl, one with a winning, kindly heart, one who was never idle, who helped her mother in her housework, and spent long hours sewing and spinning beside her, one, too, who went into the fields and put her hand to plough and harrow whenever occasion required, and who at other times led the sheep of the villagers to pasture. She was no sickly weakling like Bemadette of


.*


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■w.

Lourdes, she was no mystic even in the sense in which that word is often taken ; yet visions had come to her, and she had heard commands. The voice that spake to her was the voice of a sensitive conscience and of untutored genius — natural genius, dawning triumphantly in a pure and pious mind. The visions she beheld were in like way the splendid visions of genius, blended with the most trustful, the most fervent religious faith. And the genius arising in that young maid was that of the most ardent and courageous patriotism. For long years, amidst the rivalries and jealousies, the eager and conflicting passions of princes and nobles, the real question at issue in those dolorous and bloody days had been lost sight of, simple though it was. And she came forward to bring it back to recollection. Was France to belong to its own children, or was it to pass for ever under the sway of the Anglo-Saxons ?

  • France for the French ' — ^such, virtually, was the

answer of Joan of Arc. And, though the end came long after her cruel martyrdom, she it was who saved France, who saved her race. In her, indeed, glowed the flame which, in another supreme moment of French history, shone in Danton. Long before his time she was the apostle of audacity. * De I'audace, encore de I'audace, toujours de Taudace ' — and, not miracles, but marvels would follow !

  • Brief, brave, and glorious was her young career ;'

and she is still so near to us that when we think of what she did and what she suffered, epopceia ceases to be fantasy and becomes reality. Joan, all uncon-


154 BLUEBEARD

scious of it, was a poet in action. Her few years formed a splendid pathetic living epic, soaring to the very acme of earthly glory, ending in the most dire of human sufferings. As for the men who sent her to her death, they were less to blame than was the cruel, revengeful, and superstitious age in which they lived. When one remembers how low Chris- tianity was allowed to sink by those who had taken on themselves to diffuse and guide it, one marvels that it should ever have revived, ever have attained again even to semi-purity.

Fascinating, however, as is the story of the Maid of Orleans, this is not the place to tell it in detail. Nor would it be necessary to recapitulate its chief features — which are almost as well known to English as to French children^ — if it were not for the fact that throughout a considerable period Gilles de Rais figured prominently by the side of Joan, in such wise that one is forced to tread well-worn ground in order to make the narrative of his career intelligible. It was early in March, 1429, when Joan reached Chinon, saw Charles VII., and told him of her

^ Should this book fall by chance into the hands of any French readers, it is as well perhaps that they should know that the story of Joan of Arc, in its broad lines, is taught in English Board and National Schools, and is thus as familiar to the young of this country as is the story of King Alfred and the cakes. The writer has questioned several children on the subject, and has been both surprised and pleased by the knowledge and sympathy displayed by them. This ought to show French Anglophobists in some measure how absurd it is on their part to cast Joan, her exploits, and her death, as a menace and a reproach at the English of the twentieth century.


GILLES DE RAIS 155

mission. After being taken to Poitiers and interro- gated there, she returned to Chinon with the King about the end of the month. The expedition for the relief of Orleans had now been decided on, and an establishment and a command were assigned to Joan. At this moment, according to some accounts, the duty of watching over her and protecting her — apart, of course, from the immediate services of her squire and other personal attendants — was assigned to the young Baron of Rais, who was also to com- mand a part of the relieving forces. Abb6 Bossard insists even that, as Gilles discharged the afore- mentioned duty, he must have been selected for it by Joan herself, and in support of that contention the Abb6 quotes the * Geste des Nobles,' which shows the Maid asking ' that, to serve as her escort, it might please the King to grant her such men, and in such number, as she might request* The

  • Chronique de la Pucelle '^ adds : ' Then the King

ordered that whatever she might ask should be given unto her ; and afterwards the Maid took leave of the King to go to the city of Orleans.'

It is said, however, that Joan repaired to St. Florent and Tours whilst the military preparations were being made at Blois, and one must therefore assume (if the story be true) that Gilles only entered on protective duties — such as were subsequently

^ V. de Viriville's edition, p. 280. Bossard also cites ' Proems de Jeanne d'Arc,' J. Chartier, voL iv., pp. 41-53; Monstrelet, voL iv., p. 363; Jean de Wavrin, p. 407; 'Chronique de la Pucelle' (Biblioth^ue Gauloise), p. 278.


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assigned to Alen^on — ^when the Maid arrived there on April 25, with Regnault de Chartres (Chancellor of France) and the Sire de Gaucourt.

On the 8th day of that month, before leaving Chinon for Blois, Rais entered into a curious engage- ment with the royal favourite La Trimouille, an engagement which has been the subject of con- siderable speculation. 'Gilles, Lord of Rais and Pouzauges,' says the deed,^ ' engages on his honour to observe inviolable fidelity towards George, Lord of La Tr^mouille, Sully and Craon,^ for the King's service.' In recognition of the 'great rewards, honours, and acts of courtesy ' for which he has to thank the favourite, he swears ' to serve him until death against all lords and others of whatever estate they be, always with regard to the good grace and love of the King.*

Some writers have thought that this deed was connected with a plot — even at that early stage — against Joan of Arc, who undoubtedly was not regarded with favour by certain prominent person- ages. But, leaving the Maid altogether on one side, the document is amply accounted for by the dis- trustful and jealous disposition of La Trdmouille. It was in all likelihood a precaution taken by him to deter the young and flighty Gilles — at a moment when with the favourite's sanction, and probably by his help, he

^ Cited by Bossard. There is a copy among Dom Fonteneau's MSS. at Poitiers (Redet's Catalogue, No. 329), which copy is said to be from the original at Thouars.

^ La Tr^mouille was a distant kinsman of Jean de Craon and of

Gilles.


GILLES DE RAIS 157

was being entrusted with an important command — from entering into any conspiracies with other nobles. There is nothing to show that La Tr^mouille then hated the Maid, though, like many others, he probably doubted her assertions, for she had not yet won her spurs. But, on the other hand, he, the favourite, was unpopular among many who ap- proached Charles VI I. And, again, the deed may have been directed more particularly against Riche- mont, the Constable, who was very desirous of quitting his retirement and exercising a command now that active warfare was imminent Richemont and Rais had been on friendly terms, and La Tr6- mouille may have wished to prevent the latter from using his new rank, as one of the chief captains of the French forces, in the dreaded Constable's interest In that respect, however, Rais remained indepen* dent ; at a later stage he even helped Richemont to return for a brief period to the royal service. Thus if — ^in order to secure command — he did covenant to act as La Tr^mouille's ' man and spy ' on the expedition to Orleans, it is certain that he afterwards attached very little importance to his undertaking. Princes and nobles, it may be added, were constantly enter- ing into solemn covenants and breaking them in those suspicious and changing times.

Orleans was reached safely, and Joan entered the city ; Rais apparently being among those who returned to Blois for fresh supplies, artillery and ammunition. But he participated in the desperate fighting, and was certainly with the Maid during the


158 BLUEBEARD

various attacks on the fortresses held by the English around Orleans.^ Some chroniclers say he hurried to her side to succour her when she was wounded in the breast by an arrow at the memorable assault of Les Tourelles. Again, when the si^e was raised, Gilles was one of those who strongly advised that the Loire region should be purged of the English before any attempt were made to carry the King to Reims for his coronation. This is shown by the

  • Mystery of the Siege of Orleans,' which by reason

of Gilles's share in its production — of which further mention will be made hereafter — may be regarded in some respects as a historical document

It is also beyond question that the young captain rendered important services in the reduction of the town of Jargeau, when, after a desperate onslaught gallantly led by the Maid, the English were over- come and Suffolk was taken prisoner. A State document^ shows that Charles VII. afterwards granted to the Baron of Rais 'the sum of i,ooo livres to recompense him for the great expenditure he had incurred by assembling, according to agree- ment, a certain large body of men-of-arms and bow- men, whom he had kept at his own expense and employed for the service of the King and in the company of the Maid, in order to reduce to obe- dience the town of Gergeau {stc\ which was held by the English.'

^ J. Chattier, /.^., vol. i., pp. 73-77.

' Archives de la Chambre des Comptes. Quicherat : * Procte de Jeanne d'Arc,' vol. iv., p. 261.


GILLES DE RAIS 159

Again — and this proves that Gilles did not attach much importance to his covenant with La Tr^mouille — he is found among those who signed and sealed guarantees of the fidelity of Richemont^ when the Constable (early in June, 1429) was for a brief space again allowed to bear arms for France. Rais helped him to reduce Beaugency.^ And he fought, too, at Patay (June 18), when Talbot's men got into confusion, and when the doughty warrior him- self was taken prisoner, philosophically exclaiming :

  • It is the fortune of war * — a battle which, as distinct

from si^e operations, was the first gained by the French in the Maid's company. It was not a great engagement, perhaps ; for it would seem that on either side there were only about 6,000 combatants ; but its effect on the morale of the French can hardly be overestimated. They, in the first in- stance, awed by the recollection of Agincourt, Cravant, and Verneuil, had been almost unwilling to fight ; but Joan had urged them on.

  • Have you your spurs ?' she cried. * Go at them

and they will flee. . . . And your spurs you will need to follow them !'

This prophecy was not fulfilled to the letter ; for Sir John Fastolfe — who has received more justice from French than from English historians — drew off his division in good order ; but victory rested with the French, who now felt that in the inspiring com- panionship of the Maid they could beat their

^ Desonneaux, 'Histoire de la Maison de Montmorency'; Guillaume Gniel, etc ; cited by Bossard, p. 40. ' Cosoeau, /.r., p. 171.


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enemies in the field as well as recover their lost towns and castles.

When the time came for the bold and eventful march on Reims (June 27-29), Rais figured among the commanders of the force escorting Charles VII. and Joan of Arc The * coronation city' was reached on July 16, and on the morrow Gilles was promoted to the dignity of Marshal of France. He had cer- tainly rendered good service at Orleans, Jargeau, Beaugency, and Patay, and was entided to reward. Yet this particular honour, at this particular moment, was due, perhaps, to the fact that usage required two Marshals to be present at the coronation, and the force accompanying the King and the Maid counted only one — that is, Jean de Brosse, Lord of Boussac and Ste. S^vfere, who had held the office since 1427, having gained it, some assert, by the help he had given Richemont in putting the ignoble royal favourite, Le Camus de Beaulieu, to death.

Invested with his new dignity, Rais and his brother Marshal, with the Sire de Culant, Admiral of France, and the Sire de Graville, Grand Master of the Archers, rode in brave array, with banners flying, to the ancient abbey of St Remi to serve as an escort^ for the ' Sainte Ampoule ' — the holy oil said to have been brought down from heaven by a dove expressly for the coronation of the Kings of France. The Abbot received them, mounted a horse provided by Charles VII., and — with the

^ J. Chartier, /.r., vol i., p. 97. Letter of Three Angerai Noblemen: facsimile in Wallon's ' Jeanne d'Arc,' ilhis. edit, p. 136,


GILLES DE RAIS i6i

golden dove, in which the phial of holy oil was encased^ hanging by a chain from his neck^ — repaired with his pompous guard of honour to the cathedral, where Regnault de Chartres, Chancellor of France and Archbishop of Reims, received the dove from his hands. Rais, Boussac and the rest, still acting as escort, rode clattering up the nave as far as the choir, at the entrance of which they dismounted. Charles stood in readiness, took the customary oaths, and was knighted by the Due d'Alen9on. Then Berry, King at Arms, called the twelve Peers of France. Three of the six ecclesiastical peers were present, but all the others, it is said, were repre- sented by deputies, respecting whom the historians are greatly at variance. Father Daniel and Desor- meaux^ both assert that ' Gilles de Laval, Sire de Rais,' figured among those deputies ; but he is not mentioned by others, and it may well be that this honour did not devolve on him.^ Another state-

^ Daniel's * Abr^ de THistoire de France,' voL iv., p. 399; Desonneaux, /.r., vol l, pp. 121, 371.

  • The ecclesiastical peers — the peerage going with the sees —

were the Archbishop Duke of Reims, the Bishops-Dukes of Laon and Langres, and the Bishops-Counts of Beauvais, Chalons, and Noyon. Their number was not increased until 1674, when the Archbishop of Paris was created a peer, with the title of Duke of St Cloud The lay peers were originally the Dukes of Burgundy, Guienne, and Normandy, and the Counts of Flanders, Cham- pagne, and Toulouse. But at the time of Charles VII.'s corona- tion the peerages of Normandy and Guienne had passed to the Crown, the English titles of Duke of Normandy and Duke of Guienne not being recognised by the French. In like way Cham- pagne and Toulouse had gone to the Crown, as had also Flanders, so far as it was French. Thus, at this particular time, the six lay

II


1 62 BLUEBEARD

ment is to the effect that he was at this time created a Count ; and this may be accurate, as in later documents we find Gilles styling himself Comte de Brienne as well as Sire de Rais.

However hasty had been the preparations for the coronation ceremony, nothing was lacking. The cathedral treasury supplied a crown, the real crown of France being then at St. Denis ; and when the Archbishop had placed the symbol of royalty on the King's head the trumpets sounded, ' till it seemed that the roofs would split asunder,' and a great shout of * Noel r went up from the assembled throng, while the deputies of the peers, according to ancient usage, stretched forth their hands as if to press the crown on the royal brow, thus signifying that they, as the great vassals of the State, confirmed the coronation. Meantime, below the altar, with her standard raised, stood the Maid who had brought the once vanquished


peers seem to have been : Burgundy, senior and chief peer ; Anjou, created by Philip the Fair 1297, recreated 1360 ; Brittany, created 1297; Orleans, created 1344-45 ; Saintonge and Roche- fort (James I., King of Scotland), created 1421 ; and either Evreux (J. Stuart, Lord Damley), created 1424, or Alen^on — that is, if the Maid's 'Beau Due' inherited the peerage created in 1360. Until the middle of the sixteenth century the new peerages were not additional to the old ones, but replaced such of the latter as became extinct. This is proved by the preambles of the Letters of Creation and the decisions of the Parliament of Paris. Thus, there were never more than six lay peers until peerages were lavished on the Guises (1527, 1547). The Parliament then remonstrated, but in vain, and from that time the number of peers frequently increased, and the peerage was finally shorn of all its ancient significance.


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and forsaken Prince to be anointed, like his ances- tors, in that splendid fane. And, to quote one of the old chronicles, when the ceremony was at last finished, 'whosoever had seen the Maid fall upon her knees before the King, and clasp him by the legs, and kiss his feet, weeping the while hot tears, would have been moved by it. And many did she provoke to tears when she said : " Gentle King, now is accomplished the pleasure of God, Who willed it that you should come to Reims to receive your stately sacring, thereby showing that you are the true King and the one unto whom the kingdom should belong." '

After that memorable coronation came the march on Paris, so es^erly desired by Joan, but opposed by several of the courtiers, and notably by La Trimouille. Indeed, when the royal army ap- proached Bray, the King purposed crossing the Seine there, and taking the road to Berry. But some English forces threw themselves into Bray, and the royal design was frustrated, to the great delight, not only of Joan, but of Rais and other captains, who were bent on proceeding to Paris.^ Bedford, however, moved from the capital to meet the royal army, and when, on August 14, the contending parties met between Baron and Senlis an engage- ment seemed inevitable. The French even formed in order of battle, the Due d'Alen^on and Louis d'Anjou commanding the centre, Rais one wing^ and

^ ' Proems ' and Desoraieaux, cited by Bossard. ' J. Chartier, /.r., voL i., p. 103.

II — 2


1 64 BLUEBEARD

Boussac the other ; but the English, who had en- trenched themselves in a kind of zareba, remained on the defensive, and finally retreated, first to Senlis and thence to Paris ; whilst Charles VII. moved on Compi^gne, which, like many other towns, now declared for him, and where he arranged a fresh truce with the envoys of the Duke of Burgundy, who gulled him with promises to place him in pos- session of Paris if he would only refrain from hostilities. Joan likewise proceeded to Compi^gne, whilst Rais forcibly occupied Senlis, where he was at last joined by the Maid, to whom the King's dilatoriness and belief in Burgundy were a constant source of grief. Charles VII. and his councillors were left to their own devices, and Joan and Rais pressed on towards the capital, followed by Boussac and Alen^on.

On August 26 St. Denis was reached, and Charles VII. was then obliged to draw nearer to his forces, finally joining them on or about Sep- tember 7. A famous attempt to assault Paris ensued on the morrow. The army had moved to La Chapelle in two bodies, first an attacking force under Joan, Rais and Gaucourt, and secondly a corps commanded by Alen9on and Clermont, which was to cover the other, and resist any attempt at a sortie. Joan and Rais marched to the St Honor^ gate, forced the outer barrier, and the boulevard protecting it. Then the Maid, banner in hand, and regardless of the fire of bombards and culverins, sprang into the first fosse and crossed it with her


i


GILLES DE RAIS 165

followers. But as the second one was full of water, the city walls could not be reached. Joan and her companions remained therefore on a kind of glacis between the two ditches, exposed the while to all the projectiles of the garrison.

The Maid was sounding the depth of the water with the staff of her banner, when a shaft from a cross-bow,^ glancing off one of her thighs, pierced the other. Some accounts, inimical to the French, say that she fell into the dry ditch and was long abandoned there, but Wallon assures us that she was carried behind an ipaulement^ which sheltered her, and that she lay there in grievous pain,^ yet still urging on her men, pressing them to fill the ditches with faggots in order that an assault might be attempted. Rais, we are told, ' remained beside her all that day, both in the crossing of the dry ditch and at the water-side where she was wounded. '^ But night fell, and, though Joan besought her men and captains to persevere, the attempts to force an entry, which had been going on since noon, were at last abandoned.

In spite of her wound the Maid would have renewed the effort on the morrow. It is certain that there was a considerable French party in the city — the Baron de Montmorency and fifty or sixty nobles made their way out to join the royal

^ 'Chronique Normande ' (Brit Mus. MSS. 11,542) annexed to Chartier, /.£, p. 205.

  • The Latin text of Chartier's Chronicle sa^rs of her wound :

' atrocissime in crure cum sagitta vulnerata.'

' Bossard, /.r., p. 44 ; }• Chartier, Ix,^ p. 109.


1 66 BLUEBEARD

standard^ — but pusillanimous counsels prevailed with Charles VII.

Moreover, another herald from that accomplished trickster the Duke of Burgundy had just reached the King with a message, b^ging him to cease hostilities, and again promising to place him there- after in possession of Paris. Thus the captains were ordered to withdraw, and although Joan, defying the royal commands, made yet another attempt with Alengon to approach the city, nothing came of it, and she was compelled to accompany the court and army on the road to the Loire.

Charles VII. proceeded to Jargeau and Gien, and between those towns he made a halt at SuUy-sur- Loire, where La Tr^mouille had a castle, at which the King had stayed on previous occasions. This time, whilst he was there, he caused letters-patent to be drawn up, conferring a great honour upon Gilles, Lord of Rais and Pouzauges and Marshal of France, in recognition of ' his glorious services and to perpetuate the memory thereof.' This was nothing less than the grant of a right to add the arms of France as a border to the shield of Rais. * The said escutcheon,' says the document, ' shall bear an orle of our arms — that is, a field azure charged with flowers- de-luce or, in such form and manner as is here portrayed, figured, and emblazoned. '^

^ The English subsequently condemned Montmorency for Ikse* majeste towards Henry VI., and confiscated his barony.

^ The document was discovered in the Archives of Thouars by M. Paul March^ay. It is on parchment and has suffered from dampness ; the new shield of Rais is painted on it


GILLES DE RAIS 167

It is perfecdy true that these letters-patent, pre- pared during the royal journey, were never sealed and roistered, probably because there was no opportunity to do so at the time, and because other circumstances subsequently arose to prevent the execution of the final formalities. Nevertheless, in conjunction with other documents, discovered of recent years, they serve to show that Gilles de Rais, at the time they were drafted, was held in very great honour by the King. The royal arms had been granted a few months previously to Joan of Arc and her family, and if they were now bestowed on Gilles, his services must have been considerable. Such an honour, indeed, was reserved for exceptional occa- sions, and, in that age, was conferred more often on towns— distinguished for their patriotism and fidelity — than on individuals. It is true that Charles VII., in May, 1432, made similar grants to Nicholas of Ferrara, Marquis of Este, and Visconti, Duke of Milan, in recognition of their great assistance in placing contingents of troops at his disposal ; but Este and Milan were sovereign houses, whereas Gilles de Rais was only a subject — the first Baron of Brittany,^ it is true, but none the less an imme- diate vassal of the duchy, and, for some of his possessions, of the French crown also. If he were singled out for a distinction similar to that conferred on the Maid herself, it must have been therefore because he was regarded as one of her best lieu-

^ Mourain de Sourdeval*s ' Les Seigneurs de Rais.' Tours, 1845, 8vo., p. 18.


1 68 BLUEBEARD

tenants. And this shows that one is justified in assigning to the young Marshal a more prominent position in the record of Joan's campaigns than has been granted him, first, by chroniclers writing a few years afterwards, and, secondly, by several genera- tions of modem historians.

In this connection it must be pointed out that eleven years after that grant of the right to emblazon the arms of France in his escutcheon Gilles died a death of infamy. It is possible that from that very moment men shrank from associating his name with that of the national heroine, the pure and pious Maid of Orleans. In any case, that prejudice, a very natural one, is to be traced in the works of various modern writers. For instance, Gilles is mentioned in documents and books which Vallet de Viriville, the historian of Charles VII., is known to have consulted ; but even that painstaking author, who, when he is not dealing with his particular bite noire. La Tr^mouille, is usually so reliable and impartial, seems desirous of ignoring Rais until the Maid is dead and gone, and occasion arises to speak of the crimes for which the Marshal under- went the capital penalty. It seemed, perhaps, to M. Vallet de Viriville that the name of Rais, in con- junction with that of Joan of Arc, was calculated to befoul the latter ; and thus, in pages of the ' Histoire de Charles VII.,* where Gilles should have been named with other leading captains, a convenient 'etc.' often does duty for him. M. Wallon was probably swayed by feelings similar to those of M. Vallet de


i


GILLES DE RAIS 169

Viriville, though it must be acknowledged that the Marshal's military services are mentioned not un- favourably in 'Jeanne d'Arc * — that fine literary effort of the * father * of the present French constitution.

In the first place, even the devil is entitled to

his due, and the present writer holds that Gilles de

Rais was, as a military man, a trusty, energetic, and

able servant of France. This is the view taken by

Abb6 Bossard, who, as a minister of religion, has

shown considerable courage in dealing with Rais's

career. Again — and on this point also one may

express cordial agreement with Abb^ Bossard —

nothing can besmirch the pure glory of the Maid.

She had no connection whatever with the crimes of

Gilles, whether they began prior to her arrival at

Chinon, or whether they were altogether of a later

date, which is a matter for consideration hereafter.

In any event they were absolutely unknown to Joan

of Arc. And thus any attempts to banish Rais from

her side — from the history of France, in fact, to

consign him solely to its ' Newgate Calendar ' or

  • Causes C^l^bres ' — are foolish.

To show how far the prejudice has gone, it must be mentioned that some years ago even those historians who had condescended to name Rais in connection with Joan, the relief of Orleans, the march on Reims, and the assault of Paris, were said to have been entirely mistaken. Rais had no share in all those exploits, it was asserted ; the Marshal of France who assisted Joan of Arc was Rieux. But investigation has completely disproved that theory.


170 BLUEBEARD

It is true that in certain documents the name is written 'Rees,' which, allowing for the fact that accents were not used at that time, would, accord- ing to modem orthography, be R6es — that is, a phonetic equivalent of * Rais,' and not of Rieux. Moreover, Pierre de Rieux-Rochefort was far more generally known as the Mar^chal de Rochefort. It is unnecessary to recapitulate his career, but one may mention that he was created a Marshal of France as far back as 141 7, gained a reputation for timidity, not to say cowardice,^ was taken prisoner in 1438, and died in captivity in England in 1439. It is true that in the latter part of Gilles' military career Rieux appeared somewhat prominently on the scene, and in some minor matters there may have been a litde confusion between the two men. But the one who fought beside Joan of Arc was undoubtedly Gilles de Rais.

After the return of the French court to the Loire in the autumn of 1429, Gilles may have repaired for a time to his own possessions. That would, indeed, be virtually certain were it true, as Vallet de Viriville asserts, that his only child, a daughter, named Marie, was born during the following year. But there is great doubt on that last point^ We know, however, by another document discovered by M. Marchegay, that in the winter of 1430 Gilles was at Louviers in Normandy, which in December, 1429, the famous La Hire had occupied for the French King. Joan of Arc, it should here be

^ Cosneau, /.^., pp. 56S-69. ^ Bossard, pp. 370-71*


GILLES DE RAIS 171

mentioned, had been taken prisoner at Compiegne on May 24, 1430 ; and, transferred from dungeon to dungeon, had been finally carried to Rouen about the end of the year. The English fully intended to drive the French out of Louviers, but had adjourned the enterprise until after the trial of the Maid. She, it is known, evinced the greatest con- fidence throughout the earlier proceedings against her ; and it has more than once been surmised that, however strictly she may have been guarded, she had some positive reasons for hoping that Charles VII. would deliver her by force of arms. He has always been reproached with having absolutely deserted her. His Chancellor, Regnault de Chartres, was certainly no friend of Joan's ; besides, his favourite. La Tr6- mouille, always preferred negotiation to military eflfort. Yet it is possible that the King may have been judged too harshly by historians. La Hire was so often accustomed to act on his own behalf that his doings at Louviers need occasion no sur- prise, but the Marshal de Rais can only have gone thither under orders.

The document which shows that he repaired to this town is an acknowledgment that he owes to ' Rollahd Mauvoisin, his squire, captain of Le Pringay, the sum of eighty golden crowns for the purchase of a black horse {cheval moreau), saddled and bridled, which he promised to give to his very dear and well-beloved squire, Michel Machefert, captain of the men-of-arms and bowmen of his company, directly they arrived at Louviers, to induce him to


172 BL0EBEARD

come with him on that journey/ The acknow- ledgment is dated December 26, 1430, and signed simply ' Gilles/ in the sovereign style the Marshal affected, though even the brother of the Duke of Brittany signed ' Le Cte. de Richemont, Artus/

Now, one may well agree with M. Marchegay and Abb6 Bossard that the presence of Rais at Louviers — less than sixteen miles from Rouen, where Joan was imprisoned — is a very significant circum- stance. Some writers have suggested that, being a mere spy employed by La Tr^mouille, Rais abandoned the cause of the Maid after the failure of the attempt on Paris. We think otherwise, and are inclined, moreover, to give Charles VII. credit for some desire to save the unfortunate Joan. It is certain that in March, 1431, the force at Louviers was joined by Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans, with

  • a certain great company ' sent * to resist our ancient

enemies the English, who were then assembled there- abouts in great strength,' and that Dunois carried out * two secret enterprises against our said enemies.'^ Vallet de Viriville suggests, however, that the King's only desire was to prevent Louviers from being retaken by the English, and that he cared nothing about the fate of Joan. In any case, whatever may have been the desires of Charles or Rais or Dunois, we know only too well that the heroic Maid went to her cruel death to become, for all ages, the martyr and the saint of patriotism.

^ Royal donation of 1,200 livres granted to Dunois ; V. de Viriville^ /.^., vol. iu, p. 244.


GILLES DE RAIS 173

Louviers was finally seized by the English in October, 1431, and Gilles de Rais is next found with his colleague Boussac at Beauvais» in the following March, when an unsuccessful attempt is planned to surprise Rouen and kidnap the young English King, Henry VI. Next Gilles is traced to Lagny, where he participates in the engagement of August 10, when Bedford is repulsed and compelled to raise the siege of the town.^ Then, on December 14, old Jean de Craon, the Marshal's grandfather, dies, and Gilles no doubt proceeds to Brittany. We find nothing about him in connection with military matters during the ensuing year (1433),^ when the grasping La Tr^mouille is at last driven from power, though this is an event in which he is certain to have taken the side of the Constable de Richemont, for in February or March, 1434, in response to the request of Charles d'Anjou, he hastens into Maine with a body of troops, appears at the demonstration of Sill6-le-Guillaume and at Sabl6 by the side of the Constable, the Sire de Bueil and Pr^gent de Co^tivy* — the very three men by whom La Tr^mouille had been overthrown ; whilst, in the latter part of the

^ Chartier en's in saying that Gilles de Sill^ (the Marshal's cousin) was then taken prisoner. It was Michel de Sill^ who was captured, as is shown in connection with the Marshal's crimes. Setposi^ p. 274.

' We believe that Gilles went to Lyons with the King that year, after the overthrow of La Tr^mouille. See/^j/, p. 187.

  • Bossard, /.r., p. 51, refers to Gruel, edit 1622, pp. 55-58;

Chartier, edit. 1597, Nevers, pp. 72, 73; Martial d'Auveigne's ' Vigiles de Charles VII.,' 1493, p. 137.


174 BLtlEBEARD

following year, he again appears in the same region — the Laval country — to do battle at Conlie. The con- nection of Rais with the spurious * Maid of Orleans,' La des Armoises, belongs to a later period — 1 438-39 — when he had become demoralized. 1 1 may well be the case that when he placed this woman at the head of a body of his men, and allowed her to figure as the real Maid, it was from a desire to exploit the prestige attaching to the memory of Joan, whom many still thought to be alive. But he removed her from the command soon afterwards, as is mentioned in certain letters of remission granted to one of his captains, Jean de Siquenville, for various offences,^

Whatever may be the exact date of Gilles's retirement from active service, documents in the Archives of Orleans show that he always retained his rank of Marshal of France ;^ and, indeed, accord- ing to the * M^moire ' of his heirs, the emoluments of his office were paid to him until his death, or at least until his prosecution. Vallet de Viriville and others have stated that there were never more than two Marshals in office, at one and the same period, during Charles VII.'s reign ; but the list of the nine Marshals created by that King, and the records of their careers — to say nothing of the Marshals sur- viving from the reign of Charles VL — scarcely bear out that contention. It may be taken that in previous times the Marshals were only appointed for limited periods, and that there were then never more

^ Secposf^ p. 296 efse^. ^ Bossard, Ic,^ p. 51.


GILLES DE RAIS 175

than two exercising active command ; but this rule may well have been relaxed during the more eventful years of Charles VII.'s struggle with the English. In any case the assertions which will be found in some writers, that Rais was disgraced in 1433, at the same time as La Tr^mouille, and sup- planted in the marshalate by Gilbert de la Fayette — who, removed from all command by La Tr6- mouille, was reinstated after the favourite's over- throw — are at variance with his participation with Richemont, Bueil, and Co^tivy in military operations after 1433, ^^^ ^^^^ documentary evidence existing at Orleans and elsewhere.

Detested — and not without cause — by historians, the Marshal de Rais, one may repeat it, has never received from them the recognition to which his military merits entitled him. Besides being a courageous, a diligent, an energetic and a trusty soldier, he expended, there can be no doubt of it, very large sums in the cause of France, at a time when Charles VII. was little better than a beggar, and when the royal favourite, La Tr^mouille, and the right reverend Chancellor Regnault de Chartres were preying greedily on the misfortunes of their country. As Vallet de Viriville has shown, the French army was then seldom paid by the King. Gilles de Rais therefore repeatedly raised, equipped and kept large bodies of men at his own expense. Occasionally, as in the Jargeau alBfair, he was reim- bursed, but his great military expenditure may well have been the beginning of his ruin. At the same


176 BQUEBEARD

time, however, he was certainly a prodigal, one who was bent on having all his fancies satisfied regard- less of the cost And he found a Duke of Brittany, a Bishop, a cathedral Chapter, and others only too willing to avail themselves of his eagerness to turn his possessions into money. One may now pass then from Gilles de Rais, the soldier, the Marshal of France, to Gilles the spendthrift and the patron of dramatic literature and the arts.


."rt"'


III


1434-35

SPLENDOUR AND PRODIGALITY *THE MYSTERY OF

ORLEANS* — THE HOLY INNOCENTS

The Marshal's Valuable Furnishings — His Large Income — His Military Expenses and Receipts — His Grand Bodyguard and his Herald — His Chantry and Chapter — ^The Magnificence of his Chapel — His Passion for Music — He keeps Open House — His Pompous Progresses — His Library and his Reader — His Predilection for the Stage — Mysteries, Moralities, Farces, and Morris Dances — *The Mystery of Orleans' — Gilles and his Retinue invade the Hostelries of the City — They make Costly Trips into the Bourbonnais — Gilles' R61e in the * Mystery of Orleans '—The Rondeau of * St. Michael and the Maid '—The Foundation of the Holy Innocents — Gilles' Anxiety to save his Soul — A Glimpse of his Crimes — His Estrangement from his Wife and Daughter — Pleasure and Remorse — Financial Troubles.

On introducing Gilles de Rais to the reader some mention was made of the great extent of his terri- torial possessions, his many lordships, his castles and fortresses, and his superb mansion of La Suze in the city of Nantes. The previously quoted

  • M^moire ' of his heirs, drawn up in the course of

litigation with successive Dukes of Brittany, also tells us that Rais inherited from his father and his

12


178 BLUEBEARD

maternal grandfather, and received as part of his wife's dowry, a great variety of splendid furnishings, tapestries, examples of the art of the gold and silver smith, jewels, and so forth, the value of these belongings being estimated at more than one hundred thousand crowns. In 1445 the crown was worth twenty-five sols, and according to Abb6 Bossard's calculation — based on Leber's researches and estimates^ — the value assigned to Gilles' fur- nishings would be equivalent to more than ;^ 180,000 of our present currency. The young noble's annual income was also very large. He derived more than thirty thousand livres from his personal domains, without counting all the produte received as tribute or tithe from vassals. Indeed, Desormeaux, who wrote with all the documents of the House of Mont- morency before him — and Gilles, it should be remembered, whether one call him * of Laval ' or * of Rais/ was really a Montmorency — states that the Marshal's full revenue amounted to nearly double the amount given above ; his fortune being the more conspicuous ' as the appanage of the brothers of the Duke of Brittany then only represented six thousand livres a year.'

One may take exception to Abb^ Bossard's view that Gilles, apart from his private wealth, was also in receipt of large pensions and grants from Charles VII. He was doubtless entitled to them by letters-royal, but it is far from certain that he

^ * Essai sur Tappr^iation de la Fortune priv^e au Moyen Ag^i' by C. Leber. Paris, 1847, 8vo.


GILLES DE RAIS 179

ever actually received them. Charles VII. was remarkably lavish with grants on paper, but it often happened that they were not carried into effect. Powerful men like La Tr6mouille and Regnault de Chartres undoubtedly took good care to secure every gift which the King signified his intention of bestowing on them ; but others were less fortunate in those troublous times, when the royal treasury was almost always empty, and when a donation often took the form of an assignment of confiscated pro- perty or of a charge on some source of revenue, which the grantee had to recover by personal authority, and occasionally even by force of arms. Moreover Charles VII., like most Kings swayed by successive favourites and parties, revoked all royal donations at various periods of his reign ; and, on the other hand,Gilles,as previously mentioned, long main- tained considerable bodies of men in the royal service at his own expense. In the course of the litigation between his heirs and Francois I. of Brittany, we find the latter stating that if Gilles sold certain property, it was by reason *of the great necessity in which he was to maintain himself in the exercise of his office of Marshal at the time of the wars and divisions then existing in this realm, for which office he received but very little wage or profit.' And, again, in equipping men and providing money for the public service, the Marshal, it is said, simply did

  • as was often done by the late Messire Bertrand de

Glesquin, in his lifetime Constable of France, and as in like way many other g^eat lords of this realm,

12 — 2


i8o BLUEBEARD

wise men and valiant, did in those wars, for the defence of the commonwealth, even as they were bound to do ; and, in any case, it was for the King to reward the said late Messire Gilles or the said plaintiff, his heir.'^

This tends to show that the dignities acquired by Gilles proved a source of expenditure and not of profit. Whatever he may have received from Charles VII, represented but a portion of his outlay for the State. But, apart from all question of the royal generosity, the young noble's income, at a moderate estimate, represented not less than

^8o,ooo and perhaps as much as ;^ 100,000 a year.

Such a revenue is not despised even in these days of American plutocracy ; and, at the time of the Marshal de Rais, it was altogether exceptional. Thus, from the standpoint of his wealth, he may be regarded as one of the millionaires of the first half of the fifteenth century, whilst in prodigality he set an example unsurpassed by any of the * Jubilee ' and other plungers of our own times. His magnificence was conspicuous already in his earlier days, when, as the * M6moire ' of his heirs tells us, he was ' seduced by the false craft and damnable covetous- ness of his servants,' and took in hand 'the government of his lands and lordships, doing with them as he pleased, without seeking advice from his grandfather or listening to him further in any re- spect.' There can be no doubt that the flatterers

^ * Intendits du Due de Bretagne.' Archives of the Loire Inf(6rieure, Nantes.


GILLES DE RAIS i8f

and companions of those times completely turned the young man s head, even if they did not then debase his nature, as we shall presently inquire^ And, intoxicated with vanity, he strove to vie, not with other nobles even of the highest degree, but with Kings and sovereign Princes.

After his appointment as Marshal of France he surrounded himself — at home as well as at the wars — with a military household. He maintained a private bodyguard of thirty chosen men-at-arms and more than two hundred horse. There were pages, squires and knights around him, all splendidly equipped and clad ; a perfect court, such as many of the highest could not provide for in those days. We know he signed simply * Gilles' like a monarch; and in the same spirit he had heralds and pursuivants, the chief of whom was called * Rais-le-h6raut.'^ Roger de Bricqueville, a Norman noble of a good house, was his major-domo; Hicquet de Br^mont, another noble, was the governor of his pages ; and Abb6 Bossard thinks that Jean Chartier, the famous chronicler, who of all the contemporary writers gives the most particulars about the Marshal, was at least for a time attached to his chantry. All his retainers were lodged, fed, and well paid. He provided them with horses and harness, and replenished their wardrobes two or three times a year ; such indeed was the pride which he took in surrounding himself with a well-equipped

^ From a document communicated to Abb^ Bossard by M. DoineL


1 82 BLUEBEARD

bodyguard, and in living, as' his heirs subse- quently complained, ' not according to the condition of a Baron, but according to that of a Prince.*^

Gilles also maintained an ecclesiastical household — a chantry and a chapter — in such wise that at Machecoul and Tiffauges, two of his principal residences, one found some five-and-twenty or thirty clerics, who, like his military retainers, lived splendidly at his expense. There was a Dean, Messire de la Ferri^re ; several chanters ; an Arch- deacon, Messire Jourdain ; a Curate, Olivier Martin; a Treasurer of the Chapter, Jean Rossignol ; a schoolmaster; with Canons, chaplains, coadjutors, and clerks, in addition to numerous choir-boys. Gilles, who, by virtue of his fiefs in Poitou, was, himself, a lay Canon of St Hilaire-le-Grand of Poitiers,^ bestowed the title of Bishop on the chief dignitary of his collegiate, and his great ambition appears to have been to raise his clerics to the status enjoyed by the clergy of a cathedral. If one may believe the * M^moire ' of his heirs, he actually sent deputations to Rome requesting that his Canons might be authorized to wear the cappa magna and the mitre, like prelates or like certain Canons of Lyons. But the Pope, warned by the Rais family, who at last took steps to check the Marshal's pro- digality, would never allow this request, nor even authorize the collegiate which Gilles had endowed.

^ Bossard, /.r., p. 60.

' The Counts of Poitou were tx officio Abbots of St HiUure, and their great vassals were Canons.


GILLES DE RAIS 183

The Marshal, it would seem, repeatedly had trouble in this matter with Jean de Malestroit, the Breton Chancellor and Bishop of Nantes. Still, that did not disturb the churchmen who had rallied to him ; and they had good reason for remaining at their posts, as they were remunerated, says Abb6 Bossard, with ridiculous prodigality, some of them receiving as much as four hundred crowns — about

^8oo — a year, and at the same time being lodged,

boarded and clad entirely at their patron's expense, so that they never had occasion to disburse a single sol. Even as Joan of Arc was preceded on the advance to Orleans by priests and monks chanting the * Veni Creator,' so Gilles — who, it may be, borrowed the idea from what he had witnessed during the Maid's Progress — was accompanied on all his journeys by his clerical retainers, each mounted on horseback and followed by a body servant They lived on the fat of the land wherever it pleased Monseigneur le Mar6chal to halt. At home and in the towns where he sojourned, he arrayed them, says the ' M6moire ' of his heirs, in long sweeping robes of scarlet and other fine cloths, * furred with sable, badger and minever, and other splendid furs, and plumes besides.' In church they wore surplices of the finest tissue, * with amices and choir-hats of badger lined with minever, such as the Canons of cathedrals have, and as if they had really been of great estate and great science.' For travelling wear, their patron furnished them with chaperons and gowns of the best cloth, but these


1 84 BLUEBEARD

gowns were 'short in order that they might ride more comfortably.' Then horses and ambling nags were provided for them, with servants and chests to carry their belongings, to such effect 'that none remembered nor ever expected to see such super- fluity, excess, and unreasonable expenditure even in the chantry of a King of France.*^

Whenever Gilles desired to secure the services of any particular cleric he did not hesitate to offer him the most costly presents ; and if he heard of a man or boy with a particularly fine voice in any church, however distant, he made every effort to procure him for his chantry. Rossignol, who became the treasurer of his collegiate, had been a choir-boy at St Hilaire, at Poitiers ; and Gilles was so struck with his fine voice that to induce him to enter his service he gave him an estate called La Riviere, near Machecoul, yielding two hundred livres a year ; besides offering his parents, needy people of La Rochelle, a gift of three hundred crowns.

Again, Mass was celebrated with the greatest magnificence at the Marshal's castles. Cloth of gold and silk of the finest quality procurable served for the vestments of his chaplains. He never bargained with merchants. He paid them whatever they asked, and his prodigality was so well known that they did not hesitate to charge him twice and three times as much as they charged other customers. The ell of cloth of gold, then worth from twenty-five to thirty golden crowns, was sometimes paid by him

^ ' M^moire des Hinders.*


GILLES DE RAIS 185

at the rate of sixty and even eighty. He would purchase a pair of Paris orphreys for three or four hundred crowns, when their value was less than one hundred ; and it is recorded that once he went so far as to give fourteen thousand crowns (about

^2 5,000!) for three copes of cloth of gold, when

they were worth less than a third of that amount.^

But all that was as nothing. A Parisian goldsmith was specially attached to the Marshal's service- His candlesticks, censers, crosses, osculatories, servers, chalices, pyxes and reliquaries — among them being, it seems, a bust or head of St. Honor6 — were all of massive gold or silver, finely chased, adorned with precious stones and brilliant enamels, the perfection of the workmanship surpassing even the splendour of the materials. And to increase the pomp of his religious services Gilles procured several organs, large and small ones, which cost him con*- siderable sums. Music indeed was one of his great passions — he often chanted the psalms with his own chantry — and he at last had some portable organs made, which followed him on all his military expedi- tions and journeys, borne sometimes on chariots, sometimes on the shoulders of six vigorous men. Thus there was nothing novel in the practice of those English officers who carried pianos with them in the course of the Boer War.

Rais did not confine his liberality to his retainers. He kept open hall wherever he might be. The traveller might enter freely, the board was always

^ ' M^moire des H^tiers.'


1 86 BLUEBEARD

spread for him, and hypocras and fine wines flowed abundantly.^ Gilles even clothed strangers, not merely beggars, but all who chose to accept his gifts ; distributing at times as many as lOO and 120 gowns among as many people. 1 1 is not surprising, therefore, to find that he was surrounded by parasites in addition to his ordinary retainers. And one and all helped themselves freely, junketing at his ex- pense, now at Tiffauges, now at Machecoul, now at Nantes, now at Angers, now elsewhere. He had mansions in both of the last-named cities. Of that at Angers we only know that it was called the Hdtel de la Belle-Poigne. The one at Nantes, the Hdtel de la Suze, faced the Rue Notre Dame, near the Cathedral, its site now being occupied by the Hdtel de la Thuillaye. It surpassed in magnificence the palace of the Duke of Brittany. The vaulted roof of the oratory was finely painted, we are told ; the windows were of stained glass of rare artistry ; and the walls were covered with cloth of gold. In other parts of that splendid abode, in addition to the tapestry of Flanders and the stamped leather of Spain, one found Oriental hangings and carpets acquired from the few merchant-princes who then traded, either through the Genoese or the Venetians, with the East. But Gilles, it appears, regarded his mansions of Nantes and Angers as m^r^pieds-d-terre; he preferred his various castles, where he ruled in all sovereignty, dispensing high and low justice as he pleased — Champtoc6, Machecoul, Pouzauges, and

^ ' M^moire des Hitlers.'


GILLES DE RAIS 187

Tiffauges, the last-named, which was both the most formidable as a fortress and the most magnificent as a pleasure-house, being his favourite place of sojourn.

Yet his was a restless nature. Apart from the campaigns already chronicled, he seems to have undertaken many journeys. There are indications that he once went to Lyons, perhaps with the King, in June, 1433 (when there is no trace of him else- where), for we know that if he desired to clothe the Canons of his Chapter like those of that city, it was because he had been personally struck by the latter's appearance ; and it seems^ that on the occasion indicated Charles VII. visited the primatial church of St Jean of Lyons, garbed himself in a Canon's vestments, and, thus attired, took his seat in the choir. It is possible, therefore, that this was the particular ceremony which impressed the Marshal de Rais and impelled him to solicit permission to array his own Canons in the cappa magna. Again there is evidence^ that, some time between 1430 and 1436, Gilles made extensive military preparations for an expedition to Langres, on the confines of Champagne and Burgundy, perhaps in connection with the vigorous efforts of the famous Barbazan to prevent Duke Philip the Good from exercising authority in the former province, which the English had assigned to him. Then, in other documents concerning the Marshal, there are references to

^ V. de Viriville, vol. iL, p. 310.

' ' lotendits da Due de Bretagne.' Archives, Nantes.


1 88 BLUEBEARD

several journeys or expeditions to Le Mans in Maine ; whilst he made progresses — royal in their pomp and splendour — to some of the chief cities of the Loire region. He was fond indeed of display- ing himself and his magnificent retinue in one and another part of France, and this brings us to the consideration of another of his costly passions — a passion for the stage, as it then existed, with its mummers, dancers, mysteries, and moralities.

This extraordinary man had a taste for all forms of literature and art. We know the names of several precious books which he possessed, and there is reason to believe that he had a considerable library in the charge of a certain Henri Griart, commonly called Henriet, who, bom in Paris in 1402, had graduated at the then renowned univer- sity of Angers, and, entering the Marshal's house- hold, bore therein the titles of Chamberlain and Reader to Monseigneur. It was he who read to Gilles the * Lives of the Caesars ' by Suetonius, the

  • Annals ' of Tacitus, the * Metamorphoses ' of Ovid,

the * Deeds and Sayings ' of Valerius Maximus, the ' Livre des Propri6t6s des Choses,' which Jehan Corbechon had translated from the Latin by order of Charles V., and the * City of God,' by St. Augustin,^ of which Gilles possessed both the Latin text and a translation, probably that by Raoul de Presles. And as Henriet was himself a man of letters, he may perchance have helped to prepare some of the

^ In all likelihcxxl the magnificent copy now in the Libxary of Nantes.


GILLES DE RAIS 189

mysteries and moralities devised and performed for the delectation of his patron, the Marshal.

But the latter's passion for the stage must have dated from his youth if it be true, as is affirmed by some writers, that it was he who caused Jean Michel's • Mystery of the Holy Passion ' to be performed at Angers in 1420, in honour of his marriage with the heiress Katherine de Thouars, on which occasion the chief parts were taken by Canons of the Cathedral, two of them representing the Virgin and Mary Magdalen.

