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Title: Blue-beard - A Contribution to History and Folk-lore
Author: Wilson, Thomas
Language: English
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[Illustration: Château (Castle) of Nantes, where Gilles was
tried.--From the river Loire.]



  BLUE-BEARD

  A CONTRIBUTION TO HISTORY AND
  FOLK-LORE

  BEING THE HISTORY OF GILLES DE RETZ OF BRITTANY,
  FRANCE, WHO WAS EXECUTED AT NANTES IN 1440 A.D.
  AND WHO WAS THE ORIGINAL OF BLUE-BEARD IN THE
  TALES OF MOTHER GOOSE

  BY
  THOMAS WILSON, LL.D.

  CURATOR, DIVISION OF PREHISTORIC ARCHÆOLOGY, U.S. NATIONAL MUSEUM
  COUNSELLOR OF THE BAR OF THE SUPREME COURTS, COURT OF
  CLAIMS AND OF APPEALS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

  FORMERLY U.S. CONSUL AT GHENT, BELGIUM; AT NANTES AND NICE, FRANCE


  _ILLUSTRATED_


  G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
  NEW YORK & LONDON
  The Knickerbocker Press
  1899



  COPYRIGHT, 1899
  BY
  THOMAS WILSON

  Entered at Stationers’ Hall, London

  The Knickerbocker Press, New York



  TO
  MY DEAR WIFE
  THE COMPANION OF MY TRAVELS
  WHILE THE MATERIAL FOR THIS VOLUME WAS GATHERED
  THE PARTNER OF MY MANY JOYS
  THE SHARER OF MY FEW SORROWS
  THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED

                        T. W.



[Illustration]

CONTENTS

                                                                    PAGE
  INTRODUCTION                                                        ix


  CHAPTER I

  GILLES DE RETZ. 1404–1420

  His Name, Family, Marriage, and Education                            1


  CHAPTER II

  GILLES AS A SOLDIER. 1420–1429

  First for John V., Duke of Brittany, against the House of
      Blois. He Joins the Army of France and is Assigned to
      Duty with Joan of Arc. Crowning of the King, and Gilles
      made Marshal of France                                           9


  CHAPTER III

  GILLES’S LIFE AT HOME IN BRITTANY 1430–1439

  The Personal Appearance of Gilles de Retz. An Epitome of his
      Life. His Extravagance and Ruinous Expenditures. His
      Inheritance. His Sales and Transfers of Property. His
      Love for the Theatre. Mysteries. That of the Siege of
      Orleans. Mysteries at Nantes. The Cathedral. Expensive
      Visit to Orleans. Maison de la Suze. The Decree of the
      King Interdicting his Sale or Incumbrance of Property. An
      Increasing Demand for Money Drives him to Magic in Search
      for the Philosopher’s Stone and the Transmutation of Base
      Metals into Gold. Magic                                         24


  CHAPTER IV

  GILLES’S CRIMES

  Gilles’s Abduction of Children. His Familiars. Château de
      Tiffauges. First Process against Gilles. Warrant. Arrest
      and Imprisonment. Château de Nantes                             64


  CHAPTER V

  GILLES’S TRIAL BEFORE THE ECCLESIASTICAL TRIBUNAL

  The Ecclesiastical Tribunal. Record in the Archives of
      Loire-Inférieure. The Trial. His Confession. Judgment and
      Sentence                                                        93


  CHAPTER VI

  THE TRIAL BEFORE THE CIVIL COURT

  Trial before the Civil Court. Depositions. Conviction and
      Sentence                                                       167


  CHAPTER VII

  THE EXECUTION                                                      177


  APPENDIX A

  MOTHER GOOSE PUBLICATIONS                                          183


  APPENDIX B

  BLUEBEARD STORIES                                                  186


  APPENDIX C

  MYSTERY OF THE SIEGE OF ORLEANS                                    189


  APPENDIX D

  DEPOSITIONS IN CIVIL COURT AGAINST GILLES                          195



[Illustration]

ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                                    PAGE
  CHÂTEAU (CASTLE) OF NANTES, WHERE GILLES WAS TRIED.--FROM THE
      RIVER LOIRE                                         _Frontispiece_

  GILLE’S SIGNATURE AND RUBRIC                                        22

  A STREET IN NANTES--ANCIENT HOUSES                                  47

  FACSIMILE OF FOLIO PAGE FROM ARCHIVES OF TRIAL AT NANTES.
      CONFESSION OF GILLE DE RETZ                                    138

  GROTTO OF BONNE VIERGE DE CRÉÉ-LAIT. EXPIATORY ALTAR OF
      GILLES ERECTED BY HIS DAUGHTER                                 179



[Illustration]

INTRODUCTION


The story of Bluebeard has become a classic in infantile mythical
(folk-lore) literature wherever the English and French languages are
spoken. Rev. Dr. Shahan suggests its possible existence in earlier
languages and more distant countries (see p. xiv.). The story is more
or less mythical. While it does not follow history with any pretence of
fidelity, it has come to be recognised by the historians and literati
of France as representing the life of Gilles de Retz (or Rais), a
soldier of Brittany in the first half of the fifteenth century. He was
of noble birth, was possessed of much riches, was the lord of many
manors, had a certain genius and ability, made some reputation as a
soldier at an extremely early age, fought with Joan of Arc, and was
Marshal of France. At the close of these wars he retired to his estates
in Brittany, and, in connection with an Italian magician, he entered
upon a search for the Elixir of Youth and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Together they became possessed by the idea that the foundation of this
elixir should be the blood of infants or maidens, and, using the almost
unbridled power incident to a great man (at that early date) in that
wild country, they abducted many maidens and children, who were carried
to some one of his castles and slain. Suspicion was finally directed
toward him; he was arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and
executed at the city of Nantes, October 27, 1440, at the early age of
thirty-six years.

The author of this volume was sent, in 1882, to the good city of Nantes
as United States Consul. While resident there he entered upon the
investigation which resulted in this volume. He obtained access to the
original records of the trial in the archives of the department, and
made a photographic copy of one of its manuscript Latin pages which is
shown in its proper place. The trial of Gilles de Retz took place in
the château of Nantes, sentence was pronounced at the Place Bouffay,
and he was executed on the Prairie de la Madeleine, the exact locality
being now occupied by the Hospital of St. Anne. The author procured
photographs and drawings of some of these localities, which will appear
in this volume.

