The Story of Gilles de Rais in Non-Academic-Speak

The Story of Gilles de Rais in Non-Academic-Speak

By: Alexis Fabricius

So, I’m a nerd. This is a long-established and well-known fact.

So are you; that’s why you’re reading this blog.

Now that we’re best friends, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty – what kind of nerd am I? Good question. I’m a multi-layered nerd, and I am well-known among my circle of friends for having bizarre quirky interests and hobbies.  Indeed, my natural gravitation towards all things unusual extended to my time in graduate school, where I found myself writing papers on the symbolism of medieval torture; the methods women used to commit acts of violence and carry out murders in the Frankish kingdom; how medieval prank books also sometimes contain cool magic spells, and a medieval serial killer/child rapist/necromancer who was best friends with Joan of Arc. 

And that brings us to the topic of today’s topic, kids: Gilles de Rais.


The Story of Gilles de Rais in Non-Academic-Speak

Now, GdR (not to be confused with GnR) was actually a pretty interesting character who livedGDR3 in France in the 15th c. He was born into a fairly wealthy family, though his parents died when he was quite young, leaving him to be raised by his grandfather. His grandfather, from what I can gather, was a few kopeks shy of a ruble, and encouraged GdR to do whatever he wanted, and to take whatever he wanted. Naturally, repeatedly teaching a young, spoiled, rich kid that lesson could only yield a solid, functioning and well-adjusted adult.  To everyone’s shock, GdR started getting a bit weird as he got older, and shunned relationships with women. Even when he was married (to the woman that he and his grandfather kidnapped), he refused to have anything to do with her. So, in order to get his family off his back and avoid having to father a child with his wife, he joined the military. (The military: getting closeted serial killers out of having sex with their wives since the 15th c.)


GdR gained the favour of the king and all of his rich buddies at court while he was serving in the army; it’s also where he met and became friends with Joan of Arc. Interestingly, some historians point to her execution as the beginning point of GdR’s killings; they claim that her death was so emotionally scarring that this is what drove him over the edge. But, that’s neither here nor there at this juncture in the story.

After JoA died and his stint in the military ended, GdR became obsessed with the theatre, and was known throughout France for putting on insanely lavish plays, and when I say “insanely lavish”, I mean on a ridiculously, insanely, lavishly unreal level. He spent so much money on these stupid plays that he wrote and starred in himself, that he blew through his fortune (who some claim rivaled the King of France’s!).

Now, this is where things get grisly. GdR became pretty interested in luring young children (mostly boys) to any of his many castles, where he would rape and kill them, hiding their corpses throughout his property (in wells, mostly. I always wondered what that did to the quality of his drinking water…). After a while, he decided to hire a necromancer to invoke a demon, and con the demon into giving him back the fortune that he blew on all those stupid plays. It’s at this juncture that I’d like to point out that the best plan he could come up with was to hire a stranger to trick a demon into giving him back his money. *slow clap* He hired a young man named Francois Prelati to take care of that for him, while his voracious appetite for sodomy and murder continued to grow. Some historians estimate that he killed anywhere from around two hundred to as many as around seven hundred children.  Seven.  Hundred.  

Anyway, the townspeople began to grow suspicious, though no one really questioned him until he decided to storm a church and kidnap a priest.  Even still, he was only slapped on the wrist and fined. However, being the rational and clear-headed individual that he was, GdR failed to pay this fine, and the Constable of France (who had always suspected GdR of murdering children), decided to arrest him and the Duke of Brittany seized his properties. Gilles and his accomplices were brought to court in September 1440, and executed the next month.


Now, why do I bring up this story? Why is this at all pertinent to Have You Nerd? This blog is a place for nerds of all kinds to wave their geek flag and to share their interests with other likeminded individuals and cool kids. I have a sincere love for history, but I especially love the macabre and quirky bits. People have a habit of doing weird things, and fortunately for us, they were documented well before we had social media (on a side note, I would so follow any medieval person if they were brought back to life now and given a Twitter account. “Wherefore are these people so enamoured with that blasted grumpy cat? #confused #Tard #21stcenturyblows”). I celebrate nerdiness in all its glory, and encourage my fellow nerds to get out there and read about something weird and quirky that you wouldn’t normally read about– you might will learn some really cool stuff that you can bring up at parties, which you can then use to pick up girls/boys (or both, if it’s a particularly good party).

Stay cool, kids.

About the Author: Alexis Fabricius graduated from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto with an MA in Medieval history (focus on Medieval magic, heresy, necromancy and the history of Satan). She works as a small business consultant within the fitness industry, helping to improve martial arts studios and small gyms by assessing their business practices, identifying what they are struggling with, and showing them how to improve things so that business owners can have a more financially viable club. Alexis holds black belts in karate and kung-fu, and with almost twenty years of experience, she is opening Toronto’s first women’s self defense company, Invicta Self-Defense ( She also teaches kickboxing and ju-jitsu privately, as well as Zumba.