The ' M^moire ' of Gilles' heirs tells us that he celebrated all the great festivals of the year — Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, Whitsuntide, and All Saints* Day — by great performances of mysteries and moralities. And as farces and soties (the last being variants of the first) came largely into vogue in those years of incessant warfare, when the French people apparently sought amusement in order to forget the bloodshed of the times, it is not surprising to find it stated that Gilles pro- vided himself with a company of * comedians, troubadors, and minstrels,' who frequently played before him.^ We read also of jugglers, and of real mauresque dancers whom he procured from Spain. The * M^moire ' of his heirs says that he often caused

  • games, morris-dances, farces and personages' {sic)

to be performed, as well as more ambitious dramatic ventures, for which he provided ' great scaffoldings, garments, decorations, and apparatus of divers kinds,'

^ Desormeaux, /.r., vol. i., p. 123.


I90 BLUEBEARD

which cost him immense sums, the more particularly as he invariably • had everything made expressly and afresh, thereby incurring great expenditure.* With respect to the splendour of a mise-en-scine he was as exacting as any theatrical manager of our own times, and in the matter of costumes he was often more prodigal, for it was in no imitation stuff that he clad his actors : they wore real cloth of gold, real cloth of silver, as well as the finest silk and velvet.

The cost of staging a mystery was enormous. The buildings, erected for the performance, spread over a large area, at times along an entire street, with a depth of more than a hundred feet Then the characters were almost innumerable. There were a hundred dressed in silk and velvet in the ' Myst^re de Sainte Barbe,* which a cousin of Gilles caused to be performed at Laval in 1493. All this implied great expenditure, and it is not surprising to read that Ren6 d'Anjou was almost beggared by a performance which he gave of the

  • Resurrection ' in 1456. Indeed, of all the passions

swaying Gilles de Rais, this passion for the stage was the most costly. When cities caused mysteries and moralities to be represented they recouped themselves for their outlay by charging very high prices to the spectators. Some folk, says Abb6 Bossard — following M, Petit de Julleville — paid as much as eighty-five francs, and the worst places cost an average of a franc, which was a very high price in those days for the needy multitude. But Gilles


GILLES DE RAIS 191

had no thought of asking any payment. His per- formances, not only those which he gave at Tiffauges and Machecoul, where, so to say, he was at home, but also those which he gave at Angers, at Nantes, and at Orleans, were gratuitous. Special places were reserved for great lords, bishops, royal officers, magistrates, dames and damsels of high degree, churchmen of various ranks, while the multitude had free admission to all other parts. And as a crowning stroke of prodigality banquets were spread, tables were laden with viands, and * hypo- eras and claret wine flowed as if they had been water.'

In the opinion of Abb6 Bossard, M. Vallet de Viriville and others, it was Gilles de Rais who caused the famous * Mystery of Orleans ' to be written and acted. Several writers have assigned the work to a date posterior to that of the Marshal's death, 1440. Indeed, taking the * Mystery ' in the form in which it has come down to us, it appears evident that some portions were written about the middle of the century. But M. Wallon and others take the view that the style of the com- position varies, and that the work of various authors writing at different periods can be detected in the text now extant.^ Moreover, the opinion is expressed that this * Mystery,' revised and amplified at various times, was performed in its first state at Orleans in 1435, on the anniversary of the raising of the siege

^ MS., Vatican Library. First printed by Guessard and De Certain in the ' Documents inddits de i'Histoire de France.'


192 BLUEBEARD

of the city. It may have been represented there again four years later — in the presence of Charles VII. and his court — but this is uncertain. The question whether it was ever actually performed after the execution of Gilles de Rais (even if additions were made to it for that purpose), raises an extremely delicate point; for it would, at first sight, seem impossible that a play in which the Marshal is a very prominent personage could be publicly performed after he had died a death of infamy. But strange things happened after the death of Gilles, as will be presently shown. And although it is certain that the memory of Rais was never formally rehabilitated, there is something to be said on the subject of documents and incidents which indicate attempts to palliate his guilt.

One thing is certain. The Marshal has a con- spicuous rSle in this * M ystery of Orleans ' — the historical value of which, disputed by Quicherat, has been fully recognised since his time by Vallet de Viriville, Guessard, Tivier, Wallon, Petit de JuUe- ville, and many other scholars. If it is so accurate in many particulars of Joan of Arc's life, this may well be because it was written under the direct inspiration of Rais himself, to whom it assigns so prominent a place beside the Maid, and who was certainly acquainted with the real facts of the early part of her career. The author is generally supposed to have been some native of Orleans ; but this is not certain. And if the Marshal was responsible for its production, it may have been


GILLES DE RAIS 193

the work of one of his literary retainers. In this connection it is curious to find a certain 'Jean Chartier/ accompanying him to Orleans in 1434.^

It was in the middle of September that year that the Marshal made this journey — probably to arrange for the performance of the ' Mystery ' on the eighth day of the following month of May. He was accompanied by his brother Ren6 de La Suze and by his military and his ecclesiastical households. He himself with some of his immediate favourites and attendants lodged at the hostelry of the Golden Cross, and his other people found accommodation at the other inns of the city. His chapter put up at the St George's Arms (Ecu de Saint-Georges), kept by Guillaume Antes ; his chanters lodged at the sign of the Sword, where Jean Fournier was host; his men-of-arms, his herald, his retainers, Galard de Galardon (one of his captains), Temberel, Challeney, Sainte-Croix, Guyot, and Jean Chartier, made themselves at home at the Black Head, where a landlady, Agnes Grosvillain, a comely dame, no doubt, to the taste of messieurs les militaires, offi- ciated. But another captain of his guards, Loys the Angevin, called Louynot, and his councillors, Gilles de Sill6 (his cousin), Guy de Bonni^re, Guyot de Chambrays, Guillaume Tardif, and Guy de Blanchefort, betook themselves to the Great Salmon, kept by Guyot Denis ; whilst his armourer, Hector Broisset, lodged with Mac6 Dubois at the sign of the Cup.

^ See/^i/, Appendix D.

13


194 BLU£BEARD

Ren^ de La Suze, meantime, sought the hospi- tality of the Little Salmon, kept by Regnard Provost ; and the Marshal's knights, Monseig^eur de Mar- tigne, Monseigneur Foulques Blasmes, Jean de Rains and Baul^is took their ease at the Image of St. Mary Magdalen. Then Jean de Montecler, another leading retainer, lodged with Colin le Godelier^ (the brewer ?) ; Monseigneur Jean de Vieille, like Bois-Roulier, the Marshal's provost, and George, his trumpeter, found rooms with Jean- nette la Pionne ; and Thomas, his scribe and illumin- ator {enlumineur), resided at the sign of the God of Love, kept by Marguerite. Nor was this all ; the Marshal's chariots and horses — the latter including his favourite black steed named Cassenoix (Nut- cracker) and a valuable long-tailed bay — were, like those of his brother Ren6, stabled at the Hdtel de la Roche- Boulet, kept by Marguerite Hu6, awidow. The horses of his chapter, together with CoUinet, vicar of his chantry, a certain squire. Petit Jean, a priest named Le Blond, and a barber, were all pro- vided for by Jean Couturier, called Thursday (Jeudi), who lodged man and beast at the sign of the Fur- bisher. And there were other and other retainers and servants, staying, some at the White Horse, kept by Charles of Halot, some at the Wild Man, kept by Sebille la Trasilonne, and some at the

^ From 'good ale,' an expression introduced by the English into France, whence *godale' (Froissart), ' goudale,* ' goudalier ' (brewer : Ducange, ' Glossaire Fran9ois '), and the modem French word * godailler ' — * to go about tippling.'


GILLES DE RAIS 195

Arms of Orleans, where Foulques of Estrepon was host.^ Briefly, there was no hostelry in all Orleans which did not accommodate some of the splendid retinue of Monseigneur Gilles, Baron of Rais, Count of Brienne, Lord of Champtoc^ and Pouzauges, and Marshal of France.

All these folk remained in the city until October, when Gilles, who was fond of change, moved with a part of them into the Bourbonnais, sojourning at the Arms of France at Montlu9on until the following December. The bill then presented to him by the host, Guillaume Charles, called Guillou, amounted to 810 gold * royals,' and the Marshal certainly lacked sufficient ready cash to pay the full sum just then, for he handed only 490 * royals ' to Maltre Guillou ; and two of his retainers, Jean le Sellier and Huet de Villarceau, had to become sureties for the remainder of the money. From Montlu^on Gilles betook him- self to Montmoreau, and after various peregrinations returned to Orleans in March, 1435. All the accounts of him — confirmed by various notarial documents found in the city — agree in saying that he spent vast sums on that journey of his, which lasted until the following August. Vallet de Viriville estimates his expenditure at between 80,000 and 100,000 crowns — that is, ;^ 150,000 or more of our present currency ; and it may therefore be allowable to assume that the greater part of this prodigious out- lay was devoted to the production of the famous

^ Documeots discovered at Orleans by M. Doinel, archivist, and communicated by him to Abh6 Bossard.

13—2


196 BLUEBEARD

  • Mystery/ at the performance of which Gilles, in any

case, must have presided. Perhaps it was for future representations of this very work that the city purchased ' the standard and the banner which had belonged to Monseigneur de Reys, to imitate the manner of the assault by which Les Tourelles were taken from the English on the eighth day of May.'^ It has been mentioned previously that the Mar- shal is a prominent character in the Mystery, and in support of that statement just a few passages may be quoted. After Charles VII. has received the Maid and has decided to follow her inspiration, he says to her :

' £t pour vous conduire voz gens

Aurez le mareschal de Rais, £t ung gentilhomme vaillant

Ambroise de Lor^, ar^ ;

Esquelz je commande exprbs 0(i il vous plaira vous conduisent,

En quelque lieu, soit loing, soit prbs.'*

And afterwards Rais inquires of the Maid :

' Dame, que vous plaist il de fiaire ? Nous sommes au plus prbs de Blois ; Se vous y voulez point retraire Et reposer deux jours ou trois,


^ Accounts of the City of Orleans.

^ ' And to lead your men (troops) for you, you shall at once (ar^s) have Marshal de Rais, and a valiant nobleman, Ambroise de Lor^ whom I expressly command to conduct you whither you please, whether the spot be fieur or near.'


GILLES DE RAIS 197

Pour savoir oil sont les Anglois, Aussi pour rafraichir vos gens,

Ou se vous aymez mieux ain9ois Aller droiet jusques h, Orleans P*^

Joan approves of the assembling of the relief forces at Blois, but when the English have arrested her herald, she becomes anxious to proceed to the besieged city. Rais answers her that they will do so without further delay ; and, a discussion arising between the captains as to the road which should be taken, it is Gilles who suggests going by way of Sologne, as ' the strongest force of the English is in the Beauce region, where, indeed, they hold the entire country.'^ As soon as this suggestion is adopted, Jean de Metz inquires if it be time to warn the Maid ; and Gilles, after retorting that he is ready to go whenever she desires, tells her that if it pleases her to start, he now has all the men in readiness. Again, when the English retreat, Rais is the first to propose pursuit ; and it is he who, with much eulogy of Joan, supports the Due d'Alen^on's proposal that the Loire country should be cleared of the English prior to the march on Reims. Then the Maid is confided by the King to the protection of Alen9on ; but until after the victory of Patay, when the Mystery closes with Joan's triumphant return to Orleans, Gilles remains near

^ * Lady, what would it please you to do ? We are very near to Blois. Will you retire there, rest there for two or three days, to ascertain where the English are, and also to refresh your men? Or would you rather go thus straight to Orleans?'

^ Corroborated by Chartier, /.^., p. 73.



198 BLUEB

her, ever evincing the greate^K^evotion to her person — a devotion which, if fine speeches mean anything, is much appreciated by the Maid.

From the poetic standpoint the ' Mystery of Orleans * is for the most part mere doggerel. But some of the patriotic passages are really vigorous and enthusiastic, and one finds here and there some little gracefulness and pleasing nMveti, as in the following rondeau, which closes Joan's interview with the Archangel St. Michael, after she has promised to obey the behests of God :

'S. Michel.

' A Dieu, Jehanne, vraye pucelle Qui est d'icelui bien aym^e, Ayez tousjours ferme pens^ De Dieu estre sa pastorelle.

  • Pucelle.

' En nom Dieu, je vueil estre celle De le servir, si lui agr^e.

'S. Michel.

  • A Dieu, Jehanne, vraye pucelle.

Qui est d'icelui bien aym^e.

  • Pucelle.

' Mon bon seigneur, vostre nouvelle De par moi sera reclam^e Au seigneur de ceste contr^e, Par la voye que dictes telle.

' S. Michel.

  • A Dieu, Jehanne, vraye pucelle,

Qui est d'icelui bien aym^e, Ayez tousjours ferme pens^ De Dieu estre sa pastorelle.'


GILLES DE RAIS 199

This rondeau is perhaps the only thing in the entire work which is at all worthy of quotation as verse. But in other respects the * Mystery ' has the value of a human and historical document. As it has come down to us it is of great length, comprising no fewer than 20,529 lines, whilst, in addition to large parties of citizens, soldiers and trumpeters, it embraces no fewer than 140 distinct rSles. Again, so many scenes and incidents are represented — England and the English preparations for the expedition to Orleans, the visions of Joan, while she tends her sheep, her interview with Charles VII., the relief of Orleans and her triumphant return to the city after the victory of Patay — that the staging must have cost a very large amount of money. And thus, assuming that Gilles de Rais was at least largely responsible for its production, one is not surprised to find him in financial embarrassment at the end of his sojourn on the Loire.

But before turning to the consequences of his prodigality something mu^t be said of a very remarkable deed which Jean Caseau and Jean de Recouin, sworn notaries of the Chastellets of Orleans, prepared for him during his stay in the city — that is, soon after his return from the Bour- bonnais. The minute of this deed found by M. Doinel among Jean de Recouin's papers begins as follows : * Saturday, the twenty - sixth day of March, 1434 (1435, ^-S-)- Whereas, the noble and powerful Lord, Monseigneur Gilles, Lord of Rais, Count of Brienne, Lord of Xhamptoc6 and Pou-


200 BLUEBEARD

zauges, Marshal of France, did, not long since, for the welfare and salvation of his soul, and in order that his deceased father, mother, relations, friends and benefactors might be held in the memory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, make a Foundation in memory of the Holy Innocents at the spot called Machecoul in Rais, which is in the Duchy of Brittany ; and whereas, in this said Foundation, he did make and ordain a curate, dean, archdeacon, treasurer, canons, chapter and collie, and did order and provide revenues and possessions for their live- lihood and necessaries, . . . and whereas the said Lord did have and still has a full intention and firm resolve to maintain the said Foundation, as he has shown, and does each day show, by his deeds, now he, desiring with all his heart that the said curate, dean and chapter shall, after his death, remain in good and peaceful possession of the revenues and possessions thus assigned to them, and shall be preserved and defended from all oppression, hath given first the castle and castellany of Champtoc6 to the King of Sicily and Duke of Anjou^ . . . from whom they are held in fief ; and, secondly, one-half of all the lordship, barony, and land of Rais to the Duke of Brittany,^ in order if Madame Katherine de Thouars, wife of the said Monseigneur de Rais, or Mademoiselle Marie de Rais, his daughter, or any other relatives, friends, heirs, or claimants . . . should, by whatever title or manner or for whatever cause, deny and prevent the said Founda-

1 Louis III. . « Jean V.


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S^l^


GILLES DE RAIS 201

tion, then that they, the said Lords, the King of Sicily and Duke of Anjou, and the Duke of Brit- tany, shall help, sustain, and defend the members of the said Foundation"^ in order that they may enjoy it fully and peaceably/

Next the minute confirms the Foundation and the gifts, and in addition to the latter conveys to Louis d' Anjou and Jean V. all that Gilles has ever inherited, or may in the future inherit, from his ancestors to the fourth degree, always with the proviso that the Princes are to maintain the Foun- dation in memory of the Holy Innocents. And if they refuse the gifts on those terms, the mainten ance of the Foundation is entrusted, on the same conditions, to the King of France; if the King should refuse, the Emperor (Louis of Bavaria) is designated ; if the Emperor will not accept, the Pope (Eugenius IV.) is named ; and if, finally, the Pope will have nothing to do with the matter, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and of St. Lazarus are chosen, each of those Orders to hold half the gifts. Moreover, Gilles urges si desire that the Apostolic Chamber will, under penalty of ex- communication, compel his heirs to respect this his express will. But in the whole document the most pregnant words are the first ones, coupled with the following passage which enforces and amplifies them : ' Considering that neither he [Gilles] nor any other human creature can requite his Creator for the benefits derived from His Grace and benevolence, and that it is a necessary


202 BLUEBEARD

thing to acquire an intercessor, by the help of whom, one may, in continuation of temporal welfare* attain to the glory of spiritual prosperity.'

Here one may well pause. This Foundation of the Holy Innocents sprang from Gilles* desire to save his soul. At the first glance there would seem to be nothing extraordinary in such a proceeding on his part. For many centuries the wealthy and the powerful had frequently raised splendid fanes, established or endowed abbeys and shrines, in the hope of thereby securing admittance to Paradise. Each had his or her favourite saint, whose inter- cession was relied upon at the hour when the spirit would burst its bonds and go to meet its God. Gilles, however, chose no particular saint, selected none of the great miracle-workers to be found in the Breton calendar ; he desired the intercession of the Holy Innocents, the little children io inhumanly slaughtered by King Herod. They were to pray for him, they were to plead for him, whenever he might shuffle off this mortal coil. They, in their sanctity, were the natural representatives of childhood, they typified all the little ones of suc- cessive centuries, and if they would only intercede for him, then, surely, he would be forgiven and saved.

Forgiven ! What were his crimes then ? What particular reason had this bold, spendthrift soldier for self-reproach, he who had fought valiantly for France, who had stood beside the good and glorious Maid in the hour of peril, who had given freely of


GILLES DE RAIS 203

his substance both to the state and to the poor? He had killed his fellow-man undoubtedly, but in batde and for a righteous cause ; responsibility for deeds of war cannot have filled his mind with any exceeding dread. Was there something else then, was he guilty of secret crimes, had he murdered outrageously, abominably, had he spilt innocent blood in such wise that only the intercession of the Holy Innocents, nestling round the throne of the Almighty, could possibly save him from the damnation of Hell ? Answer, ye dungeons of Champtoc6 and Tiflfauges ! Answer, oubliettes of Machecoul ! Answer, Signior Prelati, learned magister and necromancer, man of the bloody sacrifices, intimate with ' Barron ' and Bedzebub ! Answer, Etienne Corrillaut, otherwise * Poitou,' page and pimp.^ Answer Henriet, chamberlain and reader, did you indeed abet your master in the perpetration of the foulest crimes ? And answer, La MefTraye ! hag with the glowing eyes, the soft voice, the fair words, you who with eager steps went scouring the roads. What did you seek there? Unsuspecting victims ? And answer, mothers of Nantes, of Rais, of Anjou, of La Vendue, the weeping Rachels of towns and villages, who have lost your straying children and will never see them more!

But is it possible? Is this great and gracious lord a monster? See how liberal he is, what splendid entertainments he provides! He smiles right pleasandy as he shakes his fair locks and


204 BLUEBEARD

strokes his dark^ perfumed, ' swallow-tailed ' beard, which (so tradition has it) assumes, in the sunlight, a bluish tinge ! Nor wife nor daughter dwells beside him; both are parted from him, have remained in war days in seclusion at Machecoul and Champtoc6, then at one time have gone to Thouars, and now dwell alone in the grim keep of Pouzauges. Does the wife know the dread truth ; or is there merely * incom- patibility of temperament' between Monseigneur Gilles and Dame Katherine? Have they simply been married in haste in order to repent at leisure ? Such is the outcome of many a mariage de canven-^ ance ; and in any case Monseigneur Gilles does not appear distressed by the estrangement. Has he not mysteries and moralities, farces, morris-dances, and minstrelsy to divert him ? Is not the winecup always at hand? Is he not ever encompassed by mirth and bustle ? Ah I it may indeed be that the life of perpetual excitement which he leads, the splendour with which he surrounds himself, the prodigality which he incessantly displays, are all due to the dread of recurring bloody visions — the dread, too, of a certain persistent still, small voice, whose reproach he would fain escape.

Yet no ! For if at times he repents, at others he sins again, perhaps imagining that he is certain of Divine pardon, whatever his misdeeds ; for has he not done penance, by establishing right lavishly that Foundation of the Holy Innocents; is he not sur- rounded by Churchmen, ministers of the Deity, on whom he bestows a profusion of the most costly


GILLES DE RAIS 205

grifts ; do not his chanters sing the Songs of praise with a melodious excellence, unsurpassed by any cathedral choir ? And is not the greatest magnifi- cence observed at the daily celebration of Mass, which he never fails to attend ? Is not the Host that is raised before him lodged in a monstrance of the most precious metal, flashing with the most glorious gems ? Again, did he not devote himself to Joan the Maid because she was the envoy of heaven ? Ay, he has done a great deal for God and for His ministers. He will even dedicate all his possessions to their use, thereby disinheriting his only child. And thus, no matter how he may sin, he will be sure of salvation. After being a prince of earth, he will become a prince of heaven, the Baron of some celestial Rais, the Marshal of the archangels, higher even than Michael himself!

From what we know of the man, from what we can guess of his character, there were hours when some such visions must have filled his mind ; though at other times his thoughts were undoubtedly very different. But if his prodigality and his incessant quest of pleasure were inspired by some desire to rid himself of the prickings of conscience, they ended by placing him in many difficulties. It is certain that he had squandered large sums prior to his costly journey to Orleans ; and that at its close he was on the highroad to beggary, with all sorts of litde debts to worry him until he could sell some of his estates, on which he had already borrowed large sums of money. Perchance he might even


2o6 BLUEBEARD

have a difficulty in carrying out his intentions with respect to that Foundation of the Holy Innocents which was to save his soul ; for he owed money upon all sides : * Monseigneur de Rais, Marshal of France, confesses that he owes to Jehan de Laon, furrier, the sum of sixty-four gold royals and sixteen sols parisis. . . .' ' My said Lord of Rais con- fesses that he owes to Jacques Bouchier, residing at Orleans, the sum of one hundred and ninety golden royals, lent to him by the said Jacques Bouchier, being a new debt, apart from other sums owing for wines and other merchandtse, etc. . . .' That is the kind of entry which one finds in the minute-book of Jean de Recouin, sworn notary. And copes, and baldachins, and chasubles, the long-tailed bay horse, the favourite black horse, Cassenoix, and eight harness horses, together with the Marshal s splendid parchment copy of ' Ovide Metamorphoseos,' covered in gilt leather, protected by copper nails, and with clasps of silver gilt, and even his * crucifix of wood covered with silver gilt, and bearing a figure of Christ in massive silver,' are deposited as pledges with one and another creditor. At other times, his retainer, Guyot de Chambere, or Chambrays, aiti Squire Petit Jean offer personal security for money owed by the Marshal, notably when Galardon, one of the captains of Monseigneur's men-at-arms and bowmen, purchases a number of new bows and quivers for his troop, and has not received from his master the wherewithal to defray their cost. It is true that the accommodation granted to the Marshal


GILLES DE RAIS 207

is often for a very short time. The bows and quivers, for instance, are to be paid for in twelve days ; the debt contracted with Bouchier on June 14 is to be settled on the loth day of July, and so forth ; but everything points to embarrassment, following unreasonable extravagance, and to distrust, also, on the part of merchants and others in that city of Orleans where the Marshal de Rais, by reason of his connection with the Maid and the relief of the city, had some right to expect more confidence. But traders, though they are willing to accept the fruits of prodigality, often look askance at the simpleton whose puree they are draining ; and, remembering how freely Gilles had scattered his gold for months past, many may well have wondered if he really had any belongings left to enable him to pay the debts which he now contracted. However, the story of his downward course must be told in another chapter.


IV

1436— 1438

THE RESULT OF PRODIGALITY — THE SCRAMBLE FOR

THE RAIS ESTATES

GiUes anticipates his Income and borrows from Parasites whom he has enriched — He lives on Credit, and is at a Loss for a Meal — He pledges Books, Candlesticks, Vestments, Baldadiins, Bedclothes, and even the Silver Head of St Honors — Nobles, Burgesses, and Hinds account him Mad and void of Sense — His Parasites raise Money for him and secure Secret Commis- sions — He sells many Lordships and Lands — Prosperity of the Barony of Rais — Lack of Prosperity in Anjou and Poitou — Sales and Purchasers — Jean de Malestroit's Share in ' La Cur^ ' — Malestroit's Character — The Bishop of Angers and the Chapter of Nantes — Alarm of Gilles' Relatives — Interdict of Charles VII. — ^Jean V. scorns the Royal Injunctions, makes Gilles Lieutenant-General of Brittany, perjures himself and purchases many of the Rais Estates — Some Curious Deeds of Defeasance — Gilles' Relatives seize Champtoc^ and Machecoul — The Great Alarm of Gilles, Proof of whose Crimes is to be found at Champtoc^.

Prodigality usually, if not invariably, ends in disaster. However large might be the fortune of Gilles de Rais, much of it was bound to melt away in the blaze of incessant extravagance. The raising of troops, the maintenance of military and eccle-


GILLES DE RAIS 209

siastical households, the lavish hospitality bestowed on sycophants, the love of display, the gratification of costly passions and whims, the expense attendant on frequent journeyings, which Gilles could never undertake unless surrounded by the pomp and circumstance that properly pertained to royalty — all these things helped to drain the purse of the premier Baron of Brittany. At an early stage Gilles had begun to anticipate his income. He could never wait for his revenues to be collected. He needed ready money for the satisfaction of his cravings and the maintenance of the court around him. Thus he borrowed freely, and was fleeced by those who accommodated him with cash. For in- stance, in return for an immediate loan of a thousand crowns, he would assign for two or three years the revenues of some estate, yielding almost that amount annually — with the result that he ended by paying double or treble the sum which had been lent to him. The salt marshes of the barony of Rais supplied an abundance of salt which in certain years he sold for a third of its value. And matters were made worse by his generosity to his parasites. He would give one a charge on his corn, another a charge on his wine, while a third secured for two or three years the entire income of some considerable property. And curiously enough, Gilles, in the course of his downward career, ended by borrowing money of the very men whom he had enriched.

Roger de Bricqueville, his cunning major-domo, Gilles de Sill6, his profligate cousin, Petit Jean, his


2IO BLUEBEARD

favourite squire, lent him cash, of which they had really defrauded him. At other times he obtained large sums from Jacques Boucher, or Bouchier, the treasurer of the Duchy of Orleans, whom he had known since the days of the Relief, when Joan of Arc and her brothers had lodged at Boucher s house. And whatever money the Marshal bor- rowed slipped between his fingers immediately. It was squandered on some whim, or distributed as largesse to favourites and servants — in such wise that Gilles was perpetually buying goods on credit, which was duly charged for, so that in the end he paid considerably more than the real value of his purchases. One not only reads of pieces of cloth, pieces of silk, horses, harness, furs, rings and jewels, bought in this manner ; but one even finds Gilles securing his daily fare on credit, and this although his domains yielded corn and wine in plenty, although his forests were full of game, although his pasture lands were peopled with flocks and herds, and although fish could be caught in his rivers as well as off the coast of his barony of Rais. And it came to pass that this whilom millionaire was occasionally at a loss how to procure a meal, ' as, from lack of management, nothing had been provided.' Mean- time, however, * those who had control of his estates lived lavishly, like lords of the highest degree, at the cost of the said Messire Gilles.'^

A constant source of impoverishment was the erratic nature of the Marshal's disposition. He

^ ' M^moire des H^ritien.'


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squandered a large sum on some coveted object ; but within a week it had ceased to please him, and he either resold it for half, or perhaps a third, of its cost, or else gave it as a present to some retainer. His lavishness on his travels often placed him in great difficulties ; and then, as previously mentioned in connection with his sojourn at Orleans, he virtually pawned all the precious things which he carried with him. Not only were his favourite books, his ' Valerius Maximus,' his ' St. Augrustine,' and his * Ovid,* deposited as pledges with creditors ; but he was at times so seriously embarrassed that he left the vestments and ornaments of his travelling chapel with money-lenders, merchants, and inn- keepers as a guarantee of the payment of some loan or account.

On one occasion we find him pledging some gold candlesticks used in the celebration of Mass ; at another time he leaves a cope in green damask, a silver chain, a damask altar-cloth embroidered with gold, and his bed-hangings and sheets — that is, four curtains of green silk and two sheets of the same material and colour, besides a coverlet of cloth of gold — with an innkeeper, to whom he has become indebted. Elsewhere he parts with * a cope without a cape, another of damask, and a chasuble of black satin.' Then we read of *a silver-gilt baldachin, figrured with green, and embroidered with gold birds/ of 'two chaperons for church copes, embroidere^d, one with a Trinity and the other with a Crowning of Our Lady '; of a cope of crimson and violet velvet,

14—2


212 BLUEBEARD

of a satin dalmatic ; and even of the silver head of St. Honor6 being thus left in pawn. It must be admitted that Gilles generally redeemed these pledges, though at times long months elapsed before he did so. Indeed, his circumstances were becoming more and more critical, and to provide for an ex- penditure which he never attempted to curtail, he began to sell his estates, on which, indeed, he^had borrowed money more than once already.

It was, however, beneath the dignity of the Baron de Rais to attend to such matters personally. Some retainer always acted for him, even when a petty loan was negotiated. And all his friends were eager to serve him, being well aware that in any transaction conducted on his behalf there would be plenty of pickings for themselves. Judging by one of the documents connected with the lawsuits which his heirs subsequently brought against the Dukes of Brittany, it would appear that Gilles was regarded, at least in some quarters, as quite a fool in money matters as well as a prodigal. * The said Duke Jean,' we read, * was well acquainted with the indis- cretion, lack of understanding and notorious prodi- gality of the late Messire Gilles ; nor could he indeed be ignorant of it, for it was notorious in all the land and Duchy of Brittany, in Anjou, in Poitou, in the city and Duchy of Orleans, as well as in divers other lands, cities, towns, and places. . . . And it will be proved and demonstrated that - . . the said Duke Jean, the late Messire Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes, his Chancellor and prin-


GILLES DE RAIS 213

cipal Councillor, Geffroy le Perron, his Treasurer, and his other Councillors and Officers, and the nobles, burgesses, hinds, and inhabitants of the said Duchy of Brittany, did publicly hold and account the said late Monseigneur Gilles to be mad and senseless, and did mock and laugh together as at the sight of a fool, every time that they saw him. . . . Item^ they; did know and repeat many times and in many places that he was mad, void of sense, and a prodigal, wherefore they each sought to acquire whatever they desired of his belongings, knowing that they could make him accept and pass all such contracts as they might please. And [in such matters] no sensible and prudent men of the country did ever attach any importance to anything that he might do or say.'^

The fact is that Gilles took no thought of the morrow ; he was intent on dissipation, regardless of the consequences. He invested several of his retainers and parasites with full powers to transact business on his account, giving them blank forms {blancs-seings), which he duly signed and sealed, and which, in the hands of these improvised ag^ents, became deeds of sale, mortgages, acknowledgments of debts, which subsequently fell heavily, not only on himself, but on his heirs, and kept lawyers busy foir long years after his death. And the * M^moire * of his heirs |ells us that he went even further than this, that he actually gave his evil counsellor, Roger de Bricqueville, full power to find a husband for, and ^ ' Intendits des H^tiers de Gilles de Rais.' Archives, Nantes.


2 14 BLUEBEARD

many off, his only daughter^ the n^lected Marie de Rais. Thus, as Abb6 Bossard remarks, he disposed of his flesh and blood, even as he disposed of his wealth.

When Gilles had anticipated his revenues as far as was possible, and had parted with a few little estates here and there, and a large amount of portable pro- perty, the whole with the assistance of his retainers, who carried on the work of dilapidation as quietly as possible for fear lest Dame Katherine, the Lady of Rais, or Messire Ren6, the Marshal's brother, who had attached himself to the fortunes of Constable de Richemont, should intervene — when he had done all this, Gilles, still largely through the medium of his servants, disposed of many of his casdes, lordships, and lands. In this connection all the authorities say that he was generally fleeced by those who bought of him. Quite as often, however, he was robbed by his intermediaries, unscrupulous men, chiefly desirous of securing large secret commis- sions for themselves. In any case his necessities were often so pressing that he was forced to sell at whatever price might be fixed. In fairness, one is bound to mention that the Duke of Brittany's lawyers subsequently urged that Gilles had not been badly treated in certain transactions, for it had been found that too high a value had been set on some lands, which had failed to produce the, revenue ascribed to them by the Marshal or his inter- mediaries at the time of sale.^ On the other hand, ^ ' Ilitendits du Due de Bretagne.* Archives, Nantes.


GILLES DE RAIS 215

those particular instances were few, and the number of sales effected by Gilles or his representatives was enormous.

Another point worthy of consideration is the value of landed property at that particular time. There is no reason to suppose that the barony of Rais itself was otherwise than prosperous. It had escaped the incursions of war ever since the last despairing effort of the Penthi^vres (1421). But in other regions, where the Marshal had extensive property, matters were different. Not many years had elapsed since the English had penetrated into Anjou, first for their own purposes, and again to assist the Duke of Brittany in rescuing his Chancellor, Jean de Malestroit, from the hands of Alen9on, by whom he had been kidnapped. Alen9on was the nephew of Jean V. ; and impoverished by a heavy ransom which he had paid the English, whose prisoner he had been, he had claimed of the Duke certain moneys to which he was entitled through his mother. But both the ruler of Brittany and his Chancellor remained deaf to these appeals ; and Alen9on, in the hope of compelling payment, eventually seized Malestroit, one evening, when he was crossing a moor near Carquefou, in the vicinity of Nantes, and carried him from castle to castle until he consigned him to that of Pouanc6 in Anjou. Jean V» thereupon appealed for English help. Willoughby and Scales promptly marched into Anjou, and invested Pouanc6 ; and Alen9on had to capitulate, surrender his prisoner, humble himself


2i6 BLUEBEARD

in the Cathedral of Nantes, and pay a large pecuniary indemnity, instead of receiving the money he desired. At the time of this affair — September to March, 1431-32 — Gilles de Rais seems to have been absent from Brittany. Nevertheless, he may have been indirectly concerned in it ; for Alen9on was a friend of his, and to effect his purposes with Malestroit had freely lodged himself in certain of Gilles' lordships, which were overrun by the soldiery on either side, and naturally suffered from those incursions.

Again, in Poitou and Saintonge, where Gilles also possessed numerous territories, there had been trouble ever since La Tr6mouille had attempted to seize the viscounty of Thouars (which had passed from the family of Gilles* wife to the house of Amboise) — an attempt which had led to the favourite s overthrow, so far as his presence at Court and influence with the King were concerned, but which had left him free to pursue his designs of aggrandisement and rebellion in Poitou, Saintonge, and Aunis. Those regions, therefore, were in a state of chronic unrest, which a few years later, at the time of the Praguerie revolt (1438-42), became intensified. Rival lords — those who upheld the royal authority, and those of La Tr6mouille's faction — were continually invading one another's domains, besieging castles and raiding villages, in such wise that this part of France cannot have been in a con- dition of normal prosperity.

Yet, when all is said, it remains certain that


GILLES DE RAIS 217

Gilles parted with many of his estates for sums which cannot have represented their value. The number of sales effected by him was so great that even the industrious Abb6 Bossard has recoiled from the attempt to prepare anything like a com- plete list of them. He tells us, however, that the Marshal disposed of the towns and lordships of Confolens, Chabanais, Chiteaumorant and Lombert, in Poitou, to a certain Gautier de Brussac. Then he sold the ' castellany, land, and lordship of Fontaine-Milon ' in Anjou to Jean de Marsille for the bagatelle of four thousand crowns.^ Again, the lands and castles of Blaison and Chemilld, also in Anjou, were bought by Guillaume de la Jumelifere, Lord of Martign^-Briand, for five thousand crowns, and the purchaser, it seems, paid only half of the covenanted amount.^ Next the lands and castles of La Motte Achard and La Mauri^re — yielding twelve hundred livres per annum — were sold to Messire Guy de la Roche Guyon, for a sum which- Bossard does not specify. Guillaume de Fresni^re and Guillemot le Cesne, merchants of Angers, in like way bought the lands and lordships of Ambri^res and St. Aubin de Fosse- Lau vain, in Maine ; Jean

^ This sale was impugned by the heirs of Gilles, but was upheld by the Courts. It is probable that this Angevin domain had suffered by acts of warfare.

^ This sale was also impugned ' as the act of a spendthrift,' but was upheld, perhaps for the same reason as mentioned in the pre- vious note. With respect to the figures given above, a thousand crowns maybe taken as representing about ^1,800 of our present corrency.


21 8 ^ BLUEBEARD

de Montecler, one of the captains of GiUes* men- of-arms, an adventurer whom he had enriched, pur- chased of him, in conjunction with Guillemot le Cesne, the lands and lordships of Voulte and S6n6ch6 ; Guillaume, an apothecary of Poitiers, acquired Le Brueil-Magnon ; while Perrinet Pain, a citizen and merchant of Angers, secured various charges on the revenues of a number of lordships, in return for money lent

There is reason to suspect that the names of the buyers given above were not in some instances the names of the real purchasers, but simply those of intermediaries, acting more than once on behalf of the Duke of Brittany. However, La Tr^mouille, the fallen favourite, notorious as a money-lender, is found holding an annual charge of twelve hundred golden royals on the revenues of Champtoc6, as interest for a loan of twelve thousand royals ; and there is a further charge on the same estate in favour of Jean de Malestroit, the Breton Chancellor and Bishop of Nantes. The clergy, indeed, seem to have secured a considerable share of Gilles' estate, in that eager scramble or curie. Malestroit himself purchased the lands and castles of Prign6, Vue, Bois-aux-Tr6aux, the parish of Saint Michel- S6n6ch6, and many other properties in the barony of Rais. But Abb6 Bossard exaggerates matters when he asserts that the prelate paid an * enormous * sum for those domains ; for on referring to the state- ments of the heirs of Rais we find that the pur- chase-money paid by the Bishop-Chancellor was


GILLES DE RMS' 219

twelve thousand crowns — that is, ^'20,000 of our present currency,^

The fact is that Abb£ Bossard, anxious for the honour of his cloth, paints Jean de Malestroit — Gilles' future judge — as a high-souled individual, a model of the most perfect integrity, almost too good for this mundane sphere ; whereas in matters of business he was really quite as grasping as his master, the Duke of Brittany. His influence with Jean V. was enormous ; it was he who so strenuously endeavoured to keep Brittany friendly with England through all the years when France was vainly begging for Breton help. In his favour it may be said that he was simply a man of his times, full of the old feudal notions, one who cared nothing what might become of France provided Brittany remained independent ; and it may be added that in striving (though not always successfully) to keep the duchy out of the sphere of hostilities, he certainly promoted its immediate welfare. But his policy was deficient in foresight, and was extremely ungenerous towards France ; for if Brittany had steadily co-operated with the latter, the close of the English dominion might well have been accelerated. Thus, from the standpoint of French independence, the influence of Malestroit with Jean V. was pernicious ;^ and although historians are at variance on the point

^ This must have been a mere bagatelle to a man accustomed to spend quite ;^ 100,000 a year.

' M. £. Cosneau throws considerable light on Malestroit in numerous passages of his exhaustive biography of Richemont.


220 BLUEBEARD

whether he was personally bribed to favour the English, it is certain that belief in his corruption was widespread among his contemporaries. It is known, moreover, that he was the bitter foe — tennemi achami — of the gallant and tireless Con- stable de Richemont ; and one cannot therefore accept as genuine the very flattering portrait which Abb6 Bossard has drawn of him, on the basis, perhaps, of statements to be found in the 'Gallia Christiana,'^ which could hardly refer otherwise than favourably to one who was a great dignitary of the Church as well as a Breton Chancellor.

One of Malestroit's episcopal colleagues, Hardouin de Bueil, Bishop of Angers, secured some of the property of Gilles de Rais, giving, indeed, twelve thousand crowns for the estate of Grattecuisse, the land and lordship of Savenay, and a charge on the forest of Broceliande. Then the splendid mansion of La Suze was sold with all its appurtenances to the Chapter of Our Lady of Nantes,^ while Jean Rabuteau, one of the Presidents of the Breton Parliament, bought the lordships of Auzence, Clou6, and Lignon ; and the Duke of Brittany himself entered into direct negotiations for the acquisition of Champtoc6, Ingrandes, and other domains.

But the Marshals family — his wife, his brother, his cousins of Laval, and others — had ended by hearing of several of the sales which have been mentioned. Whatever secrecy may have been

^ He is there called Jean de Chiteaugiron.

^ We think Gilles retained a life interest in this house.


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observed in those transactions, it was no longer possible to conceal them when new owners arose on one side and another; and, naturally enough, the alarm of the Marshal's relations impelled them to seek some means of restraining him from stripping himself of any more of his domains — domains which in the event of his death would, under ordinary circumstances, pass to themselves. At last Dame Katherine, Ren6 de La Suze, who was co-operating with Richemont in the reduction of Paris,^ and Guy de Laval, as senior representative of the house whence Gilles himself had sprung, made formal complaint to Charles VIL, with the result that letters patent were issued by the King in Council (Amboise, 1436), setting forth that, having been informed of the bad rule and management of the Sire de Rais, he thereby forbade him to sell or alienate any of his lands, lordships, and revenues. Letters were also addressed to the Court of Parlia- ment that it might likewise prohibit Gilles, in proper judicial form, from selling his property, and others from purchasing it. Notification of these royal commands was then sent to the various authori- ties, by whom the captains and guards of the castles still held by the Marshal were forbidden to hand those fortresses over to others, until the Court of Parliament should have signified its decision.

The prohibitions were made known by the public criers d son de trotnpe (a trumpet or horn being

^ Cosneau, /.^., p. 245.


222 BLtJE^EARD

sounded), in the cities of Angers, Orleans, and Blois, and at Machecoul, 'which is the principal place in the barony of Rais, and that where the Lords of Rais are accustomed to hold speech and fix their abode/^ Bossard adds that similar proclamations were made at Tours, Champtoc6, Pouzauges, Tiff- auges, St. Jean d'Angely, and many other places; and quotes Desormeaux to the effect that Guy de Laval personally notified the prohibitions to his father-in-law, Duke Jean V., besides making them known to the governors of Gilles' fortresses, and particularly to Charles de Layeul, his captain of Champ toc6. It is also stated that when a copy of the prohibition was affixed to the gate of the castle of La Motte Achard, in Poitou, it was carried away and delivered to Jean de Malestroit, the Duke of Brittany's ' chief councillor, who took it and read it in its entirety, and warned the said Duke Jean/2

  • This royal interdict,' says Bossard, * interfered

with the egotistical views of Jean V., the covetous (cupide) Duke of Brittany.* But it must be pointed out that those views were not absolutely egotistical in the strict sense of that word. Jean V. had three sons — Francois, his successor, Pierre, and Gilles — and he was at that time extremely anxious to con- stitute suitable appanages for the two younger men.* It was particularly this desire, and not merely a sharp man's craving to effect a good bargain with

1 * Intendits des H6ritiers.' 2 /^^,

' Cosneau, /x, pp. 270-280.


GILLES DE RAIS 223

Gilles de Rais, which prompted the Duke to pur- chase some of the latter's domains. At the outset of the imbroglio he did not openly disregard the injunctions of Charles VII. He sent his son Pierre on an embassy to the King, with the object of securing authority to enter into contracts with the Marshal. But Charles, influenced no doubt by the Lavals, by Richemont the Constable, who took the part of his Lieutenant, Rend de La Suze, and by Frigent de Codtivy, one of the most prominent of the royal councillors, who afterwards married the Marshal's young daughter, Marie de Rais — whom it was already his ambition to wed — refused to comply with the request of the Duke of Brittany, who was nettled, if not enraged, by that refusal, and at once decided on reprisals.

Jean V., like others of his house, admitted that he held Brittany of France, even as he held the so-called ' Comt6 de Richemont * — which was really the earldom of Richmond in Yorkshire^ — of England ; but he contended that he owed only simple homage, and not liege homage, to the French King, and that he was therefore free to disregard the latter's in- junctions, to which he denied all force of law in his duchy. Briefly, in spite of all the appeals made to

^ The grant of this earldom dated from William the Conqueror (1067). Since that time it had been confiscated — perhaps more than once — and transferred to others ; but the Dukes of Brittany had never ceased to claim it and to bear the title, unless, indeed, there were two brothers, as in the case of Jean V. and Artus, when the elder succeeded to the title of Duke of Brittany, and the younger became Count de Richemont. Cosneau, ix.


224 BLUEBEARD

him ' by the wife, relations, and friends of Gilles de Rais/ he and Malestroit absolutely refused to allow the royal interdict to be published in Brittany. And in his resentment the Duke went further. Although Guy de Laval was his son-in-law, he abruptly de- prived him of the Lieutenancy-General of the duchy, in punishment for having presumed to notify him of the royal letters patent ; and he gave that very Lieutenancy to Gilles de Rais! Again, *on November 2, 1437,' says Bossard, 'he concluded with him a pact of friendship, a fraternity darmes^ such as had linked Bertrand du Guesclin to Olivier de Clisson/

One may here well pause to inquire whether Jean V. can possibly have been acquainted at tfiat time with the private life of Gilles de Rais, with the horrible rumours which must then already have begun to circulate among the artisans of the towns and the hinds of the villages. Jean V., as will be shown almost immediately, was not a man of high principles ; yet it is only charitable to assume that, at the moment of entering into that solemn pact of knightly brotherhood, he must have been absolutely ignorant of the secret life of the man to whom he pledged himself, whatever he may have thought of his vanity, recklessness, and prodigality. In any case, the negotiations for the acquisition of Gilles property proceeded. The Duke, in point of fact, had already purchased several domains either per- sonally or through intermediaries, and the better to conceal the transactions which he now meditated he


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did not scruple to write and speak untruly. He gave Rend, now Duke of Anjou and King of Sicily, a signed and sealed promise that he would buy no domain of the Marshal's in Anjou, and, what was more serious on the part of a professed Christian, in order to quiet Ren6 de La Suze and the Lavals, he took an oath in church, on the body of the Redeemer, that he would never, under any circumstances, pur- chase Champtocd and Ingrandes. Yet, in spite of those solemn promises, he acquired the title to both domains early in 1438. Bossard tells us that there were two charges upon the revenues of the estates —one of a hundred livres a year belonging to Rend de La Suze, and another of nine hundred standing in the name of Perrinet Pain of Angers — who may merely have been the agent of La Tr^mouille or of Malestroit, both of whom had previously held charges on Champtocd. There is nothing to show that they had ever been repaid, though Malestroit*s claim may have been met when other lands were sold to him. Jean V. acquired the estates ' with all that belonged to the Sire de Rais, within the line of the river Mayenne ' for ' one hundred thousand old gold crowns ' — at least ;^ 180, 000 — and to provide for the charges or mortgages it was stipulated that the Duke should also receive the domains of Prin9ay, Bourgneuf and La Benate, a sum of one hundred livres a year from the revenue of Machecoul and a part of the isle of Bouin, Soch6 and Les Jamonnidres, all in the barony of Rais. Further, with Champtocd and Ingrandes went the tolls on the Loire of one

15


226 BLUEBEARD

jalaye out of every queu^ of wine conveyed up or down the river. But this matter led to interminable and costly proceedings before the Parliament of Paris after the death of Gilles de Rais, who left his heirs a series of lawsuits by the side of which Dickens' famous case of Jamdyce v. Jarndyce would seem a bagatelle.

In connection with the sale of Champtoc6 and Ingrandes, Abb6 Bossard quotes three deeds of defeasance (cantre-lettres) given on January 22, 1438, by Jean V. to Gilles, and now preserved in the Archives of Nantes. In the first deed the Duke agrees to restore Champtoc6 to the Marshal in a delay of three years ; declares that the castellanies of Bourgneuf and La Benate are already restored to him ; but reserves to himself a thousand livres a year in exchange for the castellanies of La Motte- Achard, La Mauri^re and Les Chines should Gilles desire their restitution.^ In the second deed the Duke and his son Pierre covenant that, if the Marshal restores those estates to them, the time that elapses shall not be counted in the term granted for their redemption. Finally, in the third deed,

^ The qtietu contained about 80 imperial gallons. Thejaiaye oxjaille seems to have been identical with the old French gallon of ' two pots.' As a rule, however, tolls of thb kind were, for convenience, paid in money.