       *       *       *       *       *

Monsieur Charles Perrault was the author of the story of
_Bluebeard_. He was born at Paris, January 12, 1628. His father was
an advocate, originally from Tours. He was the youngest of four
brothers: the oldest, Peter, was destined for the Bar, but became
the Receiver-General of Finances under Louis XIV. and his Prime
Minister Colbert, though he afterwards fell out of favour and died
in poverty; Claude studied medicine; and Nicholas, theology. Charles
was taken up by Colbert and made Superintendent of Public Buildings
throughout the kingdom. While in this position, the erection of the
Observatory and the reconstruction and completion of the Palais du
Louvre were determined upon. Plans for these buildings were to be
decided by competition, and the renown of the name of Perrault is
greatly increased by the fact that Charles’s brother Claude, although
educated as a doctor of medicine and not as an architect, designed
plans which, after much discussion and investigation, extending even
to Rome, were finally adopted by the King and his Minister. Charles
Perrault became a member of the Academy--one of the “Immortal Forty.”
He introduced many improvements into their methods, the principal of
which was for securing the attendance of members, and a continuance of,
and devotion to, the work of preparing the great French Dictionary.
An episode in his life, covering several years, was his poem of _Le
Siècle de Louis le Grand_ and the parallel between the ancients and
moderns, which produced a discussion among the most brilliant writers
of France. Boileau, Racine, La Fontaine, Longpierre, Buet, Arnauld, and
other illustrious champions took up the cudgels against Perrault and
Fontanelle, and in favour of the ancient classic heroes.

In 1662, Perrault retired from his office in the Public Buildings,
selling his right therein to Monsieur de Blainville, a son-in-law
of Colbert. Until his death, May, 16, 1703, he devoted himself to
literature and to the education of his children, and this was probably
the happiest portion of his life, for he loved to be in the bosom of
his family. He wrote for the amusement of his children that which has
now become the most celebrated of his writings, which has done more to
perpetuate his name and fame, and by which he is better known than by
the more pretentious and serious papers and poems,--the _Contes de Mère
l’Oye_ (Stories of Mother Goose). The first edition was published in
1697 under the name of his son, Perrault d’Armancourt, and dedicated
to Mademoiselle Elizabeth Charlotte d’Orléans, the sister of the Duke
of Chartres and the niece of Louis XIV. These Mother Goose stories
were as follows: _Little Red Riding-Hood_, _The Fairies_, _Bluebeard_,
_The Sleeping Beauty_, _Puss in Boots_, _Cinderella_, _Requet à la
Houppe_, to which _Le Petit Poucet_, _The Adroit Princess_, and _The
Ass’s Skin_ were afterwards added. There were still others in verse and
fable translated. Perrault was more poet than prose writer--his serious
works were in poetry: _Painting_, _The Apology for Women_, _The Century
of Louis the Grand_, _Genius_ (to Fontanelle), and _A Portrait of the
Voice of Iris_. We, however, are interested alone in _Bluebeard_.[1]

    [1] See Appendix A.

Studious historians or astute critics may dispute Perrault’s history
of Bluebeard having been founded upon the life of Gilles de Retz, but
the country people (the folk) of Brittany will simply smile at such
erudition and continue in their former belief that Bluebeard represents
a cruel, wicked man who lived here hundreds of years ago and who was
executed for his many crimes against humanity; and the old men and
women and the nurses will repeat the story of Gilles de Retz under
the name of Bluebeard,--sometimes how he abducted and murdered the
children, and other times how he murdered his wives. In that country
Gilles de Retz will always be known as Bluebeard, and we must accept
their verdict as final.[2]

Rev. Dr. Shahan writes:

    DEAR PROFESSOR WILSON:

    I have looked through your interesting work with the greatest
    pleasure. It is just such a tale as I would delight in tracing
    through its strange genesis and stranger propaganda....

    I wonder if the actual facts were not soon plaited back into
    ancient nursery tales of a kindred tone, and a fresh lease of
    life thus given to mythical narratives that would otherwise not
    have had strength enough to perpetuate themselves to our time,
    at least in such intensity and vitality.

    I would suggest as complete a literature of the _Bluebeard_
    subject as possible[2] and think perhaps it would be well to
    see what roots it had struck in German, Spanish, and Welsh
    soil,--fields always susceptible at that time to anything odd
    or romantic.

    When I was a child how often I cried with Sister Anne on the
    high tower, and looked for the three specks out on the ocean
    “no bigger than the head of a pin.” Thank God! their steeds
    always breasted the flood bravely and _arrived in time to save
    injured innocence_. Is not that the true origin of _Bluebeard_,
    in an age of chivalrous ideal, of strict theologico-popular
    views of justice and of feudal individualism?

    The box of Pandora and the key of Bluebeard may have some
    relationship--CURIOSITY, irrepressible though dangerous,
    is its keynote, and I wonder if it does not all come from
    India, like those mediæval tales that Gaston Paris tells
    about, or if it is not an old Gaelic myth, like that of
    _Balor-of-the-Mighty-Blows_ so well translated by Standish
    O’Grady in his _Silva Gadelica_....

                        Yours very truly,
                                   (Signed)  THOMAS J. SHAHAN.

    [2] See Appendix B.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

BLUEBEARD



CHAPTER I

GILLES DE RETZ

_His Name, Family, Marriage, and Education_


The original of Bluebeard in the Mother Goose story was Gilles de Rais
(changed in 1581 to Retz), though he is sometimes called _Gilles de
Laval_ in history. Neither the date nor place of his birth is known
with precision, but it took place in the autumn of 1404, probably at
Machecoul, one of the family châteaux in the southern part of Brittany.

The ancestors of Gilles de Retz belonged to four noble and illustrious
families in Brittany: 1. Laval, sometimes called Montmorency-Laval;
2. Rais (changed to Retz in 1581); 3. Machecoul; and 4. Craon.
These families could trace their ancestry to the eleventh or twelfth
centuries. Gilles’s father was a Laval or Montmorency-Laval, named Guy;
his grandfather was also Guy, and many of his ancestry bore the same
surname. His grandmother was a sister of the great Du Guesclin; his
great-grandmother was Joan, called _la Folle_, or “the Crazy.”

The House of Rais in that day was represented by Joan la Sage (the
Wise), 1371–1406. Being without heirs she, in 1400, by solemn act,
adopted Guy de Laval, the father of Gilles, as her heir and successor.
A legal impediment existed in an act of disinheritance which had been
passed against Joan la Folle, the grandmother of Guy de Laval, and it
required a special decree to enable Guy to accept the inheritance. This
was finally done under the condition that he should abandon the name,
arms, and escutcheon of the family of Laval, and bear those of Rais.
But Joan la Sage afterwards repented of her choice and attempted, by
act of May 14, 1402, to change her succession in favour of Catherine
de Machecoul. This begat a suit-at-law, which was taken by appeal to
the Parliament at Paris. By this time Jean de Craon had come to be the
heir of his mother, Catherine de Machecoul. He had a daughter named
Marie, and for the settlement of a contest which, it was feared with
reason, might be interminable, it was agreed between the families, as
it was between York and Lancaster, that the representatives of the
two respective houses should be intermarried, and accordingly, in the
spring of 1404, Guy de Laval (changed to be Guy de Rais) was married
to Marie de Craon, and thus it was that Guy de Laval, the father of
Gilles, became the heir and successor of Joan la Sage (of Rais),
received her property, and took her name.

There has been some dispute among the historians of Brittany as to
dates, but it is agreed that the contest at law between the two
families was begun in 1402, was still found on the parliamentary
records in 1403, and was settled by the marriage, which the best
authorities agree took place February 5, 1404.

Guy de Laval (Rais) and Marie de Craon were the parents of Gilles de
Rais, who was their first-born. His birth is believed to have taken
place at the château of Machecoul during the last months of the year
1404. A doubt has been thrown over these dates, especially that of
his birth, because of his extreme youth when he made his appearance
in public affairs. If born at that time, he would appear to have been
a Marshal of France at twenty-five years of age; but this was not
impossible, and the weight of the evidence seems to favour the dates as
given.

The parents of Gilles had another son, René de la Suze, but he seems
to have made but little figure compared with his redoubtable brother.
Guy de Laval, the father, died on the last day of October, 1415, and
the records show his last will and testament dated on the 28th and 29th
of that month. He gave the tutelage of his sons to a distant cousin,
John de Tournemine; but by some means not appearing, the maternal
grandfather, Jean de Craon, took upon himself their guardianship. The
mother, Marie, was remarried soon after the death of her husband, to
Charles Desouville, the Lord of Villebon. The grandfather of Gilles
and René seems to have been excessively indulgent and devoted to the
children, and if he was old, he was of strong will, fiery temper,
staunch patriotism, and obstinate disposition.

In 1417, when Gilles was but thirteen years old, he was engaged by
his grandfather to Joan Peynel, the daughter of Foulques Peynel,
the Lord of Hambuie and Briquebec; but the contract was voided by
her death. In November, 1418, the grandfather made for him a second
contract of marriage, this time with Beatrice de Rohan, the eldest
daughter of Alain de Porhoet. The contract was signed at Vannes with
great ceremony in the presence of an illustrious throng of Breton
nobles. But this contract came to an end, as did the former, by the
unfortunate death of the young lady. This double failure did not,
however, discourage the doting grandfather. He immediately proceeded
with his arrangements for a third contract, this time with Catherine
de Thouars, the daughter of Miles de Thouars and Beatrice de Morgan,
and this marriage was celebrated on the last day of November, 1420. The
young wife, Catherine, brought to her husband, Gilles, the property
of Tiffauges, Pouzauges, Savenay, Confolons, Chabenais, and others
of minor importance. The first two mentioned were well provided with
châteaux. The property and château of Machecoul came to Gilles through
his mother’s family, and the château and property of Champtocé came to
him upon the death of his grandfather. This, with the fortune of his
father, Guy de Laval, to which must be added that of the family of Rais
left by Joan la Sage, made Gilles de Rais one of the richest barons of
the province.

Under the conditions of the adolescence of Gilles de Retz, his
education may be better imagined than described. Left at the age of
eleven an orphan or a half-orphan, by the death of his father; the
remarriage of his mother within a year thereafter; the contest of
greater or less gravity over his guardianship, which ended in the
success of his maternal grandfather, whose best recommendation for the
position seems to have been his love for his grandchildren and his
subsequent willingness to indulge them, and also his great desire to
get them (especially the elder) married and off his hands, a proceeding
which he conducted with such celerity that the young man was engaged
three times with all pomp and formality, and finally married by the
time he was sixteen years old: this would seem to afford but little
time or opportunity to obtain an education, even under the best
facilities, however studious and seriously inclined he might have been.

Education did not stand very high in the province of Brittany at this
era. There was much excuse, especially for the nobles and barons of
Brittany, for their lack of education. The profession of war seems to
have been the highest recommendation, and the shortest, as well as
the easiest and most agreeable, road to preferment. There is much to
be said on the score of patriotism and the needs of the country, for,
as will be seen farther on, it was an era of war, and Brittany was in
the midst of it. The education in arms was almost inevitable; it had
greater attraction for Gilles than books, arts, or sciences; and it
appears that his grandfather allowed him to pursue his own wishes and
desires without even an attempt at control. Gilles, during his trial,
said: “In my youth I was allowed to go always according to my own sweet
will.” Nevertheless, he spoke three languages, Latin, French, and
Breton, had some knowledge of chemistry, and it seems to be without
question that he had a library, so well chosen as to be an object
of commendation and attraction to highly educated persons. In the
inventory of his effects, taken in 1436 and found among his records, is
a receipt of Jean Montclair given to Jean Bouray, for a book a copy
of Ovid’s _Metamorphoses_, described to have been in parchment covered
with leather-gilt, with copper clasps and locks of silver-gilt, with a
crucifix of white silver on the back.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER II

GILLES AS A SOLDIER. 1420–1429

  _First for John V., Duke of Brittany, against the House of Blois. He
      Joins the Army of France and is Assigned to Duty with Joan of
      Arc. Crowning of the King, and Gilles Made Marshal of France._


In the condition of his country at that time, it was but natural that
this handsome, impetuous, rich, and powerful baron should take up arms
as his profession. France and England were in the midst of the Hundred
Years’ War. Brittany, Gilles’s own duchy, had been since the death
of John IV. engaged in a civil war over the succession. The family
of Montforts (son of a younger son) had gained the victory over the
Penthièvres and Blois (daughter of an elder son). Gilles’s father and
his family had fought on the side of Blois, but on his defeat they had
made their peace with the victorious Duke.

When Gilles was about sixteen years old an incident occurred which
renewed the civil war and swept him into its midst. The head of the
Blois family, with his mother, the daughter of De Clisson, set a trap
for John V. (De Montfort), Duke of Brittany, inviting him, under a
flag of truce, to a friendly conference to be held at the castle of
Champtoceaux. This conference was only a pretence, the flag of truce
was violated, and John V. was entrapped and held prisoner. He was
treated with great severity, bound in chains, and cast into a dungeon.
This inhuman treatment on the part of the Blois and Penthièvres, being
in violation of every principle held sacred by men and soldiers,
aroused the indignation of the Bretons to a pitch beyond control. The
peculiar interest of this to the present memoir is that, while the
ancestral families of Gilles de Rais had always theretofore fought on
the side of the Penthièvres and Blois, they now turned to the other
side and took up for John V. of Montfort.