  • It was mentioned previously (p. 217) that La Motte-Achard,

and La Mauri^re had been sold to a Sire de la Roche Guyon. Perhaps, however, that sale was annulled in consequence of Charles VIL's prohibition ; or La Roche Guyon may have trans- ferred the property to the Duke of Brittany.


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Jean V. grants Gilles the faculty of repurchasing the domains of Champtoc6» Ingrandes, Bourgneuf, La Benate and Prin9ay within a delay of six years for the sum of one hundred thousand crowns. Perhaps the various redemption clauses figuring in these deeds were inserted chiefly in order to make it appear that the Duke had not taken a false oath in swearing that he would never buy the Marshal's estates. As there was power of redemption, there was no absolute purchase on his part, and thus he could, if necessary, plead that he had not perjured himself. In other respects the first two deeds are somewhat obscure ; they may indicate that Gilles wished to repurchase portions of his property while he sold others, or that certain modifications in the original contract had become advisable. It is certain that the Duke only handed over a portion of the covenanted price in 1438, for we have a receipt for a large sum paid on account of Champtoc6 in May, 1439. We know also that Gilles, in the spring of the former year, ended by accepting the third deed of defeasance, which granted him a delay of six years to recover the property of which he was stripping himself. The Duke of Brittany, as Abb6 Bossard points out, can have had no fear of repayment occur- ring, for he knew that the Marshal was sinking deeper and deeper into difficulties. But Gilles was doubtless all hopefulness, for, renouncing the substance for the shadow, was he not prosecuting with every prospect of success in his laboratory of Tiffauges the wondrous task of making gold and silver by the aid of all the

15—2


228 BLUEBEARD

arts of alchemy ? And whatever might be his present difficulties, would he not soon be as wealthy as he had ever been — wealthy, indeed, beyond all the dreams either of avarice or of prodigality ?

But all at once consternation fell upon him. His brother and his cousins, who had doubtless heard of what was brewing (there may well have been traitors among the Marshal's unscrupulous henchmen), re- solved to oppose cunning by force of arms. They threw themselves into Champtoc^, Machecoul and a few other places among those still held by Gilles, and the only course then open to him was to band his own men together and drive out the intruders. For, on the one hand, no more money to relieve his present necessities could be expected from the Duke of Brittany until he handed Champtoc^ over to him ; and, on the other, that castle must not be left long in the hands of his relatives, for dreadful deeds had been done in it, and horrible proofs of those deeds might be discovered if he did not promptly repossess himself of the invaded stronghold. He deemed himself fortunate, no doubt, in having succeeded in destroying similar proofs of crime at Machecoul — impelled thereto by some presentiment, or some warning that he might soon have trouble with his relatives. But he had lacked the time to act in a similar manner at Champtoc6, and, liowever much he relied on his name and position, the thought of what might be found there must have alarmed him.

It will soon be necessary to draw aside the veil of gprgeousness, prodigality, culture, valour, and


GILLES DE RAIS 2^9

even charity, which hid the real Gilles de Rais from the eyes of the world. But one must do so cautiously and gradually, with a proper sense of one's responsi- bility, for the crimes of Gilles were crimes such as shock the conscience, crimes from the consideration of which even the historical student recoils with dismay and horror. And they become the more awful when one reflects that they were perpetrated by no wretched outcast, no wild man of the woods, no untutored savage scarce emerging from animality and possessed of instinct rather than intelligence ; but were the deeds of one endowed with every earthly advantage, robust health, a commanding figure, an engaging countenance, a ready wit, an education liberal for the times, a great fortune, a large share of power and authority, a lofty name, a distinguished record for valour and military skill. Many, as the writer unfolds the story, so far as it may be unfolded, will probably regard this high and power- ful Lord, this Marshal of France, this premier Baron and Lieutenant-General of Brittany, as demented, but it is best to reserve all opinion till the end. Before dealing, however, with his actual crimes, one must refer to his passion for alchemy and his belief in sorcery : two crazes of his period which he fervently shared, and the consideration of which will throw some light upon his real character.




1426—1440

THE GREAT FORTRESS OF TIFFAUGES — ^ALCHEMY

AND MAGIC

The Favourite Residence of Gilles de Rais— The *Teffalian Scythians ' — ^The Pleasure-house, Crypt, K6ep, and Towers of Tiffauges — Pouzauges and its Fierce Black Castle — Alchemy, the Laws and the Church — Gilles seeks the Philosopher's Stone — A Charlatan of Angers gets Drunk on his Money — His Alchemists — The Wondrous Powers he demands — The

• Dauphin intrudes on his £xperiment9— From Alchemy to Magic — Giac and his Right Hand — Alen9on and his Herb to wither the King — How Jean I'Anglais tried to raise the Devil, and how Gilles got very Wet — The Devil appears as a leopard — Beelzebub considers Gilles too Religious — How the Devil beat a Necromancer and raised a Great Bump on his Forehead — The Compacts with the Devil which Gilles signed with his Blood — His Horrible Promises to the Fiend and his Abominable Cruelty and Wickedness.

The castle of Tiffauges, the favourite residence of Gilles de Rais, formed part of the dowry brought him by his wife, Katherine de Thouars. For several centuries it was one of the most formidable fortresses of the north-western district of Poitou ; and it is not surprising, therefore, that Richelieu should have refused to spare it when he took upon himself the


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great experiment of suppressing feudality and raising in its place that absolute monarchy, which he deemed essential for France, but which did not really flourish till nearly a score of years after his death, and which collapsed, in blood and mire, in less than a century and a half. Dismantled by the orders of the power- ful Cardinal, Tiffauges is now a place of ruins, which may be visited by alighting at the station of Torfou, on the railway-line from Nantes to Cholet A walk of less than two miles, along a road skirting a forest abounding in oak-trees, brings one to the once fortified bourg of Tiflfauges, through which one may make one's way to the castle, unless one should prefer to take a path following the bank of the little river Crdme, near the point where it falls into the S^vre, a tributary of the Loire. In former times those watercourses — the Criime and the Sfevre — largely defended the castle, whose triple enceinte of great walls and proud towers, all of glistening granite, rose in formidable splendour above the narrow valleys through which the rivers take their course.,

Tiffauges was originally a Roman castrum, raised, it is said, by Agrippa, and deriving its name from certain inhabitants of the region, a tribe of bar- barians distinct from the ordinary Gallic race. According to Marcellinus Ammianus and Sidonius — fourth and fifth century writers — these 'Teffaliao Scythians,' as they were called, were folk of great ferocity and gigantic stature, averaging a height of seven feet— a statement which, in some measure, has


232 BLUEBEARD

been corroborated by the discovery in modem times of various large skulls and bones. ^ It is said that a community of these ' barbarians ' subsisted until the eleventh century on the confines of Aunis and Poitou, dwelling there in a state of comparative isolation, feared as they were by their neighbours. Those of Tiffauges and its vicinity, however, mingled with the Gallo- Romans at an earlier date ; but the inhabitants of the district still have a reputation for exceptional stature and sturdiness.

Agrippa's castrum was taken by both the Bretons and the Normans in the ninth century ; but it was never entirely destroyed. It had become a feudal castle already in the eleventh century ; and at the end of the twelfth or early in the thirteenth — that is, during the Philip Augustus and St. Louis period — a great fortress was wrought of the old remains and of the granite abounding in the valley of the S^vre. In the time of Gilles de Rais, the buildings^ to which frequent additions had been made by their possessors, the Viscounts of Thouars, were of great extent, and the fortifications embraced such a lai^e expanse that within their limits there nowadays appears a farm-house with garden, orchard, meadows, and plough-land. Amidst the latter one finds the remains of a large pleasure-house which faced the south, and overlooked the valley of the S^vre, shady with oaks and alders. This pleasure-house was finally wrecked, it seems, at the time of the War of

^ It is possible that these people were simply the descendants of some Roman auxiliaries stationed in the region of TifEuiges.




• • t • •


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La Vendue. Portions of the portico and of the choir of a chapel — dedicated to St. Vincent — still exist, covered with ivy and carpeted with brambles ; and an aperture offers access to a crypt, which dates from the eleventh century. But of recent years the descent has become dangerous by reason of the frequent subsidence of the soil, which is gradually filling the crypt, in some parts rising almost to the capitals of the columns, which are some twenty in number.

The fortress proper was separated from the pleasure-house, and its numerous attendant piles for the accommodation of the Marshal's household by a moat spanned by a drawbridge, which rested on a granite column planted in the water. A large pait of the keep^built, it would seem, in St. Louis' time — has fallen, forming as it were a hill of granite ; but a few fine halls, and winding stairways, leading simply into space, may still be seen. On one side of the keep is the site of the court of honour, the entry of which was formerly commanded by a massive porticuUised gateway. Huge towers over- looked the Criime and the S^vre, and two of these are still in a fair state of preservation. In the larger one will be found a stone staircase, the pivot of which is hollow, having been made thus in order that it might serve as a speaking-tube for the trans- mission of orders. At the entry of the guard-room there appears a kind of sentry-box, fashioned in the wall ; at its far end is a huge fireplace. Then, encompassing the guard-room, there is a vaulted


234 BLUEBEARD

ciemin de ramde, which nobody can enter, however softly, without beii^ heard. A word whispered at one end of it is re-echoed aloud at the other. In another chamber of the same tower — ^a dark, cold room — there is an opening conducting to some onblUttes^ into which* more than once, imprudent tourists have fallen. Quaint little cells or cabinets^ whose vaulted roofs are curiously ribbed and decorated with broken escutcheons, adjoin the chambers of this large tower, which on the side facing the castle grounds has some lofty windows.

The highest chamber of all is said to have been frequently occupied by Gilles de Rais, and when he slept in it, the watch on the platform of the tower was often horrified by unearthly groans. But it was in the upper chamber of the smaller tower that Gilles installed his laboratory and practised alchemy with the assistance of various charlatans. This smaller tower, like the larger one, contains a guard- room, on the left of which is a little cell where at the utmost only two or three prisoners could be lodged. An opening, about two feet square, in the stone flooring affords access, however, to an under- ground cellar, or perhaps dungeon, large enough for a score of captives. And the guard-room of this smaller tower, like that of the large one, is encom- passed by a chemin de ronde, where, again, every word that is whispered is re-echoed aloud in the most startling fashion. The walls verily had ears in the castles of Gilles de Rais.

Many fallen portions of the fortress have doubtless


GILLES DE RAIS 235

been carried away for building purposes; others have formed hillocks over which time has cast a layer of soil and a plentiful growth of briars and nettles. Yet enough remains standing to give one an idea of the great fastness as it was in former times, with its triple belt of ramparts, its huge towers, its belfry-like keep, its fish-pond or vivter^ its moats into which the waters of the Crflme and the S^vre were turned at will, its great court of honour, its lordly pleasure-house and gardens, its chapel and chapter-house, its dozen buildings for retainers and servants, in such wise that, quite s^art from the dourg at its feet, it was of itself a fortified town where the Marshal de Rais reigned and ruled in all sovereignty over his priests, deacons and chanters, his chamberlains, valets and pages, his knights, archers and men of arms, and all his other retainers, vassals and servants.^

Tiffauges is perhaps fifteen miles from the limits of the barony of Rais, and thirty from Machecoul, the barony's chief place. Rather more than twenty miles on the south-east, but still within the limits of the modern department of La Vendue — as in the case of Tiffauges itself — is Pouzauges, where for some years the Marshal's wife dwelt with her daughter Marie« The castle, like the bourg, stands on the side of a hill crowned by a wood called the Bois de

^ The ruins are now the property of the Marquis de Couboureau. The farmer, established in the centre of the fortified space, gives permission to visit the estate. Many of the remaining fragments of the castle are now in a dangerous state of collapse, and lights are essential for purposes of exploration.


236 BLUEBEARD

la Folic, and from the summit of the height — more than 900 feet above the sea-level — the eye may roam over the undulating plain and leafy bocage of La Vendue, explore the northern horizon for the towers of St. Pierre of Nantes, and gaze southward and east- ward at the restless sea forty and fifty miles away. The fierce black keep of Pouzauges is square, each face, about sixty feet in width, being flanked by towers, and around it are the remnants of a rampart among which a dozen other towers may be distinguished. One of them, called the Tower of Brittany, and probably dating from the fifteenth century, is said to have been erected by Gilles de Rais ; but although he occasionally tame to Pouzauges in the earlier years of his married life, it is virtually certain that he never visited the spot after his estrangement from Katherine. Thus the occasional references to Pouzauges which are to be found in some of the records of his trial may be regarded as the errors of a scribe who ought to have written Tiffauges.^

It was principally at the last-named castle, and at that of Machecoul, of which some account will be given a little later, that Gilles de Rais sought to restore his fortunes, first by means of alchemy, and secondly by the practice of the black art Alchemy counted many disciples in the time of Gilles. The

^ The references to Pouzauges occur notably in the Latin records of the ecclesiastical proceedings. On turning to those of the civil trial, which are in French, one finds Tifiauges speci6ed ; and from all that is known of the Marshal's career it is certain that the latter is correct


GILLES DE RAIS 237

vulgar still deemed each and every student of science to be a wizard. Perhaps the prejudice was a trifle less universal than it had been in the days of Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus, or even in those of Raymond LuUy. But, on the other hand, two centuries were destined to elapse before a writer like Naud6 could venture, with a due regard for his personal safety, to issue, urbi et orbi, such a book as the • Apology for the Great Men who have been suspected of Magic'

In 131 7 Pope John XXII. had launched a Bull against the alchemists and their science ; half a century later Charles V. of France had issued an edict, followed by others. The chief point which troubled the Church, from whose ranks the alchemists were largely recruited, was the suspected alliance between the science and necromancy, which alliance — as the case of Gilles de Rais will show — was more real than might be supposed. That is to say, apart from the genuine enthusiasts, the men who prose- cuted their search for the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, the universal panacea, in all good faith, and, incidentally, made valuable scientific discoveries, there were many others who were mere impostors, who practised alchemy as rogues practise robbery, and who claimed that, in addition to their knowledge of chemical science, they had acquired the power to work spells, raise the Devil, and procure favours from him.

Into the hands of such men as these fell Gilles de Rais, whose interest in alchemy was first aroused, it


^


238 BLUEBEARD

is said, by a book which he found in the possession of a soldier who had been arrested for heresy, and im- prisoned in the castle of Angers. This book treated both of alchemy and of the raising of devils ; and, according to the Marshal's own account,^ he restored it to the prisoner, after perusing it. It is not known at what date this incident occurred. In the records of the Marshal's trial one finds it stated that he first dabbled in alchemy and necromancy about the year 1426; but all the incidents mentioned in evidence are of a later date, and there is reason to suppose that he was unable to give any great attention to such matters until after his campaign with Joan of Arc, and after the death in 1432 of his grandfather, Jean de Craon. Wealthy as he then was, curiosity, rather than a desire to enrich himself, must first have attracted him towards the science of the alchemists. But when prodigality had emptied his coffers he turned to the search for the philosopher s stone, and to all the usual attempts to transmute the baser metals into gold, as to the very best means of replenishing his purse.

Among the members of his ecclesiastical house- hold figured a certain priest, Eustache Blanchet, born at Montauban de Bretagne, in the Diocese of St. Malo, in or about 1400. Abb6 Bossard regards Blanchet as having been the least guilty of all the Marshal's retainers. But the only proofs of his innocence are his own statements made in the

^ Trial : Ecclesiastical Proceedings. R. de Maulde's transcript of the Latin text in Bossard, p. xxxiiL


GILLES DE RAIS 239

course of the Marshal's trial, when he naturally strove to avoid incriminating himself. It was at least shown that for several years he had been in the habit of procuring alchemists and necromancers for his patron, on one occasion carrying his search into Italy, where the most skilful masters of magic were then found. At other times he had recruited such men at Poitiers ; it is from him that we learn how at some uncertain date, when Gilles was staying at the sign of the Silver Lion at Angers (perhaps it was the very time when the book was borrowed from the imprisoned soldier), something was said of a goldsmith of the city, renowned for his skill in alchemy. Blanchet brought this man to Gilles, who, after listening to his boasts, gave him a mark of silver, bade him exercise his talents on it, and locked him in a room of the hostelry. But the gold- smith, who was an impostor and a drunkard to boot, found a means of procuring a plentiful supply of wine — perhaps by way of the window of his room — became thoroughly intoxicated, and fell asleep. When the Marshal went to ascertain what the man had done, and found him lying on the floor, he angrily threw him out of the house, shouting :

  • Get thee gone, drunkard ! get thee gone, fool ! go

and get thyself hanged elsewhere !*

One might have thought that this experience would have enlightened Gilles with respect to the boasts of alchemists ; but his passion for the science became more intense, increased, no doubt, by a desire to recover his squandered wealth. A labora-


240 BLUEBEARD

tory was fitted up at Tiffauges, and for several years the most costly experiments were carried on there. For a long time the chief alchemist in Gilles' employ appears to have been a certain Master Antonio di Palerna,^ who is also described as a clerk and a member of the Marshal's chantry. Besides this man there was Jean Petit, the Parisian gold- smith attached to his house, together with an indi- vidual who is sometimes called Jean de la Rivi^re,^ and at others Jean TAnglais, some authorities assuming that he was a Picard previously in the English service, and others that he was really an Englishman, in which case his name would have been perhaps John Rivers. He had come from Guienne to Poitiers, where Blanchet appears to have recruited his services. Then there was a certain Du Mesnil, described as the Marshal's trumpeter, who likewise dabbled in alchemy,* and one may be quite sure that Gilles' boon companions, Sill4 his

^ In the province of Chieti, kingdom of Naples, according to Maulde.

^ ' Johannes de Riparia ' in the Latin documents.

^ Abb^ Bossard, misreading one of the Latin texts, also men- tions, among the alchemists employed by Gilles, a certain Francois Lombard ; but the reference is really to Francesco Prelati, of whom an account will be given hereafter. Although this Prelati was a Tuscan, and his colleague Palema a Neapolitan, they are both frequently called Lombards in the procedure against Gilles de Rais. In one document, too, the city of Florence is said to be in Lombardy ; after which it is a trifling matter to find witnesses giving the name of ' the Lombardian Marquis ' to Lenano di Ceva (another character in the Rais tragedy), who was really a Pied- montese. These instances show that the Bretons of the fifteenth century still generally regarded all Italians as Lombards.


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cousin, and Roger de Bricqueville, his major-domo, had a hand in these operations, which, whether they enriched their patron or not, might in one way or another yield considerable profit to themselves.

Gilles subsequently admitted that the number of alchemists and necromancers employed by him was so large that he could not possibly recall their names. That he was more or less fooled by all of them is certain. Several of the tricks employed by the impostors who feigned ability to turn the baser metals into gold or silver are known. Crucibles with false bottoms beneath which gold was secreted were occasionally used. At other times the charlatan, making a hole in a piece of charcoal, filled it with oxide of gold or silver and stopped the hole with wax. Again, he stirred the mixture in his crucible with a hollow rod containing oxide of one or the other precious metal, thereby introducing it into the operation which he pretended to perform. Solutions of silver in nitric acid, of gold in aqua regia, and of amalgam of gold or silver, were also cunningly employed. Simple-minded patrons were deceived and inspired with confidence by spurious experiments with nails made half of iron and half of gold, the latter being covered with something to conceal its colour; or else metallic rods, half gold and half silver, were employed, the gold being whitened with mercury, which was dissipated in the transmuting liquid, with the result that the gold appeared, and the dupe, in his delight, imagined that half the rod had been converted into the more valuable metal.

16


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Gilles no doubt was occasionally the victim of one or another of these tricks. None the less he perse- vered with his costly experiments, spending all the money he could get together on his alchemists and necromancers, in the frenzied belief that he would at last attain, by means of the much-coveted philo- sopher's stone, the elixir vita, the universal solvent, to enormous wealth and supreme power. Of alchemy and magic he asked science, wealth 'and the marvellous power of being able to cast down, as his fancy might dictate, the fortresses and cities which were the best defended by art and nature, without any ever being able to prevail against him/^

This need occasion no surprise ; the reader has only to remember the intercourse of Gilles with Joan of Arc, an intercourse which had certainly intensified his belief in the supernatural. Like others, he was of opinion that Joan's exploits were not her own ; that they were the acts of a superior power — a power which had continued working even since her time ; for, otherwise, how could one explain the numerous successes now achieved by the French in their struggle with the English, after years and years of repeated reverses } Either God or the devil — at all events some supernatural agency — had come to the help of Charles VII. and his commanders. This, indeed, is how Gilles de Rais must have reasoned, even as thousands reasoned in those days. But if a supernatural power helped the King in his neces-

^ Ecclesiastical Proceedings : Indictment and Blanchef s con- fession.


GILLES DE RAIS 243

sky, why should it not also help the Baron of Rais, who, in his turn, was reduced to sore straits ? There must be a means of securing that power's assistance, and no effort to discover that means should be left untried. He, Gilles, must acquire supreme know- ledge, supreme wealth, supreme power, in such wise that his word would be law, that the very towers and ramparts of fortresses would fall at his bidding even as the walls of Jericho fell at the sound of Joshua's trumpets.

There were hours when Gilles still believed that mere alchemy — the discovery of the philosopher's stone — would invest him with the attributes of a goA On one occasion, as he himself afterwards related in his confession, the experiments at Tiffauges were proving so successful that he was transported with delight. But all at once a servant came to the door of the laboratory with the tidings that Monseig- neur the Dauphin was waiting without and craved admittance. We can picture Gilles clenching his fists and cursing his illustrious visitor. He was in despair, as he subsequently acknowledged. There were laws against alchemy, even though they were seldom put in force ; and in any case he did not wish the Dauphin to become acquainted with his secrets. By his orders the crucibles were over- turned, the furnaces extinguished, the appliances shattered, while he went forth with feigned delight to greet the heir of France.

No previous writer on Gilles de Rais has offered any acceptable suggestion as to the date of this visit

I


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Some think that it must have taken place at a comparatively early period of the Marshal's career ; they forget, however, that the Dauphin (afterwards Louis XI.) was bom as late as 1422, and that there is no record of any journey made by him (unless it were with the Court of his father) — sl journey, too, which would bring him within easy distance of Tiffauges, until December, 1439. In the previous month, as a result of all the deeds of rapine com- mitted by armed bands in various parts of France, Charles VII. had issued an edict assigning grarrison posts to those troops who held the royal commis- sion, and forbidding nobles and captains to maintain military forces of their own. This edict had been set at defiance, however, by several prominent men, particularly in Poitou, where the ex-favourite, George de la Tr6mouille, his nephew, Jacques, Sire de Pons, Guy de La Rochefoucauld, and several other nobles, openly practised brigandage. The young Dauphin, then seventeen years of age, was sent to pacify the province ; but the Duke of Alenqon and the Seneschal of Poitou, who had been gained over to the malcontents, prevailed on the prince to side with them and throw off the paternal authority. Thence sprang the rebellion known historically as La Praguerie, and it seems to us that the Dauphin's unexpected visit to Tiffauges must have taken place at the end of 1439 or very early in 1440. And it may well be that the object of the Dauphin's visit was to win Gilles over to the cause of the rebellion. But the Marshal was now Lieutenant-General of


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Brittany, and, moreover, his personal affairs absorbed his attention. Thus whatever appeals may have been made to him it may be regarded as certain that he took no part in the revolt against the authority of Charles VII.

This digression has led us to anticipate events, and we must now refer to incidents which appear to have taken place at a somewhat earlier period, though, indeed, it is extremely difficult to assign a date to many of the strange experiences and abomi- nable deeds which are ascribed to Gilles de Rais. It is impossible even to say that as alchemy led to magic, so magic led to crime, which is largely the opinion of Abb6 Bossard, and which is, indeed, a view commending itself to logicians. Everything tends to show, however, that crime — horrible crime — had sullied Gilles' life at an early stage, that his estrange- ment from his wife may have been due to it, and that the crime, once practised, never ceased until he was arrested. At first it had no connection whatever with alchemy, but when magic came in the train of alchemy crime was imported into it, becoming, indeed, one of its essential elements.

Although the Marshal s attempts to make gold were pursued to the end of his career, his repeated failures naturally brought moments of despondency, when, finding that he could not produce the precious metal by scientific means, he bethought him of the Devil. It was then the common belief that Satan had it m his power to enrich mankind, and so why should he not be summoned and asked for some


246 BLUEBEARD

bestowal of his gifts ? Excepting only his own life and his own soul, Gilles was ready to gpive the fiend whatever he might desire in return for wealth and power and science. Thus the Marshal studied the Black Art in the books he possessed, and consulted his alchemists, who all replied to him that it was indeed possible to raise the Devil. Gilles, himself, doubtless remembered that Giac, the favourite of Charles VII., put to death by Richemont, had carried on dealings with the Fiend, to whom he had sold his right hand, which he begged to have struck off at the moment of his execution.^ Perhaps, also, the Marshal was acquainted with the friendship which was said to exist between the Evil Spirit and the Duke of Alen^on, though the latter dabbled in magic principally with the object of dis- covering some potent love-charm — declared by his enemies to be really a poisonous herb, which he desired to put into the King's bed and thereby wither him. It is true that Alen9on never dis- covered the charm or the herb, whichever it was, in spite of all the science of his private necromancer, Messire Michel Bars, who not only described him- self as a physician, astrologer, and master of magic, but was also a monk, and had acted for some years as provost of the abbey of Wastines, near Bruges. However, Alen9on's failure was no proof that Gilles would fail, and in any case it was decided by

^ His idea was that if his hand were struck off before he died, the Devil would only secure that portion of his body ; whereas, if he retained his hand, the Devil on seizing it would drag him to hell in his entirety.


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the Marshal and his henchmen that they would summon the Devil.

One of the first to make the attempt appears to have been La Riviere or Rivers — the Picard or English- man, who one may hope was really of the former nationality. First of all, this rascal told Gilles that he must have a cedula or promissory note for Satan ; and the document was written out * in certain ink/ which he, ' L'Anglais,'^ had prepared. Then he pinched and pressed the little finger of the Marshal's left hand, drew blood from it, and made him sign the script with this blood. The attempt to raise the Fiend duly followed, in a field in the vicinity of Machecoul, near an inn whose sign was L Espdrance (* Hope ') and a cottage where resided ^Jille cC amour, known as La Picarde. Gilles was present with his valet, ntienne Corrillaut, alias Poitou, and a certain Guillaume Crevais. A magic circle was formed, dry flax and holly leaves being strewn around it. But, so far as the Marshal was concerned, the invo- cations yielded no result, save that * Monseigneur felt as wet as if he had fallen into the river, and yet it was not then raining.'^ However, Maltre Jean, the necromancer, stepped by mistake out of the circle, and was thereupon beaten, scratched, and tormented * by certain little imps,' which he told his companions belonged *to the retinue of the great Devil of Hell.' The result was even worse when

^ Civil Proceedings : Poitou's evidence.

  • Rais was brave, but very superstitious ; and the wet to which

Poitou refers may well have been perspiration induced by dread.


248 BLUEBEARD

La Riviere returned alone to the spot another night, for he came back to Machecoul, according to the Marshal's valet, in such an injured state that he could hardly speak or walk. Poitou was of opinion that * Jean T Anglais ' did not know his business ; but La Picarde, who had watched his incantations from her cottage, openly declared that he only feigned injury, and that ' the most cunning of all the devils was certainly in his own skin/

Disappointed as Gilles might be by the failure of Jean de La Riviere s first attempts, he nevertheless continued to employ him, and another experiment was made in a lonely and mysterious wood at some little distance from Tiffauges. According to the statements of some of his retainers, Gilles was again present on this occasion, though he himself after- wards asserted to his judges that he was absent, and

deputed his valet Poitou, his chaplain Eustache

Blanchet, and his chamberlain Henri Griart, other- wise Henriet, to attend the necromancer on his behalf This time La Riviere was clad in armour and carried a sword. He took his way under the trees, alone, his companions halting on the verge of the wood. The night was very dark, the spot very lonely, the minutes went by, and at first nothing could be heard save the soughing of the wind among the branches. Waiting with mingled dread and expectancy, the magician's escort held their peace, and all at once they heard a loud rustling sound, followed by the clash of steel, a shriek, a commotion as if the evocator were wrestling with the demon. But before long he


GILLES DE RAIS 249

rushes back to them, haggard, gasping, scarce able to speak, tanquam perterritus et turbatus. And he declares that he has indeed seen the Devil, who * in the form of a leopard ' had come straight towards him» and then, to his infinite surprise, had passed on ' without deigning to speak a word.' La Riviere, however, endeavoured to stop him — at least, it would seem so, for he afterwards showed Gilles * sundry hairs which he had plucked from the beast's neck,'^ and which he burnt, in the Marshal's presence, while repeating certain magic words.

After this exciting experience the Marshal, the chamberlain, the valet, the chaplain and the sorcerer spent the remainder of the night, we are told, • drinking and rejoicing together '^ ; and Jean de La Riviere having put Monseigneur in a good humour and filled him with the hope of a future apparition, when Messire Satan would doubtless condescend to speak, declared that he would have to purchase various things in order to ensure complete success — a hint to which Gilles responded by handing him twenty golden crowns. And of course 'Jean FAnglais ' then departed to procure what he needed, and of course he took good care never to return to Tiffauges.

So Eustache Blanchet, chaplain and provider of devil-raisers, had to search for others to take La

  • Bibliophile Jacob's transcript of the Civil Proceedings.

M. Paul Lacroix claimed that this copy was more detailed than those now preserved at Nantes.

> Ecclesiastical and Civil Proceedings : Gilles' confessions.


250 BLUEBEARD

Riviere's place. Roger de BricqueviUe and Gilles de Sill6 helped him. Brittany was scoured for necro- mancers ; it is said that a search for experts in the Black Art was even made in Paris. As a rule those who were solicited immediately repaired to Tiffauges, eager to gain some of the Marshal's gold by the practice of charlatanry. But two old witches, whom Gilles de Sill6 went to consult in Normandy, declined to go near his master on any terms. One of them told him that her patron Beelzebub would never appear to the Marshal so long as he should bestow his affection on the Catholic church, his chapel and chantry ; and the second confirmed this statement, adding ' so long as he does not relinquish certain practices on which he is intent' Then, another necromancer was drowned whilst on his way to Tiffauges ; and another died a few days after his arrival there. Despite these contretemps, however, Gilles was never without somebody who professed to be learned in the Black Art. There was even a cowherd named Loys (Louis) who practised devil-raising for him ; and, in default of strangers, he could fall back on his trumpeter, Du Mesnil, and his chanter, Antonio di Palerna.

On one occasion when a sorcerer whose name is not given had just arrived at Tiffauges,^ an attempt was made to induce his Satanic majesty to appear in a room of the castle in the presence of the Marshal and of his cousin, Gilles de S1II6. The necromancer traced a magic circle on the floor and told his com- ^ Gilles' confessions. Some copies say ' MachecouL'


GILLES DE RAIS 251

panions to enter it with him. Sill6, however, was afraid to do so, and remained seated on the ledge of an open window, pressing an image of the Blessed Virgin to his breast and intending to jump outside at the very first sign of danger. Meantime, Rais and the sorcerer entered the circle, the former, to use his own words, * not daring to make the sign of the Cross, for the magician had told me that I should incur great peril by doing so. But I heard voices which were not human, and I became marvellously afraid, feeling that I had confessed myself badly that morning, in such wise that a prayer to Our Lady, the Alma Mater Redemptoris, did come to my mind ; whereon the evocator at once bade me quit the circle, which I did, fearing lest I should be seized by the Devil. And making the sign of the Cross I left the evocator by himself, closing the door of the room upon him, whilst Gilles de Sill6 fled by the window. But having come to the door to listen, we heard that someone was beating the evocator^ even as one might strike a feather-bed. I drew my dagger, and Gilles de Sill6 did likewise ; then we opened the door to see what was the matter. And the said evocator was lying on the floor outside the circle, moaning and weeping, injured exceedingly in the face, and else- where, having a large bump upon his forehead, in such wise that he could not stand up, and I feared he might die ; wherefore I did have him well confessed by my chaplain, but he did not die.'^

This adventure is said to have greatly impressed

^ Civil Proceedings : Gilles' confession.


252 BLUEBEARD

the Marshal, showing him how fierce was the anger of the evil spirits when they were offended. Never- theless, he still sought their ministry, at one time endeavouring to raise Satan, at another Barron, at another Belial, at another Oriens, and at another Beelzebub. One day his trumpeter, Du Mesnil, following the example of Jean de La Riviere, came to him saying that he had seen the Devil, who was willing to enter into intercourse with the Marshal, provided the latter gave him a cedula signed with his blood. The necessary document was at once pre- pared, Du Mesnil pricked his master's little finger, and when there was enough blood to fill the pen the signature Was duly appended, written no doubt in the following fashion^ :



At midnight, all being in readiness, the Marshal and Du Mesnil — accompanied, perhaps, by others — repaired to a meadow where Satan was to be sum- moned. But the night proved to be abominably wet, so wet indeed that, according to Gilles, * all the writing on the cedula was effaced, and the Devil did not come to receive it.' When his judges asked him what was written on this cedula and on the one

^ The facsimile given above shows how the Marshal usually signed his name. This specimen is from a receipt (formerly in the possession of M. Benjamin Filon) for money paid by the Duke of Brittany on account of the purchase of Champtoc^.


GIIiLES DE RAIS 253

which he had previously given to Jean de La Riviere, he answered that he could only remember having asked the Devil for the three things which have been previously mentioned — that is, science, power, and wealth. And when he was pressed with regard to the promises he had made in return for those gifts, he declared that he was unable to recollect ; he only knew that he had expressly reserved both his soul and his life.

But Poitou, first his page and afterwards his valet, had a better memory. He confessed to the horror of all that his master had told him what was con- tained in the cedula given to Jean de La Riviere ; and that was a promise to immolate five little children and give their hearts to the Devil, in exchange for those great gifts of science, power, and wealth !

Ah ! he took good care of his own life, did this Marshal of France, this Lieutenant - General of Brittany, who dwelt in a fortress, surrounded by knights, squires, pages, men-of-arms, archers, and horsemen. And doubtless he hoped to save his soul by means of his chapel, his chantry, his daily confessions, his daily Masses, his everlasting psalm- singing, and his blasphemous ' Foundation of the Holy Innocents.' But he thought nothing of the lives of others ; he did not hesitate to send them unshriven to meet their God. As Michelet has written, he was indeed the Exterminating Beast — a monster who for years practised the murder of children with impunity, in such wise that the massacre ascribed to King Herod pales to insignificance by


254 BLUEBEARD

the side of all the massacres perpetrated by this man, who had been the protector and the companion of the pure Maid of Orleans, and whose war-cry, when he chained the English, was that of the Montmorencys, his ancestors, *God help the first Christian !' Again, Jack the Ripj>er, notorious in the annals of English crime, and Jacques Lantier, la bile humaine of Emile Zola, were as nothing compared with Gilles de Rais. A French writer of fiction has seized upon his career to pen one of the ghastliest novels ever written — a novel in which one may trace a mystical dementia akin to that of Gilles himself ; but it is certain that no novelist could have imagined such a career, have conceived such a com- bination of courage, culture, prodigality, superstition, credulity, craft, cruelty, and vice, as one finds in this high and mighty Baron of Rais. And it seems all too true. Several copies of the procidure instituted against him are in existence. There is the evidence of numerous witnesses, the repeated confessions of the man himself, and the decisions of laymen as well as churchmen. In these pages an attempt will be made to spare the reader many horrors, but some- thing at least must be said of the cruel murders which accompanied the Marshals practice of magic» and won for him in La Vendue, Poitou, and many parts of Brittany, the sinister name of Bluebeard before either folklorists or historians referred to him in connection with Perrault's tale.


VI

1426 — 1438

THE HORRORS OF MACHECOUL AND CHAMPTOClS — THE CRIMES OF THE EXTERMINATING BEAST

Machecoul and Champtoc^ are seized by Gilles' Relations — Machecoul Forest and Guillery the Outlaw — The Castle where Gilles was born — The Remains of his Victims burnt — ^Two Women witness the Ghastly Business — Gilles recovers Possession of Machecoul and Champtoc^ — The Library of Champtoc^ and the Origin of the Marshal's Crimes — He swears his Retainers to Secrecy — The Remains of the Victims of Champtoc^ — A Gruesome Voyage with Three Chestfuls of Mangled Corpses — The Number of the Marshal's Victims — The Fear and Silence of his Henchmen — The * Lost ' Children and their Parents' Surmises — * English Kidnappers * — How La Mefiraye sought Victims for the Marshal — * Les Empocheurs' — Increasing Rumours of the Marshal's Crimes — The Three Stages of his Abominable Career.

It has been mentioned that Ren6 de La Suze, the Marshal's brother, and Andre de Laval, Sire de Loh6ac and Admiral of France,^ his cousin, had forcibly taken possession of the castles of Machecoul and Champtoc6, to the anger and alarm of Gilles, who wished to place the latter property in the hands

^ Andr^ was the younger brother of Guy de Laval. He relin- quished the post of Admiral in 1439, and was then created Marshal of France.


256 BLUEBEARD

of Duke Jean V., and thereby secure payment for it Great as may have been the Marshal's anger, how- ever, the blow was hardly unexpected by him. There are indications that he had apprehended some coup de main as the inevitable result of his determination to sell his property, and of his disregard of the royal prohibition in the matter. And apart from the pecuniary considerations which weighed with him, there were other things that gave him cause for anxiety. Evidence of his misdeeds existed both at Machecoul and at Champtoc^, and if his enemies should possess themselves of those casdes that evi- dence would be found. A presentiment, born of fear, came upon him, and he destroyed all the evidence existing at Machecoul, intending to act likewise at Champtoc6 at the first convenient moment. But in the interval his relations possessed themselves of both places, and though they found nothing at Machecoul, it seems certain that the dread secret of Champtoc6 became partially known to them.^

Before dealing with that point, however, let us see what it was that Gilles had done at Machecoul to destroy all traces of his crimes there. The little town or dourgy which had become the capital of his barony of Rais, and which nowadays counts some 4,000 inhabitants, may be reached by rail from Nantes in rather more than an hour. It Stands in a fertile plain called the Valine des Chaumes, and when it has been traversed one finds before one a bridge,

^ Evidence of Poitou and Henri Griart in both the Ecclesiastical and the Secular Proceedings.


GILLES DE RAIS 257

spanning the river Falleron, by the side of which rise the ruins of the castle where Gilles was born. In his time Machecoul town was fortified, and had a citadel, apart from the stronghold where he re- sided at certain seasons of the year. In the region around the castle are to be found the ruins of more than one old abbey, together with the remains of a celebrated forest, through which dolmens and menhirs are scattered. At the end of the sixteenth century this forest became one of the haunts of the notorious Guillery, an outlawed captain of • Leaguers,' who, refusing to lay down his arms after Henri IV. had been generally recognised as King of France, betook himself to the greenwood with a company of * merry men * (or, as the French more appropriately put it, ntauvais garfons\ playing, indeed, much the part of a Robin Hood and making a Sherwood of Machecoul forest. Various ballads about Guillery are still known to the peasants of La Loire-Inf6rieure and La Vendue ; and very popular and wide-spread is one beginning :

  • II ^tait un petit hoinme

Qui s'appelait Guillery

Carabi, II monta sur un arbre Pour voir ses chiens couri'

Carabi,

Toto, Carabo ! Marchand Caraban, Compare Guillery, Te lairas-tu mouri' P*.^

1 This song or ballad has gone all over France. The present writer has even heard it sung by his little nephews in Savoy.

17


258 BLUEBEARD

But there is another, a horrible ballad, reeking of witchcraft and diablerie, a fit ballad indeed for such a forest as Machecoul, where the werewolf prowled, and where the Wild Huntsman^ and his crew made night hideous with their frantic galloping even in our times. In this ballad, Guillery, mounted on a horse with the skin of a toad, is attended by witches and werewolves, polecats, and gnomes, wills-o*-the- wisp, carrion crows, and red spectre-hounds. He rides in their midst brandishing a sword of ice, eager to do battle with the Saracens, but the deceptive vision of foemen ever flees from him, and, carried along by fate, he gallops round and round, exhausted and desperate, vainly calling for death, until the dawn at last rises, and he and his frozen crew sink into hell to roast there. Each verse of the ballad is followed by the burden :

' Entendez-vous la sarabande ? Oh ! c'est la Chasse-Gallery Ici vont passer en bande Et la garache^ et Valouby !'»

^ The Wild Huntsman (the * Wilde Jager' of Germany, the

  • Heme the Hunter ' of England) figured at Fontainebleau as
  • Le Grand Veneur/ and was known in Normandy as the
  • Mesgnie Hellequin. ' In Berry he and his crew became * La Chasse

k Ribaut ' (or * Rigaud ') ; in some parts of Central France they were called ' La Chasse k Bodet '; in Franche Comt^ they took the names of * La Chasse d'Oliferne ' and * La Chasse du Roi H^rode *; then, in Poitou and La Vendue one finds ' La Chasse Gallery/ and in various parts of Brittany * La Chasse Arthur ' and ' Le Chariot de David.' Elsewhere the midnight hunt, at the sound of which the devout peasant anxiously crossed himself, has been associated with St Hubert.

^ Witch. ^ Ravenous woI£


GILLES DE RAIS 259

And t^ moral of it all is :

  • Pour passer ces nuits bUiDches,

Gallery, mes enfants, Chassait tous les dimanches, £t battait les paysans.'

From this it will be seen that the ballad scarcely applies to the historical Guillery;^ its purpose is rather to portray the fate of the selfish lords of olden time, who, for oppressing their vassals, were con- demned to eternal damnation. And although there is nothing in the ballad (which is known in varying forms throughout La Vendue and Poitou) really connecting it with Gilles de Rais, it certainly sug- gests him with its train of loathsome creatures and its undercurrent of sorcery and horror. Gilles, indeed, made the nights of Machecoul hideous beyond compare.

Of his castle — a once formidable pile built in the fourteenth, dismantled in the seventeenth, and finally destroyed by fire at the end of the eighteenth century, when it was held in turn by the Vend^ans and the Republicans — there still remain some picturesque ruins, a broken tower which oscillates in the gale, a few low halls, some scraps of winding stairways, and a decapitated keep, over which the ivy of centuries has clambered. And here the sight of the Lady's Oratory, whose window and balcony

^ Guilleiy defied the laws for about ten years. At last, how- ever, the authorities assembled a force of from 4,000 to 5,000 men, with whom they surrounded the forest Guillery vainly endeavoured to slip through the cordon ; he was caught, tried, and broken on the wheel.

17 — 2


26o BLUEBEARD

appear above the river, immediately suggests Per- rault's * Bluebeard/ and Sister Anne's despairing scrutiny of the horizon, where she could only see the dust of the sunbeams scattering and the grass a-greening. The oratory itself hangs within the keep, suspended, as it were, in mid-air, and a very long ladder is needed to reach it In 1885 the chapel was still in a fair state of preservation, and on the keystone of the vaulted roof was an escutcheon bearing the arms of Sainte-Croix of Machecoul.^ But the ruins, generally, which in 1845 still bore signs of great architectural magnificence,^ elaborate sculpture work adorning the doors and windows, now grow smaller every day, the stones being re- moved by the peasantry for building purposes. It has been suggested that excavations should be made with the view of clearing the underground store- places and dungeons, where, according to local tradition, Gilles de Rais secreted some of his treasures ; but if any relics of his time should ever be found there, it is far more likely that they would be the bones of some of the forgotten victims of his abominable orgies and his hideous sacrifices to Beelzebub.

At the time when the Marshal feared the designs of his relations, he despatched to Machecoul his cousin Gilles de Sill6, and one of his most trusty

^ * Le Barbe-Bleue de la L^gende et de FHistoire,' by Charles Lemire. Paris, 1886, 8vo., p. 9.

' * Les Seigneurs de Rais,' by Mourain de Sourdeval. Tours, 1845, ^^^'


fi


GILLES DE RAIS 261

servants, a certain Robin Romulart (called occasion- ally Petit Robin), with orders to destroy all traces of his cruel crimes. These two men therefore repaired to a tower in the castle-yard and removed from the cellars the remains of no fewer than forty children,^ burnt them, and threw the ashes into the moats and the river. And, it seems almost incredible, some part of this ghastly business was witnessed by two women ; for Sill6, when subsequently relating it to Poitou, the valet, and Henri Griart, the chamberlain, complained of the treachery of Messire Roger de Bricqueville, who had brought the Dame de Jarville and Thomin d'Araguin to look at him and Robin through a slit in the door while they were removing the bones, and this although he well knew upon what work they were engaged ! ^

Who were the Dame de Jarville and Thomin d*Araguin ? We do not know. Abb6 Bossard opines that if they were mothers they must have been as horrified and as alarmed by the sight they witnessed as was the wife of Perrault s Bluebeard when she found herself in the forbidden room, in the presence of her murdered predecessors. Perhaps they did not clearly understand what they saw ; per- haps terror sealed their lips. At all events there is nothing to show that they spoke a word to anybody of the gruesome work which Sill6 and Petit Robin

^ Both Bossard and the Bibliophile Jacob say eighty; but the Latin word is quadraginta in the evidence of Poitou, and again in that of Henri Griart

^ Evidence of Poitou and Henri Griart


262 BLUEBEARD

were performing. And remembering the character of Bricqueville — ^an egregious Har, as will presently be shown — It is perhaps allowable to suspect that these women were creatures of easy virtue, degraded members of their sex, such as the Marshal s retainers kept about them.

When Poitou and Henri Griart were subsequently asked if they knew at what date these victims of Machecoul had been put to death, they replied that these particular crimes had taken place prior to their entry into the Marshal's service,^ and they imputed them to the Marshal, Sill6 and Bricqueville conjointly. Indeed, one gathers from all the evidence on the subject that the bones had been lying in the tower for several years. But there was more to come. Gilles was at Tiffauges, with his alchemists and his necromancers, when he heard that his relations had seized Machecoul and Champtoc^. Some little time elapsed before he could get together a sufficient force to drive them out ; but Jean V. (desirous of com- pleting his contract) sent him some men, and Gilles then advanced on Machecoul and besieged it The garrison having surrendered after a brief resistance, Gilles pressed on to Champtoc6, of which he also speedily possessed himself, either by arrangement or by force of arms. From a certain Knight named Charles du Leonne or Leone, who appears to have held the place for Ren6 de La Suze, two of the

^ In 1440 Henriet had been six years with the Marshal. Machecoul must have been taken by Rend de La Suze or Andrd de Loh^c late in 1437, and the bones were burnt about three weeks before that occurrence.


1


GILLES DE RAIS 263

MarshsLl's servants, Poitou and Griart, learnt that Ren6, on seizing the castle some three months pre- viously, had found the dead bodies of two young boys in the bottom part of a tower. They — Poitou and Griart — protested ignorance of the matter, when they were questioned respecting it by the Knight ; indeed, they suggested that it was some abominable slander invented by Messire de La Suze. But they doubtless reported what they had been told to their master. The latter must then have resolved on immediate action. Whatever Ren6 de La Suze, whatever Charles du Leonne, might already know, they must learn nothing more. The former, who had simply placed a small garrison in Champtoc6, was now, we suspect, again with Richemont, his patron; and family considerations may have kept him from bruiting the affair abroad. On the other hand, Charles du Leonne may have been bribed. At all events neither of these men ever acquainted any of the authorities of Nantes with the gruesome discovery of the two bodies. Like the Dame de JarvilleandThomin d'Araguin, they lapsed into silence.

Champtoc6, it will be remembered, had come to Gilles from his grandfather, Jean de Craon. Great as its pile of ruins may be, it was the smallest of the Marshals four chief fortresses.^ Situated on a

^ The others were Tifiauges, Pouzauges, and Machecoul. Champtoc^ is in the modem department of Maine-et-Loire. It must not be confounded with Champtoceaux, which is lower down the Loire on the left bank. The ruins are the property of M. de Bonrepos, of the Chiteau du Boisseau.


264 BLUEBEARD

rocky platform, overlooking the right bank of the Loire, midway between Varades and St Georges, its chief entrance was on the village side, where the four pillars on which the drawbridge rested may still be seen. At the present time access is obtained by crossing the dry moat. There was an outer rampart with eight large round towers, fantastic fragments of which now loom above the river A postern afforded admittance on the side where a large pond or viuier^ which is above the river level, washed the castle walls ; and some underground galleries with portions of stairways leading now to the defensive works, now to the residential part of the castle, and now to its court of honour, may still be easily explored.

A certain Tiphaine or Tryphine de Champtoc6, curiously called ' the Eel ' — perhaps because she eluded many covetous suitors — brought this castle and the smaller one of Ingrandes, which is some three miles lower down the Loire, as dower on her marriage with Maurice I. of Craon, very early in the twelfth century. In the course of time, Angers being less than twenty miles away, and its university rising to great celebrity, some of the culture which that institution diffused reached Champtoc6, whose lords gradually acquired a library of books, a small one doubtless, for the art of printing was yet un- known, and books were very costly and precious things. In any case, Gilles de Rais himself declared that on his grandfather's death he had come into the possession of a library, in which may well have figured the Valerius Maximus, the Ovid, and the


^


GILLES DE RAIS 265

St. Augustine, to which reference has been made previously. And if one account may be believed, he discovered among Jean de Craon s books * a Latin work on the life and manners of the Csesars of Rome, by a learned historian, who was named Suetonius, which book was ornamented with pictures, extremely well painted, in which were to be seen the excesses of those pagan Emperors.' In that history Gilles read how * Tiberius, Caracalla (an absurd mistake ; Caligula is intended), and other Caesars, took a singular pleasure in putting children to martyrdom.*^ Adopting the view that Gilles made the above statement to Pierre de THdpital, Seneschal of Rennes and President of the Breton Parliament,^ the perusal of Suetonius after his grandfather's death would be the origin of his evil-doing. But he had been brought up by Jean de Craon, had lived with him in his boyhood, and may thus have read the work in question even before he was a man ; par- ticularly if it be true that his grandfather made little attempt to control his actions. Moreover, in the proceedings against him, Poitou, his valet, declared

^ * Curiosit^s de THistoire de France : II* S^rie : Propbs C^lfebres,' by P. L. Jacob, Bibliophile (Paul Lacroix). Paris, 1858, i6ino., p. 94. In this work M. Lacroix relates the Marshars trial from a ' circumstantial ' transcript of the evidence in the Civil Proceedings communicated to him. Not having the Ecclesiastical Proceedings in detail before him at the same time, he not unnaturally fell into several errors. Nevertheless, his narrative has some value. It may be added that Abb^ Bossard virtually confirms the mention of the ' Suetonius.'

^ The reader should remember that the Breton 'Parl^ment' was a judicial and not a political institution. See p. 139, note i.


266 BLUEBEARD

he had heard it said that the Marshal's misdeeds dated back to 1426 or thereabouts — that is» to a time when Jean de Craon was still alive, Poitou was not then in the service of Gilles de Rais, but may well have had his information from his fellow-accomplices, Gilles de Si\\6 or Roger de Bricqueville, who had been his master's associate and dme damn^e ever since he had been able * to ride a horse and do service,'^ Moreover, there are passages in Poitou's evidence and in one of Gilles' confessions which indicate that Jean de Craon became personally acquainted with his grandson's villainous nature, and, after a first moment of horror, hushed up the matter to prevent a scandal.

In any case, the victims of Champtoc6 were as numerous as those of Machecoul. On the night which followed the surrender of his brother Rent's retainers, Gilles assembled his most trusty hench- men and servants — that is, Bricqueville and Silld, Hicquet de Br^mont, the governor of his pages, Henri Griart, Poitou and Robin Romulart. Some of these men were already acquainted with the Marshal's secret, nevertheless he called on all of them to swear that they would never reveal what they were about to witness. According to Abb^ Bossard, this oath was taken in the name of God ; but Lacroix asserts that the confederates swore with their hands resting on a book of magic and a talis-

^ Pardon granted by Charles VII. to Roger de Bricqueville. French National Archives, Register JJ, 177. Printed by R. de Maulde in Bossard, Lc.


GILLES DE RAIS 267

man enclosed in a black velvet case, which may mean that Gilles made his abettors swear by the Devil as well as by the Deity. Indeed, this is not at all unlikely when one remembers that Gilles was more or less a Manichee, ever struggling between conflicting ideas as to which might be the more powerful — the Spirit of Good or the Spirit of Evil.

When the oath had been administered, the dreadful business previously accomplished at Machecoul was repeated. Rais led his company to one of the towers of Champtoc6 — a lonely tower, it appears — and told them that in its depths were the remains of numerous children, which remains must be immediately removed, for on the morrow it would be necessary for him to hand the castle over to the officers of the Duke of Brittany. The ghastly work began amid the silence of the night. Gilles had doubtless brought a considerable force with him to Champtoc6, including, perhaps, the men lent by Jean V. ; and it was necessary that none save his immediate retainers should witness the obliteration of his crimes. The remains of his victims were lying, it appears, in a subterranean dungeon, or kind of well, beneath a ground-floor chamber of the tower ; and Poitou and Robin were lowered into the dark vault by the aid of a long rope. They there found themselves among * corpses and decayed bones,* a circumstance which shows that some of the victims had been killed of recent years, and that others had met their fate long previously. Many of them had been cut to pieces. There were


268 BLUEBEARD

limbs and heads and trunks rotting amidst the damp- ness ; and the stench was abominable.

Horrified, as they might well be, Poitou and Robin nevertheless made all haste to gather the fragments together. A large sack was lowered to them, and, whenever they had filled it, was drawn up again by Hicquet de Bremont and Henri Griart, who emptied the contents upon the stone flags beside them. Poitou and Griart could not tell afterwards the exact number of the heads or skulls that were found ; but there were either thirty-six or forty-six. Griart, however, was of opinion that more bodies than heads were discovered. In any case, all the remains were those of children — with few exceptions, little boys.

While all this was going on, Gilles de Rais — and probably Bricqueville — remained watching Br6mont and Griart in the chamber of the tower above the oubliette. Sill6, for his part, was keeping watch out- side. At last one part of the abominable business was completed. Everything that Poitou and Robin could find was gathered together in the ground- floor chamber of the tower. Then the Marshal pointed to three large chests, and gave orders for all the bones and fragments to be packed in them. He was obeyed, and the chests, having been stoutly corded, were before daybreak carried to a bark which was waiting beside the willows that fringed the Loire.^

^ This bark was, of course, one of those which had brought Rais and his company to Champtoc^.


GILLES DE RAIS 269

This being done, if Gilles tarried a single moment at Champtocd, it was only in order to place it in the possession of certain officers of Jean V. On the morrow or the next day he departed by water with his servants and the proofs of his villainy, passing on his way, as Abb6 Bossard points out, many of the bourgs and villages where fathers and mothers were sorrowing for their lost children. When Nantes was reached the three great chests were put ashore, not, however, on the city side, but on the left bank of the river, and thence they were carted to Machecoul to be placed, on their arrival, in the Marshal's room. And a huge fire having been lighted in the great chimney-place, some days were spent in burning the remains of the murdered children. Gilles himself, Henri Griart, Poitou, and Silld, were present, together with a certain Andr6 Buchet or Buschet, and Jean Rossignol,^ both of the latter belonging to the Marshal's chantry. On sub- sequent occasions it was often Rossignol who burnt the bodies of his patron's victims. And whilst the traces of these abominable crimes were disappearing in the flames, Gilles de Rais, we are told, struck his breast, shed copious tears, and cried to God for mercy. At last, having become more composed, he gave orders for Mass to be sung {messe en musigue) for the repose of the souls of those whom he had so foully slaughtered !

^ See anUf p. 184. Buchet's name is given in some books as Brichet, which is an error. Though he may not have been fully ordained, he was certainly a clerk.


270 BLUEBEARD

Yet his crimes continued until the time of his arrest. The principal precaution that he took in his last years was to burn his victims soon , after he had put them to death. Occasionally two or three bodies would hang for a few days in a cell or cabinet adjoining his room, or he would for a short time pre- serve a head to pray over it ; but the remains were no longer flung, promiscuously, into some under- ground dungeon to rot away there in course of time. And — horrible to relate — while at some times he wept and chanted the * De Profundis ' over his vic- tims, at others, when he took his bracquemart — a broad-bladed sabre, which he particularly employed as a sacrificial weapon — to cut off his victims' heads and amputate their limbs, he cried to them in a frenzied transport, *Go! go and pray to God for me r This did not prevent him, however, from gouging out their eyes, tearing out their hearts, cutting off their hair, amputating a foot or a hand to serve as an offering for the Devil.

It is certain that these crimes went on for years. All the writers on Gilles de Rais agree that he had practised them since 1432, and, indeed, he himself acknowledged that much. But, as we have indicated in some measure already, we incline to the view ex- pressed by his servants Poitou and Griart, that he had been a monster of infamy for many years previously, and was one already in the days when he fought by the side of Joan of Arc. In that case a certain estimate of the number of his victims — given, it is alleged, by himself— an estimate of one hundred and


GILLES DE RAIS 271

twenty (stx-ving'^s) every year^for a term of fully seven years (1432 — 39-40) would be considerably exceeded. But we doubt those figures. It is true that the murders of Machecoul and Champtoc6 were but a fraction of those committed by him. The castle of Tiffauges, the mansion of La Suze, the houses where he sojourned at Angers and Vannes, even the castle of Josselin, where he was the guest of the Duke of Brittany — indeed, almost all his dwelling-places — had their horrors, sworn to by his servants, and freely confessed by himself. Thus, whether his victims were a hundred more or a hundred less, he was indeed the Exterminating Beast, as Michelet has written.

But it will seem strange to some readers that he should have enjoyed impunity so long, particularly as so many were in his secret, for after going through the evidence we find at least sixteen of his servants and retainers aiding and abetting him at various times. Their silence undoubtedly arose from their fears. On the one hand, if they should denounce their master, and he should hear of it, they would have the shortest of shrifts. They knew his nature and trembled before him. Poitou had been origin- ally an intended victim, and had only escaped death at the intercession of Bricqueville or Sill6, and on promising blind obedience. One page, who sur- prised certain secrets, to a knowledge of which he

^ Paul Lacroix, /.r., p. 95. We do not find any confirmation of this in Bossard or in any part of the eiridence we have seen ; it seems more likely that Gilles' victims were from 200 to 300 in number.


272 BLUEBEARD

had not been admitted, was at once cast into the moat of Machecoul. There had been an accident, it was said ; he had fallen from the battlements. Again, some of the Marshal's henchmen were bound to him by such bloody ties that they could not reasonably anticipate any mercy if the law should lay its hand upon them. One man, Henri Griart, the chamber- lain, afterwards asserted that on his return from the expedition to Champtoc6 he had thought of com- mitting suicide, but had been deterred from it by anxiety for his soul, self-destruction being a crime which left no opportunity for penance afterwards. He can hardly have been anxious to meet his God. Indeed, however horrible might be the life of the chief retainers of Gilles de Rais, all of them must have shrunk from the thought of death and of the torments of the hell which must await them. Ah ! it was better to tarry awhile on earth, even if they must continue to serve their master and keep silent respecting his misdeeds.

Besides, the Baron de Rais was a most high, powerful and magnificent lord, the associate of princes, a Marshal of France and Lieutenant-General of Brittany. Would Duke Jean V., would his Chancellor, Jean de Malestroit, would his Grand Seneschal, Pierre de THdpital, or any other of his Council, give credit to an abominably scandalous charge preferred by a mere vilain or a mere bourgeois against the premier Baron of the duchy ? Even such women as the Dame de Jarville and Thomin d'Araguin might have been whipped for


GILLES DE RAIS 273

their pains had they gone to some State Officer with the tale of what they had seen at Machecoul. Reni de La Suze would probably have secured a hearing had he spoken of his discovery at Champtoci. But the thought of the family honour must have kept him silent And thus Gilles continued to lead a life of crime, occasionally apprehensive of discovery, yet relying on his name, rank, and power to insure him complete impunity — in this world, at all events.

Nevertheless, there were murmurs, increasing murmurs from the vox populi, as child after child disappeared from the region lying between the ocean on one side, and Angers, Vannes and La Rochelle on the others. A frightful mysterious drama was in progress in that region. After the sorrow and anxiety of earlier years came consternation and terror. Some unknown and accursed monster, who was never seen, but whose presence could be divined, now in one direction, now in another, was devastating, depopulating the country. Boys, and girls, children often of very tender years, were constantly disappearing, not for a day, or for a week, or for a month, but for ever! And not a trace of them remained. What had become of them, whither had they gone ? Were they dead ? They had been seen on such or such a spot, in such a field, in such a street, at one or another hour of the day or evening, and then had utterly vanished !

At first the superstitions of the age suggested an explanation. The malignant fairies, the gnomes, had carried off the missing children. And those

18


274 BLUEBEARD

who doubted the existence of fairyland remembered that the rivers were swift, the ponds deep, the woods dangerous, peopled with wolf and boar. Some mis- adventure must have befallen one or another child ; perhaps he had slipped into some stream and had been drowned, or, in exploring a forest, had encountered some ravenous beast By degrees, however, another idea took possession of the fathers and mothers who were left childless. It must have been noticed, as a coincidence, that whenever the Baron of Rais passed some boy or girl disappeared. Moreover, some of his retainers, such as Gilles de Sill6, Hicquet de Brimont, Poitou, Prinzay (his herald), and a certain Spading, called * The Scotch Knight,' frequently recruited pages for Monseigneur's service ; and the fact that these p^es were not forthcoming when their parents subsequently inquired for them must have confirmed the growing suspicions.

Sill6, one day, when pressed with questions respecting some boys who had been confided to him, admitted that they were not with the Marshal. They had been sent, he said, to the English, as part of the ransom of his brother Michel de Sill6, who was a prisoner, and whose release could only be secured by handing four-and-twenty boys over to the English, who intended to make soldiers or servants of them.^ This announcement was rumoured around and in- creased the general alarm. Perhaps English emis- saries were kidnapping the children, depopulating the region. However, the terrified peasants dared

^ See ante^ p. 173, note i.


GILLES DE RAIS 275

not raise their voices too loudly ; and still and ever children disappeared.

We read, in the evidence, of disappearances from a large number of localities ; and yet the judicial inquiries which ultimately took place were, for the most part, limited to certain years and certain regions. Nantes, Angers, Vannes, Rennes, Josselin ; Pomic, Bourgneuf, St. Cyr-en-Rais, Machecoul, and Tiffauges ; St. ]£tienne de Montluc, Port Launay, Mortagne, Clisson and St. Mesme, La Roche- Bernard, Pouance, Fresnay, and other cities, towns, and villages are named ; and in the majority of these instances a positive connection between the dis- appearances of the children and the actions of certain of Gilles* servants is established by the witnesses and the officers of the law. Again, there were numerous instances of little beggars disappearing, poor starving orphans, who were never claimed by anybody.^ Amidst all his crimes, and even when he was pressed for money, Gilles practised charity on a large scale ; and whenever beggars and tramps found themselves in the vicinity of Machecoul or Tiffauges, they invariably applied there for relief. But it happened, again and again, that the child who went to the castle for bread never left it alive.

In addition to his male accomplices, Gilles em-

^ To avoid a multiplicity of references in this part of our work, it may be said that every statement given above is based on one or another portion of the evidence and the confessions in the Ecclesiastical or Secular Proceedings against the Marshal As a matter of (act, far from exaggeratingi we cannot tell all the truth.

18—2


276 BLUEBEARD

ployed two women to inveigle children to his abodes. Of one of them, named ^tiennette Blanchu. we do not know much ; but the other, Perrine Mai tin, has remained famous, and is still associated with the memory of Gilles de Rais by the peasantry of La Loire Infdrieure and La Vendue. Abb6 Bossard draws a striking portrait of her,^ based on state- ments made when Gilles was brought to justice. She belonged to Nantes, and people occasionally called her * La Peliczonne,'^ but more frequently * La Meffraye,' a strident name, suggesting a bird of prey. Perrine had a florid face, and in 1439-40 seemed to be between fifty and sixty years of age. She wore a gray gown, with a kerchief falling from her shoulders, a black cape, and a long veil of black stamin, which often frightened those who saw her pass. Both her appearance and her actions were mysterious and inspired anxiety and dread. * She roamed the country roads and the moors. She approached the children who were tending cattle, or who had come out to beg ; she cajoled and caressed them, her face always half hidden by her veil ; she prevailed on them to accompany her to the castle of the Sire de Rais, and they were never seen again.** One day she passed through St. Etienne de Montluc. In the evening it was found that a boy between eight and nine years old, named Jean Brice, had dis- appeared. A man bore witness, however, that he

^ Bossard, /.r., p. 205 et seq,

^ Perhaps from ' PeliQon,' a furred cloak or pelisse.

' Michelet's ' Histoire de France^' vol. v.


GILLES DE RAIS 277

had seea La Meffraye talking to this child near the presbytery. Another evening she made her appear- ance a^Port Launay, and on being questioned as to the object of her journey, she replied that she was going to Machecoul. She was leading a good- looking child by the hand. A few days later, when she passed that way again, but alone, she was asked what she had done with the lad, and replied that she had placed him with * a good master.'

Nantes was often the scene of her vile exploits. We hear of her taking a child of the parish of Ste. Croix to Machecoul ; conducting another, twelve years old, to Gilles' mansion of La Suze ; kidnapping a third, a fourth, and even beguiling a young man about twenty, * short and pale of face,* whose name was never ascertained. She put on a kindly air when she accosted an intended victim, spoke soft words to the boy, made him fine promises, and he went with her along the roads until men suddenly sprang out of the hedges or the woods, gagged the astonished child, thrust him into a large sack or * pocket,* and in this way brought him to Gilles de Rais.^ The servants at the castle gates knew nothing. They had seen no lad enter. At the utmost they were only aware that some of their fellows had passed in, carrying a burden. And at times a stealthy entrance was effected by way of some mysterious postern, where only those who were in the Marshal's secret kept watch and ward. Nevertheless, the kidnappers must have been seen

^ Bossard, /.^., pp. 205-207.


^78 BLUEJIJpARD

at times, for rumours arose respecting them. From the sacks they carried they were called empocAeurs — a name which came down to our times, and which, half a century ago, was only spoken with dread by the peasantry around Nantes, who ranked those robbers of children with the gnomes, the malignant sorcerers, and the werewolves.^

Moreover, in spite of all the precautions taken by Gilles de Rais and his associates, the dreadful secret leaked out in various manners and directions. A woman named Jeanne Delit, of the parish of St. Denis of Nantes, heard, through one of the Marshal's retainers, that his master caused children to be taken ' in order that he might put them to death '; and the same man also told her that he had seen a certain boy being roasted at the mansion of La Suze. Again, a rumour arose that the Lord of Rais was * practising the art and science of Necro- mancy, and causing a great many children to be put to death in order to have their blood, with which he traced all the necessary formulae {caract^res de divine- meni) for the invocation of the infernal spirits, with the object of succeeding by their help in the recovery of great treasure and wealth. '^ A passage in the evidence subsequently collected shows also how one day a traveller arrived at St. Jean d'Angely in Saintonge,^ and, on mentioning that he had come from Machecoul, saw an expression of fright appear

^ Mourain de Sourdeval, /.r., p. 23.

^ Alain Bouchard's ' Grandes Chroniques,' as cited in Bossard.

' It is now in the department of La Charente Infdrieure.


GILLES DE RAIS 279

on every face around him, whilst his companions exclaimed :

' From Machecoul ? But dire things are told of that place. Folk say that little children are eaten there !'

Now, St. Jean d' Angely is more than eighty miles, as the crow flies, from Machecoul ; so the gruesome tale of horror was spreading far around.

Nevertheless Gilles de Rais continued to rely on impunity. And meantime the rumours — he heard of them, for on one occasion Henri Griart told him what was being said — gathered volume week by week, month by month, year by year. As Abb6 Bossard well puts it, they were destined to become no longer mere rumours, no longer low sobs or sorrowful moans, but loud and frantic howls — ulu- lantium^ to use the vigorous expression of the draughtsman of the indictment which was at last preferred against this devil in human form. We all know how wrong and how cruel was the persecution of the * poor, old, lame, foul and blear-eyed women ^ who, in olden time, were said to be witches, the miserable creatures who were accuse^l of being in league with Satan, but who often lacked the very necessaries of life, a circumstance which of itself ought to have established their innocence, for if they had sold themselves to the Fiend they would surely have obtained some return from him. But the remembrance of a thousand odious persecutions must not blind one to the guilt of Gilles de Rais. So

^ Reginald Scof 8 ' Discoverie of Witchcraft'


28o BLUEBEARD

far as was possible on his part he did indeed seek to make a covenant with the evil spirits, and he sacri- ficed untold victims on the shrine of devil-worship. As Michelet puts it somewhere, either in his History or his ' Sorci^re,' after killing for the Devil's sake, Gilles killed for his own pleasure. There were three stages in his career of crime. First he fell into the grasp of abominable corruption, and killed in order that his sins might not be made known. Then, on being drawn towards magic, he killed for sacrificial purposes, urged to it, no doubt, by his necromancers. Did not even Eustache Blanchet, one of his chaplains, a priest of Christ, say again and again to Poitou and Henri Griart : * It is impossible for the Marshal to succeed in his enterprise unless he offers the demon the blood and the limbs of children put to death ?'^ Finally he killed because he experienced an abominable fiendish ecstasy at the sight of the death throes, at the spectacle of blood spurting forth when he had planted his dagger in the throat of some un- happy victim, even as was described, with ghastly details, by his retainers. At times he hanged children from some rafter in his chamber, let them down, and then hoisted them up again, and, when tired of that horrible pastime, plunged a long needle into the victim's neck, and took delight in beholding the last convulsions. And when the victim's head was at last cut off, he set it now on his mantel-shelf, now on one of the posts of his bedstead ! Thus he became for all time the personification of la bite

^ Poitou's Confession.


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humaine, ravening for blood and slaughter. Yet, like the Manichean he partly was, suddenly dreading lest the Spirit of Good should be more powerful than the Spirit of Evil, he would at certain moments burst into tears, implore the pardon of Heaven, and devote large sums to pious foundations and charitable works. Again, with all solemnity, he vowed to cloister him- self and do penance for the remainder of his days ; and at other times, at Machecoul and again at Bourgneuf-en-Rais, he swore on a fragment of the true Cross which he possessed that he would go on pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, alone, on foot, staff in hand and begging his bread.

But relapses invariably ensued. He returned like a dog to his vomit. We have his own statements and those of his retainers that he drank heavily, draining bowls of hippocras and heady wine, and that his monstrous orgies were again and again crowned by utter fiendishness. It is unnecessary to detail those horrors any further here. Scholars will find them set down elsewhere. For the purposes of this work one need only recount the final attempts which Gilles made to raise the Devil with the help of a new magician, Francesco Prelati, who came to him from Italy, and then one may pass to the comparatively venal act of sacrilege which at last set justice in motion and brought the monster to his doom.


VII

1438— 1440

FRANCESCO PRELATI, THE DEVIL-RAISER — THE SPURIOUS MAID OF ORLEANS — GILLES' LAST DAYS OF SIN, CRIME AND VIOLENCE.

The MarshaVs Chaplain visits Italy and meets Prelati at Florence — A Youthful Wizard — The Princes of Hell appear in the Form of Crows — Barron, a powerful Devil, shows himself as a Young Man — Blanchet and Prelati journey to France — Fresh Attempts at Alchemy at Tififauges — Prelati and his Incantations — ^The Devil again evoked at Ti£OEiuges — ^The Tramp of the Four- footed Beast on the Castle Roof— Heaven sends a Thunder- storm to frighten away the Devil — Satan presents Prelati with Ingots of Gold, then changes into a Huge Green Serpent, and the Gold vanishes — Prelati beaten by the Devil — The Spurious Maid of Orleans and Gilles de Rais — The Marshal visits Charles VII. at Bourges, and throws Barron's Talisman away — His Penance for this Transgression — Gilles and the Black Mass — Human Sacrifices for Satan — Flight and Recapture of Blanchet, the Chaplain— Devilry at Machecoul, Bourgneuf^ Vannes, and Josselin— Sacrilege in the Church of St ^tienne de Mer Morte — Ferron, a Clerk, is seized by Gilles — Rebellion and Submission of the Marshal — Constable de Richemont reconciles him with the Duke of Brittany, whom he visits at Vannes and Josselin — His Final Crimes.

More than once in the course of this strange, event- ful history, Eustache Blanchet, one of the chaplains of Gilles de Rais, has been shown recruiting alche-


GILLES DE RAIS tSj

mists and necromancers for his patron, and the reader will have seen that there is reason to suspect this priest of further complicity in the evil deeds of Machecoul and TifTauges.

According to Blanchet's evidence, however, he had only a vague idea of the Marshal's actual crimes — an idea which at last made him anxious to sever the connection. Seeking an excuse, he told his patron that urgent private affairs required his presence in Italy, whither he betook himself some time in 1438, after a parting conversation with Gilles, who requested him to seek out some skilful Italian alchemist or necromancer in the course of his travels. Such was Blanchet's version of the circumstances under which he made his journey, but it is far more probable that he went to Italy by the Marshal's express orders. In any case, according to his own statement, he ultimately found himself in the city of Florence, and at one of its hostelries became acquainted with a certain Messer Guglielmo, of Monte- Pulciano, who introduced him to a certain Niccolo de' Medici, of Florence, a certain Francesco (probably an ecclesiastic) of the diocese of Castel- lane, and a certain Prelati, whose Christian name also was Francesco, and who, it seems, was then staying in the city with the Bishop of Mondovi — a town of Piedmont. According to Blanchet he became acquainted with Prelati on or about Ascen- sion Day (May .^), 1439; but Prelati himself, speaking on October 16, 1440, declared that the acquaintance had begun about two years previously, and every-


284 BLUEBEARD

thing indicates that his was the more accurate of the two statements.^

Born at Monte Catini, in the Val di Nievole, near Pistoja, diocese of Lucca, Francesco Prelati, at the time of meeting Blanchet, was not a priest, as Michelet and Vallet de Viriville have asserted. Abb6 Bossard, rightly jealous of his ministry, has pointed out that, although Prelati had received the tonsure from the Bishop of Arezzo, he was only a student for the priesthood, a young clerk. And here it may be said that the comparative youthful- ness of the chief characters in the Gilles de Rais tragedy is one of its most striking features. Gilles at his death in 1440 was only six-and-thirty years old ; Sill6, his cousin and accomplice, was of about the same age ; but Roger de Bricqueville was not more than five-and-twenty ; while Henri Griart, otherwise Henriet, was twenty-six ; and Corillaut, otherwise Poitou, was only twenty-two.^ Moreover, if Blanchet the priest had already reached the age

^ Some witnesses in the Rais affaire had very bad memories. They cited impossible dates and forgot the names of people and places. It is certain that in these respects they were frequently influenced by fears for their own necks. . Their lapses and their con- flicting statements in no wise cast doubt upon the guilt of the Marshal (which guilt he himself freely confessed), but they render extremely difficult the task of the writer who desires to narrate events in something like proper chronological order.

^ The age of Bricqueville is taken from the pardon granted to him by Charles VII., in which it is stated that he was five years old when the English invaded Normandy (141 5). For Griart* Corillaut, Blanchet, and Prelati, their statements in evidence at the trial of their patron have been consulted.


GILLES DE RAIS 285

of forty, Prelati the necromancer was seventeen years younger ; that is to say, he had just attained his majority when he met the Marshal's chaplain at Florence,

In this connection Abb^ Bossard points out that the alchemist and magician of the Middle Ages is usually pictured as a decrepit old man with unkempt hair and beard ; and, indeed, it is thus that many famous painters have limned him, while we all know how aged Faust is made to appear on the stage before his metamorphosis at the hands of Mephis- topheles. But if there were old and gloomy-looking wizards, there were also young and handsome ones, and Prelati belonged to the latter class, which would seem to have been particularly numerous in Italy. Although that country was the home of the Papacy, the centre of the Catholic religion, it probably gave more necromancers and astrologers to the world than any other. There were even Popes who gained the reputation of being wizards. Consider- able suspicion, for instance, attached to Silvester II. on account of his nightly study of astronomy. And though other pontiffs were at pains to put down the Black Art, some of them detecting magic in every- thing — John XVI. regarded both Plato and Virgil as enchanters — the so-called occult sciences thrived in their dominions and the adjacent States, while the Manichean heresy, which placed the Prince of Darkness on a footing of equality with the Deity, grew apace even under the shadow of St. Peters, thence spreading to other lands, including France,


\


2%6 BLUEBEARD

to the very centre of which it had already penetrated early in the eleventh century.^ Four hundred years later, at the time of Gilles de Rais, we still find it there, despite all the efforts of the Church to extir- pate it. Scepticism may have been slowly rising at that time, even although so-called witchcraft was so prevalent, for the impostures of charlatans were frequently exposed. Nevertheless, the Black Art retained its genuine devotees, such as Gilles de Rais, Giac, the royal favourite, Alen^on, the ieau Due, and all the other high and mighty lords who eagerly welcomed the necromancers from across the Alps, and employed them in the hope of securing wealth and power by force of magic.

When conviviality had placed Blanchet the priest on the best of terms with young Francesco Prelati, who, according to all accounts, dearly loved a pot of good wine, he spoke with him on the subject of alchemy and the raising of demons, and learnt that a short time previously (1437) the young man had acquired considerable knowledge of magic from a certain physician of Florence named Giovanni da Fontanella, who was extremely expert in summoning the evil spirits. One day, for instance, Fontanella had taken Prelati to a room at the top of his house and had there evoked the Princes of Hell, who had appeared in the shape of five-and-twenty birds, black, and resembling crows. Unfortunately, these birds had remained mysteriously silent ; but on another

  • * Moines et Papes : Essais de Psychologie Historique,' by

fimfle Gebhart Paris, 1897.


GILLES DE RAIS 287

occasion a very powerful Devil named Barron had condescended to show himself in the form of a handsome young man, and Fontanella having intro- duced Prelati to him, they had entered into a solemn covenant, Prelati promising Barron that he would present him with a hen, a pigeon and a dove each time that he should respond to his call.^

One wonders whether Blanchet and Prelati laughed together over those apparitions like a pair of Roman augurs in the absence of the profane. One thing is certain : the priest regarded the young clerk as the very man for his patron, Gilles de Rais, and asked him if he would go to France. Prelati consented to do so, the more readily, it seems, as he had a cousin named Martell (Martello?) dwelling at Nantes, whom he was very desirous of seeing. So the priest and the wizard set off together, journeying leisurely until at last they came to the little town of St Florent-le-Vieil, on the left bank of the Loire, midway between Chalonnes and Champtoceaux. Thence Blanchet wrote to Gilles de Rais acquainting him with the arrival of the necromancer who would surely make * Master Ali- borum ' appear ; and the Marshal at once despatched Henriet and Poitou with a suitable equipage in order to bring the travellers to Tiffauges.

They seem to have reached that castle in the spring of 1439, at which time Gilles had some little money before him, as is shown by a receipt of his, acknowledging the payment of fifteen hundred gold

^ Prdati's Evidence : Ecclesiastical Proceedings.


288 BLUEBEARD

saluts on account of the Champtoc^ contract with the Duke of Brittany,^

The Marshal appears to have received Prelati with open arms. And here it should be mentioned that the Italian possessed considerable culture. Like Gilles himself, he was a remarkably good Latinist^ ; whilst his skill in the arts of flattery and cajolery proved to be exceptional. For some reason or other, soon after his arrival at Tiffauges, it was decided to carry on the experiments in alchemy in a house near the church of St Nicholas instead of at the castle itself.^ This house belonged to an old woman named Perrota, with whom Rais was on

^ This is the receipt bearing the signature given on p. 252. It runs as follows :

' We, Gilles, Lord of Rais and Pouzauges, Marshal of France, acknowledge having received of Jehan Mauleon, treasurer of the Duke, my {sic) sovereign Lord, the sum of one thousand and five hundred gold saiuz^ on account of the sum of one hundred thou- sand crowns which my (sic) said Lord the Duke owes to us, and is required to complete and pay on account of the contract of Champtoc^. And this sum of one thousand and five hundred saluz we hold to be well paid, and have acquitted and do acquit thereof my said Lord, the said Mauleon, and all others to whom acquittance may be due, as witness our sign manual set here this sixth day of May, the year one thousand, four hundred, thirty and

nine.

  • Gilles.'

This receipt was formerly in the collection of M. Benjamin Fillon, and was communicated by him to M. Ren^ de Maulde. ^ * Quod pulchre et ornate verbis latinis loqueretur. * ^ Bossard thinks this was done to avoid a repetition of the Dauphin's surprise visit (see ante^ p. 243), but there is nothing to show that the Dauphin had then been at Tiffauges. We do not think he can have gone there until quite the end of 1439.


GILLES DE RAIS 289

familiar terms ; and it stood quite by itself, on a hill facing the western side of the castle. Here then, for some time, in a certain room reserved for him, Prelati, with the assistance of the Marshal s gold- smith, Jean Petit, carried on his attempts at gold-making, often receiving visits of inspection from his patron, who displayed, indeed, extreme anxiety concerning the progress of the work. Blanchet and La Perrota, it seems, were only allowed to enter the room on one occasion, but at other times, when the priest chanced to be in an adjoining chamber, he caught sight (according to his own account) of certain mysterious practices, such as the tracing of magic circles, the kindling of bright fires on which incense and aloes-wood were flung, and prostrations as if before some invisible divinity. One day, moreover, while the priest was listening atten- tively, he heard Prelati repeating in an undertone :

  • Satan, Satan, come to our help !' At the same time

(either the door was partially open or Blanchet looked through a crack or a keyhole) he saw Gilles and Prelati standing in the room, each with a lighted candle in his hand. But soon after the invocation, which was followed by words which the priest did not catch or understand, a great gust of icy wind swept down, upon the house striking it with such exceeding violence that Blanchet was absolutely terrified. He felt certain that this was some mani- festation of the wrath of Heaven.

In spite, however, of all their attempts, Prelati and Gilles did not succeed in making gold in the

19


290 BLUEBEARD

mysterious room at La Perrota's house — a room in which, it wouldseem, a model of a hand in wax and one of a foot in iron were subsequently found.^ But Prelati had now become acquainted with a Breton doctor who was staying in the town (or village) of Tiffauges with a certain Geoffroy Lecomte, whose wife he was treating for some affection of the eyes ; and one day this doctor showed the young Italian a mysterious book written *in black ink, partly on papyrus, partly on parchment, and ornamented with rubrics/ The work treated of medicine, astrology, the evocation of spirits and other weird matters, and Prelati, borrowing it from the doctor, carried it to Gilles, with the result that a fresh attempt to raise the Prince of Darkness was made in accordance with the formulae set forth in this ancient book.

The attempt in question took place late one night in the summer of 1439. Gilles, Prelati, Blanchet, Henri Griart and Poitou met in a large hall of the castle, overlooking the valley of the Crflme. One of them carried a lighted candle of white wax. A large quantity of charcoal and incense had been provided, with an earthen pot in which to kindle the fire, a lodestone, and several torches and candles. All being in readiness, Gilles and Prelati traced with their swords a large circle on the floor of the room, marking at four points within this circle various crosses and signs which, according to Poitou, re- sembled escutcheons. The fire in the pot having been kindled, a second one was lighted in a comer of

^ Civil Proceedings : Henriet's Confession.


GILLES DE RAIS 291

the room, close to the wall, on which Prelati traced several more escutcheon-like sigfns, similar to those in the circle. Then * magnetic powder ' and incense, myrrh and aloes-wood, were thrown on the glowing charcoal, and a cloud of aromatic smoke arose, filling the room with perfume. Finally Prelati gave orders for the four windows — there was one in each wall, so that they symbolized, as it were, the points of a cross — to be opened, and then all was in readiness for the evocation.

Gilles, however, after cautioning Blanchet, Griart, and Poitou to speak no word of what they had witnessed, dismissed them, bidding them repair to his chamber and there await his coming. Then he and Prelati entered the magic circle together, the Italian holding the book he had borrowed and read- ing a passage which asserted that the demons had ' the power of revealing the whereabouts of hidden treasure, of teaching philosophy, and of directing human actions towards success.' Gilles meantime carried a cedula in which, apart from his soul and his life, he promised the Fiend whatever he might desire.

A long series of prayers, protests, promises, and offerings began. At times standing, at others kneel- ing, they paid homage to the Spirit of Evil, made sacrifices to him, read passages of the mysterious book, and repeated incantations: *I adjure /you, Barron, Satan, Belial, Beelzebub, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in the name of the Virgin Mary and all the Saints, appear

I


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here in person to speak with us and do our bidding !*^ At last the suppliants turned their eyes towards one or another of the open windows, and Gilles repeated the formula of his covenant ; but neither promises, nor prayers, nor any sacrifice of dove, or pigeon, or cock prevailed with the Evil One. Nothing appeared to Gilles, nothing was heard by him in spite of all his solicitations. But it was different with Blanchet and Henri Griart, who were waiting for him in his bedroom. Poitou had fallen asleep there, but the others, in the midst of their anxious vigil, suddenly distinguished, on the roof above them, a noisy tramp, like that of a four-footed beast hurrying towards the window of the castle postern — that is, in the direction of the hall where the Marshal had remained with Prelati. The priest and the chamberlain refrained from mentioning this circumstance, however, when, at an early hour in the morning, Gilles returned to his room in despair at the failure of his efforts.

His own explanation of these repeated failures was the weakness he displayed in muttering prayers to the Deity, even amidst the most solemn incanta- tions addressed to the Fiend. Those prayers, which were ever escaping him in his torturing doubt as to who might be the more powerful of the two great Spirits, angered the Prince of Darkness exceedingly and made him deaf to every entreaty. Eventually, Gilles instructed Prelati to make another effort in his absence, and bade the terrified Poitou attend the necromancer. This attempt (which recalls a previous

^ Ecclesiastical Proceedings : Prelati's Confession.


GILLES DE RAIS 293

one,^ and may indicate some confusion in the minds of the witnesses) took place one dark night in a meadow near the road to Montaigu, some distance below the castle pond. A circle was traced, a fire was kindled, and all the customary rites were performed ; Poitou, more dead than alive, standing with Prelati in the circle and holding the Marshal s cedula, on which the usual formula was written. But all at once a terrific storm burst forth, the rain poured down torrentially, and the two devil-raisers were drenched before they could reach the castle, where, to their consternation, they found the drawbridge raised in such wise that they were obliged to betake them- selves to the village, where Blanchet at that time was dwelling. He seems to have anticipated their coming, for we read that he had prepared a large fire and a bed.

If, however, the Devil failed to appear to Gilles or Poitou, he more than once honoured Prelati with a visit when the latter happened to be alone, and the Italian was always so skilful, so plausible, in his explanations that the Marshal never doubted his statements, but invariably attributed his own failures to the previously-mentioned weakness. One day when the Evil Spirit appeared to Prelati, the necro- mancer, on behalf of Gilles, solicited the bestowal of wealth, and suddenly perceived a large number of gold ingots in the room. He wished to touch them, but Satan, who had assumed for the occasion the form of a handsome young man, forbade it, saying

^ See anU^ p. 252.


294 BLUEBEARD

that the moment had not yet come. Nevertheless, Prelati carried the good news to his patron, who eagerly inquired if he might see the gold. The magician assented, and they repaired to the room together. But at the very moment when Prelati opened the door he caught sight of a huge green serpent, ' in girth as big as a dog.' ' Do not enter ! there is a great serpent !' he cried to the Marshal, who immediately took to his heels, followed by the impostor.

After that first moment of fright, however, Gilles wished to return to the room, and in order to protect himself from the assault of the Demon he took with him a crucifix containing a small portion of the real Cross. At this Prelati remonstrated ; it was not proper, he said, to use a consecrated- crucifix in such a matter, and, moreover, the sight of it would so incense the Devil that the most dreadful things might happen. The Marshal himself ended by adopting this view, and put the crucifix away. When he at last entered the room the serpent had vanished ; he only found there a few strips of gold- foil, * whereby,' he said subsequently to his judges, ' I well did recognise the falseness of the Evil One.'

On another occasion Prelati. like one of the Marshal's previous necromancers,^ was badly beaten by the Devil. Blanchet, who subsequently told the story, had gone that day to visit some fellow-ecclesi- astics in the vicinity of Tiffauges, when suddenly a messenger reached him from the castle with instruc-

^ See ante^ p. 251. I


GILLES DE RAIS 295

tions that he was to return thither immediately. He did so, and on entering one of the galleries found the Marshal in tears. * Ah, I am greatly afraid that my friend Fran9ois is dead !' said Gilles to Blanchet. ' I heard him shrieking in yonder chamber, and between his cries I distinguished a noise as of terrible blows. I dared not enter, but I entreat you to do so, to ascertain what has happened.'

In making this request Gilles may have had the idea that Blanchet, being a priest, would incur no risk at the hands of the Evil Spirit. But the chap- lain was as terrified as his patron, and at first refused to do anything. At last, after many entreaties, he went, not to the door, but to a window of the room opening into a garden, and called : * Master Fran- cesco! Master Francesco!* Prelati, however, re- turned no answer, though Blanchet could hear him moaning as if with pain. Not daring to carry his investigations any further, the priest returned to Gilles and told him what he had heard, whereupon the other's grief became greater than ever. While he was sobbing, however, the door was slowly set ajar, and Prelati appeared, pale, haggard, and scarce able to walk. With the assistance of his friends, he eventually managed to reach the Marshal's chamber, where he related that he had received a severe beating from the Demon as the result of his own folly. It appears that on receiving a visit from Barron he had questioned him respecting the failure of some recent evocations, and had imprudently ex- claimed that the demons were mere vilains and had


296 BLUEBEARD

no power whatever; whereupon bi^.Ton ha4 begfun to thrash him by way of proving tl t his p6wer was real enough. Like the previous nee* omancer beaten by the fiend, Prelati was obliged to take to his ibed as the result of this ferocious assault, and for more than a week Gilles nursed him with the utmost care and devotion. According to Blanehet, the adventure left a deep impression on the mind of the Italian, who more than once blasphemously remarked that ' the evil spirits were created of a more noble sub- stance than even the Blessed Virgin Mary.'^

It is now time to turn to a matter connected with the public life of Gilles de Rais. Three years previously (1436) a woman named Claude had appeared in Lorraine, asserting that she was Joan the Maid,^ and had escaped execution at Rouen. Joan's brothers, Pierre and Jean du Lys, for some reason or other, perhaps a desire to enrich them- selves by practising a fraud — for they had been neglected since their sister s death — pretended that they recognised this woman, who, after sojourning for a time with the Duchess of Luxemburg, recruited many partisans. She wore masculine garments,

^ Ecclesiastical Proceedings : Blanchet.

^ Late in December, 1901, a prominent London evening newspaper printed a leaderette gravely suggesting that Joan was never burnt, and that the woman mentioned above may have been the real Maid. The question has long ago been threshed out in France, and whatever ' discoveries ' may be made in the matter nowadays, among old records and so forth, it is quite certain that Joan was burnt and that Claude was as much an impostor as was Arthur Orton.


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carried a sword^Sid rode on horseback like Joan ; but, on the othe^f4iand, she displayed great freedom of manner, ds^Kifing; drinking, captivating young men, and proph^ying bonders to everybody. Re- pairing to Cologne, she there secured the support of Duke Ulrich of WHftemberg ; but as she evinced a desire to dabbltf^ff? magic, she was excommunicated at the instigatioif of the Inquisition, and thereupon returned hastily to France. There she captivated a Knight of Lorraine, named Robert des Armoises, and became his wife ; and with the help of Jean du Lys she even secured some pecuniary assistance from Charles VII. But she soon began to lead a very riotous life, and being at last separated from her husband, after presenting him with two sons,^ she became the mistress of a priest. She is said to have gone to Rome a little later in order to procure abso- lution for some cos riservi, and to have fought as a mercenary for Eugenius IV., who was then at war with his subjects. At all events, in 1439, when the disturbances which preceded the Praguerie were rife in Poitou, Claude des Armoises appeared in that r^ion ; and Gilles de Rais, it is said, placed her at the head of a company oi gens (Tamus^ giving her as lieutenant one of his retainers, a certain Jean de Siquenville, who is described as a Gascon squire^ though the name would seem to be a Norman one ;

^ According to one of the modem theories, the descendant of one of these sons was the Man with the Iron Mask ! Do Bob- gohe/s romance 00 the sobfect wiH be iiuniliar to man^ novel-


298 BLUEBEARD

and it is certain that Roger de Bricqueville intro- duced many Normans to the Marshal's service. In this connection one may mention that about this time — the spring and summer of 1439 — Bricqueville disappears from the scene so far as the personal doings of Rais are concerned, though his presence at Tiffauges or Machecoul at a later date appears probable. Bossard declares that Bricqueville fled, like Sill6, at the time of the Marshal's arrest (September, 1440); Bricqueville himself, when suing Charles VII. for pardon, asserts that he had quitted the service of Gilles in 1435 in consequence of the horrid suspicions he had formed with regard to his patron's crimes. In this respect Bricque- ville lied, for he himself had been an accomplice in several misdeeds. But from some allusions in the documents we think he may have been absent for a time on military service, with Siquenville and the spurious Maid, particularly as his name does not appear in connection with any incident at Tiffauges in the summer of 1439.

From the manner in which Vallet de Viriville writes^ of Gilles de Rais and Claude des Armoises, it might be inferred that the Marshal employed this woman and Siquenville against the royal authority, first in some expedition against Le Mans, and secondly in an attempt on La Rochelle ; but in what- ever enterprise Gilles made use of the spurious Maid, it is certain it was for and not against the royal cause. It appears, indeed, that Claude

  • * Histoire de Charles VII.,* vol. ii., p. 369.


GILLES DE RAIS 299

des Armoises repaired to Orleans in July, and again in September, 1439, and was received there with great honour.^ About the same period, also, Gilles de Rais quitted Tiflfauges and betook himself to Bourges to see the King, which course he would not have taken had he been a rebel. Before making the journey in question (which is mentioned in the evidence given at his trial), he may have already dismissed the spurious Maid, as was stated in a previous chapter of this work ; or perhaps that dis- missal, ascribed to the un worthiness of Claude des Armoises, was the outcome of the interview which Gilles had at Bourges with Charles VI I.^ All we know, however, of the purpose of his journey is that he had some important business in hand,^ concerning the issue of which he was so extremely anxious that on quitting Tiflfauges he recommended his aflfairs to Prelati, and begged him to let him know as soon as possible the result of his invocations.

A short time afterwards Prelati sent him, by messenger — either Poitou or a certain Denis Gas- card (the evidence on the point is conflicting) — a

» Vallet de Viriville, Lc.

  • On the subject of the False Maid see Quicherat*s * Proems de

Jeanne d'Arc,' vol. v., p. 321 et seq, ; * Une Fausse Jeanne d*Arc,' by A. Lecoy de la Marche ; * Revue des Questions Historiques,' 187 1 ; and Wallon, vol. iL, p. 308 et seq,^ and Appendix xxiii. (References given by Bossard.)

'In certain letters of remission granted to Siquenville it is said that Gilles wished to undertake an enterprise against Le Mans, and perhaps it was about this matter that he sought an interview with the King. See Quicherat, /.^, vol v., p. 333.


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letter informing him that everything was progress- ing favourably, that the Devil had again appeared, and had given him some black powder, with instruc- tions to send it to the Marshal, who was to place it in a little silver box and carry it hanging from his neck both day and night, for it was a very precious talisman, and, if the said instructions were obeyed, would bring him great advantages. The Marshal did as he was told, carrying the powder in a box for some considerable time ; but his affairs at Bourges did not prosper, and at last, in a fit of impatience, he divested himself of the talisman, one account saying that he flung it into a well in the court of the house of Messire Jacques Coeur,^ and another show-, ing that it was brought back to Brittany and given by Poitou to Prelati, who left it in his room at a house at Machecoul, where it was found after the arrest of the Marshal and his accomplices.^ The explanation probably is that the little silver box, on being thrown away, did not fall into the well, but was picked up by Poitou, who subsequently returned it to the Italian.