Du Guesclin, the uncle, and Brumor, the grandfather, of Gilles de Rais
on his father’s side, were now dead; but Jean de Craon, his grandfather
on his mother’s side, he who had been so indulgent a guardian, still
lived, and on the 23d of February, 1420, a few months before the
marriage of Gilles, they repaired to the town of Vannes, attending upon
a session of the States-General, convoked in the absence of the Duke
by his wife. Part of the ceremony of Gilles and his grandfather was
the oath of allegiance for the deliverance of their prince: “We swear
upon the cross to employ our bodies and our goods, and to enter into
this quarrel for life and for death,”--and they signed it with their
proper hands and sealed it with their seals. The war broke out anew.
Alain de Rohan was made Lieutenant-General. An army of fifty thousand
men volunteered and took the field under him. In the front rank, by the
side of his grandfather, at the head of all the vassals of their united
baronies, was Gilles de Retz. This army marched against Lamballe which
capitulated, Guingamp, the same, and successively Jugon, Chateaulan,
Broon, and finally against the château of Champtoceaux in which the
Duke was incarcerated. This resisted the assault but was besieged and
finally taken, the fortress demolished, and John V. was released and
returned to Nantes where he was given a triumphal entry.

The Château de Clisson, the headquarters of the Penthièvre faction, was
south of Nantes twenty kilometres, and in the immediate neighbourhood
of the most extensive property of Gilles de Retz. In revenge for his
adhesion to the Duke of Brittany, which Margaret de Clisson was pleased
to call his treason to her side, she found it most convenient to raid
and destroy the adjacent properties of Gilles de Retz. In reprisal, the
Duchess of Brittany confiscated certain rights which Olivier, Count
de Blois, had in or about the Château de Clisson, and transferred
them to the family of Gilles, and this was ratified by the Duke after
his release. Then, as he says, “In recognition of the good and loyal
services of his cousins, of Suze and Rais,” he gives to them all
the lands of Olivier de Blois, formerly Count de Penthièvre, and of
Charles his brother. This was afterwards compromised by the payment of
a certain sum of money. Penthièvres, Blois, and Clisson were cited to
appear before the States-General, at which Gilles and his grandfather
assisted as counsellors; and, as an end of all things, the Parliament
of Brittany declared the Penthièvres guilty of felony, treason,
and _lèse-majesté_, condemned them to death, and deprived them in
perpetuity of their name, arms, and all honour in Brittany; but they
escaped to France.

This was the introduction of Gilles de Retz to the profession of arms
and his first appearance as one of the lords of the country. He was at
that time only sixteen years old, and immediately upon the conclusion
of this campaign he was married to Catherine de Thouars.

France, at that epoch, was in danger of the fate which afterwards
befell Poland. The duchy of Aquitaine, which comprised nearly all
south-western France, had for its duke Edward III., King of England.
The duchy of Burgundy had for its head Philip the Good, who was Count
of Flanders and was stronger in his duchy than was the King of France
in his kingdom. These two were banded together by a treaty, offensive
and defensive, and they and their countries were then, and had been
for nigh sixty years, carrying on war against France with the avowed
determination of establishing the King of England on her throne. The
Duke of Bedford, son-in-law of the Duke of Burgundy, was the English
general commanding in France. The Count of Richemont, the second son of
the Duke of Brittany, was also the son-in-law of the Duke of Burgundy.
Thus these strong nobles, princes, and kings were allied against
France. In the dukedom of Brittany the contending houses of Blois and
Montfort had been aided, respectively, by the King of France and the
King of England, and had accepted and supported an English army on
Breton soil. We all know of the condition of the dukedom of Normandy;
how, only a few hundred years earlier, William captured England at the
battle of Hastings and established himself as her king. This process
was now in danger of repetition, only with the conditions reversed, and
France had then in prospect a worse fate than she ever had before or
since.

Such was the condition of France at the time of the death of Charles
VI., on October 21, 1422, when his son, Charles VII., came to the
throne. Charles VII., was married to Mary of Anjou, the daughter of
Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily, the widow of Louis of Anjou; a
woman of noble heart, great spirit and patriotism, and devoted to
France. Yolande set herself, with all her beauty and diplomacy, to
divide and break up this coterie of great noblemen who had organised
themselves against the King, and to induce some of them to become
supporters of France. On March 24, 1425, Yolande started for Brittany
accompanied by sundry powerful seigneurs. Jean de Craon, grandfather of
Gilles de Retz, was one of those approached, and his valiant services
rendered to John V. of Brittany, in releasing him from the dungeon at
Champtoceaux, gave him great and deserved influence.

Gilles de Retz had returned to his home after the defeat of the
Blois party, and was residing there in the quiet and peace of his
newly married life, when this new turn was made in the political
kaleidoscope. A council of the States-General of Brittany was
assembled at the city of Nantes, and Gilles was one of the seigneurs
in attendance. Naturally, he would be one of the lieutenants of his
grandfather, Jean de Craon, who had openly espoused the cause of the
King of France, and who went into the council with the expressed desire
to win the Duke of Brittany in that direction. The Assembly pronounced
strongly in favour of the alliance with the King of France, and the
month of September was fixed as the time, and the town of Saumur,
midway between Nantes and Angers, was appointed as the place, for a
conference between the Duke of Brittany and the King of France. The
terms fixed by the Duke were the same as those laid down by the Duke of
Burgundy--that was, the expulsion of the Penthièvre and Blois families
from the Court of France. The King consented, and thus gained the
active aid of the Duke of Brittany and the moral support of the Duke of
Burgundy.

The peace between the Duke of Brittany and the King of France brought
its first great fruits in the offer to the King by the Count of
Richemont, the brother of the Duke of Brittany, of his services
against England, which was accepted, and he, the Count of Richmont,
was made Constable of France. To him, probably more than to any other
man, was France indebted for the final victory over England, and the
establishment of France in her place among the nations of the world.
Gilles de Retz, still with his grandfather, Jean de Craon, embraced
the side of the King with ardour. He was rich and Charles was poor. He
entered with spirit into all the pleasure and gayety of the Court. He
became a pronounced favourite, and despite the subsequent defection or
opposition of the Duke of Brittany, and the renunciation or withdrawal
of favour from the Count of Richemont, Gilles de Retz and his
grandfather remained indissolubly bound to Charles VII. and to France.

The first appearance of Gilles de Retz in the service of the King of
France, or as a member of his Court, was September 8, 1425. He took
service with the Breton troops and made his first essay as a soldier on
the side of the King of France in the siege of Saint-Jean-de-Beuvron.

Gilles de Retz associated himself with Ambroise de Loré and the Baron
Beaumanoir (the son or grandson of him who led the fight for Brittany
in the _Combat de Trente_). These three attacked and captured the
fortress of Rainefort in Anjou, which capitulated with terms that
spared the English soldiers, but left to be punished the Frenchmen who
had committed treason against their country. Ambroise de Loré sought to
save them, but Gilles was firm in his decision that they should hang
as traitors, and such was their fate. The château of Malicorne was
attacked by the same three, and captured, or surrendered, on the same
terms. The two friends, Beaumanoir and Gilles, held together in their
undertakings; they were together at the siege of Montargis, which was
conducted by Constable Richemont and La Hire.