In any case, the latter was extremely displeased. He told Gilles, on his return home, that he had

^ Lacroix, following his transcript, calls the powder * something of the colour of silver,' and adds ' in a purse of hlaclc silk, which was enclosed in a silver-gilt box.'

^ This could not have been the famous historic mansion whidi Coeur only began to build in 1443. Some previous residence must be referred to. If the incident really occurred, it is possible that Gilles went to the celebrated financier to borrow money of him, and, having failed to do so, threw the box away in disgust


GILLES DE RAIS 301

flung away his happiness and virtually lost himself ; that Barron must be greatly angered against him ; and that in order to appease the great demon he must humble himself and give food and drink to three poor men at each of the three great festivals of the year. Indeed, as confessed by Gilles himself, he did perform that act of penance on All Saints' Day, 1439, when he personally washed the feet of three poor men, and served them with food and drink. But he added that he did it only on the occasion specified.

This brings one to the oft-repeated charge that Gilles had the Black Mass sung in honour of Satan, a charge suggested by the indictment against him, which asserts that for five years he caused ' pretended solemnities to be celebrated in honour of the evil spirits.' Abb^ Bossard thinks that he at least caused the Black Mass to be sung on the particular day when he fed the three poor men ; but the present writer finds no confirmation of this supposition in the evidence. The assumption is simply based on the aforesaid words in the indict- ment, which contains numerous errors of fact From all that is known of the character of Gilles, it seems certain that he never caused the Black Mass to be celebrated. With his fantastic ideas of the powers of good and evil, he would have regarded such an action as irretrievable. Amidst his most frantic paroxysms of crime he always remained anxious to save his soul. Directly he had ceased evoking the Devil he prayed to the Deity for pardon ; and


s


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Prelati had to tell him, again and again, that he would never gain Satan to his cause unless he renounced his attachment to the Church and his chantry. Some members of the latter were certainly his accomplices in abominable turpitude and crime ; but even they would have recoiled from the idea of celebrating the ritual in honour of Satan. Had there been any evidence on the subject, Ahh6 Bossard would assuredly have dealt with it at length. The present writer has waded through many pages of medieval Latin, but has found no evidence whatever confirming the vague allegation in the indictment Thus the so-called Black Mass and all its imaginary attributes may be left to M. Huysmans and his fellow- novelists, from whom one does not expect anything approaching historical accuracy.

But if that particular charge remains unproven, how many are confirmed by the evidence ! Gilles recoiled from no act of wickedness and villainy when he thought he might subsequently atone for it by penance. One can picture him thinking that if the Devil gave him the great wealth he desired he would devote a large part of it to pious foundations. One cannot say exactly what was done in the matter of that Foundation of the Holy Innocents for which Jean Caseau and Jean de Recouin, the notaries of Orleans, drew up a deed of confirmation ;^ but it is at least certain that the Marshals extravagance in other respects prevented him from carrying the deed into effect. Champtoci, which he had intended to

^ See anfe^ pp. 199, 200.


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assign to the Foundation, was sold by him to the Duke of Brittany, and when he died little was left of those revenues of the barony of Rais that he had also meant to bestow on the great religious work which, in his estimation, would secure him an exalted place in heaven. It is probable that the Foundation of the Holy Innocents subsisted precariously until the Marshal s death, and perished in the great cUbdcle afterwards. But one also reads of almshouses estab- lished or enlarged by him and of hospices provided for the accommodation of passing wayfarers, and therein one can detect traces of the penitential moods which came upon him at times, most usually when he was wandering through the country around Machecoul or Tiffauges. Torn by remorse, he then gesticulated frantically and muttered incoherent words in such wise that those who saw him wondered if he were mad. But at night, when he had returned to his castle and supped copiously, devouring spiced meats and draining beaker after beaker of strong wine, he became once more la bSte humaine, the modern Minotaur, the vampire eager for villainy and blood.

One day when his servants, Henri Griart and Poitou, entered his room at Tiffauges, they found him holding the hand, heart and eyes of a little child whom a short time previously he had put to death in their presence. He wrapped the offerings for Satan of which he had thus possessed himself in a white linen cloth, and placed them in a bowl on the shelf of his chimney. Then he told his servants to lock the




304 BLUEBEARD

door of the room and allow nobody to enter. That same night, hiding the parcel in one of his flowing sleeves, he carried it to Prelati's apartment. He and the Italian then proceeded to the room where they had first evoked the Fiend, and repeated the usual ceremonies, offering the eyes, heart, and hand of the innocent and foully murdered child. But the Evil Spirit did not appear, and Gilles went off in great disappointment with yet one more crime upon his conscience. When he was gone, Prelati took the offerings, wrapped them in another cloth, and stole out of the castle, crossing the yards in the direction of the chapel of St. Vincent. And at the foot of the chapel wall, in consecrated ground, he buried the offerings which Barron had disdained.

It has been shown that Blanchet the priest, according to his own account, had endeavoured to sever his connection with Gilles in the course of 1438. Whatever doubt there may be on that point, he certainly did try to free himself early in November the following year. By that time he had probably arrived at the opinion that the day of punishment was not far distant. We know that he was superstitiously inclined. He had been frightened by the blast of wind which had swept down on La Perrota s house, and by the heavy tramp of the four-footed beast over the castle roof, and, his own conscience being by no means clear, he may well have dreaded the ven- geance of Heaven. Perhaps he really repented of having abetted his patron in the practice of the Black Art, knowing, as he had often said to Poitou and


GILLES DE RAIS 305

Henri Griart, that the Marshal would never succeed in raising the Fiend unless he sacrificed children to him. Moreover, the murmurs, the complaints rising from the countryside, must have disturbed him. Children were still frequendy disappearing, and before long human as well as Divine justice might intervene.

On or about All Saints' Day, 1439, a quarrel with a fellow-retainer, Robin Romulart, gave Blanchet a pretext for quitting Tiffauges. He repaired to Mortagne, a little town on the Sevre, some seven or eight miles distant from the castle of Gilles de Rais, which can be clearly distinguished beyond the inter- vening valley. Blanchet dwelt at Mortagne, at an inn kept by a certain Bouchard Menard, for about seven weeks, and though Gilles wrote to him making light of his quarrel with Robin, and urging his return to Tiffauges, where Prelati's experiments in alchemy were * progressing marvellously well,' he turned a deaf ear to the suggestion, particularly as he heard some horrible reports respecting the Marshal's doings. It happened in this wise : One evening Messire Jean Mercier, Castellan of La Roche-sur- Yon, travelling homeward from Nantes by the Clisson road, alighted at the inn of Mortagne, and Blanchet, meeting him at table, asked him what the news might be at Nantes and Clisson. Messire Mercier replied that the one great subject of conver- sation throughout the southern part of Brittany and Poitou was the frightful conduct imputed to Marshal de Rais, whom the lower orders openly accused of

20


yA BLUEBEAKD



ta oraer tint be wgjt vnte a eertam mjrstenooB book v^ tbexr falioocL Hie s&ory fan that as sooo as ciixs book skooki be fiimhncf, the mMt pryveifEil fortresses wooLd £fcll before die Marshal as if bf encfaantincm. and nobody tfaence- ifMWMA would be able to do him harm. Xatorany enoi^h, Blanchet was alarmed bjr this cocmmmicatioa«  which showed how widespread were die su^Mcioas of the artisans and peasantry, and he made up his mind to return to his former patron no more.

On the very next day, however, he received a visit from Jean Petit, the Marshal's Parisian gold- smith, who had been sent expressly to take him back to TifEuiges. But Blanche^ refusing to listen, told Petit all that he had heard from Messire Mercier. ' 1 know not,' he added, ' if these stories be true, but they are widespread. If they be well founded, entreat my Lord and Master Francesco, from me, to renounce the evil courses in which they commit such great crimes.' Petit went off to deliver this message, which was perhaps a rather foolish proceeding on his part, for Gilles, on hearing that the priest refused to return and that such ominous rumours were in circulation, flew into a fury with his messenger, and imprisoned him in the fortress of St. Etienne-de-Mer-Morte, by way, no doubt, of keeping his mouth closed.^ Then Gilles once more turned his attention to Blanchet. The priest had

^ Petit practised alchemy with Prelati, but it does not appear that he was ever an accomplice in the Marshal's crimes, of which, until this period, he may have been quite ignorant.


GILLES DE RAIS 307

' a frivolous, indiscreet and evil tongue/ He knew too much, and, as he would not return, must be put out of the way. This duty was promptly entrusted to Gilles de Sill6, Poitou, Griart and another re- tainer, Jean Lebreton, who arrived one day at the inn of Mortagne, seized the trembling Blanchet, and led him in the direction of Montaigu. On reaching Rocheservi^re, Blanchet realized that he was being conducted to St. Etienne-de-Mer-Morte, where he would either be put to death or imprisoned with Jean Petit. So he refused to go any further, and by dint of resistance and entreaty prevailed on his custodians to take him to Machecoul. On the road thither Poitou, after telling him that if he had gone to St* Etienne he would certainly have been executed, m punishment for his loquacity with the goldsmith,, added that he would have to be very cautious at Machecoul, for if he gossiped the consequences might be serious. But Blanchet needed no further warning ; he knew that he was at the Marshal's mercy, and thus he held his tongue until the time of the judicial proceedings.

He then supplied some information indicating that there was perhaps an element of truth in the reports which asserted that Gilles was writing a book on Magic. One day, said he, about Easter (1440),. accompanied by another priest, a certain Gilles de Valois, who like himself belonged to the Marshal s ecclesiastical household, he went into his patron's study or writing-room {scripiortum) , and was there shown a book treating of the ritual of the so-called


3o8 BLUEBEARD

Chapter of Machecoul, the binding of which book Rais himself was artistically enamelling. Whilst listening to the Marshal and admiring his work, Blanchet noticed on the table five or six sheets of paper which aroused his curiosity, not only because the writing within the broad margins left on each sheet was that of Gilles, but because this writing was red. Here and there on the papers, red crosses and other signs also appeared.

The priest thereupon remembered what he had been told about the book written with the blood of murdered children. It must be added that Henri Griart subsequently testified that he had once seen a book in his master's hands, which appeared to be written with blood or vermilion. Perhaps, however, the work in question was the one on Medicine and Magic which Prelati borrowed at Tiflfauges, and which, we know, was rubricated. Besides, the colour of blood is not the same as that of vermilion ; and although the blood of children may be generally of a lighter hue than that of adults, it is a question whether it would remain really red for any lengfth of time. Those who believe that Gilles' book on Magic was written with blood may argue that the writing on the sheets seen by Blanchet was quite recent. Yet it seems unlikely that the Marshal would have left anything particularly compromising lying about, particularly as Valois, who accompanied Blanchet, was not in his secrets.

We do not know what induced Gilles to move from Tiflfauges to Machecoul early in 1440, but


f


GILLES DE RAIS 309

perhaps this change of residence followed the visit which the Dauphin is said to have paid to the former castle,^ and which would thus have taken place while Blanchet was sojourning at Mortagne. This is not unlikely. We know that Gilles at one time sent Blanchet word that Prelati s experiments in alchemy were progressing marvellously well. Then, however, nothing more is heard of them ; and this may be due to the Dauphin's visit, which is said to have led to the destruction of all the chemical apparatus.

In any case, Prelati followed Gilles de Rais to Machecoul, and we find him lodging in the little town near the castle, and sharing a room with a certain Lenano or Nani, Marquis Ceva, member of a Piedmontese house of illustrious descent but needy circumstances. M. de Maulde^ says that the Ceve, in Nani s time, had become mere condottiere^ and had endless disputes with the representative of the Duke of Orleans, who, as Count of Asti, was their neighbour. Nani, being the youngest of three brothers, had been left, perhaps, to shift for himself. The exact origin of his intercourse with Gilles de Rais is not known ; but Ceva belonged to the Diocese of Mondovi, and remembering that Prelati was attached to the Bishop of that see when Blanchet met him at Florence, it is allowable to surmise that Nani was an old acquaintance, and had followed Prelati to France in the hope of making a fortune there. Gilles de Rais appears to have ^ See antti p. 243. ' Bossard, A^., pp. 229, civ.


3IO BLUEBEARD

treated him in a friendly way and to have given him some kind of military employment

According to Poitou, the Marshal's valet, Ceva was always ignorant of his master's secret crimes, but the intercourse of the Italian Marquis with Prelati and other matters point to a very different conclusion. One day, for instance, about the end of April, 1440, a woman of Pouanc6, Ysabeau Hamelin, who with her husband had come to dwell at Fresnay near Machecoul, sent two of her sons, one fifteen years of age and the other seven, to buy some bread at Machecoul. They did not return, and, indeed, she never saw them again. But the very next day, as she was standing outside her house, two men, Prelati and Ceva, came up to her. The latter, to her great astonishment, asked her if she were still suffering from soreness of the breast. She did not at first understand how he knew that she had a sore breast, and she answered that there was nothing the matter with her. * Yes, truly there is,' the Marquis replied, and he added that she did not belong to Machecoul, but came from Pouanc6. Ysabeau, more and more surprised, inquired how he knew it. * Oh, I knew it very well,' he answered, and she then acknowledged that he spoke the truth.

He put further questions to her, ascertained that her husband had returned to Pouanc6 to seek hire, and, on noticing a couple of very young children in the house, inquired if they were hers, and if she had any others. * Yes, two,' she answered, but she did not dare to add that they were missing. Then


GILLES DE RAIS 3"

Prelati and the Marquis walked away, and Ysabeau heard the latter tell his companion that 'two had gone from her house. '^

She was greatly disturbed, and when she talked the matter over with her husband they came to the conclusion that there was some connection between the disappearance of their boys and the sudden visit of the Marshal's Italian retainers. It is rather dif- ficult to account for the visit and for the questions put to Ysabeau. Perhaps Prelati and Ceva wished to ascertain what kind of woman she was, and whether she were likely to raise an outcry respecting the disappearance of her children. Yet if they were at all guilty in the matter they must have known that such a visit might compromise them. All con- sidered, their object may have been to verify certain suspicions which they had formed concerning the fate of the two boys. They had seen them un- doubtedly — in all probability at the castle — ^and desired to ascertain if they had returned home.

The house where the Italians lodged at Machecoul belonged to a certain Clement Rondeau, who after a time was seized with an illness which seemed likely to prove fatal. When a priest had administered extreme unction to the sufferer, the latter's wife, Perrine, gave vent to such noisy and abundant lamentations that her relatives, fearing perhaps that she might rob her husband of his last chance of recovery, made her go into the room tenanted by Prelati and Ceva. This

^ Civil Proceedings : Deposition of Ysabeau Hamelin. The French words are : * II en estoit sorti deux de celui hostel'


312 BLUEBEARD

room was at the top of the house and was reached by a ladder. Evening had set in when Perrine was sent up there, and the wizard and the Marquis had gone to the castle, but their pages were having supper in the room. By-and-by Master Francesco and Nani came home, and finding Perrine in their quarters, and believing that she had gone there on some prying expedition, they abused her savagely, and caught her, one by the feet and the other by the shoulders, in order to carry her to the ladder. Prelati even kicked her in the loins, and she felt certain that she would have been thrown down the ladder if her nurse had not fortunately prevented it by catching hold of her gown.

One day, a short time afterwards, Perrine heard Ceva telling his friend that he had found him a handsome Norman page ; and, indeed, a little later a lad, who said that he belonged to Dieppe and was of a good family, came and stayed with Prelati for about a fortnight ; then, however, he disappeared, and Perrine, wondering what had become of him, made inquiries of his master, who replied that the boy had deceived him, and had run away with a couple of crowns which he had stolen. After this occurrence Prelati ceased to lodge with Perrine ; and he and Eustache Blanchet, the priest, took up their quarters in a lonely little house of bad reputation, whose owner or tenant, a certain Perrot Cahn (or Cahu), they turned out of doors. ' It was not a meet dwelling-place for honourable folk,' we are told ; nevertheless, Prelati and Blanchet dwelt there,


>


GILLES DE RAIS 313

whilst the Marquis, who kept up daily intercourse with them, continued to lodge at Perrine's.

But we must now return to Gilles himself. Throughout these last years of his, amidst his experiments in alchemy and his attempts to raise the Fiend, he had been living in the same extrava- gant style as formerly, still maintaining both an ecclesiastical and a military household. Why, in- deed, should he retrench, when in a day or two, a week, a month at the utmost, either science or the Devil would enrich him beyond the dreams of avarice ? The mirage of wealth and power was always before his eyes. Hope revived after every disappointment and lured him onward. Meantime, however, his expenses were very heavy, and again and again, whatever revenue was yielded him by his remaining possessions, whatever sums he re- ceived from the Duke of Brittany on account of the Champtoc6 contract, he was embarrassed how to maintain the pride and splendour of earlier years. His only means of raising money was to sell more property, and thus he began to part with his last lordships. Perhaps it was now that he sold his mansion of La Suze to the Chapter of Nantes ; for until about this time we find him dwelling there when he went to the city.^ His biographers generally assume that he parted with the mansion at a much earlier date, but if so, he must have reserved to himself a life-tenancy or something similar.

^ This is shown by frequent passages in the evidence against him. He still occasionally sojourned at La Sum in i439*


314 BLUEBEARD

In any case, among the last property on which he raised money was the lordship and fortress of St. ]£tienne-de-Mer-Morte. The usual account of the transaction is that he sold this castellany to the Duke of Brittany, perhaps with some proviso, as in the case of Champtoc6, which would enable him to repurchase it within a stipulated period. It seems certain, however, that he himself placed a certain Jean Le Ferron in possession of St. ntienne ; and a document in the procedure against him shows that he had transferred his rights in the lordship to Jean Le Perron's brother Geffroi.^ On the other hand, this Geffroi was treasurer to the Duke of Brittany,* and there are reasons for thinking that he acted simply as the Duke's intermediary. One often- repeated account of the affair is that the Duke bought St. fitienne of Gilles, and then transferred it to Le Ferron, and that Gilles, greatly offended by the transfer, rebelled against it ; but the docu- ment indicated — one of Gilles' confessions — states explicitly that St. ifetienne had been transferred to Geoffroi Le Ferron by Gilles himself.

The matter is of importance, for it led to the Marshal's downfall, and it is unfortunate that the exact facts which impelled him to repossess himself of St. Etienne by violence after he had sold it can- not be fully ascertained. He is found complaining,

^ De Maulde in Bossard, /.r., p. cxlii.

2 Ibid,^ p. cliv. Perhaps Geffroi Le Ferron had succeeded Mauleon (see ante^ p. 288) as treasurer, or there may have been more than one holding that office.


GILLES DE RAIS 315

however, that Jean Le Ferron, whom he had placed in possession of the castellany, had beaten and extorted money from his (Gilles') vassals, and thus the dispute which arose may simply have been caused by Le Ferron imposing imposts on others besides the vassals of the particular lordship which had been sold. But subsequently Gilles says that he had never been paid for this lord- ship ; and it must also be mentioned that in one of his confessions, and in a statement made by Prelati, there are some allusions to certain designs on St iStienne, planned by some garrison, of Palluau or Les Essarts.

The only explanation of this matter which one can suggest is as follows. The fortress of St. Etienne- de-Mer-Morte was about seven miles south of Machecoul, on or near the limits of the barony of Rais. Palluau and Les Essarts, now in the department of La Vendue, then belonged to Poitou — that is, to French and not to Breton territory. Poitou, as we have frequently mentioned, was at that period in a state of great unrest, and it is possible, therefore, that among the semi-bandit nobles of the province there was some design to seize St. Etienne.^ Prelati stated in evidence that the Marshal proposed to place men in ambush to surprise the men from Palluau, and that he, the necromancer, consulted Barron, his favourite demon, to ascertain whether the enter-

^ During the spring of 1443, Charles VII., in subjugating the remnants of La Tr^mouille's league in Poitou, seized both Palluau and Les Essarts. V. de Viriville, /.^., vol ii., p. 434.


3i8 BLUEBEARD

were on their knees praying, when all at once Gilles de Rais, bareheaded, and carrying ^jusarme} burst into the church, followed by his retainers, helmeted and armed with their swords. The Marshal hastened to the spot where Perron was kneeling, and shouted in a terrible voice :

  • Ha ! ribault ! Thou hast beaten my men and

practised extortion on them ! Come — come out of the church, or I will kill thee quite dead T^

Jean Le Perron, on his knees, pale with terror, could only answer :

  • Do with me as you please,'
  • Out — out !' cried the Marshal, brandishing his

jusarme ; and many feared that he would despatch Le Perron even in the church.

But the other begged the Marquis Ceva and Ber- trand Poulein to intercede for him, and they made answer * on their lives that no hurt should be done him if he would leave the church.' He did so, still trembling, and Rousseau, the Duke of Brittany's officer, would have followed, but some one of the Marshal's company signed to him that he would do better to remain in the church.

Perron was led towards the castle, and when Gilles again threatened him, he surrendered posses- sion of it. He and his men, however, were not allowed to go free, but were shut up in the prison of the fortress. According to Bossard, Gilles soon

afterwards seized the persons of Geffroi Le Perron,

t

^ A kind of dagger according to De Maulde.

  • * Je te tueroy tout mort.'


GILLES DE RAIS 319

Hautreys, and Rousseau,^ and, in order to prevent any rescue on the part of the Duke of Brittany, he transferred them beyond the limits of the duchy — that is, to the castle of Tiffauges, which was really his wife's property, and was held in fief from the King of France. It was the Marquis Ceva, we are told, who, with a strong escort, conducted the captives to their new prison, whence Gilles at first obstinately refused to release them.

Duke Jean V. was exasperated. He summoned the Marshal to set his prisoners free and to restore St fitienne-de-Mer-Morte, threatening to impose on him, in the event of disobedience, a fine of fifty thousand crowns. But Gilles shut himself up in Machecoul and defied the Duke. The latter there- upon sent a body of men to St. ntienne and seized the castle by force, but he could not do the same as regards Tiffauges, for that would have been carry- ing war into French territory. In this dilemma he applied to his brother Artus, Count of Richemont and Constable of France, whose influence with Charles VII. was at this time very great indeed.

Richemont, either personally or by deputy, gave the needful assistance. A body of French troops marched on Tiffauges, and Rais, alarmed at the turn

^ Rousseau, in his evidence in the Ecclesiastical Proceedings, does not mention having been arrested at St. l^tienne, but his arrest may have taken place subsequently (see posiy p. 347). The account given by Lacroix and others, that Rais arrested Gefifroi Le Ferron, led him to St. J^tienne, and threatened to strike off his head outside the castle if Jean Le Ferron did not surrender it, is based on allegations in the civil indictment, but is contradicted by the evidence.


320 BLUEBEARD

which events were taking, sent orders for the release of the prisoners. Perhaps he was induced to take this course by some communications which passed between him and Richemont, who in former years had been his friend, and who, owing to his long absence from Brittany, knew nothing of the secret crimes and excesses of his former companion in arms. Had the Constable been aware of them, had he heard only of the Marshal's practice of magic and sorcery, he would certainly have refrained from befriending him, for he was greatly prejudiced against the Black Art, and is said to have had more witches hanged and burnt than any other of his contempo- raries. But if Artus in that matter shared the superstitions of his age, and thus perpetrated deeds from which, with more enlightenment, he would assuredly have shrunk, he was in other respects a good-natured man, one who did not forget old ties and friendships and dangers shared in common. In the earlier days of his career he had certainly caused two ignoble royal favourites to be put to death, but he had done so for the commonweal. Whenever it became necessary to intercede for some culprit who had done good service he did not hesitate. He pleaded for Alen9on, for Dunois, for Blanchefort Thus when M. Cosneau, the modem authority on his life, tells us that he reconciled his brother the Duke of Brittany and Gilles de Rais^ (of whose crimes he was ignorant), we may well believe it, for it was an act in keeping with his character.

^ Cosneau, /.r., p. 279.


GILLES DE RAIS 321

M. Cosneau says it was in 1438 that the Duke, fearing a conspiracy between Gilles and his cousins of Laval, sent for the Constable, but the date is evidently an error, for Gilles did not rebel until the summer of 1440, when he may well have endeavoured to interest his cousins Guy and Andr^ de Laval in his cause ; whereas in 1438 he was at daggers drawn with them on account of the sale of Champtoc6. We have proof, moreover, that Richemont's good offices did not go unrewarded. Among the last lordships transferred by Gilles to Jean V. was that of Bourg- neuf-en-Rais, and under date August 24, 1440, the Duke of Brittany presented that lordship to the Constable.^ Curiously enough, on the previous day Gilles, as will presently appear, visited Boui^neuf for the last time, probably in connection with the transfer of authority.

Abb^ Bossard is at a loss to understand how Gilles and the Duke could have met on good terms after the affair of St. l^tienne, but the reconciliation effected by Richemont explains everything. This reconciliation probably took place in July ; for we know that Gilles visited Jean V. first at Vannes and afterwards at Josselin in the course of that month. At that time there appears to have been no en- forcement whatever of the threatened fine of fifty thousand crowns, assigned as the penalty of the Marshall rebellion. Indeed, one witness speaks of him going to Vannes to receive more money from the Duke, on account, no doubt, of one of their

^ Cosneau, /.^., p. 309.

21


322 BLUEBEARD

numerous contracts. It is certain, however, that he did not make the journey without sundry mis- givings. He consulted Prelati to ascertain if he would incur any danger ; and Prelati, having referred the matter to Barron,^ received favourable replies on three separate occasions, at Machecoul, at Vannes, and at Josselin, for the necromancer accompanied his patron on the journey to the ducal court.

Yet once again, then, the high and mighty Baron of Rais was seen traversing Brittany with a pompous retinue, and again did children disappear, again came horror and crime. At Vannes, Andr6 Buchet, who a little later quitted the Marshal's chantry for that of the Duke, beguiled a boy ten years of age to the house where Gilles was staying — a hostelry kept by a certain Lemoyne, and situatea outside the city walls near 'the episcopal manse commonly called La Motte.' The house was not convenient, how- ever, and the child was therefore taken to an adjoining inn, kept by a certain Boetdan, who had provided stabling for the Marshal's horses. And there the boy was murdered, and his body, with g^reat difficulty, was lowered into a cess-pool.^

But the Marshal went on to Josselin — the historic castle associated with the Rohans — whither the Duke of Brittany invited him, and even there, per- haps under the Duke s very roof, with the connivance of his chamberlain, Henri Griart, otherwise Henriet.


^ Ecclesiastical Proceedings : Prelati's deposition. ^ Confessions of Gilles and Poitou.


I


GILLES DE RAIS 323

several children were put to death.^ At Josselin, too, Prelati continued his incantations. One night, when Gilles wished to know if he were exposed to danger in the Duke's company, the Italian stole into a meadow near the castle and evoked * Dyabolus Barron/ who appeared to him as usual in the shape of a young man, habited on this occasion ' in violet silk.' And Barron told Prelati that the Marshal (who was not present) had nothing whatever to fear. The stay at Josselin came to an end ; and probably about the end of July (1440) Gilles and his retainers returned to the barony of Rais. Fortified by the assurances of the Prince of Darkness, the Marshal continued to lead the same evil life as previously. On August 23 — the eve of St Bartholomew — we find him at Bourgneuf-en-Rais. Among his followers were Eustache Blanchet, Henri Griart, and Poitou. Quarters were given to him at the Monastery of the Grey Friars, founded by one of the old Lords of Machecoul, but he supped, we are told, at the house of GuillaumePlumet, probably an innkeeper. Among the inhabitants of Bourgneuf was a certain Rodigo called * of Gu^rande ' who had in his charge a youth about fifteen years of age named Bernard Le Camus, who belonged to Brest, but had been

  • Gilles' confession. This may seem so extraordinary to some

readers that it is as well to give the monster's statement in his own words : ' Dixit et confessus fuit dictus reus quod, dum fuit ultimate apud illustrissimum principem et dominum, dominum ducem Britanie, in pago ife Jocelin^ Macloviensis diocesis, idem reus plures pueros per predictum Henrietum sibi ministratos occidi fecit'

21 — 2


324 BLUEBEARD

confided to Rodigo by his uncle in order that he might learn French — that language being litde spoken at that time in the Brest region of Brittany. On the day of the Marshal's arrival at Bourgneuf young Bernard Le Camus was seen talking to Poitou and Eustache Blanchet the priest ; and in the evening he stole out of his guardian's house and was never seen there again. Inquiries were made for him. Rodigo, it seems, spoke to Gilles de Rais himself, as well as to several of his retainers, and offered a reward of forty crowns for the recovery of the lad. All replied that they had not seen him ; but Poitou and Blanchet promised that if they could find him they would certainly have him sent home, adding that he might perhaps have gone to Tiffauges to be a page there.

As a matter of fact, and as Gilles, Henri Griart, and Poitou afterwards confessed, Bernard had been beguiled to the Monastery of the Grey Friars, where Prelati, apparently, had that night endeavoured to evoke the Devil, who did not appear, either because the monastery was a holy place or because the Marshal happened to be present. At all events, young Bernard was killed by Griart and Poitou in obedience to their master s orders ; and in spite of the outcry made by Rodigo these men contrived to remove the body to Machecoul, where, like so many others, it was burnt to ashes in the great fireplace of the Marshal's room.

Such was the last crime perpetrated by Gilles de Rais, or by his henchmen, of which we find any


GILLES DE RAIS 325

precise record. He returned to Machecoul, and was still there when, on the evening of Septem- ber 13 or the next day, a certain Jean Labb^, a captain in the service of the Duke of Brittany, presented himself at the castle gates, with a notary named Robin Guillaumet, process-server to the Bishop of Nantes, and a company of men of arms. Guillaumet was the bearer of a citation, and Labb6 had orders to seize the person of the Marshal and convey him to Nantes immediately. Justice, lame though she might be, had come at last.


VIII

I440

THE PRIVILEGES OF THE CHURCH — ^ARREST, TRIAL, AND EXECUTION OF GILLES, HENRIET, AND FOITOU

The Infringement of Church Privileges brings on the Marshal's Downfall — Jean de Malestroit, Gilles, and Richemont — Males- troit's Investigations — Duke Jean V. consents to a Prosecution — Arrest of Gilles — His Imprisonment at Nantes — His Allied Letters to Jean V. and Charles VII. — His Wife's Attempts to procure French Intervention — The Judicial Proceedings — Gilles declines the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and defies his Judges — He is excommunicated — His Accomplices testify against him — Torture is threatened — He confesses his Crimes, privately and publicly — He expresses Repentance and solicits the Prayers of all — Last Secular Proceedings — Henriet and Poitou convicted and sentenced — The Address of the Marshal's Advocate — A Final Confession — Gilles is condemned to Death — rThe Last Favours solicited by him — A General Procession and Prayers to save his Soul — The Execution and Obsequies.

When Gilles de Rais, dagger in hand, entered the parish church of St. Etienne-de-Mer-Morte and bade Jean Le Perron rise and follow him under penalty of death, he gave no heed to the fact that he was committing an act of sacrilege, infringing one of the most cherished privileges of the Church. Yet such was the case, and his offence was aggravated


GILLES DE RAIS 327

by the circumstance that Jean Le Ferron, his victim, was a clerk and had received the tonsure. Now, the Church in those days never willingly over- looked any trespass on its rights. At times, when it lacked the power to assert its claims, it feigned sub- mission, but it neither forgot nor forgave, it simply awaited a favourable moment to take its revenge. Jean de Malestroit, Chancellor of Brittany, was also Bishop of Nantes. Gilles de Rais and Jean Le Ferron both belonged to that diocese, and in matters ecclesiastical Malestroit had jurisdiction over them. When, however, the Marshal removed Le Ferron to Tiffauges, and openly defied his sovereign, the question of putting down his rebellion took precedence of all others. Malestroit was the sworn enemy of Richemont, the Dukes brother; nevertheless, as Chancellor of the duchy, he was obliged to join in the application for help which was made to the Constable, there being no other means of reducing Gilles to submission. When Richemont reconciled the Duke and his vassal, the Chancellor could only stand aloof, feigning perhaps a tacit con- sent to the arrangements, though at heart he was in no wise disposed to overlook the Marshals offences against Holy Church. The Duke might forget and forgive, that was his affair. Though Malestroit, as Chancellor of Brittany, might have advised a different course, he was, in his secular capacity, bound to submit to his master's decision, however contrary it might be to his own views. But as Bishop of Nantes he was differently placed :


328 BLUEBEARD

he owed a duty to the Church, and the nobles of his diocese must not imagine that they might with impunity invade the sanctuaries of the Faith, with armed men, at the hour of the Holy Offices, and threaten, seize, and imprison churchmen. Thus Malestroit privately resolved to punish Gilles de Rais for his infringement of Church privileges.

We know that he was inquiring into the matter in the month of July, at the very time when the Marshal was visiting Jean V. at Vannes and Josselin. But at the very first steps he took he found himself face to face with something very different from the offence which he proposed to punish. Ahh6 Bossard writes on the subject in a manner which leaves the impression that Malestroit, through the priests of his diocese, had been acquainted with the popular rumours for some time. Perhaps that is true, and perhaps the Bishop had hitherto dismissed the reports which reached him as being mere idle gossip. But it seems more likely that when the Marshal openly defied his sovereign, when the men of arms of Jean V. advanced on St. Etienne-de-Mer-Morte to recover possession of the castle there, and those of Richemont prepared to invest Tiffauges, the people, no longer fearing Gilles de Rais, now that the Duke proclaimed him a rebel, raised their voices and spoke out as they had never dared to speak before. The Bishop of Nantes, proceeding on a pastoral journey of inspection, found himself confronted by their com- plaints, and soon realized that the infringement of ecclesiastical privileges for which he desired to punish


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the Marshal was a mere bagatelle compared to all the horrible crimes imputed to him at Nantes, in its environs, and throughout the barony of Rais.

At the first moment Jean de Malestroit may per- haps have doubted the accuracy of those dreadful charges. Nevertheless, it was his duty to investigate them ; and he may well have been impelled to do so by inclination. His whole life shows that he never forgave Artus de Richemont for having arrested and cast him into prison as a traitor after the fight at Saint James de Beuvron, when he was accused, on all sides, of having betrayed the Bretons to the English, from whom he had received many gifts. Now, Richemont had just reconciled this man, Gilles de Rais, to the Duke of Brittany ; and it would be a great triumph for him, Malestroit, if he should prove this Gilles to be a murderer, a monster of depravity and cruelty. The demonstration would recoil on Richemont himself, who had only just prevailed on the Duke to grant the Marshal a renewal of favour.

The Chancellor- Bishop never neglected his own interests ; he was jealous of all rival influence ; but he was also very shrewd and cautious, to which circum- stance may be attributed the fact that, in spite of all attempts to dislodge him, he contrived to retain his office for more than twenty years. But it is only fair to say that, whatever personal motives may have swayed Malestroit when he first began to inquire into the charges against Gilles de Rais, those motives, and all considerations attaching to them, disappeared as his inquiry proceeded Genuine indignation and


330 BLUEBEARD

horror took their place ; there was no long^er any question of satisfying some old grudge, there was naught but the claim of Eternal Justice for the punishment of the evil-doer.

Malestroit s inquiries were conducted secretly by various ecclesiastical officers, and the first charges investigated in any detail were those preferred by inhabitants of Nantes and its environs. A first letter of the Bishop's, setting forth certain accusa- tions of vice, murder, heresy, magic, and sacrifices to the Devil, preferred against Gilles by eight persons dwelling in or near Nantes, is dated July 30, 1440. It appears at the head of the record of the Ecclesi- astical Proceedings, but there is nothing to show to whom it was addressed.^ In all probability it was circulated privately among the ecclesiastical authori- ties of the diocese, for the tim^ had not yet come to make any public statement which would warn the Marshal de Rais of what was brewing. Meantime, Malestroit s investigations continued, and when he had collected a sufficient amount of evidence, and had obtained the support of the Vicar-delegate of the Inquisitor-General,^ he addressed himself to his master, the Duke. Michelet, after asserting that Jean V. welcomed the accusation, and was delighted to be able to deal a blow to a Laval, adds in a foot- note : * The more particularly, no doubt, as the King had raised the barony of Laval to a county (1431).

^ It begins : * To all who may see the present Letters, Jean, by the permission of God,* etc ^ R. de Maulde in Bossard, iv.


GILLES DE RAIS 331

These Lavals, indeed, though they had sprung from the Montforts, formed quite a French opposition to them, and ended by handing Brittany over to the King of France in 1488.'^ Again, according to Desormeaux, the historian of the Montmorencies, not only did the Duke of Brittany abandon Gilles, who was his lieutenant and brother-in-arms, but it was he who showed the most rigour. And Desor- meaux adds : ' The Marshal, in the senseless sales of his lands to the Duke, had stipulated that they should be restored to him, provided that he refunded the purchase-money in six years. Was it the fear of being reimbursed [the Duke had bought the property for much less than its value], or was it really horror of the excesses perpetrated by Rais, which aroused the zeal of Jean V. ?* Further, Mezeray^ declares that the Duke was well pleased at having an oppor- tunity to avenge the Marshal's offences towards him- self, in avenging those which he had offered to God. But Michelet, Mezeray, and Desormeaux are contradicted in essential particulars by the facts of the case. Everything indicates that the Duke at first shrank from the prosecution. He and his seneschal, Pierre de FHdpital, took no steps until everything had been set in motion by the Chancellor- Bishop. If when the Ecclesiastical Proceedings

^ * Histoire de France,' vol. v. Gilles's cousins of I^val, Guy and Andr^, were, of course, Montforts ; Laval having passed to their house by the marriage of its heiress, Anne de Montmorency- Laval, with Jean de Montfort, Sire de Kergorlay, in 1404. Gilles, however, belonged to the Montmorency stock.

' ' Abr^g^ de THistoire de France.'


332 BLUEBEARD

had demonstrated the guilt of the Marshal, when the latter, himself, had confessed his crimes, the Secular Proceedings were hurried on and swiftly terminated, it was, as Ahh6 Bossard points out, because the public clamour was so great, the indignant horror of the multitude so threatening, that Jean V. feared lest he should incur universal odium by extending any pro- tection or leniency to so vile a miscreant.

In the first instance, Jean V. simply assented to the prosecution, allowing the ecclesiastical authorities to fight their battle with the Marshal. Indeed, he could not do otherwise when the Bishop of Nantes (who was also his Chancellor) laid such serious accusations before him. But in the leniency with which Gilles was in the first instance treated, and the dilatoriness of the secular authorities— -one can detect a desire on the part of the Duke to avoid carrying matters too far.

When Jean de Malestroit had obtained his sovereign's assent to the prosecution, he issued a second document, dated September 13, and ad- dressed to all the rectors, curates and chaplains, notaries and process-servers of his diocese. In this paper, after reciting the results of his investiga- tions and the charges brought against Gilles de Rais, he concluded thus : * For these reasons we will not hide such monstrous things any longer, nor allow this heresy ... to grow and spread. Far from that, we desire to apply a prompt and efificient remedy ; wherefore we enjoin all and each of you by these present letters to cite at once and finally . . . before


GILLES DE RAIS 333

us or the Official of our Cathedral church, on Monday, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Real Cross, September 19, the aforenamed Gilles, noble Baron of Rais, who is subject to our authority and jurisdiction ; and we ourselves, by these letters, do cite him to appear at our bar on the day named, to answer for the crimes which weigh upon him.*

Of course, the priests to whom this document was addressed were not expected to enforce it them- selves. It was simply drawn up in the usual form affected by a general citation, and M. de Maulde believes that it was not really promulgated until after the arrest of the Marshal on September 14.^

When Gilles de Rais learned that Jean Labb^, one of the Duke of Brittany's captains, was at the gates of Machecoul with Robin Guillaumet, 'clerk and notary public of the Diocese of Nantes,' and a corApany of armed men, he at first hesitated as to the course he should pursue. 'Some of his com- panions/ says Bossard,^ * advised him to resist ; but he was irresolute. A few days previously two of his accomplices, Roger de Bricqueville and Gilles de Sill4 who had long been accustomed to decide matters for him, and who had divined that a thunder- bolt was about to fall, had sought escape from it by hasty flight.^

^ R. de Maulde in Bossard, ill, iv.

' Bossard, pp. 250, 251.

' They may have received some warning. According, however, to some accounts, Gilles de Sill^ was at Machecoul at the time of the arrest, but contrived to secrete himself and flee.


334 BLUEBEARD

' Deprired of those who had ususdly directed his

course in moments of dai^er, Gilles^ by reason of his irresolution and lack of energy, resembled a disabled ship. It was possible for him to ofier resistance, long enough to plan flight, at all events ; but flight would mean an admission of guilt ... But, what had he to fear of justice which frightens common criminals ? He himself was Aaui justicier on his domains, and in his own opinion accountable to himself alone. He had powerful friends, too ; his name and past were glorious. None would dare to accuse him or to reveal his crimes. Besides, who knew those crimes ? Night and silence have no voice!' Michelet is of much the same opinion. ' Rais,' he says, ' might have fled, but he deemed himself too powerful to have anything to fear, and thus he allowed himself to be taken.' In any case, apart even from such reliance as he may have placed in Duke Jean V., his brother-in-arms, to whom he had lately been reconciled, the Marshal may well have felt that submission would be the most politic course, particularly as he had recently tried rebellion without success. Thus, rejecting the counsel of those who advised him to resist, and trusting, no doubt, to the favourable testimony of his servants, who could not denounce him without denouncing themselves, he resolved to face his accusers. He would brave the charges brought against him ; no judge would hesitate between his denials and the allegations of base-bom peasants; and thus every rumour would be extinguished in a



GILLES DE RAIS 335

triumphant acquittal. So he proudly causai the drawbridge to be lowered, and went in person to meet Captain Jean Labb6, whom he recognised. * I did always propose to become a monk/ he said, turning towards his retainers, as if to reassure them. * And here comes the abbot [I'abb^] under whom I am to enlist'

Well pleased with this jest, he then surrendered himself to the soldiers, and gave orders that horses should be saddled for himself and his servants. But two of these, Poitou and Henri Griart, were immediately arrested. The same fate befell Prelati ; Blanchet, the priest, was taken in the town ; and it is possible that the Marquis Ceva and Bertrand Poulein were likewise apprehended, for we find them afterwards giving evidence at Nantes, virtually under compulsion.

While Robin Guillaumet the notary was reading the Bishop's citation to Gilles de Rais, various perquisitions were made in the castle, and also at the lonely house where Prelati and Blanchet had been dwelling. There, according to Perrine Rondeau, with whom Prelati had previously lodged, the soldiers found some fine powder which was said to be 'the ashes of children/ and a child's little shirt, covered with blood. Bossard says that some 'powder' was also found in the castle, but this appears to be an error. As for the various state* ments that corpses were found there, these are not corroborated by any evidence, and the writer regards them as romance.


336 BLUEBEARD

At last all was ready for departure, and Jean Labb^ and his men took the road to Nantes widi their prisoners. One may imagine the commotion in the little town of Machecoul and the stir in all the villages through which the party passed. The high and mighty Baron of Rais was no longer travelling in great pomp with his ecclesiastical and military households, his train of body servants, his portable organs, and his sumpter mules. He passed as a prisoner under the vigilant eye of his custodians. Yet whatever may have been the comments of those who saw him, whatever may have been his secret thoughts, we may be sure that he retained his wonted proudness of mien, for every account, every document, shows that throughout the earlier stages of the proceedings against him he aroused universal astonishment by his haughty and con- temptuous manner.

Reaching Nantes the same night, Gilles was lodged in the Chdteau de la Tour Neuve. One of the upper rooms, large and well lighted, was there assigned to him ; the legendary account that he was placed in a dungeon of the Mercoeur tower, where the Duke de Mercoeur, the Cardinal de Retz, Fou- quet the financier, and the Duchess de Berry, were subsequently imprisoned, being inaccurate. At the utmost, according to Bossard, who has investigated the question, Gilles may have spent his last night in that tower ; but until he was finally condemned he was allowed comfortable quarters. Condecenti is the word used in the procedure ; and as those who


GILLES DE RAIS 337

interviewed him are described as going downstairs^ and the Mercoeur tower has no stairs — its one dark, spacious room resting on the granite soil — it is evident that Gilles was lodged in another part of the castle.

After his incarceration, he was allowed, it would seem, a few days to reflect upon his position ; and during this respite, according to some historians, he endeavoured to secure an interview with the Duke of Brittany. But this favour was denied him.

Meantime, the Bishop of Nantes was selecting various ecclesiastics to take part in the coming trial The of5fice of promotor or prosecutor was entrusted to the parish priest of St. Nicolas, of Nantes, a certain Guillaume Chapeillon, who had largely assisted the Bishop in his preliminary investiga- tions, and was therefore well acquainted with the many rumours about Gilles and the evidence which would be available. Chapeillon seems to have been a man of energy and self-restraint — that is to say, he conducted the prosecution vigorously, while never once losing his temper amidst all the prisonqr's outbursts.

On September 19 Gilles was brought to the great hall of the Chdteau de la Tour Neuve, where he was confronted by Malestroit, Chapeillon, and two other ecclesiastics — Olivier Lesou, parish priest of Bouvron, and Jean Durand, priest of Blain. Chapeillon at once preferred against the Marshal certain charges of heresy, but did not allude to the accusations of vice and murder which had constituted the most

22




'^


338 BLUEBEARD

important feature of the Bishop's citation. Thus the prisoner, on being asked whether he accepted the Bishop's jurisdiction, immediately assented, say- ing that he was quite ready to prove his innocence of such charges before any tribunal. Further, he consented to accept the jurisdiction of the Vice- Inquisitor, who was thereupon appointed judge- auxiliary, and Malestroit adjourned the further proceedings until September 28, when the wit- nesses for the prosecution and the defence were to be interrogated.

At that time the Vice- Inquisitor of the Faith for the Diocese of Nantes was Brother Jean Blouyn, a Dominican Friar, who, although only about forty years of age, had held the office since July, 1426, when he had been appointed to it by Guillaume M^rici, Grand Inquisitor of France.^ And here it may be convenient to mention that the principal assessors of the Ecclesiastical Court chosen to try the Marshal were Guillaume de Malestroit, Bishop- designate of Le Mans ; Jean Pr^gent, Bishop of St. Brieuc ; Denis de la Loh^rie, Bishop of St. Lo ;* and Jacques de Pentcoetdic, Official of the Cathedral of Nantes. Robin Guillaumet, public notary, acted as Clerk of the Court, and four other notaries — ^Jean Delaunay, Jean Petit, Guillaume Lesn6, and Nicolas Geraud — took down the evidence of the witnesses,

^ Letters of Appointment. See Bossard, /.r., p. xxxi.

  • This is doubtful, the Latin being Laodicensis or Laudicensis.

Abb^ Bossard points out that the Sees of Libge and Laon were at that time held by other ecclesiastics, and therefore suggests St. Lo.


GILLES DE RAIS 339

etc. Finally, Pierre de THdpital, Seneschal of Rennes and President of the Parliament of Brittany, was present at most of the proceedings, and occa^ sionally played an important part in them, as will presently appear.

The proceedings having been adjourned from the 19th to the 28th of September, Gilles, it would appear, spent much of his time in hearing Mass, for which permission was granted him, one of the priests of his own household being empowered to officiate, on the express condition, however, that he should not confess and absolve the prisoner, or permit him to communicate. Further, it is said that permission was granted for the attendance at the Holy Offices of two of the Marshal's chanters, two choir-boys, and his organ-player, from which it would follow that one of his portable organs had been brought from Machecoul or Tiffauges. It was certainly during this interval that Gilles, who did not think his life in danger, decided that he would take orders and become a Carmelite in penance for his sins. In this connection various writers quote a letter which he is said to have addressed to the Duke of Brittany, a letter offering to give all his property to the poor, and soliciting permission to retire into a monastery. It is possible that some such missive was prepared by him, but, if so, the text must have differed from that which is quoted, for the phraseology of the latter is too modem to be accurate.^

Again, it is asserted that Katherine de Thouars,

^ The letter will be found in Lacroix, /.^., p. 48.