It was at this siege that La Hire, about to make the assault, was
asked to join with the rest in prayer to God for aid and safety in the
coming fight; he had not much experience in religious vernacular, but
he joined hands, and with the fervour of a bigot and the faith of a
devotee said: “O God, I pray Thee to do for me to-day what Thou wouldst
that I should do for Thee, were I God and Thou La Hire.” In the assault
which immediately followed, Gilles de Retz arrived at the top of the
wall in advance of his soldiers. The first Englishman encountered was
Captain Blackburn, the commander of the English forces, whom Gilles
engaged in a hand-to-hand combat, killing him outright. On seeing their
chief slain, the English soldiers threw down their arms and capitulated
on the usual terms. This exploit was recognised by all his superiors,
and covered the young soldier with glory. But the victories of the
French in the north were not equal to those gained by the English in
the south, who, having captured nearly all France, Paris included,
advanced into the interior, until at last they appeared before Orleans
and commenced its memorable siege.

Then, in 1429, came the brilliant meteor across the sky of France, Joan
of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. Her visions at Domremy, her travels across
France, passing safely through the lines of the enemy, her arrival at
the castle of Chinon, her presentation to the King, her assault and
capture of Orleans, are all matters of history. The theatre of her
exploits in western France was not far distant from the barony and
residence of Gilles de Retz. He was the kind of man to be captivated by
the Maid of Orleans, and he became one of her most devoted followers.
It is said that he received from the King orders to be captain in her
escort, whether as its commander does not appear, but he was with her
at Chinon, Poitiers, Blois, Orleans, Jargeau, Meung, Beaugency, and
Patay.

On the occasion of the King’s coronation at Rheims, Gilles de Retz
received the baton of Marshal of France. There is a question as to
the date, but none as to the fact. Some authorities give the date as
June 21, 1429; others, again, say that with other peers of France he
was promoted on the day of the coronation of the King, July 17, 1429;
still others assert it to have been in the month of September. It is
explainable that all three of these dates are correct, for the King
might well have announced, on the earliest date, that he was to be
promoted to the rank of Marshal of France; the ceremony of installation
may have taken place upon the occasion of the King’s coronation, and
yet the commission not have been signed, or recorded, until September.
That he was an officer in high command upon that occasion, and in
favour with the King, cannot be doubted.

The Kings of France, from Clovis, the first convert to Christianity,
down to Louis XIV., were crowned in the cathedral at Rheims. There
is a tradition that upon the crowning of King Clovis a white dove
miraculously descended from Heaven and hovered over, if it did not
alight upon, the King’s head, bearing in its beak the _ampulla_
containing the consecrated oil for his coronation. The latter was
retained and became a holy emblem under the name of Sainte Ampoule, and
was preserved in the Abbey of Saint Remy, near the cathedral at Rheims,
until it was destroyed during the French Revolution. From Clovis to
Louis XIV. it figured in the coronation of every king of France. At
the coronation of Charles VII., Gilles de Retz as Marshal of France,
Marshal Boussac, Admiral de Culan, and Lord Graville were the four
nobles of France chosen as its escort and guard of honour. After the
coronation, Gilles remained in the service in his former position of
guard, or captain of the guard, of Joan of Arc. He accompanied her to
Paris, which the English evacuated and left to the care of the Duke of
Burgundy.

The capture of Joan at Compiègne took place May 20, 1430, and her
execution May 30, 1431. There is no evidence reported of Gilles’s
presence during any of this time. There has been found among the
records of the barony of Rais, a paper wherein he acknowledged a debt
to “Roland Mauvoisin, Captain of Prinçay, the sum of _huitvingtes_
[twenty-eight] crowns of gold, for the purchase of a horse, saddle, and
bridle, promised to his dear and well beloved Michel Machafer, captain
of a certain company, as soon as they arrived at Louviers, in order to
engage said captain to come with him on this voyage.” This paper was
dated December 26, 1431, at Rouen, and is signed with his own proper
hand.

[Illustration: Gilles’s signature and rubric.]

    NOTE.--The army service of the Baron de Retz, his relation to
    Joan of Arc, and his investiture as Marshal of France, are
    authenticated in sundry histories of France.

    Monstrelet (vol. ii., p. 96) mentions him as a Marshal of
    France.

    Michelet (vol. v., p. 71) mentions the Marshal de Retz as one
    of the Bretons who went to the aid of the city of Orleans.

    Sismondi (_Histoire des Français_, vol. xiii., p. 124),
    speaking of the advent of Joan of Arc, says:

    “Le Roi l’envoya à Blois, après de la petite armée qu’y
    rassemblaient les Marécheaux de Rais et de Saint Sevire,
    Ambroise de Loré et le sire de Goncourt.”

    In _Jeanne d’Arc_, by H. Wallon (Paris, 1860), the author says:

    “Le Maréchall de Boussac et le seignieur de Rais, investés du
    Commandement y rentrent Ares--peu aprés, avec La Hire, Polon de
    Xaintrailles et tous ceux que devaient faire l’escort, 10 ou
    12000 x hommes.”

    And again in _Jeanne d’Arc_, by Harriet Parr (London: 1866,
    vol. i. p. 91). “The captains appointed to command the
    exploration (to Orleans) were the Marshal de Boussac, the
    Marshal de Retz, and Louis de Culant, Admiral of France.”

    The extent of the relation of Gilles with the incident of Joan
    of Arc may be obtained by taking Quicherat’s history of the
    _Process for the Condemnation and Rehabilitation of Joan of
    Arc_ (5 vols., Paris, 1849) the references in the index under
    the title of “Gilles de Rais”:

    Rais (Gilles de Laval, sire de) present at the arrival of Joan
    before the King at the castle of Chinon, iv., 363, 407.

    He accompanies her to Orleans, iii., 4; iv., 5, 41, 53, 213,
    491; v., 290; vi., 12, 20.

    His return to Blois, iv., 54, 56, 152, 155, 221, 222; v., 290.

    He assists at the Council with Jacques Boucher, iv., 57,
    158. Combat at the capture of St. Loup, iv., 6, 43; at the
    capture of St. Augustine, iv., 61, 158, 226; at the capture of
    Tourelles, iv., 44; v., 261.

    His departure from Orleans with Joan, iv., 165.

    Took part in the expedition of Jargeau, iv., 12; v., 108, 261.

    Combat at Patay, iv., 238, 239, 319, 371, 419.

    He goes to Rheims, vi., 69, 180, 248, 378.

    He is escort of the Sainte Ampoule on the occasion of the
    coronation of the King, iv., 77, 185; v., 129.