22 — 2


340 BLUEBEARD

the Marshal's wife, came to Nantes to intercede for him with Jean V., but this also is doubtful. Many years had now elapsed since the boy and girl marriage of Gilles and Katherine. In the earlier period'they had been parted by the wars ; then had come some quarrel, perhaps some dreadful discovery on Katherine's part, and they had separated never to meet again. In her husband's campaigning days, at the time when the English were advancing through Maine, and seemed likely to enter Anjou, Katherine is found superintending repairs at Champtoc6, and placing that castle in a state of defence. In subsequent years she goes from fortress to fortress, discharging various duties. At last, in January and again in May, 1434, she is seen at Machecoul. At Michaelmas she goes to Tiffauges, and a little later she appears at Champtoc6. The final separation of husband and wife dated pro- bably from the winter of 1434-35, after which time Katherine dwelt in retirement at Pouzauges, whither her husband never went.

The writers on Gilles de Rais generally agree that Katherine detested and despised her husband. Nevertheless, although it is questionable whether at the time of his arrest she intervened in his favour with the Duke of Brittany, it is extremely probable that she did so with Charles VII. Several historians say that the Lady of Rais went to see the King, and some assert that she was supported by her husband's cousin, Andrd de Laval, Lord of Lohdac, who had been created a Marshal of France during the pre-


GILLES DE RAIS 341

vious year (1439). In certain royal letters dated Montauban, January 3, 1443 (N.S.), it is stated that the Marshal de Rais 'appealed to the King and the Parliament, but his appeal was rejected ' (stc).^ In all probability this merely means that the appeal was not allowed by the judges of Nantes. Nevertheless there was some effort to secure French intervention, and it can only have been made by Katherine on her husband's behalf. She had no affection for him ; his death would prove a happy release for her ; but he was accused of the most monstrous crimes, and the Lady of Rais must have thought of the family honour. Apart from herself, moreover, she had to consider the interests of her daughter Marie.

But the moment was not a propitious one. For some months past Charles VII. had been contending with the Praguerie rebellion ; which, if checked, was by no means over. The King knew that the nobles required curbing; and this alone may explain his refusal to help the turbulent Gilles de Rais. More- over, he may have given little attention to the matter, he may have been imperfectly informed respecting the facts, have thought it probable that Gilles would receive a lesson which would do him good, without imagining that he would be sentenced to death and executed. It is asserted that the King sent a councillor or officer to Nantes to watch the proceedings and report to him, and perhaps he did

^ M. March^ay's ' Documents relatifs k Pr^gent de Co^tivy.' The letters refenred to above will be dealt with in our last duster.


342 BLUEBEARD

take that course in response to the entreaties of Katherine, but this was certainly the only satisfaction which she then obtained from the French crown.^ She could expect none from Richemont The mere fact that Rais was accused of magic sufficed to restrain the Constable from intervening. As for the Parliament of Paris, a question of jurisdiction would have arisen even with respect to the Secular Pro- ceedings against the Marshal, and it could not have interfered in those of the Ecclesiastical Court.

Jean de Malestroit, as previously mentioned, had adjourned the proceedings of his tribunal until September 28. Several persons who had lost their children were then interrogated by the Bishop of Nantes and the Vice- Inquisitor. They all belonged to Nantes and its vicinity, and the result of their statements, made with every sign of grief and distress, was a final citation requiring Gilles to appear before the court on October 8. Early that day other complainants and witnesses were heard, and at nine o'clock the court was fully constituted in the great hall of the Chateau de la Tour Neuve. The prisoner was then brought in, and Chapeillon, the prosecutor, recapitulated by word of mouth all the charges against him, not only those of heresy, devilry and vice, but the others, such as murder, in

^ Gilles is said to have written to Charles VII., confessing his guilt, but imploring intervention. His alleged letter will be found in Lacroix (p. 88), but we do not think it genuine. As the sequel of this narrative will show, the King intervened two years after the Marshal's death. He would hardly have done so had he personally received a confession.


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connection with which this ecclesiastical tribunal had legally no jurisdiction. Gilles immediately declined the competence of the court, but was answered that an appeal by word of mouth and not in writing was frivolous and of no effect. Eventually, after his judges had vainly argued with him, it was proposed to postpone the proceedings for a few days. The Mar- shal then haughtily replied : 'There is nothing true in the facts alleged about me, save two things, that I received baptism and renounced the Devil, his pomps and his works. I have always been and am still a true Christian !* Thereupon the prosecutor made a fresh attempt to secure the prisoner's acknowledg- ment of the jurisdiction. Offering to take the oath to speak the truth and avoid all calumny in the charges which he preferred, he invited Gilles to take a similar oath with respect to his answers. But the Marshal haughtily and stubbornly refused ; he stiU rejected the jurisdiction even when excommunication was threatened, and thus the only course open to the court was to adjourn.

Abbd Bossard, a priest of the Catholic Church, writes in strong approval of what was attempted on this occasion, and one could hardly expect him to write otherwise. But judging by the documents, the pro- ceedings of the court were scarcely lawful. True ministers of a Church whose besetting fault through the ages has been to arrogate to itself excessive powers, Malestroit and his colleagues endeavoured to exercise jurisdiction in matters in which they possessed none. They did not altogether gain their


344 BLUEBEARD

point, as the sequel will show. Abb^ Bossard's account of the affair leaves an erroneous impression of it, because in his desire to insist on the importance of the Ecclesiastical Proceedings — although no such insistence was necessary ; they speak eloquently for themselves — he narrates them without due r^ard for those of the secular authorities whom the initia- tive of the Bishop-Chancellor had at last stirred to action.

Acting by the orders of Duke Jean V., who was emboldened, perhaps, by the quiet surrender of Gilles, Pierre de THdpital had instituted an inquiry of his own, appointing a certain Jean de Tousche- ronde to the office of commissary-investigator, and naming Masters Chateau, Eveillard and Coppegorge as his assessors. A first complainant had been heard on September i8 — that is, four days after the arrest of Gilles. Then four others had testified on Sep- tember 24, and thirty-two on September 28, 29 and 30. These were followed by twenty more on October 4, two on October 8, and eight on October 10. Only on October 11 did Gilles appear for the first time before L*H6pital, who held his court at the palace or castle of Le Bouffay.

It was perhaps on this occasion that the Marshal astonished all Nantes by presenting himself in white raiment at the bar of justice.^ We are told that he did not assume this garb in token of innocence, but as a mark of his repentance for such transgressions

^ There are various accounts of this masquerade on his part, but the dates given by different writers do not agree.


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as he was willing to acknowledge, and of his inten- tion to join the order of the Carmelites, in which he already deemed himself to be a novice. According to one account, however, although his hose and his shoes d la poulaine were white, he wore a doublet of pearl gray silk, embroidered with golden stars, edged with ermine, and secured at the waist by a scarlet sash from which hung a dagger^ in a sheath of scarlet velvet His chapel or round cap was bordered with ermine — a fur which only the great feudatories of Brittany were privileged to wear — and from his neck hung certain orders of dignity or chivalry with a heavy gold chain to which a reliquary was attached.^ Gilles, it may be added, was a well- built man,^ of majestic stature, with an engaging countenance ;* in his youth, indeed, he had been handsome and graceful.^ And if the traditional description of his countenance, to which allusion has previously been made, be in a measure accurate, his appearance in his last days must have been very striking. It is by no means unusual to meet men with dark hair and fair beards and moustaches, but Gilles, so tradition asserts, had fair hair with dark eyebrows and a black moustache and beard ; his sunken eyes were blue, we are told, his lips thin, and

^ A prisoner of noble birth was often allowed to retain his dagger until conviction.

  • Lacroix, /.^., p. 5a ; Lemire, /.^., pp. 39, 40.

8 D'Argentr^, Du Paz.

  • P. F. Velly, C. Villaret, etc., «Histoire de France,* lamo.,

1763, etc, vol. XV.

» Vallet de Viriville, U.


346 BLUEBEARD

his cheeks pale. The chief objection to this tradi- tional portrait is that in those days, judging by contemporary drawings, the faces of nobles and princes were clean-shaven. Perhaps there were exceptions. The writer must confess that he has not investigated the matter, and in any case Gilles de Rais did so many unusual things, that in his last years he may well have worn a beard without regard for the fashion followed by others.

  • The Marshal, on appearing before L'Hdpital,

immediately requested him to expedite the proceed- ings, as he was anxious to dedicate himself to the service of God. It was his intention, said he, to bestow large gifts on the churches of Nantes, and to give the greater part of his belongings to the poor, in order to insure the salvation of his soul. But the President responded that, if it were right that he should think of his soul, it was necessary that he should satisfy the justice of man as well as the justice of God ; and he bade him listen to the charges which the Lieutenant of the Procureur of Nantes was about to prefer against him.

The indictment was then read. It ran, substantially, as follows :

' Having heard the lamentable complaints of several inhabitants of Nantes, whose names follow . . . we, Philippe de Livron, Lieutenant-Assessor of Messire le Procureur of Nantes, have requested and do request the very noble and very wise Messire Pierre de I'Hopital, President of Brittany, Seneschal of Rennes, and Universal Judge throughout the Duchy of Brittany, to complete {parfaire) the criminal process against the very high and very power- ful Lord, Gilles, Sire de Rais, Machecoul, and other places, Coun- cillor of the King our sovereign Lord, and Marshal of France. Whereas the said Sire de Rais (although by the command of God


GILLES DE RAIS 347

and the law one is forbidden to slay one's neighbour and fellow- creature, and is commanded to love him as oneself) did never- theless take or cause to be taken many little children, not only ten or twenty, but thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, one hundred, two hundred and more, and, indeed, so many that one can make no positive declaration of their number . . . , and whereas he did inhumanly murder and kill them, afterwards burning their bodies to convert them into ashes ; whereas also, persevering in evil, the said Sire, although all power comes from God, and every subject owes obedience to his Prince, whose power is ordained by God ; and although the said Sire is a vassal and subject of our sovereign Lord the Duke of Brittany, and had sworn to him the oath of fidelity, he did nevertheless, without the knowledge or consent of our said sovereign Lord, assemble men together, and in an evil manner and by force did take prisoner Jean Le Ferron, a subject of our said Lord, which Jean Le Ferron was guardian of the castle and fortress of St. il^tienne de Malemort,^ in the name of Geffroi Le Ferron, his brother, to whom our said Lord had granted {batill) possession of the same place^. . . . Whereas, also, the said Sire did force Jean Le Ferron to surrender to him the said place, by conducting before the ditches Gefiroi Le Ferron, whom he unduly detained, and whose head he threatened to cut off if the said place were not delivered to him f and whereas the said Sire did retake and hold the Lordship of Malemort in spite of the injunctions of the Duke and the officers of justice under penalty of payment of the sum of fifty thousand gold crowns in the case of delay or refusal ; and whereas in lieu of obeying he did cause the two Le Ferrons


^ Malemort was the older name; it became corrupted into Mer Morte. It will be noticed that the rebellion of Gilles was now raked up against him.

^ This point has been previously discussed. Perhaps the above statement is not to be taken literally. If a lordship and fortress could not be sold without the express assent of the Duke of Brittany, it may merely mean that the Duke had given that assent and confirmed the sale in the case of St. ^tienne and Geffroi Le Ferron. See De Maulde in Bossard, pp. cv and cxlii.

  • This is contradicted by the evidence ; it was Jean Le Ferron

who was taken in the church, led before the castle, and threatened with death if he did not surrender it Three witnesses speak positively on this point.


348 BLUEBEARD

to be taken to Tiffauges, outside the duchy, where they were long detained until delivered by Monseigneur Artus de Richemonti Constable of France. Whereas, also, the said Sire, in his blind- ness, did arrest Master Jean Rousseau, sergeant-general of the Duke, who was sent to carry him the commands and injunctions of our said Lord ; did take away the dagger of the said Jeao Rousseau, and did outrage him by other excesses, such as causing his men to be beaten with their own staves^ ... we conclude that the said Sire de Rais, homicide in fact and by intention on the first count, rebel and felon towards his Lord on the second count, be condemned to undergo corporal punishment, and to pay such fine as may be fit out of his personal estate ; the estates and lands which he holds in fief from our said Lord being confiscated and reunited to the crown of Brittany.*

M. Lacroix, taking the words 'corporal punishment' in a limited sense, interprets them as meaning that the prosecution desired to spare the Marshal's life. He remarks that there was no question of Use- majesty divine, such as could have rendered a sentence of death imperative. But Abbd Bossard — rightly, to our thinking — construes corporal punishment as sig- nifying the death penalty, that being the form of cor- poral punishment assigned to the crime of murder. As for lese-majesU divine, that was not a charge which a secular tribunal could investigate, but it was fully set forth in the Ecclesiastical Proceedings.

The Marshal's answer to Philippe de Livron's indictment was the admission that he had raised an armed force without the authorisation of the Duke of

^ This seems to indicate that Rousseau was seized by Rais some time after the St. !^tienne affair. The sergeant-general may have reported the seizure of the fortress to the Duke and then have been sent to Gilles with orders for its restitution.


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Brittany ; that he had arrested Jean Le Ferron at St. Etienne, and sent him to Tiffauges on account of the evil reports he had spread ; that he had retaken possession of St Etienne, for which he had never been paid ; and that he had repeatedly refused to repair his offences, though he would now be happy to do as the Duke, his lord, might will and order. But he stubbornly denied certain excesses with respect to the Duke's officers and all the crimes on children which were imputed to him. The Procureur s Lieutenant then offered to supply proofs of his charges, and asked the prisoner if he would accept the testimony of his servants, Henriet and Poitou.

  • I received only honest folk in my house and ser-

vice,' answered Gilles ; ' had I known any to be evil, I should have been the first to lay my hands on them. I have not to discuss here whether they are to be witnesses or not'

On this point the writer is inclined to think that Henriet, Poitou, and others had already been examined privately. In the Ecclesiastical Proceedings the depo- sition of Prelati is dated October 1 6 ; those of Poitou, Griart, and Blanchet bear the date of October 1 7 ; and those of La Ce va and Poulein that of October 1 9. But the ecclesiastical indictment of October 13 recites a large number of facts which can only have been ascertained by the statements of these men, who had evidently denounced their patron and master whilst he was still blustering with his judges.

The Ecclesiastical Court had adjourned on Octo- ber 8. It met on the nth to take the statements


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of several more parents who had lost their children ; and on the 13th Gilles again appeared at its bar. A formal indictment had now been drafted by Promoter Chapeillon, and was read in court, first in Latin and then in French. Of the forty-nine articles exhibited against the prisoner, the first fourteen dealt with the competence of the tribunal Then (art. xv.) came a recital of the crimes perpetrated on children by the Marshal and his accomplices, who were named as follows : Gilles de Sill6, Roger de Bricqueville, Henri Griart (other- wise Henriet), ^tienne Corillaut (otherwise Poitou), Andr6 Buschet,^ Jean Rossignol, Robin Romulart,* a certain Spading, and Hicquet de Br6mont. Next (art xvi. to art. xxvi.) were marshalled the various charges of devilry — evocations, compacts and offerings — Prelati, Antonio of Palema, Sill6 and Blanchet being designated as accomplices. After- wards (art. xxvii.) the indictment returned to the crimes on children, estimating the number of victims at one hundred and forty or more. Particulars of the crimes followed, and there were clauses about the alleged celebration of the Black Mass (art. xxxii.), the conversations of Gilles with his devil-raisers and his study of their books (arts, xxxiv. and

^ He had become a chanter of the Duke of Brittany, and it does not appear that he was ever cited or punished

^ Rossignol and Romulart were now both dead Si\\6 and Bricqueville had fled. There is no trace of proceedings against Spading and Br^mont, who had probably disappeared. Griart and Corillaut were interrogated by the ecclesiastical, but only tried by the secular, court.


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XXXV.); the victims of Champtoc6 and Machecoul (art. xxxvi.) ; the help given to Gilles by his accomplices (art xxxvii.) ; his remorse, his resolu- tions to amend his life and to do penance (art. xxxviii.) ; his relapse into evil courses (art. xxxix.) ; the notoriety of his wicked life (art. xl.). The next clause charged him with infamy, heresy, idolatry and apostasy, by virtue of the accusations previously enunciated. Then came a clause on the sacrilege committed at St. Etienne-de-Mer-Morte, followed by fresh summaries of the Marshal's offences and the affirmation that they were notorious and mani- fest, and constituted a pernicious example as well as a danger for the soul of the Marshal himself. Finally (art. xlviii.), the Promotor set forth that the accused had rendered himself liable to excom- munication and all the other penalties edicted against haruspices, harioliy those who evoked or conjured forth the evil spirits, their accomplices, entertainers and defenders — indeed, all who practised magic and the prohibited arts ; and it was declared that the Marshal had fallen into heresy, had offended against the majesty of God, and was therefore guilty of the crime of t^se-majesti divine; that he had transgressed the precepts of the Decalogue and the laws of the Church ; that he had disseminated most dangerous errors amongst faithful Christians ; and (art. xlix.) that the crimes, as enormous as they were shameful, of which he was guilty had been perpetrated within the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Nantes. In pursuance of all this, the Promotor


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appealed to the judges to declare Gilles guilty, to excommunicate him, and punish and correct him in accordance with the prescriptions of the law and the Canons of the Church.

The practice of alchemy was not referred to in the indictment, and the murders and acts of torture perpetrated by Gilles were now set forth only by way of giving a complete account of the Marshal s misdeeds. The tribunal was not requested to punish him for those crimes, its only province being to try him for apostasy, devil-raising, gross vice, and the violation of the privileges of the Church. But Gilles, infuriated by some passages of the indict- ment, refused to answer it ; he repeated that he had rejected the jurisdiction of the Bishop and the Vice- Inquisitor, and that he abided by what he had said.

  • Simoniacs ! Ribands f he shouted ; * rather

than answer such ecclesiastics, such judges as you, I would prefer to be hanged by the neck with a lace !'

His fury increased with each effort to prevail over him. At times he denied everything ; more fre- quently he refused to answer. * I will do nothing for you as Bishop of Nantes I' he called to Malestroit at one moment ; whilst at another, in response to Chapeillon, he haughtily retorted : * Do I not know the Catholic faith } Those who accuse me know not who I am ! I am a perfect Christian and good Catholic. I own that, had I committed the crimes imputed to me, I should have gone against the


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Catholic faith ; I should have strayed from it ; I should be straying from it now. . . . But I will not be chained by any ecclesiastical privilege, and I am astonished' (here he turned towards Pierre de THopital, who was present) * that you the President^ [of the Parliament] of Brittany should allow ecclesi- astical judges to interfere with the crimes imputed to me, and even suffer me to be accused of such infamous deeds !'

This might be taken almost for the cry of an innocent man, of one who felt that he would obtain no justice from an ecclesiastical tribunal, but would be treated by the priests before him even as other priests had treated that heroic Maid of Orleans by whose side he had fought. But unless one is prepared to believe in a great conspiracy between the ecclesiastical and the civil power, in a wholesale forgery of documents extending to hundreds of folios* in the subornation and perjury of scores of complainants and witnesses, in the falsification of three confessions made by Gilles himself, one is bound to admit that he was indeed guilty and that his declarations of innocence were mere outbursts of bravado. As he still refused to submit to the Ecclesiastical Court, it passed sentence of excommunication upon him in writing. He signified that he appealed, but to whom he did not say ; and his protests having been rejected as frivolous, the proceedings were again adjourned.

That day was marked by a political event of some ^ Bossard repeatedly says 'chancellor,' a manifest error.

23


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importance which may perhaps have had some connection with the Marshal's case. Already in the month of July, according to Dom Morice, one of the Breton historians, some treaty arrangements had been made between the English and Duke Jean V., in consequence, it seems, of the rebellious disposition of a part of the Breton noblesse. This, however, had not prevented the Duke and his Chancellor from appealing to France, in the person of its Constable, to put down the revolt of Gilles de Rais. Now, on October 13 Jean V. signed, with the Earl of Somerset, Lieutenant of King Henry VI. in France and Normandy, a treaty of alliance, the provisions of which the present writer has failed to ascertain. Nevertheless the existence of such a treaty is significant, and if it were known to Charles VIL it must have confirmed him in any resolution he may have formed to refrain for the time at all events from interfering in the case of Gilles de Rais.^

When the latter again appeared before the Ecclesiastical Court (October 15) a great change had come over him. To the astonishment of every- body, he, who had been all defiance, now displayed the meekness of a lamb, submitted to the jurisdiction which he had scornfully rejected, and entreated pardon for his violence. On being interrogated, however, he denied that he had ever evoked evil

^ M. V. de Viriville calls attention to this matter in his * Histoire de Charles VII.,' vol. ii., p. 417, note 2. We find that the treaty was registered and deposited in the English Exchequer, January 26, 1441 (N.S.). See Palgrave's * Antient Kalendars of the Treasury of the Exchequer/ 1835, vol. ii., p. 190.


^


GILLES DE RAIS 355

spirits or offered sacrifices to them. He had read a book on the subject, said he, but that was all ; and if anybody could prove that he had ever resorted to such infamous practices as were imputed to him, he was ready to be burnt alive. At last both he and the Promotor took an oath on the Gospel to speak the truth, and the chief witnesses were then brought into court. They were Henri Griart, Poitou, Blanchet, Prelati, Perrine Martin, otherwise La Meffraye, and Theophanie or iStiennette Branchu.^ Gilles, on being asked if he desired to question them himself, declined to do so, saying that he relied on their truthfulness and that of the clerks of the court The witnesses were then removed to be interrogated by the greffiers, in accordance with usage, in another chamber ; and scarcely had they left the court when the Marshal, to the amazement of everybody, fell upon his knees, weeping, and entreating the Bishop of Nantes and the Vice- Inquisitor to remove the sentence of excommunication passed upon him two days previously. As he now showed sub- mission, his prayer was granted, and the court adjourned.

It was certainly that sentence of excommunica- tion which had wrought this great change in the haughty Baron of Rais. Face to face with the inevitable, he now trembled for his soul. The

^ These two women had been anrested at an early stage of the proceedings. There is no record of any statement of theirs with respect to the decoying of chOdren, which was the chief charge against them.

23—2


356 BLUEBEARD

times were accomplished, the Spirit of Good proved to be more powerful than the Spirit of Evil, and he doubtless felt that, if he were cast out of the Church, he would suffer eternal damnation.

It is not necessary to analyze here the evidence of Prelati, Griart, Poitou, and Blanchet, for much of this narrative has been based on their statements. It is enough to say that they confirmed each other on all important points ; differing chiefly when the memory of one proved better than that of another. Their statements and others were taken on October 1 7 and 1 9, and when the court met on the 20th, the more important depositions were read in public with the Marshal's assent. One may well believe that those who heard that testimony were thrilled with horror, for it virtually recapitulated the prisoner's abominable career, the kidnapping and assassination of child after child, the monstrous torture to which he had subjected his victims, his proposed compacts with the Devil, and the attempts made by himself or on his behalf to raise the Fiend with the help of human sacrifices. And yet when the Marshal was asked if he had anything to urge against the witnesses and their evidence, he simply answered * No.'

At this the Promoter rose to point out the gravity of the prisoner's reply, which showed that the alleged crimes had really been committed by him. But it was necessary that the tribunal should be fully enlightened, said Chapeillon, and he therefore applied that the prisoner might be subjected to


I


GILLES DE RAIS 357

torture in order to extract a full and satisfactory confession from him. Malestroit and the Vice- Inquisitor referred this application to their assessors, seven of whom were present, and they having pro- nounced themselves in favour of the Promotor's request, an order for torture was duly made. It was to be carried into effect on the morrow ; but in the morning Gilles urgently entreated a postpone- ment, offering, indeed, to content his judges in such a manner that no torture would be necessary. In accordance with his own desires, Jean Pr^gent, Bishop of St. Brieuc, and Pierre de THdpital were designated to receive his confession, one acting for the ecclesiastical, and the other for the secular, court. They repaired to the chamber which the prisoner occupied at two in the afternoon, attended by their clerks, Jean Petit and Jean Touscheronde. Yvon de Roscerff, squire of Jean Labb6, the captain who had arrested Rais, was also present, with Robert d*Espinay, Robert de la Riviere, Jean de Vennes, and others, who came as witnesses.

Some readers perhaps may be astonished that the threat of torture should have led such a man as Gilles de Rais to confess his crimes. But it must be remembered that he had led a life of ease, indulgence, intemperance, and debauchery for several years. He had long ceased to be the soldier ever in harness whom no march could fatigue, whom no danger could alarm. He had become a Tiberius or a Philippe d'Orl^ans. Machecoul had been his Palais Royal, Tiffauges his Capreae. By force of habit he could


358 BLUEBEARD

still command, fume, and bluster, but n^<thii^ was really left of him save a facade of rc^^ ^ which was destined to crumble at the fir^t ^-^Ht shock. Moreover, the constant repetition of .P '- of cruelty must tend to personal cowardice. P^ -who gloats over the sufferings of others, as v* ^les gloated over those of his victims, must at ti^^ shrink from the idea of undergoing such suffering himself.

Yet one must be just even to such a criminal as Gilles de Rais, and admit that, whatever may appear on the surface, his confession may not have been inspired by cowardice, but by the consciousness that he was doomed, now that his accomplices had confessed everything. He had braved and re- sisted his judges as long as he had believed himself safe ; but at present all was known, so why should he persevere in his denials ? Moreover, the dread of being once more excommunicated, if he should refuse to confess, may have had more influence with him than that of physical suffering. He had again become very anxious for his soul, and repentance was at hand, even if it did not as yet make itself manifest. It seems, indeed, to have followed rather than pre- ceded his first statements to Pierre de THdpital and the Bishop of St. Brieuc.

That semi-private confession in his room at the Chateau de la Tour Neuve was a kind of general statement ; he did not enter into any very precise particulars respecting his crimes. Some feeling of shame undoubtedly restrained him. But he declared spontaneously that he had committed sufficient crimes



GILLES DE RAIS 359

to send Vtc \ "n .thgysand men ' to the scaffold. When thC^tiicfTSia oC,-^j^.*vil-raising was dealt with, Prelati, the necrol'l icjgijf was brought into the room and confronted to :^ his former patron. Gilles then placed it on i >;)rd that the Fiend had never appeared to him, prob.m > because he had never been willing to surrender :her his life or his soul ; but both he and the Italian admitted the offering of some por- tions of a child's body to the Evil Spirit under circumstances previously narrated.^ This ques- tion and others bearing on the same subject having been elucidated, orders were given for Prelati to be removed, and the Marshal, then suddenly breaking down, exclaimed : * Farewell, Fran9ois, my friend. We shall never more see each other in this world. I pray God that He may give you good patience and knowledge ; and rest assured that if you have good patience and trust in God we shall see each other again amidst the great joy of Paradise. Pray God for me, and I will pray to Him for you.' Then he embraced Prelati, who was led away.

Soon afterwards Pierre de THdpital and the Bishop of St. Brieuc withdrew to acquaint Male- stroit and the Vice- Inquisitor with the prisoners statements. With the latter the ensuing night was certainly a decisive one. The feelings which had manifested themselves in his farewell to Prelati became more pronounced. Thus on the morrow he confirmed his confession in open court, weeping abundantly, entering into full particulars, narrating

^ See anie, p. 304.


36o BLUEBEARD

bis crimes and misdeeds at such length ifaat the Latin transcript of this second confession forms a document of quite 5,000 words. Those who heard that abominable tale were at one moment chilled with horror, and at another profoundly stirred by the prisoners protestations of repent- ance, and his appeals that his example might serve as a dreadful warning. If language, indeed, can indicate repentance, then assuredly this whilom cruel monster did repent before he died. In all his last declarations, moreover, one finds traces of the ability he possessed. He could speak well and feelingly, as is shown by the documents, and the pity of it all is that a man so gifted should have lapsed into such horror and infamy. A sufficient recital of his crimes has been made in these pages, and now, in justice to him, one may transcribe some of the words he spoke on the occasion of his first public confession.

  • By these admissions,' he said at the outset of his

narrative, ' by the declaration which I desire to make of the misdeeds of which I am guilty, by the shame which rises to my face, I hope that I may the more readily obtain from God forgiveness and the remis- sion of my sins. I hope that they may be more readily forgotten by His mercy. My youth was spent amidst the delights of good cheer. Proceed- ing as my fancy listed, nothing remained sacred to me ; and all the evil that I could do I did. Every- thing that was forbidden, everything that was wrong, attracted me, and to obtain it there was no means


GILLES DE RAIS 361

that I did not employ, however vile it might be. . . . Fathers and mothers who hear me, and you friends and relations of young folk whom you love, I beg you, keep watch over them. Mould them by teaching them good principles, good examples, and healthy doctrines. Nourish their hearts with these, and above all things fear not to correct their faults, for, were they reared as I was reared, free to do as I pleased, they, perchance, might slip likewise into the same pit.'

In another part of his statement, after narrating the most abominable crimes, he protested his love for the Church, on which he relied for salvation.

  • Ay, such is the nature of my crimes !* he cried,
  • that without the protection of the Church the Devil

would have strangled me, and have borne me, body and soul, to Hell Y Later, when he finally addressed the fathers of families who were present, he said :

  • Beware, I beg you, of bringing up your children

amidst the delights of life and the fatal pleasures of idleness ; for the greatest evils arise from the pleasures of the table and the habit of doing nothing. . . . Idleness, delicate meats, the frequent use of mulled wines, are the three causes of my transgressions and my crimes. O God, my Creator and beloved Redeemer, I ask Thy mercy and for- giveness! And you, relatives and friends of the children whom I did put so cruelly to death, you, whoever you may be, against whom I have sinned and to whom I have done injury, whether you be present or absent, in whatever spot you are, I


362 BLUEBEARD

entreat you, as faithful believers in Jesus Christ, I entreat you, on my knees and with tears, to grant me the assistance of your pious prayers.'

When the Marshal's confession was finished, Promotor Chapeillon arose and applied for the fixing of a day when judgment should be pronounced. Gilles himself assented to this course, and then for the last time the court adjourned until October 25.

Meantime the Civil Proceedings against Henri Griart and Poitou had been hurried forward by Pierre de THdpital, and on the 23rd — the day following the Marshal's public confession — his two retainers were sentenced to be hanged and burnt In his own case, directly he had confessed his mis- deeds the Secular Court had adjourned until the Ecclesiastical Proceedings should be terminated. When the latter were resumed on October 25, two sentences were read, the first being pronounced by the Bishop of Nantes and the Vice- Inquisitor con- jointly. After setting forth that Gilles was guilty of heresy, apostasy, and the evocation of demons, it excomunicated him afresh, and declared that he must be punished and corrected according to the laws and the Holy Canons as a heretic, apostate, and devil-raiser. The second sentence was that of the Bishop only : it pronounced the Marshal guilty of shameful vice, sacrilege, and the violation of the privileges of the Church, excommunicated him yet once again, and ordered that he should be punished for his salvation's sake in accordance with the laws and the canons.


GILLES DE RAIS 363

When these sentences had been read, Gilles was asked whether, detesting his errors, evocations, and other crimes which had severed him from the faith, he now repented and desired readmission to the fold. * I never knew what heresy was,' he responded,

  • and I knew not that I had committed that crime

when I fell into error. Nevertheless, since accord- ing to my confessions and other proofs the Church now tells me that my crimes led me into heresy, I beg you to restore me to the bosom of our mother, the Church.'

His request was granted ; excommunication was withdrawn, and as he begged for a priest to hear his confession and grant him absolution, Brother Jean Juvenal, of the Carmelites of Ploermel, was appointed to that office. But that same evening Gilles was led from the Chiteau de la Tour Neuve to Le Bouffay, where the Secular Court had now again met. An immense concourse of people had assembled on this occasion, we are told. Gilles appeared at the bar, garbed in black from head to foot ; and once again he made a public confession of his crimes. Never- theless, an advocate named Henri M^chinot, who had been appointed his curator^ addressed the court on his behalf, making a speech which nowadays would be deemed ridiculous, though it was quite in accordance with the taste of the times. M^chinot, indeed, pic- tured his client invaded by Pride and other demons, who 'well armed and resolute had assailed his fortress and entered it by force, even as the Greeks, coming forth from the wooden horse, did invade the unhappy


V


364 BLUEBEARD

city of King Priamus/ And the learned gentleman endeavoured to prove that * Messire de Rais could not be accounted gfuilty of the excesses committed by Pride and his band, for a city taken by assault and held in subjection was innocent of the depravity, pillaging, and cruelty to which it was subjected by its tyrants and unjust possessors.'^ Such a speech, however much it may have been admired by those who heard it, could not influence the result L'H6pital consulted his assessors, who were unani- mously in favour of the death penalty, though a long discussion ensued as to the form the execution should take, some members of the court apparently favouring decapitation on account of the prisoners 'nobility.' At last, however, an agreement was arrived at, and the President of the Parliament pronounced sentence. Gilles was fined fifty thousand crowns for his felony towards his liege lord, the Duke of Brittany, and for his other crimes was condemned to be hanged and burnt. * Cry mercy to God !' added Pierre de THdpital, *and make ready to die in a good state, with great repentance for having committed such crimes. The sentence pronounced upon you will be executed to-morrow at eleven o'clock. '^

The Marshal replied by thanking God and the President for notifying to him the hour of his death, and he added : ' Since Henriet and Poitou, my ser-

^ Several passages of this speech will be found in Lacroix, /.r.,

pp. IIO-II3.

  • M. de Maulde's transcript says one o'clock, but the accounts

of the execution say eleven.


GILLES DE RAIS 365

vants, and myself did commit together the monstrous and frightful crimes for which we are now condemned to die, may it please you, Monseigneur, that we may undergo that penalty together and be executed at the same hour. I am the cause of, and the principal in, their transgressions ; I may be able to sustain them in the hour of death, and advise them as to their salvation. In particular I can set them the example of dying well. For if it were otherwise, if my servants should not see me die, peradventure they might fall into despair. They might imagine that I should remain unpunished, I who am the cause of their crimes. Grant me this favour, for I hope by the grace of our Lord that, after being the cause of the transgressions which now lead to their death, I may by my words and example be the cause of their salvation.'

Pierre de THdpital was touched by this request and granted it ; further, as a supreme consolation, in presence of the prisoner's manifest repentance, he promised him that his body should not be reduced to ashes, but should be withdrawn from the fire and interred in whatever church Gilles might select^ The Marshal immediately chose that of the Car- melites of Nantes ; and then, as a last favour, he begged the President to prevail on the Bishop of

^ Michelet says that this favour was granted solely on account of Gilles's noble birth ; but ih^ prach-vcrbaux of the trial distinctly say that it was the outcome of the prisoner's professions of repent- ance. At the same time the consideration mentioned by Michelet must have had weight with the judges, some of whom simply desired decapitation.


366 BLUEBEARD

Nantes, in order that prior to die execnition there might be a General Procession to pray God for him and his accomplices, and fortify them in their hopes of salvation. This request also was accorded. Then Gilles was led away to spend in prayer his last nig^ on earth ; and thus ended one of the greatest criminal trials the world has ever known.

Early on the following morning — it was a Wednesday — all Nantes, after hearing Mass, turned into the streets to , join the General Procession. According to some accounts, Gilles and his servants came at the end of it, with their custodians. Amidst prayers and chants and telling of beads, the multi- tude wended its way over the bridges spanning the two arms of the Loire which embrace the He Feydeau ; and before long the procession reached the Gloriette island, where, on the meadows of La Madeleine, near the present site of the H6tel Dieu of Nantes, the three gibbets and pyres had been prepared. It is possible that the name of Biesse, which is given to the place of execution in some accounts, was then a general name for the islands which impede the course of the Loire at Nantes.^ An expiatory monument raised by the Marshals daughter on the spot associated with his death still existed beside the H6tel Dieu in 1837, so there can be no doubt that it was really on Gloriette island that Gilles suffered the supreme

^ A part of one of the islands beyond La Gloriette is named Prairie de Biesse on some modern plans, but this was not the site of the execution.


GILLES DE RAIS 367

penalty. That view is confirmed, moreover, by a contemporary account of the execution which is preserved by the Duke de la Tr^mouille at Serrant^ It is there said that the gibbets were set up in the meadow just above the bridges. And we learn from it that the three condemned men went very peni- tently to their death. While the procession was advancing, the Marshal prayed to God, the Virgin, and the saints, and exhorted Henriet and Poitou with hopeful words. 'There is no sin, however great it be,* he said to them, * but God in His kind- ness and fatherly benignity will pardon it, provided that pardon be asked of Him with great sorrow and contrition in one's heart.' The confidence which this unhappy man expressed in salvation and forgiveness almost astonishes Abb6 Bossard, who regards it as extraordinary on the part of one who had such terrible and so many crimes to expiate. * Love God,' said Rais at one moment to his servants, ' and feel such regret for your offences that you may not fear the death of this world, which, indeed, is but a little departure, without which one may not see God in His glory.' And again: *We ought really to desire to quit this world, where there is naught but wretchedness, in order to seek perdurable glory. We have sinned, all three of us, but as soon as our souls shall have left our bodies we shall all see God in His glory in Paradise. And that you may win that glory of Heaven, I pray you do not weaken ;

^ This account will be found in the 'Revue des Provinces de rOucst,' 5« Annde. Nantes, 1857, pp. 177-179.


368 BLUEBEARD

persevere yet a little. There is not long to wait now ; do not lose that glory which awaits you, and which will never fail you.'

Griart and Poitou thanked the Marshal for his good counsel, and assured him that they were well pleased to meet the death of this world, by reason of their great confidence in the mercy of God and their desire to go to Heaven with their master. * But, we pray you, act yourself,' they added, * even as you desire us to act for our salvation.'

Monstrelet asserts that the Duke of Brittany witnessed the execution, but this is doubtful, for the Serrant MS., which is almost an official account of the proceedings, would surely have mentioned it, if it had been true. But if Gilles did not fall on his knees before the Duke to entreat his prayers, he certainly seems to have begged those of all the people present, reminding them that, whatever his crimes might be, he was still their Christian brother, and that it was their duty to forgive him for the love of Christ. Then he particularly commended his soul to Monseigneur St James and Monseigneur St. Michael — whom Joan the Martyr also invoked amid the flames of Rouen — and finally he begged that he might die the first in order that his servants might derive courage from his example.

When he had climbed a high stool placed under the gibbet assigned to him, a rope was passed round his neck. Then the stool was removed, leaving him suspended above the pyre, which was quickly lighted. H is agony was a short one, we are told ; and whilst



GILLES DE RAIS 369

he was yet in the last throes Henri Griart and Poitou again spoke to him. * Now/ said one of them, * is the time to be a strong and valiant Knight for the love of God. Remember the Passion, which was consummated to redeem us !' But Gilles ex- pired, the flames rose all around him, scorching the rope, which broke, in such wise that his body fell upon the pyre. Before the flames could penetrate it, however, * certain damoiselles of his house,' says Monstrelet— or, as Jean Chartier puts it, 'four or five dames and damoiselles of great estate' — advanced and removed the body from the flames. They washed it carefully, and with the assistance of some nuns, according to D'Argentr6, they placed it in a shell in order that it might be carried to the Church of the Carmelites. And there, a little later, while the ashes of Poitou and Henri Griart were being scattered to the winds, the clergy celebrated the pompous obsequies of the most high, most powerful, and most redoubtable Lord, Gilles de Montmorency de Laval, Baron of Rais, Count of Brienne, in his lifetime Chamberlain and Councillor of King Charles VH., Marshal of France, and Lieutenant-General of Brittany.


24


IX


WIDOW AND DAUGHTER GILLES DE RAIS AS BLUE- BEARD — CONCLUSION

Some of the Marshal's Accomplices and their Unknown Fate — Were they ever punished? — ^The Second Marriage of Katherine de Thouars and the First Marriage of Marie de Rais — Pr^ent VIL de Co^tivy — Proposed Appeal to rehabilitate the Marshal — Repeated Efforts to recover his Property — The Heiress of Rais loses her Husband, is persecuted by his Brothers, and marries Andr^ de Laval — Her Loving and Pious Nature — The Expiatory Monument erected by her — Her Death and Burial at Vitr^ — Ren^ de La Suze and his Descendants — ^The Barony of Rais becomes the Duchy of Retz — ^The Alleged Insanity of Gilles de Rais — The Impression created by his Execution — His Name becomes one of Terror — His Connection with * Bluebeard ' — Bluebeard's Castle of La Verrifere — Bluebeard's Skull and Sword at Machecoul — ^The Lady's Oratory and Sister Anne — Bluebeard Stories at Tiffauges, Pornic, Ch6m6r6, and Arthon — Bluebeard as the Wild Huntsman and as a Werewolf — Blue- beard's Keys at Vitr^ — A *Complainte* of Bluebeard — How Bluebeard's Beard was changed from Red to Blue — Was Gilles called Bluebeard before Perrault's Time ? — Conclusion.

The reader, finding that only Henri Griart and Poitou suffered punishment at the same time as Gilles de Rais, may wish to know what became of the others who were prominently associated with the Marshal's misdeeds. Something can be said of one of them, Roger de Bricqueville, who escaped


GILLES DE RAIS 371

prosecution, and in May, 1456, obtained letters of remission from Charles VII. on the pretext that he had quitted the Marshal's service five years before the legal proceedings, that he had been very young at the time of the alleged offences, of which he had possessed no certain knowledge, and that in other respects he had been constrained to obey his patron by feelings of gratitude and fear.^ Subsequent to the granting of those letters of remission Bricqueville is found on friendly terms with the deceased Mar- shal's daughter, Marie, who lavished affection on his children. Again, it is known that the Marquis Ceva, who was one of the least compromised in the horrors of Machecoul and Tiffauges, returned to Piedmont after the execution at Nantes and married a certain Lucha, who was still living in 1491, when she had sundry disputes with the Governor of Asti respecting some property settled on her by her * late husband.'^ But nothing positive can be said about the other actors in the strange, eventful tragedy of Gilles de Rais. The general impression of all who have studied the case is that Prelati, Blanchet, Buschet, La Meffraye and La Branchu were never punished for their misdeeds. There is no record of any prosecution against them. Prelati and Blanchet simply made statements which were used against their former patron, and that having been done, they vanished from history to appear in it no more. It may seem incredible that Prelati, who boasted of his

^ See De Maulde in Bossard, p. cxlv.

  • Jbid,^ p. civ, footnote.

24 — 2


372 BLUEBEARD

power to raise the Devil, and who claimed to have seen him * clad in silken raiment of a violet hue/ should have escaped scot-free ; but if he had been tried and convicted some record to that effect would surely have been annexed to th^ procedure in the Rais case, everything connected with which appears to have been carefully preserved, in a measure, no doubt, through the instrumentality of the clergy, who regarded the trial and punishment of the Marshal as a glorious triumph for the Church. As for Blanchet the priest, he may have been protected by his cloth. Besides, he had taken his precautions, wording his statements very cleverly, in such wise that he was able to pose as a victim when, in some matters, he was really an accomplice. Again, La Meffraye, the terror of the rural districts, the woman who roamed the highways and byways seeking children whom she might decoy, disappears from the scene to all appearance untried and unpunished. And Gilles de SiI16, who, like Bricqueville, had escaped, is heard of no more. One can only surmise that he betook himself to some distant region where perhaps he found employment as a soldier of fortune. Assuredly the impunity which seems to have been enjoyed by so many of the Marshals accomplices is one of the strangest features of the case, and would be calculated to arouse suspicion of some underhand intrigue, some manufacture of false charges against the chief prisoner, were it not that he himself re- peatedly confessed his villainy to his ecclesiastical and his secular judges. As it is, one caCti only point


GILLES DE RAIS 373

to the absence of all records respecting the fate of men and women who were deeply implicated in his crimes, an absence which is the more remarkable as his case continued to engage attention for many years, and abundant documents exist concerning the struggles of his heirs with the Dukes of Brittany, the intervention of Charles VII. on their behalf, and a proposed attempt to rehabilitate his memory.

About a year after his death, Katherine, his widow, became the wife of Jean II. de Venddme, Vidame of Chartres and Lord of Lassay, with whom it is to be hoped her life proved happier than it had been with her first husband. As Tififauges and Pouzauges, with other lordships, were her property, Gilles had been unable to sell them. They therefore helped to enrich her second husband, and were inherited by the only son that she had by him. But the line of the Vidames of Chartres became extinct in 1550. The estates then passed to collateral relatives and suc- cessors — the Rieux, the Sc6peaux, the Gondis and the Coss6-Brissacs. Tififauges was inherited in 1 702 by the Jousseaume de la Bretesche family — Marquises of Couboureau — to which its ruins still belong.

About a year after her mother s second marriage, and two years after the execution of her father — that is in October, 1442^ — Marie, heiress of Rais, became the wife of Pr^gent VII., Lord of Co6tivy, Taille- bourg and Lesparre, Chamberlain to Charles VII.,

^ The deeds connected with the marriage are dated May 24. June 14, and September 29. The marriage must have taken place a few^days after the last contract.


374 BLUEBEARD

Admiral of France, Captain of Rochefort, and Governor of La Rochelle. The brid^room was about forty years of age, and the bride, it would seem, was a girl of fifteen summers.^ Her hand had already been sought by Pr6gent in her father's lifetime ^ and subsequently Charles VII. helped on the match, well pleased to see so energetic a man espouse the heiress of Rais, and undertake to wrest from the Duke of Brittany the lordships purchased by him, for much less than their value, in defiance of the interdict by which Gilles had been forbidden to sell his estates.

It might be thought that, as her father had died a death of infamy, Marie would have had some diffi- culty in securing a husband ; but Co6tivy readily made her his wife, and even assumed, as provided by the contract, the name which Gilles had disgraced, and to which so much odium attached. He became, in- deed, Sire de Rais ; being generally known by the style of De Rais de Co^tivy, as indicated by the inscription on his seal.^ Pregent, who was a very able man, with a cultivated mind and much literary taste, held a high position in the royal council. Moreover, he had helped Richemont to seize La Tr^mouille, and had taken a prominent part in the

^ Bossard, /.^., p. 371.

^ Vallet de Viriville, /.r., vol. ii., p. 417.

  • Anselme de Ste. Marie, etc. : * Histoire G^n^alogique et

Historique,' etc., 1726-33, in fol., vol. viii., article *Co^tivy.' Anselme errs in saying that the marriage took place in 1441. He is more correct in associating it with Charles VII.'s enterprise on Tartas, which took place in June, 1442. One of the marriage contracts was, indeed, signed in that month. See ' Documents relatifs k Pregent de Co^tivy,' by M. Paul Marchegay.


GILLES DE RAIS 375

suppression of the Praguerie rebellion. Charles VII. had great confidence in him, entrusted him with im- portant offices and difficult missions, and placed in his charge his second illegitimate daughter by Agnes Sorel, this girl being brought up at the Castle of Taillebourg, partly by Marie de Rais.

Doubtless it is to Pr^gent s influence with the King that one must attribute the earlier royal letters patent and edicts which were issued with respect to the Rais property. Jean V. of Brittany died on August 29, 1442, and his son and successor, Francois I., had not been five months on the ducal throne, when Charles VII., while resting at Montauban after sub- jecting several towns and fortresses of Guienne, sanctioned certain royal letters citing the new Duke and others before the Parliament. These letters stated that * Gilles, in his lifetime Lord of Rais and Marshal of France, did appeal to the King and the Parliament with respect to his arrest, and the injury done him, and the sentence pronounced upon him, wrongly, unduly, and contrary to reason, by our late brother and cousin, your father (Jean V.), and Master Pierre de THdpital, calling himself, or being. Presi- dent of Brittany, and his other officers. But the said appeal was rejected, and the said Gilles, unduly and without cause, was condemned and put to death by the said L'Hdpital, one month later, leaving an only daughter, now married to Pr6gent, Sire de Co^tivy, Admiral of France, appointed by royal authority her curator.' After this preamble it was signified to Duke Fran9ois that the daughter and the


376 BLUEBEARD

son-in-law, as heirs of Gilles de Rais, and for the pur- pose of avenging the honour of their name, intended to prosecute their father's a.^peal, wherefore the King summoned the Duke before the Parliament Pierre de THdpital and the other officers who had taken part in the trial of the Marshal were likewise cited, and the Duke of Brittany was forbidden to take any steps against the appellants so long as the appeal might be in progress.^

On the same occasion were prepared letters patent for the Presidents and Councillors of the Parliament, the Bailiffs of Touraine, Anjou, and Maine, the Sen- eschals of Poitou and Saintonge, and other officers, who were told that * whereas since the said appeal, and in hatred and contempt thereof, it is said that the late Gilles, Lord of Rais, was unduly put to death and that several other criminal acts {attentats) were done, now inform yourselves well, diligently and secretly, respecting the said death and other deeds, of which a fuller account will be furnished you in writing if there be need thereof; and summon or cause to be summoned on the said day or another one of our said Parliament, all those whom, by inquiry, public report, or "vehement" presump- tion, you shall find to be guilty or ** vehemently " suspected.'

No date is specified for the citations, but a blank space is left for its insertion, and in the present

^ Discovered by M. Marchegay, among many other Co^tivy papers, in the Archives of Thouars (Serrant). Original document on parchment, formerly sealed ; dated Montauban, January 3, 1442 (1443 N.S.).


GILLES DE RAIS 377

writer's opinion this circumstance clearly indicates that the documents, although duly sealed, were never put to use. Abbe Bossard's elaborate disquisition on the point whether any attempt to rehabilitate Gilles de Rais was ever prosecuted is superfluous. It is probable that the documents were merely given to Pr^gent de Co^tivy to be employed by him as weapons against Duke Fran9ois, in the event of the latter refusing to restore the deceased Marshal's property to the heiress of Rais. But in any case they were never used.

Co^tivy, on inquiry, must have come to the con- clusion that, whatever he and his wife might desire, it would be absolutely impossible for them to secure the rehabilitation of the deceased Marshal. There is no record whatever of any proceedings in any such appeal as is mentioned in the royal letters. That the appeal was never prosecuted is shown, indeed, by numerous existing documents, with respect to the measures taken to recover the family property. Those measures would certainly have been very different if Pr^gent and his wife had really cited the Duke of Brittany and his officers before the Parlia- ment with the object of quashing the conviction of Gilles de Rais. Understanding, after due inquiry into the case, the futility of any such attempt, they renounced it.

This explains why a few months later — April 22, 1443 — Charles VII. bestowed on the new Baron of Rais all the lands, lordships, castles, revenues, posses- sions, inheritances, etc., ' which had belonged or ought


378 BLUEBEARD

to have bdoi^ed to the late Gilles, in his lifedme Lord of Rais ;' which property the King in the first instance confiscated to himself on account as much of the crimes and (fences of the deceased Marshal towards the royal Majesty as on account of the crimes and offences for which he had been executed, the property in any case belonging to the King, who, by virtue of his rights, transferred it to Pr^gent de Co^tivy. In this instance there was no mention of wrongful sentence and execution ; on the contrary, Gilles was held to have committed ' crimes and offences,' and this shows that the idea of rehabilita- tion had been abandoned. It had been decided to adopt another course, and the letters of April, 1 443, were the royal answer to the confiscation of the Marshal's property by the Duke of Brittany at the time when proceedings began before L'Hdpital. The line taken was that the court of Nantes was subject to the jurisdiction of the Parliament, that the Duke was subject to the King, and that the latter's right of confiscation was superior to that of Jean V. But the royal commands were not obeyed by the new Duke of Brittany. In vain, too, were Champtoc6 and Ingrandes in Anjou confiscated a few months later from Gilles of Brittany — the Duke s brother — and adjudged to the husband of Marie de Rais on the ground that Gilles of Brittany held them from his father (Jean V.), who had always conspired with the English, and that he, Gilles of Brittany, was likewise an adherent of Henry VI., and had lately intrigued with him on behalf of his


GILLES DE RAIS 379

brother Duke Fran9ois.^ Again, there appears to have been very little compliance with other royal letters issued on January 13, 1445 (N.S. 1446) in which the King ceased to speak of confiscation for the misdeeds of GiUes de Rais, and, harking back, referred to his 'great, valiant and notable services in our wars and at the sieges of the cities of Orleans and Lagny and other places.* This time, on the ground that the Marshal had been led astray and had embarked on a course of reckless prodigality, foolishly spending vast sums on alchemy, the King annulled all contracts passed by him, ordered a general inquiry with respect to his estate, and cited before the Parliament all who detained any property which had ever belonged to him.^ Then in 1450 we find Rene d'Anjou mixed up in the squabble respecting Champtoc6 and Ingrandes, and conveying those lordships to the Duke of Brittany under the pretext that they had been confiscated to him (Ren6) at the time of the Marshals trial. Thus the position became more and more intricate* The semi- independent rulers of Brittany and Anjou, and their judges, virtually defied the King of France and his Parliament

It is impossible to say at what date ended the many lawsuits instituted with respect to the property of GiUes de Rais. They certainly lasted very many

^ Cosneau, /.r., p. 378. Letters royal, dated Chinon, August 28, 1443 (* Bibliothfeque Nationale,' Paris), cited by Bossard.

^ Cartulaire de Rais, ' Rev. des Prov. de TOuest,' 1856, p. 180 ei seq.


38o BLUEBEARD

years, but with the help of the royal letters patent Pr^gent de Co^tivy contrived to effect various com- promises with the Duke of Brittany, and in June, 1 448, owing to the tatter's non-performance of certain stipulations, it was arranged that Pr^gent should enter into full possession of Champtoc6 and Ingrandes on June 24, 1450. Four days, however, before the appointed date the husband of the heiress of Rais was killed at the siege of Cherbourg ; a cannon shot struck him as he was entering a breach, and he fell lifeless.^ * It was a great blow and loss for the King,' says Jean Chartier, 'for he (Pr^gent) was held among the valiant and famous knights of the kingdom, very prudent and in the prime of his age,' He was, indeed, barely forty-eight years old, but M. Marchegay's researches have shown that his health was poor, and that his wife, Marie de Rais, frequently had occasion to nurse him, which she did with much affection. Pregent reaped great rewards for his fidelity to Charles VII. in hours of adversity, and showed, perhaps, undue eagerness for wealth. It was that which led him to participate in the persecution of Jacques Coeur — an unfortunate blot upon his name.

At the moment of his death his wife was at his castle of Taillebourg, and her brothers-in-law, Chris- tophe and Olivier de Co^tivy, and Alain, Cardinal d'Avignon, immediately sought to despoil her. Olivier wrested letters of administration from the

1 Cartulaire de Rais, * Rev. des Prov. de TOuest,' vol. iii., P- 7SS-


GILLES DE RAIS 381

young widow, and arranged to place Pierre II. of Brittany — who about this time succeeded Duke Fran9ois — in possession of Champtoce and In- grandes. The unfortunate woman was imprisoned and threatened until she gave every necessary signature. But Charles VII. fortunately came to her help, and Pierre II., who had invested Champ- toc6, was compelled to withdraw and indemnify the victim of the intrigue, who, directly she recovered her liberty, revoked every deed which had been wrung from her. Nevertheless, her position remained pre- carious ; she was surrounded by greedy foes, and in order to secure adequate protection she resolved to marry again. She found the best of husbands in her cousin, Andr6 de Montfort de Laval, Lord of Loh6ac, Lomoux and Kergorlay, previously Admiral and now Marshal of France, perhaps the most exemplary hero of that age. Knighted when only twelve years old for his boyish valour at La Gravelle, Andr6 participated in many of the stirring events of Charles VI I. 's reign. He fought at Jar- zeau, Patay, Paris, Pontoise and Formigny, was present at the coronation at Reims, helped to subdue the Praguerie, and took part in the expedition to Sand- wich. His whole life was one of courage, rectitude, and unselfishness, and his wife, Marie de Rais, was worthy of him. She, the daughter of the cruel and bestial Gilles, proved indeed an ornament, an honour to her sex. To quote one of the old historians, it was as if an angel had sprung from the devil's loins. Remaining childless, she surrounded herself with


382 BLUEBEARD

the children of others, girls whom she rearedi educated and married. An account-book kept by the house-steward of her first husband, and dis- covered by M. Marchegay, reveals all her goodness of heart and generosity. Perhaps, as Abb^ Bossard surmises, in lavishing so much affection on the young she desired to efface from their memory and that of others the horrible misdeeds of her unhappy father.

She marked her dolorous affection for him» and particularly her anxious solicitude for his soul, by raising, on the spot where he had been hanged and partially burnt, an expiatory monument, some por- tion of which still existed in 1837.^ Originally, it seems, it was surmounted by a stone cross, and adorned with a statuette of the Virgin, flanked by others of St. Gilles and St. Laud. Strangely enough, as the years rolled by, frequent pilgrimages were made to this monument. How the legend arose we do not know ; but miraculous powers were ascribed to the Virgin in the niche, she became known as the 'Bonne Vierge de Cree-Lait,' *the Milk-giver'; and until the Reign of Terror mothers and nurses flocked to the spot to pray her for an abundance of

^ It stood, we are told, on the Chauss^e de la Madeleine (Gloriette island), between the l^cole Ste. Barbe and a private house, and immediately in front of the Hotel de la Boule d'Or. A part of the Hotel Dieu now covers the site. A fragment of the monument is preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Nantes. Our illustration has been adapted from a rough and badly-printed lithograph in Verger's • Archives Curieuses de Nantes,' 4to., 1837, voL i.


.Jtl*-" "


J


Wif^ilat. JM^ku. '^


w


jf^wV ' ^


t



>35^^'Mi^^^HaSB^8^B^^^K^B»



V MOSUMENl F.RRCTRD BY MARIR DF. RAIS.


GILLES DE RAIS 383

milk, in order that they might rear in health and strength their offspring or their charges. Thus the expiatory monument of that Gilles de Rais who murdered so many children was transformed into a shrine where mothers prayed for the means of endowing their babes with life and vigour. Perhaps this is not the least extraordinary circumstance con- nected with a man in whose record the extraordinary abounds.

No long span of life was allotted to the gentle, benevolent and pious heiress of Rais. Her last years were spent at the castle of Vitr6 — one of the lordships of her second husband — and she died there on November i, 1457, when she was probably not more than thirty-two years of age. Her tomb is still shown in an apsidal chapel — really the old choir of the Benedictines — at Notre Dame de Vitr6, where, not so many years ago, the present writer was assured by a sacristan that she was *the last wife of the famous Bluebeard '! A legend attaches also to some of the old keys of the castle (now a prison), which are described as those of Bluebeard. Popular tradition, indeed, has made the gentle Marie one of the alleged wives of the cruel Gilles, whereas she was his daughter.

Her husband, Andr^ de Laval, survived her until i486, when he passed away in his seventy-sixth year, far richer in glory, we are told, than in lands and chattels. As Marie had died childless, her property had gone on her death, in 1457, to her uncle, Ren6 de La Suze, the only brother of Marshal


384 BLUEBEARD

Gilles. Ren6 in his turn then assumed the style and title of Baron of Rais, and prosecuted the numerous lawsuits which Pr^gent de Co^tivy and Andr6 de Laval had been carrying on for fifteen years already. It was Ren6 who drew up or inspired the * M^moire des H^ritiers de Gilles de Rais/ which contains so much interesting information about the Marshal's youth, character, and prodigality. When Ren6 died in 1474, the lawsuits were still being fought, and the duty of continuing them passed either to the only child of his marriage with Anne de Champagne, Jeanne de Rais — married in April, 1446, to Fran9ois de Chauvigny, Prince of D6ols, Count of Chiteau- roux, and Viscount of Brosse — or to her son, Andr6 de Chauvigny. The latter died childless in 1520^ and was the last of the posterity of Foulques de Montmorency- Laval, the husband of the Crazy Jane of Rais. * God, the Creator,* says old D'Argentr6, writing in the middle of the sixteenth century,

  • became so displeased with this house, which had

been very great, that no children were born to it, and it died out through dissipation, whence sprang thousands of lawsuits, which were still lasting in our life-time.' Finally, that part of the Rais property which had come from the Craon family reverted to the latter s heirs. The barony of Rais passed to the house of Tournemine,^ and, after being transformed into the Duch^-pairie of Retz (1581), ultimately became the portion of the Gondis, from whom sprang another Marshal of France, five successive ' Generals

^ Bossard, /.r., p. 381.


GILLES DE RAIS 385

of the King's Galleys/ and two Cardinals, one of whom played no inconsiderable part in history.

The historical part of this inquiry need be carried no further ; but before dealing with Gilles de Rais from the * Bluebeard ' standpoint, it may be as well to glance briefly at one question which will probably have occurred to the reader more than once during the perusal of our narrative. What was the mental condition of this man. in whose career so many strange contradictions are to be found ? The

  • M^moire ' of his heirs, prepared or inspired by his

brother Ren6, adduces a variety of evidence to show that he behaved like a lunatic in many matters, and suggests indeed that he was absolutely insane. Abb^ Bossard, dealing with this suggestion, dismisses it as a theory devised in later years to palliate the Mar- shal's guilt, for if Gilles really had been mad, some plea to that effect, he thinks, would have been entered at the time of the trial at Nantes. But in this con- nection it must be pointed out that the plea of insanity was in those days, and for some centuries later, unknown to the French criminal law. One of the earliest recorded cases in which such a plea was brought forward was that of the notorious Count de Horn, who, in 1720, murdered a money-broker in the Rue Quincampoix, and whose noble relatives made every effort to save him from a death of infamy, far less for his own sake than because they feared that some of the disgrace would fall upon themselves. But the judges, without entering into the merits of

25


386 BLUEBEARD

the case, rejected such a plea as ridiculous, unknown in a matter of murder, and, the Regent declining to interfere, Horn was executed. In England, the mad Earl Ferrers, who, had he lived in our times, would have been detained during the Sovereign's pleasure, was hanged in 1760 for the murder of his land steward ; for the English statute which nowadays regulates such cases is barely more than a hundred years old.^ In France at all events, if the lives of lunatics charged with capital offences were occasion- ally spared in olden times, it was by virtue of some act of mercy on the part of the King or his repre- sentatives. In the eyes of the law itself mere lunacy was not an excuse. Thus, it is only natural that the procedure ag^ainst Gilles de Rais should contain no trace of any such plea on his behalf. It could not be alleged in a case of crime such as homicide ; it was only valid in matters of civil law, when, as in the case of Gilles and his property, the actions of the lunatic tended to the wasting of his estate, and the reducing of himself and his heirs to poverty and distress.

Thus, Abb^ Bossard*s argument is beside the mark. If the Marshals family did not try to save him by a plea of lunacy, it was because no such plea could be urged in law. Moreover, the concluding act of the tragedy came so swiftly as to prevent all interposition in his favour after sentence. On the other hand, it seems certain that if Gilles was a madman or a lunatic he was so only in a certain sense. His was the lucid

^ 39 and 40 George IIL, c 94.


GILLES DE RAIS 387

madness of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus. He had a vain, weak, credulous, and most unhealthy mind. The folly which he displayed in his monetary transactions ap- proached real lunacy. All his passions were violent, excessive, at times abominably gross. The lack of early training, as he himself lamented in his last days, may have been responsible in some measure for the enormities of his life. But we are inclined to think that he was born with an abnormal nature, which no training would have absolutely con- trolled. Genius, lunacy, and great crime all spring from the presence of some abnormal element or some flaw in the brain — such an element or flaw as must have existed in that of Gilles de Rais. In his case, if exceptional talent be substituted for genius, they virtually met and mingled. He became a noxious agent in the midst of society, and, however much or however little he may have been responsible for his misdeeds, the world was in any case well rid of him. Abb^ Bossard, quoting various historians, points out that the execution of the Marshal created a great impression, and undoubtedly it was welcomed by the lower orders as a sign that the tyrannical nobility was amenable to justice ; but it is diflicult to adopt the view that it terrified the nobles and made them more respectful of the laws. Neither Charles VH. nor Louis XL, in spite of edict after edict and example after example, was able to- implant a law-abiding spirit among the aristocracy. Nor were their successors more fortunate, as we

25 — 2


388 BLUEBEARD

know by all the 'Grands Jours' of the soxteenth century, when hundreds after hundreds of capital sentences were pronounced but never executed, the noble culprits setting the officers of justice at defiance,^

It is not surprising that various legends and traditions of the career of Gilles de Rais should have survived in La Vendde, Poitou, and Brittany, particularly the part which now forms the depart- ment of La Loire Inf6rieure ; and it may be readily conceded that the Marshal's life supplied every necessary element for the most horrible of bogie tales. According to some of the older writers, his execution was followed by a three days' fast, and a general whipping of children in order that the latter might keep his memory green. Yet such a proceed* ing can hardly have been necessary. It was only natural that the Marshal's name should survive as a name of terror ; and one may well believe that mothers and nurses, throughout the regions asso- ciated with his crimes, more readily stilled their children with some threat of his coming than with any allusion to his contemporary Talbot. Gilles, indeed, was the genuine Croquemitaine, no monster of fairy-land or the mythical ages, but an ogre of real flesh and blood, well and widely known.

The reader who has followed this narrative may wonder, however, how it is possible to connect him with Perrault's Bluebeard. He was not married

^ See ' La Noblesse Fran9aise sous Tancienne Monarchie,' by Charles Louandre. Paris, 1880, 8vo., pp. 385-3^


GILLES DE RAIS 389

seven or eight times, but once only. Trae it is that he was betrothed to at least two girls before his marriage with Katherine de Thouars, and that on each occasion his destined bride died suddenly. Again, he is traditionally described as having had fair hair and a black beard, which looked bluish in the sunlight. Some recollection of his successive betrothals may have revived at the time of his trial, and the fate of his fiancees may have been regarded with suspicion by the ignorant Moreover, it is only fair to say that Monstrelet, his contemporary, asserts that several women were among his victims. Now, Monstrelet can only have borrowed that asser- tion from common report He was a Bui^undian ; in all likelihood he never saw Gilles in the flesh ; and he was certainly far away from the scenes of the Marshal's crimes. Thus, his information must have been of the hearsay variety ; and his assertion shows, therefore, that some folk, at all events, credited Gilles with the murder of women as well as of children. As a matter of fact, there were a few children of the female sex among the Marshal's victims ; but the procedure does not show that he ever put women — -plusieurs femmes enceintes, as Monstrelet has it — to death. Nevertheless, the popular report alone would be a sufficient basis for a Bluebeard story, particularly if the traditional description of Gilles* person were of contemporary origin. But the present writer has found it only in modern authors, who refer to it as being the traditional account, but who neither guarantee its


390 BLUEBEARD

authenticity nor show that it was current pricM' to the time when Perrault wrote. M. Armand Gueraud has pointed out that Og6e, the author of the ' Dictionnaire Historique de Bretagne,* while refer- ring to * the ineffaceable souvenir left by Gilles de Rais in the rural districts/ does not mention that he was known as Barbe-Bleue. So far, indeed, as books are concerned, it is only in modern ones that this appellation is conferred on the Marshal. It has been asserted, even, that the very first to give him the name in print was Edouard Richer, who, in a work published in 1823,^ described the ruined casde of La Verri^re or Verri^res, on the banks of the Erdre near Nantes, as being the 'Chiteau de Barbe-Bleue.' In another book issued in 1838,* Richer's statements were repeated ; and when the present writer as a youth accompanied his father to the spot nearly forty years later, he found the tradi- tion well alive.*

Half an hour's row up the Erdre from Nantes brought one to the hamlet of La Journali^re, where the first sight that met the eye was a striking tavern- sign representing a large greenish rock and a feroci- ous-looking man, beneath whom ran the inscription

  • Au Barbe Bleue.' The rock and the ruins were

in a little wood, some distance away, and on reaching them one found among the fragments of walls the

^ * Voyage pittoresque dans le D^partement de la Loire In- f^rieure.' Nantes, 1823, 410., p. 17.

2 * La France pittoresque,' etc., by J. Abel Hugo. Paris, 1 838, 4to.

® See * The Original Blue Beard ' in Once a Week^ January 4, 1868.


GILLES DE RAIS 391

remains of a room, carpeted with ivy, and reached by some steps roughly cut in the rock ; this room being described as the secret chamber where Bluebeard had kept the corpses of his murdered wives. And in the abandoned court of the ruined castle one found, even as Richer had mentioned in 1823, seven fine old trees which, according to the peasantry of the neighbourhood, marked the spots where the seven victims were buried after their murderer had been killed.^

It must be admitted that La Verri^re was one of the estates of Gilles de Rais, though he can only have stayed there occasionally. Nevertheless, the Bluebeard stories told in the neighbourhood would have no particular significance were it not that others are to be found in the vicinity of many of the Marshal s castles. Go to Machecoul, and the peasantry will point to one of the fireplaces hanging in mid-air, inside the great tower, and call your attention to a stone which looks like a death s-head and which they call * Bluebeard's skull.* You will learn, moreover, that Bluebeard's great two-handed sword was preserved in the town until the Revolu- tion, and the balcony of the Lady's Oratory in the castle keep will be designated as the spot whence Sister Anne watched for the arrival of the brothers. As no * Sister Anne ' figured in the career of Gilles de Rais, this last tradition must have come either

^ The writer cannot remember what trees they were ; but it is doubtful whether they were more than 200 years old. They were still there when Bossard wrote in 1886.


392 BLUEBEARD

from Perrault's tale or from the similar one of uncertain age current in La Vend6e.^

But at Tiffauges also there are various stories of Bluebeard, as Gilles de Rais is invariably called there. A staircase in the wall of the keep conducts to a secret room which Abb^ Bossard visited less than twenty years ago, and which is said to have been the spot where the monster killed his victims. The ascent was perilous in Bossard's time, and nowadays it may be practicable no longer, for large portions of the ruins have fallen during recent years. Nevertheless, the chamber is well remembered ; and every Teflfalian devoutly believes that the ghosts of the Marshal's victims, like the spectre of Gilles himself, still haunt the ruins at night. The curious echoes in the chemins de ronde of the towers over- looking the CrClme^ are in like manner associated with Bluebeard. It was there, folk say, that he often lodged his intended victims in order that he might surprise their secrets. According to one of the local legends, Bluebeard was taken to Nantes and sentenced there, but his judges decided that he should be executed on the scene of his crimes. He was therefore brought back to Tiffauges, and placed (like Regulus) in a barrel whose sides bristled with knives and nails. This barrel, which he himself had previously prepared for his wife, was then set rolling down the hillside overlooking the Sevre. It bounded along from rock to rock, and when it

^ See ante, pp. 27-31. * See ante, pp. 233, 234.


GILLES DE RAIS 393

reached the water's edge Bluebeard was already dead. Formerly, moreover, in the old church of St. Nicolas of Tiffauges, now transformed into a carpenter's workshop, the tourist was shown an old granite tombstone marked, curiously enough, with seven circles. The vault beneath this stone (which is now in the Archaeological Museum of Nantes) was said to have been the last resting-place of Bluebeard's seven wives.

All the oldest inhabitants of the district — Bossard interrogated people eighty years of age and upward, people whose families had belonged to the region for centuries — remain firm in the belief that Bluebeard was Gilles de Rais, whom, as we have previously mentioned, they invariably designate by the former name. It is the same in other parts of the Marshal's possessions. The castles of Pomic and Ch^m^rd, which both belonged to him, have long been ranked among Bluebeard's castles. Even the ancient aqueduct (probably of Gallo- Roman origin) which brings water from the Bonnet spring to Arthon in the centre of the barony of Rais is said to have been Bluebeard's work, executed by him in a single night at the request of a damsel of whom he was enamoured, and who, before consenting to listen to him, wished to test his powers. Then, in the vicinity of the remaining forest-lands of Rais, there are or were vague traditions of Bluebeard as the Wild Huntsman or as a werewolf, similar to Comorre. It has been shown, too, that Gilles became known as Bluebeard at the other end of


394 BLUEBEARD

Brittany, at Vitr6, where he never lived, but where his daughter resided from ten to fifteen years after his death, being subsequendy regarded as one of his wives, while the keys of the casde where she died received the name of * Bluebeard's keys.'

Abb^ Bossard quotes an old Breton cantplainte, given, he says, in one of the works of M. d'Amdzeuil,^ in which Jean de Malestroit, who inquired into the crimes of Gilles de Rais, and sat in judgment on him, is shown conversing with a party of mournful maidens.

It runs as follows :

The old Man : * Maidens of P16eur, why are you so silent ? Why do you go no more to festival or assembly ?'

TAe Maidens: *Ask us why the nightingale is silent in the thicket, why the loris and the finch no longer sing their gentle songs.*

The old Man : ' Forgive me, maidens, but I am a stranger ; I have come from far away, from beyond the land of Tr^guier and L^on, and I know not what has caused the sadness on your faces.*

The Maidens : * We are weeping for Gwennola, the loveliest and best loved of us all !*

The old Man : * What has become of Gwennola then ? Why do you remain silent ? What is happening here ?^

The Maidens : * Alas, alas ! the wicked Bluebeard

^ Bossard does not give the title of this book. We have not found the complainte in any work by D'Am^zeuil which is known to us.


GILLES DE RAIS 395

has put Gwennola to death, even as he killed all his wives.'

The old Man, with alarm : * Does Bluebeard live near here ? Then flee, flee, my children ! The ravenous wolf is not more terrible than the fierce Baron. The bear is more gentle than the accursed Baron of Rats. ^

The Maidens : * To flee is not allowed us. We are serfs of the barony of Rais, and we belong, body and soul, to the Sire de Barbe-Bleue*

The old Man : * I will deliver you ! For I am Messire Jehan de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes, and I have vowed to defend my flock !'

The Maidens : ' Gilles de Laval does not put faith in God !*

The old Man .• * He shall die a tragic death. By the living God I swear it !'

Then the complainte ends as follows : * To-day the maids of Pl^eur sing with all their hearts, and dance at festivals and pardons. The nightingale fills the thickets with its tender accents; the loris and the finch repeat their sweetest songs. All nature has put on a festive g^rb : Gilles de Laval no longer lives ! Bluebeard is dead !'

It must be admitted that this complainte is thoroughly in keeping with the secret inquiries con- ducted by Jean de Malestroit prior to the trial of Gilles, yet one may doubt if it be very old and if it really sprang from the popular imagination. Adequate criticism is out of the question, as only a French translation of the Breton original is


396 BLUEBEARD

supplied by Bossard. Nevertheless, objection may be taken to two words : * bear ' and * serfs/ Wolves have remained plentiful in Brittany down to our own times ; but one would hardly expect to find a refer- ence to bears in a genuine popular ballad of the regfion. And the word ' serfs * ascribed to the girls seems suspicious when regarded in the light of what we know respecting the social state of France, generally, in the fifteenth century.

Bossard also quotes, this time from Larousse, a very fantastic story of Gilles and a so-called castle of Rais, between Elven and Questembert. The present writer does not believe that any such castle ever existed, and, indeed, the tale, for which no real authority is quoted, seems to be a modem concoc- tion. The Marshal, who appears in it with a red beard, is shown desperately in love with a beautiful damsel, Blanche de THermini^re, the betrothed of the Count de Tr^m^ac. He casts the latter into a dungeon, and leads the girl to his chapel, where all is ready for their marriage. But she stubbornly refuses consent, though he is ready to bestow on her the finest of jewels and all his castles, forests, fields, and meadows. At last he offers her his body and soul, and the damsel, hastily accepting that offer, changes into a fierce blue devil who declares to Gilles that he belongs to him. By way of stamping him with his mark, the fiend changes his red beard to a blue one, reproaches him for his crimes, notably for the murder of his seven wives, and tells him that he will be known as Bluebeard for ever.


GILLES DE RAIS 397

The Assertion that this story is old and was known to Perrault is unsupported by a shred of evidence. The present writer infinitely prefers the local tradi- tions of Tiffauges and Machecoul, long handed down from father to son, from mother to daughter. It is only natural that a man like Rais should have received a nickname ; and thus that of Bluebeard was perhaps bestowed on him prior to Perrault's time. One can scarcely go farther than that surmise. The application of Perrault's tale, only a few years after it was written, to the legend of Comorre — as evidenced by the paintings at St. Nicolas de Bieuzy — shows how difficult it is to come to a positive conclusion. If the name * Bluebeard ' was derived from Perrault in the case of Comorre, it may also have been derived from him in the case of Gilles de Rais. On the other hand, if either of those men, the usurper of Domnonia or the monster of Tiffauges, was called Bluebeard prior to Perrault, and thus suggested to him a name for his * hero,' the writer thinks it far more likely that the man in question was Gilles de Rais ; for Comorre already had a widely-known nickname, that of the * Milig^et.' At the same time, whilst allowing for the fact that both Comorre and Rais were anciently accused of having put numerous women to death — as shown on one side by Alain Bouchard and Albert of Morlaix, and on the other by Monstrelet, all of whom wrote long before Perrault's days — the actual subject-matter of his tale may have been suggested to him by any account of a husband accustomed to kill his wives —


398 BLUEBEARD

perhaps by some passages in the 'Arabian Nights* or by conversation with the first translator of that work, Perrault's contemporary, Galland. In any case, there is nothing in the story of * Barbe-Bleue' to show that it was based either on the career of Comorre or on that of Gilles de Rais.

On the other hand it will be found that for a hundred years or nearly so — if not for a longer period — these two men have been associated with the tale by an ever-increasing army of authors as well as by the vox populi; and at the present time they are mentioned as possible prototypes of Blue- beard in virtually every European work of reference containing an article on the story. That must be the present writer s excuse, if one be needed, for having penned this book. In spite of every desire to supply the reader with information, he cannot tell him who was the Original Bluebeard, because he does not know, because nobody knows, because nobody will ever know. It is a question which must remain a matter of surmise and opinion only. The folklorist will have his views on the subject; the student of history may have others. All that the writer could do he has done. He has given an epitome of the stories usually associated with Perrault's tale, and has recounted the careers of the two men who in France, at all events, have been connected so prominently with Barbe-Bleue. And perhaps the time devoted to the inquiry has not been wasted, for, quite apart from the Bluebeard question, the career of Gilles de Rais (which, to the


GILLES DE RAIS 399

best of the writer's knowledge and belief, had never been told in the English language) was, he thinks, well worthy of narration, within the limits which he assigned to himself when he began this book. Of all the strange careers of which history has preserved a record, he knows of none stranger than that of the high, mighty, and millionaire Lord, who fought beside Joan of Arc, became the great mystery

  • showman ' of his times, gave himself up to pro-

digality and vice, sought renewed wealth and power from the Devil, and fiendishly butchered so many helpless children, in such wise that he died the death of a murderer, and left behind him, for all the ages, a name of horror and infamy.


APPENDIX

A

(Ph:«33)

THE BEAUM ANOIR BLUEBEARD

If it be difficult to account for the origin of the suggestion that the original Bluebeard may have been a Sire de Beaumanoir, it is still more difficult to excuse the parrot-like foshion in whidi various editors of Perrault have repeated this assertion without taking any trouble to verify it Abb^ Bossard writes on the subject in the same misleading fashion as his predecessors. Following M. Deulin, he mentions that the theory originated with Collin de Plancy, whose opinion, he adds, was adopted by M. Charles Giraud. Then, in mentioning that the £simily of Gilles de Rais was allied to that of the Beaumanoirs of Maine, he refers his readers to M. Abel Hugo. On testing those references, the present writer finds that Collin de Plancy, in his ' CEuvres Choisies de Perrault, avec les M^moires,' Paris, 1826, 8vo., mentions, at the outset of the notes which he adds to the story of ' Bluebeard,' that the original character is said to have been a Beaumanoir. That is all ; there is nothing further on the subject in Collin de Plancy's book. On turning to M. Giraud's 'Contes des Fdes,' Lyons edition, 1865, one finds in the dedicatory epistle to the Princess Letitia Bonaparte a strong expression of the opinion that the original Bluebeard was Gilles de Rais! If, therefore, M. Giraud, in the previous edition of his work (Paris, 1864), which the present writer has not seen, inclined to a Beaumanoir theory, he had discarded it a twelve- month later. But we turn to M. Abel Hugo (* France Pittoresque,* 1838, 4to., vol. ii., p. 165), hoping to find therein something about the Beaumanoirs of Maine. There is not a word on the subject,


APPENDIX 401

however; there is simply a reference (manifestly borrowed from Richer) to the ruins of the ChUteau of La Verri^re and the seven trees planted in commemoration of Bluebeard's wives. On consulting other parts of M. Hugo's compilation, notably the descriptions of the departments now replacing the old province of Maine, nothing is found about the Beaumanoirs and Bluebeard. Yet the references, mentioned above, have appeared in several works, successive editors and commentators following one another without once testing their alleged authorities. It was easy enough for the present writer to do so, the books, which have been specified, being in the library of the British Museum.

The Beaumanoir theory resolves itself, therefore, into one single line in Collin de Plancy. Various genealogical histories and similar works have been consulted in the hope of discovering some Beaumanoir to whom the theory might possibly apply, and none has been found. The whole thing appears then to be a myth, and the only suggestion one can offer is that, when Collin de Plancy penned his notes to 'Bluebeard,' he had read somewhere that Gilles de Rais and a certain Beaumanoir had fought side by side against the English in Maine (see ante^ pp. 147-150), and that, in a moment of confusion, he penned the latter instead of the former name. His blunder, being frequently repeated, created the im- pression that a Beaumanoir theory really existed.

This is written subject to correction. If anybody knows of a Beaumanoir whom the name of Bluebeard would fit, the writer will be delighted to hear of him ; but he has given considerable time to researches which have yielded no result, and until the contrary is proved he will continue to surmise that the Beaumanoir theory was purely and simply one of Collin de Plancy's not infrequent blunders.

B

(Page 65) VS AND OTHER LOST CITIES

There are various accounts of the legend of Ys, the favourite one, perhaps, being that given by £mile Souvestre, who tells us that the ancient city standing on the shore of the Bay of Douamenez was defended against the ocean by several powerful dykes, whose

26


402 BLUEBEARD

locks were only opened once a month in order to admit the qmntiti of sea-water required by the inhabitants for certain purposes. The principal lock was opened by King Gradlon himself, who always wore its silver key hanging from his neck, that key being also a symbol of his royal authority. Gradlon's palace was the manrd of the world, all marble, cedar wood and gold, whereas other dwellings were of oak and granite ; and he lived there with his daughter, called variously A^s or Dahut, a most beautiful but extremely dissolute woman, who had 'made herself a crown of her vices, and taken the seven mortal sins as her pages.* Like Marguerite de Bourgogne, in ' La Tour de Nesle,' the Princess beguiled young men, or, rather, employed an emissary, a black attendant, to seek handsome young strangers and bring them to her masked. Then came the banquet and the orgy ; but after- wards the masks were tightened by means of secret springs, which stifled their wearers, whose corpses were carried on horseback by the Princess's black retainer to the Montagues d'Arr^, and there cast into a deep pit or chasm, whence, even in our times, lugubrious sounds were said to proceed, these, according to the shepherds who heard them, being the moans of Dahut's murdered lovers, who entreated Christians to pray for their unhappy souls.

Gradlon had again and again promised St Gwennole that he would punish his daughter, but in spite of her crimes he loved her too much to do so. At last she stole his silver key, the emblem of his power, and one night after a wild orgy she opened the lock and admitted the sea, which threatened the city with destruction. St Gwennole came to rouse the King, who at once mounted on horseback, to flee with his officers. Before doing so^ however, he again yielded to fatherly compassion, sent for his daughter, took her up behind him, and then galloped away. But the waters rapidly gained upon them, and they were on the point of being engulfed by a great wave, when all at once a mysterious voice rang out, calling : * Gradlon, if thou wouldst escape destruc- tion, cast off the demon behind thee !' The Princess, in her exceeding terror, felt her strength desert her, her eyes closed, her hands became icy cold, and she slipped off the horse into the raging tide. But Gradlon and his officers were able to reach Quimper, and that city then became the capital of Comouaille. According to another legend, Dahut or Ahs was transformed into a mermaid, a kind of Lurlei-siren ever on the watch to beguile the


APPENDIX 403

young men who approached the shore near the spot where the city of Ys was submerged.^

M. de La Borderie traces the origin of the legend to passages in Urdistan's early * Life of St. Gwennole,' in which the holy man is shown addressing homilies to King Gradlon, expatiating on the sinfulness of the licentious life led by the royal court, reproaching him for his silken vestments, his magnificent feasts, and his partiality for the music of flutes, tabors, citherns, and lyres. These passages gave rise to the opinion that Ys had really been destroyed for its sins, and there being various traditions of the alleged immorality of the Princess A^s or Dahut, the greater part of the guilt of Gradlon's court was gradually ascribed to her, until at last the legend arose in its comparatively modem form. There are various indications that a city or town may have existed on the alleged site of Ys. It cannot be denied that there have been frequent encroachments of the sea on this part of the Breton coast Souvestre mentions that a certain Chanoine Moreau, writing in 1586, testified to having seen the remains of ancient walls as well as several stone trough-like tombs at low-tide. The remains were supposed to have dated from the fourth or fifth century. More- over, Cambry, writing in 1836 ('Voyage dans le Finist^re '), mentions that the fishermen of the bay when casting anchor repeatedly found fragments of walls under water.

With reference to Gradlon's partiality to music (with which St Gwennole reproached him), it should be added that on St Cecilia's Day, prior to the French Revolution, a cup of wine was invariably raised to the lips of the King's statue above the entrance of the cathedral of Quimper. Another legend of him is given in a poem by Marie de France (' Poesies de Marie de France,' published by B. de Roquefort, 1819, vol i., 'Lai de Graelent Meur'), in which he is shown as a young and fascinating Prince, who wins the love of a fiury. But a time comes when she desires to quit him. She takes to flight, and he follows in pursuit Then, the better to escape him, she springs across a river with all the lightness of a bird. He is warned that he will be drowned if he should attempt to follow her ; nevertheless, he persists, and she, seized with compassion, at last rescues him from his danger, removes his sodden garments, wraps

^ The libretto of Lalo's opera * Le Roi d'Ys ' b simply modem invention, and does not follow any of the recognised forms of the legend.


404 BLUEBEARD

her doak around him, and takes him to her own land. 'And the folk of the country still do say that Gradlon is yet alive.'

The legend of Ys is not the only one of the kind to be found in Brittany. Stories of submerged cities and lost lands are favourite ones with the Celtic races. The Lost Langarrow or Langona of North Cornwall, destroyed for its vice by God, who raised a stonn and covered it with sand (see Hunt's ' Popular Romances of the West of England,' pp. 199, 200), has a Breton counterpart near the ancient town of Langon (lUe et Vilaine, between Rennes and Nantes), where a kind of canal, about a mile and a half in length, is said to occupy the site of a yet earlier city of the same name, destroyed for its sins. In like way the hamlet of Le Pussoir or Passoir, near Erquy, on the coast of Les Cotes du Nord, is popularly supposed to have replaced a Roman city called 'Nasada' or 'Nazado,' also punished for its depravity; and in this instance it must be admitted that many Gallo-Roman remains have been found on the spot. Again, the forest of Seissy is said to have been destroyed by sea and sand because the birds in it persisted in chattering whilst an old hermit was saying mass in a retreat which he had sought among the thickets. Directly the holy man began the celebration, the birds made such an uproar that he was unable to proceed. At last he cursed them, and then a great wind immediately arose, the sea rushed upon the shore, and the forest was swept away. Miles of sandhills mark its site.

The lake of Grandlieu, which belonged to the barony of Gilles de Rais, was also supposed to mark the spot where an ancient city, called Herbadilla, stood as late as the sixth century. The inhabitants, it is said, treated St. Martin of Vertou with great derision whilst he was sojourning in their midst, and in punish- ment of their wanton disrespect an abyss suddenly opened, boiling water bubbled up, and the guilty city was destroyed. Only a man and a woman, who had given the saint hospitality, were spared, and she, having looked behind her, in spite of a prohibition to the contrary, was changed to stone. (Dom Morice, 'Preuves de I'Histoire de Bretagne,' vol. i., p. 196.) The final episode of this story is, of course, a reminiscence of the fate which befell Lot's wife ; the earlier ones suggest volcanic agency, as in the case of the legend of Lake Issarl^s in Auvergne.


APPENDIX 405

C

(Page 118) THE MONTFAUCON PORTRAIT OF GILLES DE RAIS

The portrait of Marshal de Rais given in this volume is taken from Plate LVII. in the third volume (p. 277) of the * Monuments de la Monarchie Fran9oise,' the well-known compilation of Dom Bernard Montfaucon, who derived the figure, like many others, from a beautifully illustrated manuscript work presented to Charles VII. by Gilles le Bonnier, for many years * Berry King-at-Arms ' and ' First Herald of France ' under that King and his father.

This manuscript work, which at one time was in the collection of Colbert, was probably prepared some years after the death of Gilles de Rais ; nevertheless, in a matter affecting the latter, it would at first sight seem to be a document of value, for Berry, who in any case inspired it and superintended its preparation, was certainly well acquainted with the Marshal, whom he must have seen many times, and whose armorial bearings must have been familiar to him. Again, Berry was an authority in heraldry, and one can hardly suppose that he would have tolerated an error in the heraldic devices borne by the figures illustrating his work.

Nevertheless, we regard the portrait of Rais with some sus- picion. The plate in Montfaucon bears the inscription 'Gilles de Laval ' — by which name Rais was often called — and the text, derived apparently from Berry, expressly tells us that the portrait is that of the famous Marshal who was executed at Nantes. Bossard and others regard the figure as authentic, and we are even told that the armorial bearings on the caparison of the horse are a blending of those of Montmorency-Laval and Rais. Such is not the case, however. They are simply the armorial bearings of Montmorency-LavaL A curious question, therefore, arises. The father of Gilles de Laval, in order to succeed to the barony of Rais, renounced for himself and his successors the arms of Montmorency-Laval, and covenanted with Jane the Sensible to assume those of her house. How comes it, then, that his son bears the arms of his ancestors, instead of those of Rais ?

On consulting Anselme's * Histoire G^n^ogique,' it will be found that the arms of Montmorency were : or on a cross gules, cantoned with sixteen alertons (eaglets) azure. The bearings of


4o6 BLUEBEARD

Montmorency-Laval were the same as those of Montmorenqr proper, excepting in one respect : the cross, as a distinctive sign, was charged with five scallop shells. A reference to the Mont- faucon figure of Gilles will show that these are the arms emblazoned on the trappings of the Marshal's horse. Gilles sprang, however, from a junior branch of the house, that founded by Foulques de Montmorency-Laval, the husband of the Crazy Jane of Rais, and in the armsjof Foulques, as given in Anselme, there is a brisure, z, franc quartier de gueuks au lion d^ argent. This lion argent, ac- cording to Bossard, represents Laval ; but we cannot find that such a device was ever associated with that lordship. Perhaps Foulques, who is classed by Anselme under the heading of Chalouyau, derived it from that Burgundian domain which he inherited from his mother. His descendants, Guy, otherwise Brumor, and Guy IL, the father of Gilles de Rais, bore the lion argent in their shields — that is, until Guy II. entered into his covenant with Jane of Rais, when his arms became those of the barony : or on a cross sable. In the Montfaucon figure, however, there is no sign of the lion argent, to say nothing of any quartering even of the shield of Rais. We know that when such covenants as that of Guy II. and Jane the Sensible were agreed upon they were strictly carried out The Kergorlay Montforts came into possession of the barony of Laval by the marriage of Jean de Kergorlay with Anne the heiress in 1404, and, having covenanted to discard the Montfort arms and to assume those of Laval, they did so. See, for instance, in Montfaucon the figure of Andr6 de Loh&c, the younger brother of Guy de Montfort-Laval ; he bears the Montmorency-Laval arms as stipulated^ — that is, the same arms as those which are shown in the alleged figure of Gilles de Laval de Rais. This, again, is a reason for regarding the latter figure as doubtfiiL As the father of Gilles covenanted to bear the arms of Rais, GQles himself ought to have borne them. But Montfaucon quite ignores the Rais escutcheon ; following Berry, he even tells us that the battle-cry of Rais was ^ Deus adjuvet primum Christ- ianutn f (* God help the first Christian T) which was, of course, the cry of the Montmorencys, even as 'God help the second Christian 1' was that of the house of L^vis.

^ Both he and Pr^ent de Co^tivy, as successive husbands of Marie de Rais, eventually assumed, or at least quartered, the arms of Rail in their escatcheont, in accordance with their marriage contracts.


APPENDIX 407

The whole matter is curious ; and we have a suspicion that the Montfaucon portrait of GiHes — the one authentic representation of him supposed to exist — really represents his cousin Guy de Montfort-Laval, elder brother of Andr^ de Lohdac. Briefly, a scribe or an artist employed in the preparation of Berry's work may have written * Gilles/ when he ought to have written * Guy ' ; for the armorial bearings are those to which Guy was entitled, whereas Gilles can hardly have had any proper right to them. If our surmise be inaccurate, and the figure be really that of Gilles de Rais, we can only assume that he, on entering the service of France, discarded the arms of his Breton barony to bear those of his Montmorency ancestors, regardless of any agreement into which his father had entered.

We do not know whether this question has ever been raised before. We have given the portrait because it is generally accepted as being that of Gilles de Laval de Rais, but we regard its authenticity as doubtful. As for the so-called portrait in the Gallery of the Marshals of France at Versailles, that is an imaginary modem work, painted by £loi Fdron.


D

(Pages 181 and 193) GILLES DE RAIS AND JEAN CHARTIER

Abb^ Bossard's surmise that the ' Jean Chartier ' who accom- panied Gilles de Rais to Orleans in 1434-5 may have been the famous chronicler of that name raises some interesting points. We know comparatively little of Chartier's life ; but it is nowadays affirmed that the old accounts of it were full of errors. Jean was formerly said to be a brother of Alain Chartier, the poet, but it is now held that they were not related. According to Father Ayroles (' La Vraie Jeanne d'Arc,' vol. iii. : * La Libdratrice '; Paris, 1897, 8vo., pp. 143-6), Jean Chartier was provost of the monastery of La Garenne in 1430, and three years later held a similar office at the abbey of Mareuil-en-Brie (vicinity of Paris). In 1435 ^^ became 'commandeur ' of the abbey, and in 1437 was raised to the rank of 'grand chantre.' The new edition of ' Larousse ' clings to the view that he was a chanter at St. Denis in 1445 ; and Father Ayroles says that he was still living in 1474.


408 BLUEBEARD

The question arises whether Chartier can have absented himsdf from Mareuil between 1433 and 1435, ^^^ whether his office in connection with the abbey was merely a titular one. It must be admitted that a distinctive feature of Chartier's chronicle is his frequent mention of Gilles de Rais. He gives circumstantial accounts of Gilles's earlier exploits at Rainefort, Malicorne, and Le Lude — ^petty affairs in their way, which a chronicler without special information might well have neglected. Again, his references to the Marshal in connection with Joan of Arc are numerous and important ; and he signals the presence of Rais at Lagny and at Silld-le-Guillaume when other writers leave it to be inferred that he quitted the service of France after the failure of the attempt on Paris. Where was it that Chartier found all his information about Rais ? May he not have acquired it from the Marshal or some of his retainers ?

In the lists of those who accompanied Gilles de Rais to Orleans in 1434, found by M. Doinel among the notarial papers of Jean de Recouin, it will be seen that * Jean Chartier ' lodges at the Black Head, where the Marshal's men-of-arms, his herald and some of his captains are likewise accommodated ; and at the first glance it might seem incongruous for a cleric, a monk, to consort with those military men. A fitter place for him, it might seem (particularly as he was a chanter), would have been with the Marshal's chantry at the sign of the Sword. But, in this connec- tion, it will be noticed (p. 194, ante) that two other clerics, Collinet and Le Blond, lodge with a barber and a squire at the sign of the Furbisher. And, all considered, as Chartier, whatever his robe, was a chronicler of the wars, it is perhaps only natural that he should have sought the companionship of the Marshal's captains. As for the origin of his connection with Rais, it may be pointed out that the Marshal is known to have sought chanters with fine voices all over France. There were Normans and Poitevins in his 'chapelle.' Is it possible, then, that Chartier may have entered his service for a short time? One can only offer surmises on such a question; for nothing shows that the ' Jean Chartier ' classed among the Marshal's retainers at Orleans was really Chartier the chronicler. Nevertheless, as this historic name occurs in the lists discovered by M. Doinel, it was as well to point to the possibilities which the mention of it suggests.