    Made Marshal of France, v., 129.

    In command at Montepilloy, iv., 83, 193.

    Is sent to Senlis, iv., 24.

    Figures in the attack on Paris, iv., 26, 86, 87, 197, 199.

    Opposes (makes war on) the false Jeanne d’Arc, v., 333.


    The _Livres de Comptes_, the official accounts of the Royal
    Exchequer, mention Gilles de Retz in connection with Joan of
    Arc on sundry occasions.

    The eighth account of Guillaume Chartiers, receiver-general of
    finance, published by Godfrey in _Histoire de Charles VII_. (p.
    89).

    To Messire Gilles de Rais, Councillor and Chamberlain of the
    king, Sire and Marshal of France, the sum of one thousand
    pounds that our lord the king by his letters patent of xxi
    juin (M) CCCCXX at-arms in the Company of Joan of Arc and the
    employment in her service preparing for the siege of Tarjean.

    Paid by the city of Tours to John Colez _10 livres tournois_
    for having brought the good news of the capture of Orleans by
    _la pucelle_ [Joan of Arc], _Mgr. de Rais et les gens de leur
    compagnie_.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER III

GILLE’S LIFE AT HOME IN BRITANNY

1430–1439

  _The personal Appearance of Gilles de Retz. An Epitome of his Life.
      His Extravagance and ruinous Expenditures. His Inheritance.
      His Sales and Transfers of Property. His Love for the Theatre.
      Mysteries. That of the Siege of Orleans. Mysteries at Nantes.
      The Cathedral. Expensive Visit to Orleans. Maison de la Suze.
      The Decree of the King interdicting his Sale or Incumbrance of
      Property. The increasing Demand for Money drives him to Magic in
      Search for the Philosopher’s Stone and the Transmutation of base
      Metals into Gold. Magic._


There are but two known portraits of Gilles de Retz. That in the palace
at Versailles is purely imaginative, and was only made to complete the
series of the Marshals of France. It is not known by whom or at what
time the other was made. In 1438, Gilles was thirty-five years old,
tall, handsome, and well formed. He showed in his face, figure, and in
every movement, his pride and spirit. He had a high, rather than broad,
forehead; his nose was prominent and slightly aquiline; the nostrils
were large and thin, and, on occasions of anger, spread and quivered in
an interesting and threatening manner. His lips were rather thin but
well coloured, and had a tinge of delicate and refined sensuality.

Like many of the Breton race, his complexion was fair, his eyes large
and blue, and his eyebrows and lashes long and black. His hair was also
long and black, and beard the same. It was soft and silky, and with its
raven blackness became shiny, giving it a tinge of blue-black, which
may have served as a foundation for his pseudonym in that country. His
neck was neither too short, too long, nor yet too large, but seemed a
column full of nervous strength, calculated to support solidly and well
his head and brain, with whatever of pride, audacity, and confidence it
might have. His shoulders were square, his body long, his waist small,
while the bust and hips were large and fairly placed upon the muscular
legs, which stood straight under him, giving his body firm support.
His fingers were long and tapering, his hands small, and their fair
complexion, when brought in contact with his velvet costume and lace
ruffles, showed them to good advantage. Thus, he had the physical
appearance of an athlete trained in all the exercises of the body; of
much strength, a good walker, a good rider, and capable of any feat at
arms.

Michelet (_Hist. de France_, vol. v., pp. 208–213) describes Gilles as
of “_bon entendment, belle personne et bonne façon, lettré de plus, et
appréciant fort ce qui parlaient avec élégance la langue latine_.”

Lemire says (p. 39) that Gilles, when he appeared before the Court, was
dressed in pantaloons, skin-tight, after the fashion of the day, and
shirt and vest, all of white wool, with boots also white. Over this
was a doublet of pearl-grey silk embroidered with gold, with a hood of
ermine; a sash of scarlet about his waist which supported a poniard
with red velvet scabbard. He wore his military and seigniorial medals
and orders, and about his neck a chain of gold with a reliquary. From
the latter he never parted.

How much of this description is actual and how much imaginary will
probably never be known; but in the attractiveness of his person
and manner, Gilles de Retz compared with the best of his race in
that country, and the foregoing might have been a fairly truthful
representation. He seems the model of a gentleman of his time; his
life being divided between the chase, war, and his adventures. He had
beauty, force, riches, and occupied the highest rank among the nobility
of his province. To him, nature and fortune had been blindly prodigal
in their gifts.

On Gilles’s return from service in the army of France, after the
murder of Joan of Arc, he retired to his château, dwelling alternately
at Machecoul and Tiffauges, with an occasional visit to his Hôtel de
la Suze in Nantes. He engaged in no serious business, but apparently
resigned himself to domestic pleasures and happiness. He established
himself in a princely fashion. The interiors of his châteaux were
decorated in the most magnificent and luxurious manner possible. He
maintained a small army, the members of which were in his own pay. He
was passionately fond of music; he purchased instruments and organised
all sorts of musical competitions and displays. He established a
religious hierarchy, having as a member of his own household a pseudo
bishop with a large retinue, and all the necessary paraphernalia,
including rich vestments for his servants and expensive decorations for
his chapels.

This luxurious, magnificent, expensive mode of living was carried
on for so long a time, increasing to such an alarming extent, that
his brother René presented a memoir or petition to the King, called
in history _Mémoires des Héritiers_, wherein these expenditures and
extravagances were set forth at as great length and with as much detail
and redundant phrase as though it were a bill in equity. This memoir
ended with the prayer that the King should pass a decree against
Gilles, interdicting him from making sale, transfer, or alienation, or
mortgaging or pledging any of his property. This process is not unknown
to French law. Without having the law of primogeniture as in England,
the heirs yet had certain rights which, consequent upon the death of
Gilles, would accrue to them under the law of France, and thus it was
that the King was prayed to take the necessary steps for the protection
of the rights of the heirs. In this proceeding his brother, René de la
Suze, seems to have been the principal and moving spirit, although he
was afterwards aided and abetted by his cousin, Guy de Laval.

From the _Mémoires des Héritiers_ we get a knowledge of the property of
Gilles de Retz. The list of his lands, possessions, and income, with
his family ancestry, through which he received them, was as follows:

From the house of Rais, left by Joan la Sage, first the title of Baron
and then the rank of Dean of Barons in the duchy of Brittany, with its
châteaux and dependencies in great number, of which the principal only
are named--Machecoul, Saint-Étienne-de-Mer-Morte, Pornic, Prinçay (or
Princé), Vue, Ile de Bouin, etc.

From the house of Montmorency-Laval, the original ancestry of his
father,--independent of his adoption by Joan la Sage,--the seigniories
of Blaison, of Chemillé, of Fontaine-Milon, and of Grattecuisse in
Anjou; of Ambrières, Saint-Aubin-de-Fosse-Louvain, province of Maine;
and others in Brittany.