INDEX

Afes, Princess, 65, 71, 7a, 402, 403.

Agib. See Calender.

AkiDS in Armorica, 62.

Albret, Guillaume d', 149.

Alchemy practised by Rais, 236 e/ seq. ,

a4». 35a. AleD9on, Jean. Duke of, 156 i6x-i66,

197, 21^, 216, 244. 246, 286, 32a

  • Alice in Wonderland,' 6.

Ambri^res, combat at, 149. Ampoule, Sainte, 160, 161. An^rs, 186, 189, 191, 221, 238, 239,

264, 271. 275. Anjoo, Louis of, 145. 163, 900 ; Charles

of, 173 ; Ren« of, 225, 379. Anjou, peerage of, 162 ; province of,

"S. 379- Anne, Sister, her balcony, 359, 360,

391- Aragon, Yolande d', 144.

Araguin, Thomtn d', 261.

Arc, Joan of, influences Charles VII., Z44 ; sketch of, 152-154 ; at Chinon, 154; at Poitiers, St. Florent, and l^ours, 155; attended by Rais, 155, 156, 205 ; plot against, 156, 157 ; goes to Orleans, 157, 183 ; wounded at Les Tourelles, 158 ; at Jargeau, 158 ; at Patay, 159 ; at Reims, 160, 162, 163; marches on Paris, 163, 164; attempts to take Paris, 164. 165; severely wounded, 165 ; retires to the Loire, 166; granted the arms of France, 167 ; a prisoner, 171 ; put to death. 172 ; her part in the ' Mystery of Orleans,' 192, 196-199 ; general belief in her supernatural power, 342.

Armagnac, Bernard VII. of, 128, 129.

Armoises, Claude des, false Maid of Orleans, 174, 296 et siq,

Armoises, Robert des, 297.

Armorica, Alans, Britons, Romans, Saxons, in, 6a et seq.

Arms of France, grants of the, 166, 167.

Arthur, traditions of I^iog, in Brittany, 39^ 40; Mystery of See. Tryphine and, 106k


Anus II., Duke of Brittany, 13a Artus of Brittany. See Richemoat,

Count of. Assassins, King of the, a tale, 22. Ass's Skin, a t^e, 5. Aunis, province of, 216.

Barbazan, 187.

Barron, an evil spirit. See Devil.

Bars. Michel, monk and aecromancer,

246. Bayley's Bluebeard, 19. Beaugency, reduction of, 159. Beaumanoir Bluebeard, 3a, 33, 400,

401. Beaumanoir. Sire de. 147-149. Beauvais, Bishops-Counts of, 161 ; Rais

at, 173. Bedford, John, Duke of, X4»-Z44, 148,

I TO. Z51. z6q, 173. Belie Poigne. Hdtd de la, z86. Bernard VII. of Armagnac, 128, 199. Berry, King at Arms, z6i, 405. B^ god, and Bluebeard, 13, 14. Beuvron, St. James de, 145. 146. Bieusy, ChaptI of St Nicolas de

(Bluebeard paintings), io$ei seq, Bieuzy. St., 86.

Black bume killed by Rais, 149. Black Mass, 301, 302, ^vp, Blanchet, Eustache, chaplain to Rait,

238, 239. 248. 249. a8o> 28a ei stq.,

287, 289-295. 304 */ seq., 31a, 323,

324. 335. 3So» 3SS» 356* 371- Blancbu or Branchu, £tiennette, 276,

355» 371. , Blavet, nver, its scenenr, 37 ei seq,;

Giklas's oratory near the, 86, 105.

Blois, dty, 155, 157, 221.

Blois. House of, 130 ; Charles de, 130, 13X ; Charles the younger, 133 ; Jean de. Sire de I'Aigle, 131, 136 ; Mar-

Sieritede, tUe Qisson, 131, 13a, 136; livier de, Count de Pentbi^vre, 131-

»33- Blouyn, Jean, Vice-Inquisitor, 330, 338,

34a. 35a. 355. 357. 36a. Bluebeard aa a myth, za ei seq.


4IO


BLUEBEARD


Aiabiftn Nights and, z6, 17, 398; Bayle/s, 19; wives of» 19-23. 24, 59i> ^3! Esthooian, Indian, None, Cornish, Gaelic and Gennan stories suggesting, 19 et seq. ; the name anmentioned in literature prior to Perniult, a6 ; as a ^oMd sUcU tale, 97 ; a Vendean variant of, 37 et seq. ; Breton stories suggesting, zo8, 109, 396 ; Comorre as, ja, 33, 41, 47, 61, Z04 et seq., 397; Gilles de Rsiis as,

3a. 33. *H. 345. 346, 388-398 : a Sire de Beaumanoir as, 33, 33, 400, 401 ; Bluebeard's keys, 381 ; skull, 391 ; sword, 370, 391 ; aqueduct, 393 ; wives* graves. 391, 393 ; at Mache- coul, 360, 391 ; at Vitr6, 381 ; at Vcrriires, 390, 391; at Tif&uges, 39^' 393; at Pomk, Ch6m6r6, and ArtboQ, 393; no original, 398.

Bluebearded Deities, 13, 14.

Bhiebeard Paintings at St. Nicolas de Bieusy, Z05 et seq.

Blunderbuss, Giant, ai.

Bodyguard of Gilles de Rais, t8i.

Bonnkr, Gilles le, herakl, 405.

Books of OiUesde Rate. SeeUtinrf.

Boucher or Boudiier, laoqves, of Orleans, ao6, aza

Bouin, Isle of, 135, 935.

Boufges, 141. 399, 30a

Boargoeuf-«n-Rais, 135, 9as» »a7. 275. fl8i, 331, 333, 334.

Boussac, Jean de Brosse, Marshal de, x6o, 161, 164, 173.

Branchu. Su Blanchu.

Brank Halleg, battle of. 98.

Brekilien. See Brocdiande.

Br^mont. Hicquei de, governor of the pages of Gilles de Rais, 181, 366, 368,

274. 3SO- BricQueviUe, Roger de. Major-domo to GiUes de Rais. 181, 309, 341, 350. 361. 363, 366. 384, 398, 333, 3SO, 370.

371.

Brienne, Rais created Count of, 163.

Britons, ancient, theirflight to Armorica, 63 et seq.

Brittany. Dukes of. See Artus IL. Fran9ois L. Jean IV. and V., and Pierre II.

Brittany. Gilles of. 333. 378.

Brittany, Ricbsud of, 133.

Brittany, early history of. 59 et seq. ; early rulers of /table), 69 ; giants in, 73, 75 ; States-General of, 134, 138 ; Parliament of, 137, Z39, aao, ^, 353* 375 : arobasaadors of, Z43 ; peer- age of. 163.

Broceliande, forest of, 39, &;, za6, 330.

Brosse, Jean de, i6a

Browerech, the (Vannetais), 66, 69, 83,

88. 93. 95. 96. 'oo- Bochet or Buschet, Andr6, chanter,

269,333,350. 3udic of CmnooaiUe, 69, 76, 77.


Bueil, Hardooin de. Bishop of

330 ; Jean, Sire de, 173. Burgundy, Dukes of, 161. See Jeuk

sans P^ and Philippe le Bon.

Calender, Third, tale of the, 16, 17. Camus de Beaulieu, Le, 151, i6a Canaa See Conoo. Carhaix (Voiganiuro), 70 et seq. / roads

to and from, 71, 87, 89, 9a Cam5et, legend of the Ferry of, 55 et

Cassenoix, a horse, 194. 3o6.

Castel Finans. See Finans.

Ccva, Lenano or Nani, Marquis, 340, jpgetseq., 317, 318, 335. 340, 371.

Cbabot. G6rard I., II., HI., IV., V.. of Rais, 1 14- z 17.

Chalons, Bishops-Counts of, z6z.

Champagne, Anne de, zz5« 384 ; Counts of, z6z.

Champtoc^, castle and lordship of, zz8, Z36. z86, 300, 3z8, 330, 333, 335-338, 255. 256, 262 et seq., 37Z, 373. 340, 378-381.

Champtoo6, Tiphaine de, zaz, 364.

Champtoceaux, castle of, Z3a, Z33, zjiS, 363, 387.

Chansons de Qeste and St. Vezian. zoz.

Chantzy of Gilles de Rais, Z88-Z85, Z93, 408.

Chapeillon, GuiUaoine, prosecutes Rais at Ecclesiastical trial, 337 et seq., 343, 350. 352. 355, 357.

Chapter founded by Rais, z8a, Z83.

Charles V. of France, 337.

Charles VI. of France, 12S, Z4Z.

Charles VI L of France, at first Dauphin, flees to Bourges, za9 ; goes to Languedoc, Z30; intrigues with the Penthi^vies, Z38, Z36 ; his difficulties, Z41. Z43 ; reconciled to Jean V., Z44, Z45 ; exiles Richemont, Z5z ; receives Joan of Arc, Z54. Z55 ; rewards Rais, Z58 ; crowned at Reims, z6o et seq. ; would return to Berry, Z63 ; at Com- pi^gne and St. Denis, Z64 ; with- draws to the Loire. z66 ; grants the royal arms to Rais. z66: to Joan, the Marquis of Este and Duke of Milan. Z67; his desertion of Joan. Z7Z, Z73 ; his pecuniary grants. Z78, Z79; visits Lyons. Z87; witnesses the ' Mystery of Orleans.' Z93 ; selected as trustee of the Holy Innocents, aoz ; prohibits the sale of the Rais estates, aaz et seq. ; La Pragucrie and. 344, 345, 397, 34Z ; helps the False Maid, 397 ; receives Rais at Bourges. 399; will not help Rais at his trial, 340, 34Z. 354; pardons Bricqueviile, 37Z ; favours marriage of Marie de Rais. 374 ; his confidence in Co^tivy. 375 ; inter- venes respecting the Rais property, 375<^J<y-


INDEX


411


OMVifar, Jmn, i8x, 193, 407, 408. Chaitres, Jam II., Vidaae of. m. Qmitret, RqpiMilc de. ChanoeUor of

Fhuoe, ArailMshop of Rdms, 156,

x6i. x6a. 171. 175, 179. Chaase Gallery, ballad, a^ Chaovigny, AiKlr6 de, Fnnoe of D60IS,

"5^384. Cbaavigny, Fraii9ois de, 1x5, 384.

Cherbourg, siege of, 38a

Cbildebert. King, 73. 75. 77. 89t 9^. 97.

■ 99.

Chinon. Joan of Arc at, X55.

Chramn, son of Clothalie, 99.

Cinderella, 5, 25.

Qties, lost, 40X.

CUsson, Olivier de, xa7, 130, X3X. 324.

Clisson, tovn and castle of, X36, 175,

305.

Qoar-Camodt, legend of Comorre at,

55 ^^ Ciothaire I., 69, 99^

Qotb of gold, Its wUoe, X&4, X85.

Co6uvy, Alain, Cbristophe, and Olivier

de, 380.

Co^tivy, Pr^ent VII. de, xis, X73,

M3. 373-380- Coeur, Jacques, 300, 380.

Comorre, alias Conomor, eta, as Bine- beard, 32, 33. 41, 47, 6x, X04 ei s€q„ 397 : bis castles of Finans, 4X, 44, 45.


47. 53» 87. 89, 90, 9a ; PMernec, 45 ; Lfon, 48 ; Gooesnou, C5 ; Poucastd, 77, 79 ; Montaiilant, 80 ; called tbe •Miliguef or 'Cursed,' 41, 4c, 55 ^ ^M 95f X04, 397; l^ends of Trypnine and, 4i2 </ ag, ; his wives and tbdr deatbs, 4a, 43, 47. 55, 56, 58, 76, 83 ; cursed by the clergy, 45. 94 ; legendary death of, 46 ; fairy tide of Tnrpbine and, 47 ei stq, ; as a Stygian wrryman, 55 £t seg. ; real career, 69 et seg, ; at Carbauc, 70 et stq.; helps Harwian, 7a; protects holy men. 74, 75 ; sdaes territory, 74, 75 ; manies Iona*s widow, 76 ; rules half Brittany, 77 ; Melar killed in his castle, 79 ; moves to Montafilant, 80; propoaes to slay Judwal, 8x ; strikes St Lonaire, is injuied, 8a ; p^ae- cntes the clergy, 82 ; weds Tiypbine, 83, 84, 87, 88 ; covets Weroc's pos- sessions. 88 ; threatens Trjrpbine, 89 ; pursues and wounds her, 89, 90 ; his career of violence, 93 ; cursed from tbe Menes Br^. 94 ; protects Macliau, 95 ; fifi^hts Judwal, 97, 98 ; slain, his tomb, 98; confounded with Conoo, xoo et stq. ; mraning of his name Conomor, xoa.

Conlie, X74.

Conober. See Conoo.

Conomor. See Comorre.

Conoo, alias Canao and Conober, 69, 88, 95, 96, 99 ; OQofoiiiided wkh CoBiorre, 100 ei stq.


CoriUaat or CorriUaiit, fitiease, alias Poitoa, page and valet to GiUes de Rais, 903. 247, 948, 253, 96X-963, a66 et seg., 270, a7X, 274. 280, 284, 987, 290-293. 300, 303, 304, 307, 323, 324,

^ 335. 349. 350. 355. 356, 36a. 364-369- Comouaille, State of, 65, 69, 75, 77, 78,

402. Cornwall. Old. 66.

Coronation of Chaiies VIL, x6o et seg, Craon, House of, 1x4, xx8-iax, 264. Craon. Jean de. Lord of La Suse, etc.,

grandfather of Gilles de Rais, xx8-

X27, X34-X38. X40, X44, X47, X73, 238,

263, 265, 266. Craon, Marie de, mother of Gilles de

Rais, XX5, X20-X22. Cravant. battle of, X43. Crows, Princes of Hell as, 286. Culant, Louis, Sire de, i6a Curiosity in man, 15, x6 ; in wonsan.

15.

Dahut, Princess, 40a, 403.

Damnonia. See Domnon^e.

Danton and audacity, X53.

Darkness, battle of Ught and, xa.

Damley. J. Stuart, Lord, X43, X62.

Dauphin, the, afterwards Louis XL, 243, 344, 288. 309.

Dauphin-Regent. See Charles VII.

Defeasance, Jean V.'s deeds of, 226, 227.

Delit. Jeanne, 278.

Deroch of Domnonia, 69, 75.

Devil, the, attempts to raise and com- pacts with, 245-253, 980, 98x, 286, 287, 289-296. 31^, 324, 350, 396 ; in the shape of a leopard, 249 ; as a voung man. 287, 293. 323. ; as a four- footed beast, 292 ; as a serpent, 294 ; penance to, 30X ; sacrifices to, 2c|3, 270, 280. 287, 303, 304, 324; talis- man from, 30a

Devil Wooer, tale of the, ax.

Dodgaon (Lewis Caroll), Rev. C L., 6.

Domains of Gilles de Rais, tiie, X24- X36, X37, 217, 218, 22X, 222 ; inter- vention of Charles VII. respecting, 375 et seg. See also Champtoc6, Ingrandes, Machecoul, Pouasuges and Tifiauges.

Domnonte or Domnonia, State of, 66,

69. 75. 77. 83, 94, 96. Du Guesdin, Bertiand, XX4, Z15, 228.

X3X, X79. tOA.

Du Guesclin, Cl^mence, XX4, XX5.

Du Mesnil, trumpeter and devil -raiser,

240, 250, 252. Dunois, Jean. Count of, Bastard of

Orleans, X47, 172, 32a

Elias and Pressina, tale of, x6. Epics derived from myths, 9. Esiarts, Les, 3x5. EalatfisofGUletdeRais. ^flrDomaiaa.


412


BLUEBEARD


Eite, Mftranis of, 167. Bugmhif TV., Pope, 097. EvrcnZt peenure ofi z6i. Ezecatkm of Rais, etc., 366 €i seg. EKpiatory Mooument of Rail. See MoDQincnt.

FilSTOLPE, Sir John. 159. Fayette. Gilbert, Marshal de La, 175. Feather Bird, tale of the, aa. Ferrara, Nicholas of, 167. Ferron, GtSroy Le. 2x3, 314, 318, 319, 347-340.

Forron. Jean Le, 314 ei seg,, 347 349.

Ferry Camo^, legend of tne, c^ et seq.

Fichters Vogel. See Feather Bird.

FInans, Castel, Comorre's castle, 41, 44. 4S» 47. 53. 87. 89, 90, 9a.

Flanders, Counts of, z6z.

Florence, 283, a86.

Fontanella, Giovanni da, 986 287.

Forbidden Rooms, tales of, 16 et seg,

France, arms of, granted to Rais, Joan, etc., 166, 167; English invasion of and dissensions in, 128-z^, 141 ei seg. ; Kings of, set Charles ; Mar- shals of, 160, 17A ; peers of, 161, 162 ; saved b¥ Joan or Arc, 151 et seg.

Fkanfois 1, Doke of Brittany, 179, 222,

375. 377-379. 38«-

Galkrandb, 147. Gallery, Chasse, ballad, 258. Gaucourt, Raoul, Sire de, 156, 162. Genealogical tables, 69. 115, Z17, 119,

Z2Z.

Giac, Pierre de, 151, 246, 286.

Giant with no heart, the, a tale, 20, 109.

Giant with seven wives, the, a tale, 109.

Giants in Brittany, 7a, 75.

Gildas, St., alieu the Wise, of Rhuys, legendary tales of him and St. Trypbine, 42 et seg., 47 et seg., 91. 105 ; destrojrs Castel Finans, 45, 53, 92 ; revives TYyphine, 44, 45. 54, 91 ; La Borderie's account of, 84, 85 ; his grotto, 86 ; solicits Tryphine's hand for Omorre, 84, 87, 88 ; heals her, 91 ; canticle to, 92 ; miraculous ad* venture of, 92 ; dedicates Trypbine to God, 93 ; his death, 94.

Godelier, a brewer, 194.

Gold, cloth of, its value, Z84, 185.

Goldsmith of Gilles de Rais (Jean Petit), 185, 240, ^

Gondi (Rets), House of, 125, 336, 373.

Goueznou, St., 75.

Gough, Matthew, 15a

Gradlon or Grallon, of ComouaiUe, 65, 66, 6^. 71, 40a, 403.

Grandheu, lake of, 125^1 404.

Graville, Jean Malet. Sire de, z6o.

Griart, Henri, alias Henriet, Chamber- lain and reader to Gilles de Rais, 188. 248, 261-263, 266 et seg.t 270, 272, 979, 980, 284, 287, 290-290, 303, 30s


307' ^ ^^ 335. 349^ 3S«>. 355.

Gi£dkfis^Adent Gfisad), 5. Ou6nol^ (Owennole, Wingauens), St.

65, 402, 403. Guerech, alias Qaknk and Weroc,

legendary accounts of. 42 et seg., 47

<^ «^.. 53. 54- -See Weroc. Guem, Low, tale of, 55 et seg. Guesclin. See Du Giuadin. Guienne, Dukes of, 161. Guillauroet, Robin, notary, 325, 333.

335, 338. GuiUery, Captain, an outlaw, 257-25^ Guingamp, 45, 94, 1361 Guises, peerages of the, 162.

Hamelin, Ysabean, 310, 311.

Ham, St. 74.

Harwian, a bard, 73, 74.

Hautreys. G., 317, 319.

Hell, Princes of, as crows, 286.

Henriet. See Griart, Henri.

Henry IV. of England, 138.

Henry V. of England, 128, 129, 134*

138, 141, X48. Henry vL of England, 142. 150, 173,

354. HertMulilla, lost dty of, 404.

Hemin, St, 74.

Heroes and Monsters, myths of, so ei

seg, Herv6, St., 45. 46, 74, 9S Hire. E. de Vigooles, called La, 147,

149. 170-Z72. Holy Innocents. See Innocents. Hdpital. Pierre de I'. President of the

Breton Parliament, etc., 265, 331,

339. 344. 346. 353. 357-359. 363-36^

375- Horn, trial of Count de, 385.

Houat. isle ofr and St Gildas, 85, 86»

94. Household, military and ecclesiastical,

of Gilles de Rais. 181 et seg.

Huntsman, the WUd, 258, 393.

lAUN Reith of ComouaiUe, 66, 69, 75. Indictment of Gilles de Rais, 346 et seg, Ingrandes, lordship of, 118, ia6, 290,

225„ 227, 378, 38a Innocents, Foundation of the Holy,

iggetseg., 204. 302. Insanity as a plea in law, 385. 386. Interdict, royal, respecting the Rais

domains, 221 et seg. lona or Jonas of Domnonia, 69, 75. 76^

94. Isabeau of Bavaria, za8, 129.

[AMES I. of Scotland, 162. fargeau. reduction of, 158, 166, 38r. farville, Dame de. 961. fean IV., Duke of Brittany, 127, X30- ^ean V., Duke of Brittany, tries to oaitt Fhuioe, 199; coatendft with the


INDEX


413


Penthi&vres, 131 ; is kidnapped, 132 et seq. ; released, 136 ; Fewiards RaJs and Ciaon, x^, 137; prorogues the States, 138 ; bis mother, 138 ; recon- died to Charles VII., 144; makes war on the English, 14^; sues for peace, 147 ; submits to Ifenry VI., X50; his brothers' appanages, 178; appointed a trustee of Uie Holy Innocents, aoo, aox ; regards Rais as insane, aia ; his contentions with Alen9on, 2x5 ; influenced by Male- stroit, 919; negotiates for Uie pur- chase of Cbamptoc^, etc, aao, 224 ; his younger sons and their appanages, 222, 316; disregards Charles VIL's interdict. 233, 224 ; appoints Rais Lieutenant-Gcneiai of Bnttany, 224 ; their knightly brotherhood, 224 ; swears he will buy no domiains of Rais, 225 ; buvs Champtoc^ and In- grandes, 225 ; his deeds of defeasance, 926, 297 ; lends Rais men to recover Champtoc^. etc, 262 ; the castle de- livered to his officers, 267 ; his share in the St. £tienne aflair, 314 et seq. . 347* 349 > is reconciled to Rais, 320, 321, 327 ; authorises the prosecution of Rais, 330 ; is appealed to by the Lady of Rais, 340 ; orders civil pro- ceedings, 344 ; signs a treaty of alliance with England, Q53, 354 ; at the execution of Rais, 368 ; his death,

37S Jean sans Peur (John the Fearless),

Duke of Burgundy, 128, 130, 131.

Jeanne of Navarre, 138.

Jeanne, wife of Jean V. of Brittany,

134.

fohn XVI., Pope, 285.

[ohn XXII., Pope, 237.

[osselin, castle of, 271, 275, 322, 323.

[udwal of Domnonia, 69, 77, 81, 82, 89,

94. 96. 97. 98-

Katherins, Princess, of FVance, X29. Keryaltan murders Mdar, 78, 79. Keys, Bluebeard's, 381. Kidnappers of children, 273-278. King of the Assassins, a tale, 22 et seq. Korriganet fisuries, 40.

La Hne, La Motte Adiard. La Suze, Le Camus, Le Lude, L'Hdpital, etc. See Hire, Motte, Suze, Camus, Lude, H6pital, etc

Labbd, Captain Jean, 325, 333, 335,

357. Lagny, siege of, X73, 379.

l4imhalle, 136.

Langarrow, Lost, 404.

Langon, 404*

Langres, Bishops of, x6i ; dty of, 187.

Lanmeur, tomb of St. Melar at, 8a

Laon, Biibopt-Dukes of. x6x.

Lavid, Aiidr6 de Montfort de, Lord of


Loh^c, Admiral and Marshal, 1x5,

95s* 331. 340. 381. 383. 406. 407- Laval, Guy (firamor) de Montmorency

de, 1x4, 1x5, X28, 406. Laval,. Foulques de Montmorency de,

X14, 115, 116. 117, 384, 406. Laval, Guy XIV. de Montfort de, first

Count, 220-223, 235, 228, 331, 407. Laval, Houses of, 114, 115, 131, 138,

150. 331. 405 4^

Laval de Rais, Gilles de Montmorency de. See Rais.

Laval de Rais, Guy II., de Mont- morency de, X14-118, lao, 122, 123, 405, 406.

Laval de Rais, Jeanne de, daughter of Ren^ de La Suze, 115. 384.

Lawsuits respecting the Kais property,

, 375 ^'J^.

Layeul, Charles de, 222.

L^on, State of, 66, 69, 75.

Ltenc or Leonne, Charles du, 262, 263.

Leopard, the devil as a, 249.

Library of Gilles de Rais, 188. 206, 211,

264, 26c Loik and Maharit, tale of, 55 et seq. Loire, wine toll on the, 226. Lombards, 240. Lordships of Gilles de Rais. See

Domains. Lor6, Ambroise de, 147, 148, 149, X96. Louis III. of Sidly and Anjou, 145, 163,

200, 20X. Louviers, Rais at, X70 ^/ seq. Lude, Le, 149, 150. Lunaire, St., 76, 81, 82. Luxemburg, Duchess of, 296. Lyons, dty and canons of, 182, 187. Lys, Jean du, 296, 297 ; Pierre du, 296.

Machecoul, castle of, xao, 125, x8a, 185, 200, 228, 235, 255, 256, 259 ei seq., 269, 271, 27s, 277, 279, 281, 307 et seq., 317, 319, 325, 333-335. 340, 391 ; forest of, 257 et seq. ; House of, X14, 118, 1x9, 131, 323; town of, 222, 247, 256, 257, 275, 300, jfyj et seq.,

335. 391- Macliau of the Vannetais, 69, 88, 95,

96, 99, loa

Magic, Rais' books on, 238, 278, 991, 306, 307, 308.

Maharit and Guem, tale of, 55 etseq,

Maine, defence of, 147, 173.

Malestroit, Guillaume de, 338.

Malestroit, Jean de. Bishop of Nantes, Chancdlor of Brittany, an alleged traitor, 146, 150, 329 ; has trouble with Rais, 183 ; regards him as mad, 2X3, 213; kidnapped by A]en9on, 215 ; buys property of Rais, 218, 225 ; his character and policy, 2x9 ; a foe of Richemont, 220, 329 ; warned of Charles VI I. 's interdict, 222; will not publish it, 224 ; resolves to punish Rab for sacrilege, 397 ; inquires into


4H


BLUEBEARD


Us mlideedi. 398 «/ m^. / inldatet a

proMcatUm, 330 it seq. ; Ui dtatlon,

333 ; selects judges, 3^ ; at the trial

of Rais. 337, 338. 34a-344. 3Sa. 355.

357f 36a '^ ^' / in a baUad, 394,

395* Malioonie, castle of, 148.

Man, cariosity in, 15. x6.

Manichee, Rais a, 367, aSt, 285. 386,

355. 35^ Mans, Le, xjx, 149, 188, 298, 999, 338.

Marshals of France, 160, 174.

Martel, Charles, zoi.

Martin, Perrine. Su Meffraye, La.

Martin. St., of Vertou, 404.

Mass, Black, 301, 303, 350.

Mauldon, lean, s88.

M^chinot, Henri, advocate of Gilles de

Rais. 363. 364- Medici, Niccolo de', 283.

Meffiuye, La, 903, 276, 277. 355. 37i- Melar of Comouaille, afterwards St.,

60,77.8a Meliau of Comouaille, 69, 77. Melusina and Raimondin, tale, 16, 17. Menez Br6, Comorre cursed from the,

45. 46. 94. 95- Merder, Jean, 305.

M6rici, Guillaume, Grand Inquisitor,

338. Merlin, traditions of, in Brittany, 39. Mibn, Duke of, 167. Miliguet the ferryman, tale of, 55 et

stq. See Comorre. Mondovi, 283, 309. Monsters and heroes, myths of, xo et

seq, Montafilant, castle of, 80, 81. MonUigu. 142, 293, 307. Montargis, relief of, 147. Monte Catini, 384. Montfort, House of, 130, 131. 331, 406,

407. Montjean, Btetrix de, 137. Montlucon, Rais at, 195. Montmoreau, 195. Montmorency, House of. 1x4, 115, 178,

405. 406 ; Baron of, X63. 5^« Laval. Monument, expiatory, of Rais, 366, 382,

383. Mortagne. 275, 305, 307. Motte Achard, castle of La, X26, X36,

217, 232, 226. Musse, Jean de la, xi6. Mysteries, theatrical, 189 et seq. ; of the

Holy Passion. 189 ; of Orleans, 158.

19X et seq. ; of the Resurrection, 190 ;

of Ste. Barbe. X90 ; of Ste. Tryphine

and King Arthur, xo6. Mythology, solar and other, 8 et seq. Myths of heroes and monsters, 10 etseq.

Nantks, X32. 136, xso, x86, 27s, 276,

278. 305. 336 *t seq., 366-369, 382. Napoleon as a myth, xx. Nasada or Nazado, lost dty of, 404.


Navarre. Jeanne de, wife of Henry IV.,

138. Nfcodtaie, chapel of St, 87. Nobles, French, and the laws, 387, 388. Normandy, DuIcm of, x6x. Nojron, E^ops-Counts of, x6t.

Oil, Holy, x6o, i6x.

Oltrogotha, in tale of Comorre, 49 et

seq. Oratory of St GiMas, 86. Oratory, Lady's, at Machecoul, 259, 360,

391- Organs, portable, of Gilles de Rais, 185,

Oneans, Bastard of. See Dunois.

Orleans, city of, siege and relief, X5X-X58, 379 ; hostelries of, 193, X94 ; FUris at, X93 et seq.t 408 ; alluded to, 221, 999.

Orleans, I>uchv-peerage of, X62.

Orleans, fislse Maid of, X74, 996 et seq.

Orleans, Mystery of, X58, X91-X99.

Orphreys, Paris, vnhie of, X85.

Palkrka, Antonio di, chanter and

necromancer, 940, 250, 350. Palluau, 3x5, 3x6. Paris, xa9 ; Archbisbop of, x6i, X63-X66,

2tt>.

Paruament of Brittany, 137, X39, 220,

^afS. 353. 37^^ ^

Parliament of Paris, x69, 22X, 34X, 349,

375-379, Parthenay, Jean de, xx6 ; Marie de, Z14,

xx6. Passoir, Le, lost dty, 404. Patay, battle of, 159, 381. Patient Grissel, 4, 5. Peau d'Ane, 5. Peers of France, 161, 162. Penthi&vre, House of, i30-X39. See

Blois, Charles, Jean, etc. Perrault, brothers, 2 et seq. Perrault, Charles, his career and writ- ings, I et seq.; his fairy tales, 2, 5 e/

seq. , 24, 2& See Bluebeard. Perrault d'Armanoour, 7. Perrota, La, 288, 280, 290. Petit, Jean, goldsmith to Rais, X85, 240,

306. Peynel, Foulques. Sire de Hamboie,

136 ; Jeanne. ia6. Philippe le Bon (Philip the Good), Duke

of Burgundy, X30, X43, X45, 15X, XS3,

X64, x66, 187. Pierre H., Duke of Brittany, 322, 38X. Pl^ur, ballad of, 394. Poher, 73.

Poitiers, 155. 182, X84, 239, 240. Poitou, province of, 2x6. 244, 297, 305,

31C ; nickname of Rials' page and

vaiet, see Corillaut. Pons. Jacques, Sire de, 244. Pomic, X2S, 275. Port Launay, 975, 976. Ponaxio^, 9X5, ^5. 310.


INDEX


415


POQ CwStt 73f 77*

Poaldn, Bertrand, 3x7, 3x8, 335, 349.

Poolpiquet dwarfs, 4a

Pouzauges, lordship and castle of, 137,

x86, 222, 23s, 236, 263, 340, 373. Ptaguerie rebellion, 2x6^ 244, 245, 297,

315. 375- Present, Jean, Bishop of St Brieuc, 338,

_357. 358. 359.

Prelad, Francesco, dene and necro- mancer, 240, 282-305, 309 </ M^., 3x5,

322-324. 335. 349. 350. 355. 35^. 359.

371- Pmsina and EUias, tale of, x6.

Prigntf, 125.

Prin9ay, 125. 274.

Princes of Hell as crows, 286.

Proceedings, Civil or Secular, against

Gilles de Rais, 331. 344-349. 362-366 ;

Ecclesiastical, 328, 330, 332. 333. 337.

^338. 342-344. 349*357. 359-3^- PHunmeticus, 25. Punchkin, tale of, 20, 2X. Pussoir, Le, lost dty, 404.

Qu^N^AN, forest of, 38 et seq., 90. Quimper, 402, 403. Qninipily, idol of, 86.

Raimondin and Mdusina, tale, x6, 17.

Rainefort, castle of, 148.

Rais, armorial bearings of, xx8, 405, 406.

Rais. barony of, 124, 125, X34, 14a, 2x5, 222, 225, 315, 384.

Rais, Gilles de Montmorency de Laval de. Marshal of France, etc., as Blue- beard, 32 et seg., 204, 345, 346, 388- 398 ; genealogy of, xi3-x2X ; birth and education, X20, X22; lax rearing of, ia2-x24; lordships, estates, residences and revenues of, X24-i26, 177 etstq,, 180, 186, 209, 217, 2x8, 377 et sea, ; successive betrothals of, 126, 127, 389 ; embraces the career of arms, 128, 135, 136, X38 ; at the States-General, X34 ; rewarded bv Jean V., X36, 137; marries Katherine of Thouars, 137, X38, X89 ; her domains, 137 ; leads a life of dissipation, X39 ; corrupted by his servants, X40 ; at the French court, 144. X45 ; serves under Richemont at St. James de Beuvron, X45 ; defends Maine, 147 ; at Rainefort and Mali- come, X48 ; at Ambriires, Le Lude, Le Mans, 149, X50 ; refuses the oath to England, X50 ; serves with Joan of Arc, X54 et seg. ; protects her, 155 ; hdps to relieve Orleans, x55-x^8, lox ei seg., ^79; his covenant vnth La Tr^mouille, 156, 157 ; suoooors Joan, 158 ; hdps to reduce Jargeao, x^8 ; rewarded, 158 ; guarantees Ricbe- mont'i fidelity, 159; at Beaugenqr and Patay, 150 ; goes to Rdms, 160 ; nade Marihai of Fkmxioa^ 160, 1741


175 ; escorts the Holy Oil, 160, x6i ; created Count of Brienne, x6a; at Baron, Senlis, and St. Denis, X63, 164 ; at the attempt on Paris, X64, 165 ; grant of the royal arms to, 166, X67; his position in history, x68 ei seq, : birth of his daughter, X70 ; his expedition to Louviers, xyo et seq.; his signature, 172, 2<2 ; at Beauvais, Lagny. Sill^, and Sabl^, 173 : goes to Brittany. 173 ; at Conlie, 174 ; his connection with the False Maid, 174, 296 ^seq. : his military expenses, X75, X78, X79 ; his furnishings, X78 ; his grants from Charles VII., 178, x8o; his income. 180 ; his vanity and pro- digality, x8i et seq. ; his military and ecclesiastical households, x8x et seq, ; his canons and chanters, 182, 183, 184, X87. 408 ; his goldsmith, 185 ; his portable organs. 185, 339 ; keeps open house, 185, 186; his mansion at Nantes. 186, 220. 27X, 277, 278, 3x3 ; his journeys to Lyons and Langres, X87; his library, 188, ao6, 211,264, 265 ; his passion for the stage, 188 et seq. : his connection with the Mjrstery of Orleans, 158, 191 et seq. ; at Orleans, 193, 194 ; his favourite horse, X94, 906; at Montluoon and Mont- moreau, 195 ; his great outlay, 195 ; his banner, 196 ; his foundation of the Holy Innocents. X99 et seq., 204, 302 ; his anxiety for his soul, 200, 355, 356 ; glimpses of his crimes, 203, 224, ^, 229, 245, 253; separated from his wife, 904, 340 ; his religious ddusions, 267, 281, 285. 286, 355, 356; his financial embarrassment, 205-207, aio et uq»: extravagance, 208 et seq.: parasites, 209. 212, 213 ; (riedges many valuables, 2x1 ; accounted in- sane, 2x2, 385-387; concerned per- haps in the kicmapping of Malestroit, 2x6 ; sells many domains, 2x7, ax8 ; prohibited from doing so, 22X et seq. : becomes Lieutenant-General of Brit- tany, 224 ; his knightly brotherhood with Jean V. , 224 ; sells Champtoc^, Ingnuides, etc., to Jean V. , 225-227 ; accepts a deed of defeasance, 227 ; alarmed l>y the seizure of Machecoul and Champtoc^, 928, 255 ; his castle of Tifibuges. 230 et seq. ; his connec- tion with Pouzauges, 236; piactises alchemy, 236 et seq. ; rnds books on alchemy and magic. 238, 991 ; his adventure with a goldsmith, 239 ; his diief alchemists, 240 ; gifts asked by him of alchemy and magic. 242, 243, 253 ; visited b^ the Dauphin, 243 ; takes no part m La Fraguerie, 944, 945 ; practises magic, 945 et seq. ; triM to raise the devil, 947, 951. 959, 989 et Mq, ; signs compacts with the ^f^ 347, 952, 253; witches refuse


4i6


BLUEBEARD


to help him* 250; his devil-imitefs, 250 ; one of them beaten by the devil, 251 ; facsimile of bis signature, 252 ; as la bite humaine, 253, 254, 303 ; his offerings to the devil/ 253, 270, 303, J04 ; destroys evidence of crime at Machecoul, 256, 260, 261 ; recovers Machecoul and Cbamptoc^, 262, 263 ; corrupted by reading Suetonius, 265 ; removes corpses from Champtoo6, 266 ei stq.; bums victims in his room, 269, 270; his cruelty to them, 270, 280; their number. 271, 275, 347; his impunity, 271-273 ; is suspected, »74. 279. 305. 306; his kidnappers, 275 €t seq, ; has a boy roasted, 278 ; writes incantations and books with blood, 278, 306-308; stages of his criminal career, 280 ; his vows of re- pentance, 281, 303 ; secures Prelati*s services, 283, 287 et seq,; visits Charles VII. at Bourges, 299 ; has a talisman from the devil, 300 ; does penance to him, 301 ; the Buick Mass, 30it 302, 350 ; torn by remorse, 303 ; relapses into wickedness, 303, 305 ; his last efforts to raise money, 3x3 ; sells St. ^tienne de Mer Morte, 314 ; quarrels with the Perrons, , 3x5. 316 ; commits sacrilege, 317, 318, 32iS; re- volts against Jean VT, 3x9 ; surreniders his prisoners, 320 ; is reconciled to the Duke, 320, 321,327 ; visits Vannes and Josselin, 321, 322, 323 ; his last crimes, 322-324 ; is arrested, 325, 333 et seq. ; inquiries into his crimes, 328 et seq. ; imprisoned at Nantes, 336 et seq. ; proceedings against, 337, 342 et seq. ; efforts to save, 339-342 ; his appeals, 341, 343, 353; appears in white raiment before L'Hdpital. 334, 335 ; his appearance, traditionally,

  • ^« 345. 346: indictments of, 346-

352 ; resists the ecclesiastical court and is excommunicated, 352-355; submits to the jurisdiction, 354. 355 ; accepts the evidence, 356 ; ordered to be tortured, 357 ; confesses, 357-3^3 I restored to the Church, 363; sen- tenced. 362, 364 et seq. ; executed, 366-368 ; expiatory monument of, 366, 382, 383 ; obsequies of, 369 ; alleged insanity of, 385-387 ; as a bc^ie, 388 ; Montfaucon and Versailles portraits of, 405-407 ; his armorial bearings and battle-cry, 405, 406 ; Jean Chartler and, 407, 408.

Rais, Guy II. de Montmorency de Laval de, IX4-X18, X20, 122, 123,405. 4.06.

Rais. House of, X14. xx6, 1x7, 131,

374- Rais. Jeanne la Folic (Crazy Jane) de,

1X4-X17, 406. Rais, Jeanne la Sage (Sensible Jane) de,

X 15-120, 405.


Rais, Marie de, dangfater of GiDes, Marshal, 1x5, 170, 200, 204* 223. 235,

341. 366, 371, 373-383-

Rais, Ren^ de, brother of Gilles, Mar- shal See Suze.

Recouin, Jean de, notary. 199, 206, 408.

Redbeard, tale of, xo8.

Reims, march on, x6o; coronatioo at, x6o et seq. / Bishops- Ehikes of, 161.

Remi, abbey of St, x6o.

Ren^ of Sicily and Anjou, 225, 379).

Rennes, 275.

Retainers, various, of Gilles de Rais, 181 et seq. ; X93 et seq,

Retz. duchy of. X25 ; Gondis of, 336.

373. 384. 385. Rhodope. fable of, 25.

Rhuys, abbey of, 86, 94.

Richemont. Artus, Count of, CoostaUe

of France, 134, 138, X43. X44. 146,

X47. X5X, 157, X59. 160, X72, X73, 214,

220. 221, 223, 246, 319-32X, 327, 329,

342. Richemont signifying earldom of

Richmond, 223. Rieux, Pierre de. Marshal, Lord of

Rochefort, X38. X69, 170. Riothamus. 63. Riquet with the Tuft. 5. 24. Rivanone, mother of St. Herv^ 73, 74. Riviere, Jean de la. alchemist slikI

necromancer, 240, 247-249. Riviere, Robert de la, 357. Rivod, regent of Comouaille, 69, 77-

79. Riwal of Domnonia, 66. 69, 75.

Roche Bernard, La, 275.

Rochefort. Marshal de. See Rieux.

Rochefoucauld. Guy de La. 244.

Roche Guyon. Sire de la. 217. 226.

Roche-sur-Blavet. oratory of La, 86 et

seq,, 105. Roche-sur-Von. La. 305. Rodigo of Gu^rande, 323. Rohan. Alain VIII. de, 127; Alain IX.

de. X26. 134, X35. 139. 150 ; Beatrix

de. 126, 127. Romans, the. in Armorica, 62 et seq, Romulart, Robin, 261, 266, 267, 305,

350- Rondeau of St Michael and the Maid,

X98.

Rondeau, Perrine, 3ii-3X3, 335.

Rooms, forbidden, x6 et seq,

Rossignol, Jean, chanter, 182, X84, 269,

350- Rouen, 171 -173.

Rousseau. Jean, Sergeant-General, 3x7- 319. 348. 349-

Sabl^. 173.

Saint Bieuzy, 86.

Saint Brieuc. See Prdgent

Saint Cloud, Archbishop Duke of, i6x.

Saint CvT-en-Rais, 275.

Saiot Etiemie de Mer Morte or Male-


INDEX


417


mort, 125, 306, 307, 3x4-331. 328, 347,

349.351. Saint Etienne de Montluc» 276. Saint Florent le Vieil. 287. Saint GUdas. Su Gildas. Saint Gu^nol^ (Gwennole), 65, 402, 403. Saint Harn, 74. Saint Hemin, 74. Saint Herv6, 45, 46, 74, 95. Saint Hilaire de Poitiers, 182, 184. Saint James de Beuvron, attack on, 145,

146. Saint Jean d'Angely, 278, 279. Saint Lunaire, j6. 81, 82. Saint Martin of Vertou, 404. Saint Melar, 69, 77-8a Saint Michael and the Maid, rondeau,

198. Saint Nicod^me, 87. Saint Nicolas de Bieuzy, chapel, 105

ei sea. Saint Kemy, abbey of, 160. Saint Samson of Dol, 49, 96, 97. Saint Trcmeur, Tremor^ or Trever, 93. Saint Vezian and the Chansons de Geste,

lOI.

Saint Wingalseus. See Gu6nol^. Sainte Ampoule, 160, 161. Sainte Tryphine. See Tryphine. Saintonge, peerage of, 161 ; province of,

216, 278. Saktivega, tale of, 18. Salisbury, Earl of, 143. 151. Samson, Bishop of Dol, 49, 96, 97. Saumur, 144. 145. Saxons in Armorica, 62, 63. Scales, Lord, 150, 215. Scythians, Teffalian, 231, 232. Seissy. forest of, legend, 404. Senlis, 163, 164. Seven wives of Bluebeard. 19, 20, 108,

109, 391, 393. S^v^rac, Amaury, Marshal de, 143. Signature of Gilles de Rais, facsimile,

252. Sille, Gilles de, cousin and accomplice

of Gilles de Rais, 173, 193, 209, 240,

250, 251, 260-262, 266, 269, 274, 284,

^.jp8. 317. 333» 350. Sille, Michel de, 173, 274.

Sill^le-GuiUaume, 173.

SUvester II., Pope, 285.

Siquenville, Jean de. 174, 297, 298,

SkulC Bluebeard's, 391. Sleeping Beauty, the. 5, 24, 25. Somerset, Earl of, 354. Sorcl, Agnes, 144, ^5. Soahaits ridicules, Les, 5. Spading, a Scotch knight, 274, 350. Stage, passion of Rais for the, 188 et seq. Stuart, J., Lord Damley, 143. Suetonius read by Rais, 265. Suffolk, Earl of, 143, 147. x c8. Sulim, Roman station of, 86. SuIly-sur-Loire, 166.


Suze, castle and lordship of La, in

Maine, 114, 147. Suze, mansion of La, at Nantes, 126,

186, 220, 271, 277, 278, 313. Suze, Ren^ de La, brother of Gilles de

Rais, 114, 115, 120, 123, 124, 147.

193, 214. 221, 223, 225, 228, 255,262.

263, 266, 273. 383, 384. Sword, Bluebeard's, 270, 391.

Talbot, John, Earl of Shrewsbury, 149,

ISO* 159. 388.

Tefralian Scythians, 231, 232.

Theodoric of Comouaille. 100.

Thouars, Katherine de, wife of Gilles de Rais, 115, 137, 138, 189,200. 204. 214, 221, 230, 235, 236, 339 et seq., 373.

Thouars, Miles de, 137 ; viscounty of, 216, 232.

Tiffauges, barony and castle of, 137, 182, 186, 187, 222, 230 ei seq., 240, 243, 244, 262, 263, 271. 275, 287. a88, 290, 293 et seq., 298, 299, 305, 317,

^319. 373. 392.393.

Toll, wine, on the Loire, 226.

Torfou, 231.

Toulongeon, J. de, 143.

Toulouse, Counts of, 161.

Tourelles, assault of Les, 158, 196.

Tournemine family, 81, 384 ; Jean de, 123.

Tours, 155, 222.

Touscheronde, Jean de, 344, 357.

Tremeur or Tremor^, St. , 93.

Tr^mouille, George de La, 151, 152, 156. 157, 159, 163, 166, 168, 171, 173, 175. 179. 2x6, 218, 225, 244, 3x5.

Trever, St. , 93.

Tryphine, Sie., legendary accounts of, 42 et seq. , 47 et seq., 9X ; parentage, etc.. 69; her hand solicited by Comorre, 83. 84, 87 ; marries him, 88 ; flees from him. 89 ; is pursued and struck down, 89, 90 ; healed by Gildas, 91 ; founds and enters a con- vent, 93 ; her son Trever. 93 ; chapels and churches dedicated to, 89, 105 tt seq. ; mystery of King Arthur and, 106.

Twelve wives of Bluebeard, 19. 20.

Ulrich of Wurtemberg, 297. Ultragotha. Queen, 49, 96, 97.

Valois. Gilles de. priest, 307, 308. Vannes. 42, 44, 66, 67, 87, 90, 91, 96,

99, 27X, 275, 321, 32X Vannetais or Browerech, 69, 83, 84, 88,

93. 95. 96. 100. Vendue, version of Bluebeard current in

La. 27 et seq. Vemeuil, battle of, 143. Verri^res or La Verri^re, castle of, 126,

. 390,391.

Vezian, St , and the Chansons de Geste,

lOI.



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