From the house of Craon, through his grandfather and his mother,
the Hôtel de la Suze at Nantes; the seigniories and châteaux of
Briollay, Champtocé, and Ingrandes, province of Anjou; of Sénéché,
Loroux-Botereau, Bénate, Bourgneuf-en-Rais, Voulte, and others.

From his wife, on their marriage, Tiffauges, Pouzauges, Chabanais,
Confolens, Châteaumorant, Savenay, Lombert, Grez-sur-Maine, with
“_plusiers autres terres fort belles, et leurs dépendencies_.”

The value of this immense property has been estimated at four and a
half millions of francs, though this may be exaggerated. His personal
property was valued at one time at a hundred thousand golden crowns,
and his income was variously estimated from thirty to sixty thousand
pounds per annum.

It was alleged that he had made sales and transfers of property in an
improvident manner and to an unjustifiable extent, dissipating to that
extent his patrimony, to the damage of his estate and the detriment of
his heirs. These were given somewhat in detail in the _Mémoires_, etc.,
viz.:

    To Gauthier de Brussac, Captain-at-arms, the towns and
    seigniories of Confolens, Chabanais, Châteaumorant, and Lombert;

    To Jean de Marsille, the châtellenie, land, and seigniorie of
    Fontaine-Milon in Anjou;

    To Messire William de la Jumelière, the château and lands of
    Blaison, of Chemillé, in Anjou;

    To Hardouin de Bueil, Bishop of Angers, the land and seigniory
    of Grattecuisse, the châtellenie and château of Saveny, half
    the forest of Brecilien;

    To Messire Guy de la Roche-Guyon, the château and lands of
    Motte-Achard, and of Maurière, in Poitou;

    To Jean Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes (who was soon to
    be his judge), the château and lands of Prigné, of Vue,
    Bois-aux-Treaux in the parish of Saint-Michel-Sénéché, and _un
    grand nombre de terres situés dans le clos du pays de Rais pour
    une somme énorme_;

    To William de Fresnière and Guillemot le Cesne, merchants
    of Angers, the lands and seigniories of Ambrières,
    Saint-Aubin-de-Fosse-Louvain in the province of Maine;

    To Jean de Montecler, one of his men-at-arms, and to Guillemot
    le Cesne, aforesaid, the lands and seigniories of Voulte and
    Sénéché;

    To Jean Rabateau, president of the parliament, the lands and
    seigniories of d’Auzence, de Cloué, and de Lignon;

    To William (apothecary at Poitiers), Jean Ambert, and Jacques
    de l’Epine, the lands Brueil-Mangon-lez-Poitiers;

    To Georges Tremoille, late favourite of the king, now in
    retirement, twelve hundred “reaux” of gold on the rents of
    Champtocé, to pay interest money on twelve thousand “reaux” of
    gold formerly borrowed from him;

    To Perrinet Pain, bourgeois and merchant of Angers, much
    interest money on loans secured on his lands and seigniories;

    To the Chapter of Notre Dame, Nantes, his superb Hôtel de la
    Suze;

    To Jean le Ferron, Saint Étienne-de-Mer-Morte, etc., etc., etc.

During some period, most likely in his younger days and before his
services in the army, Gilles de Retz became enamoured of the theatre.
His taste in this luxury was in the same extravagant style as the
chapels, the bishop, and his religious secretaries.

There have been many histories of the theatre and the drama in France
written by French historians. _Histoire du Théâtre en France_, Paris,
1881, two volumes, Monsieur Petit de Julleville; _Histoire de la
Société Française au Moyen Âge_, Paris, 1880, by Monsieur Rosières;
_Mise en Scène des Mystères_, Paris, 1885, by M. Paulin, Paris; _Le
Drame Chrétien_, by M. Marius Sepet; _Tableau de la Littérature au
Moyen Âge_, by M. Villemain; _Histoire du Théâtre Français_, Paris,
1745 to 1749, fifteen volumes, by les Frères Parfaict; _Dictionnaire
du XIX^{me} Siècle_, by La Rousse; and there may be many others, but
with them all, our understanding of the extravagance and expenditure,
and the consequent elegance and richness attained by theatres in France
during the period in which we are now interested, would be incomplete
without a study of the life of Gilles de Retz. His love for the theatre
manifested itself not simply in looking at the spectacle and hearing
the play, but in organising, arranging, and presenting the plays of the
time in theatres established and conducted by himself. Some of these
presentations were in his own châteaux, but others were given in the
neighbouring cities--Nantes, Angers, Blois, Orleans, and minor places
in the provinces of Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, and Poitou.

One cause of his indulgence in theatrical display appears to have been
the desire to make himself popular with the people. That he loved the
theatre and its plays, and that they gave him pleasure, is not to be
doubted, but after all, it is supposed that his ambition to shine among
the people formed the real foundation.

The theatre had always been intended as a means of amusement. An
attempt was made in France and the Latin countries during the fifteenth
century, to combine in the theatre instruction of a religious kind with
pleasure and amusement. This attempt was fostered by the clergy, and,
in its execution, theatrical plays were performed in sundry chapels
and sanctuaries. Whether the Passion Play at Oberammergau is a revival
or continuation of this custom, is suggested but not decided. But such
plays were common enough in the fifteenth century and met with favour
in the Church. In its origin, this departure was exclusively religious,
and was adopted by the Church as an ingenious and original continuation
of the education of the people in the mysteries of the Christian
religion. Originally, it employed only sacred topics, and used only
terms taken from the ritual, or from the Bible, and was altogether in
prose Latin.

With the lapse of time, the imagination of authors, and the progress of
popular language, theatrical representations passed from the chapels
and holy places to the public places, and the Latin language was
superseded by the vulgar. The priests who had conducted the play gave
way to laymen, and the liturgy of the drama was superseded by other
compositions. While religious scenes were continued and religious
thoughts were the principal inspiration, yet there came interruptions
and lapses. Secular and historic pieces were put upon the boards.
These were occasionally fixed together and played, first one and
then another, without attempt at regularity or continuation, as we in
the present day may have everything from tragedy to farce in the same
season at the same theatre. In the fifteenth century the favourite
representations were the “Mysteries” and next the “Moralities,” and
after these, dramas and farces. The former were religious or historic
dramas, calculated as much for religious or historical instruction
and entertainment as for pleasure and amusement. The Last Judgment,
the Birth of Christ, the Baptism in Jordan, the Marriage in Cana, and
other Mysteries in the life of Christ were presented, usually on holy
days, at Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost. In not a few
cases the theatre was in the open air, and this custom has been kept
up in Brittany and certain provinces in France to the present day.
While there are regular theatre halls in the cities, yet throughout the
country are travelling troupes of mountebanks, jugglers, conjurers,
etc., with trained dogs and other animals, who, arriving at a small
town in the afternoon, pitch their tents upon the market-place or any
other open square which can be secured, advertise the play by beating
of drums or ringing of bells, charge one sou for a stand-up admission,
and two sous for admission and a seat. The stage is made by unrolling a
strip of carpet upon the ground or pavement. And here will be performed
the sublime tragedy, the touching drama, and the roaring farce.

In the fifteenth century the plays, especially the Mysteries, whether
religious or historic, were elaborate and extensive. The scene of the
play varied according to its necessity and so was changed from town
to country, from open street to walled town, the audience and actors
being moved with it, as in certain ancient Greek theatres. An immense
amount of decoration was required, which, however, was not usually a
painted canvas stretched upon a frame, representing the desired object;
but these scenes were made of the real thing, and the decoration,
especially of the streets and walls about, were of hangings, usually
of tapestry, though in cases of need any gaily coloured stuffs, like
coverlets, bed-spreads, table-cloths, or carpets would be pressed
into service. This custom exists in Brittany to the present day. The
author well remembers one of the holy days in August, 1882, when,
visiting the village of Savenay near Nantes, which by chance was one
of the seigniories of Gilles de Retz, he witnessed the decoration of
the village. The well-to-do residents brought out their tapestries and
hung them along the fronts of their houses and garden walls; the poorer
people, their carpets and coverlets, or anything which helped to make
a gay appearance; while in one particular residence a bolt of white
cotton cloth was brought out and stretched along the wall, covering it
for a distance of fifty or sixty yards. This kind of decoration is not
uncommon, and even in Nantes and Angers a greater amount of tapestry
may be seen on a single holy day than otherwise during a year’s
residence.

Where required by the action of the drama, the scenes were built in
the fashion of scaffolds. In the Mystery of the Creation the lower
scaffold represented the earth, while the second or upper represented
the heavens. In the Last Judgment and the Resurrection it consisted
of two great scaffolds, making three stones one above another, the
upper one of which represented Paradise, with God upon His throne, the
Virgin, the Christ, the angels; all the holy things. The middle stage
represented the earth with the mortals engaged in their everyday
duties; while the lower one represented Sheol with the Prince of
Darkness in command, and the demons, small and great, engaged in their
supposed task of keeping up the fires and of stirring up the spirits of
the damned. The description of all this interests us in its relation to
Gilles de Retz only because of its extravagance and immense expenditure.

The historic Mystery was also a favourite. The Mystery of the Siege of
Orleans appears to have been the most popular and the most frequently
played. But there were others: the Passion of Metz, the Mystery of
Paris, that of Saint Michel of Angers, of Saint Barbe. Gilles de Retz
organised, equipped, and presented no less than ten of these Mysteries.
They were long, too; the Moralities contained about twelve hundred
verses; while the Mysteries had many thousand verses, that of the Siege
of Orleans having twenty thousand five hundred and twenty-nine lines;
and they not infrequently required an entire day in the performance.
The presence and aid of five hundred persons were required on some of
these grand occasions.

One of the first paragraphs in the chapter on the extravagant and
ruinous folly of Gilles in the _Mémoire des Héritiers_, tells that the
establishment, organisation, and equipment of these theatres and the
performance of the plays was at the expense of Gilles. The succeeding
paragraphs enlarge upon his immense and ruinous expenditures in this
regard. The decoration, apparel, apparatus, the costumes of all the
actors, were ordered by him. He required the best of everything, while
the question of expense or even of value seemed as nothing. When he
wanted them, he wanted them, and they were purchased at the asking
price. Each person had his special costume according to his rôle and
dignity; the beggar, the varlet, the huntsman, as well as the soldier,
knight, and noble, the fair ladies, the saints in heaven, were all
accoutred and equipped with stuffs of such richness as would magnify
the greatness and power of the author and owner of it all, and gratify
his inordinate ambition. Gold, silver, velvet, precious stones, rich
armour, luxurious harness, fine embroidery, silken stuff, satin, and
all the marvels of art in profusion. When the ornaments of the Church
were required in any scene or play, there were copes, chasubles,
dalmatics, albs, and all the ecclesiastical robes so rich and
sumptuous. His ecclesiastical paraphernalia was at the command of the
theatre.

The follies and ambition of Gilles not only required his theatrical
costumes and property to be of the richest and most expensive stuffs,
but in his maladministration they were bought at highest prices,
payment frequently made with promises greatly increasing their cost.
With all this, his pride was such that he never permitted the same
dress to be worn twice; everything was required to be made anew for
each representation, or for each series of representations. New
costumes seem to have been his particular fad in that day, so that
he could use the same terms which now appear in the playbills of the
city--“entirely new and elegant costumes.” Having been once used, they
were thrown aside or sold at whatever could be gotten for them. This
meant to buy at the highest price and sell at the lowest, a system
which we well know produces financial ruin. His ambition and desire to
please led him into foolish and useless expenditures. All his theatres
and the plays rendered by him were free; the people who attended
paid nothing. Gilles paid the expenses of the entire entertainment.
Consequently, one can easily understand the statements made in the
_Mémoirs_ of the ruin wrought by these representations, the cost of
each one being thirty, forty, and fifty thousand francs (six, eight,
and ten thousand dollars).

Gilles’s favourite play was the Mystery of the Siege of Orleans. Here
he was not only actor but principal. It was a drama in verse though
not in rhyme. It was based upon the events of that memorable siege.
Quicherat says of it that its historic value is _nil_, not because the
author has removed it from the domain of history, but for the contrary
reason, that he was quite too near, both in space and time, to the
events as they happened, and was, therefore, unable to take the rôle
of historian, and make deductions. He could not form conclusions,
nor announce principles: all that he did was to recount the actions
and events as they happened day by day. He was a recorder, not an
historian. The drama or poem was largely romance; while recounting the
daily progress of the siege, it was not a veritable or trustworthy
journal thereof. The words put into the mouths of the various actors
were probably never spoken by them, certainly never were heard by the
author. But they were the speech of the day; they were news gathered at
the time and which might have appeared in the daily newspapers, if such
things had then existed. It is because of their nearness to the events
that they are not history. How long the Mystery of the Siege of Orleans
continued to be represented in the theatre as a drama is immaterial.

One hundred and forty personages have been introduced upon the stage,
not counting the groups of soldiers, peasants, citizens, musicians,
etc. The Marshal de Retz figured in it as one of the prominent actors,
in close relation to the King and to Joan of Arc. Not only is his
name mentioned, but he himself had a speaking part and was present on
the stage. Naturally he would take his own part and appear under his
own name in the play; and this was both a compliment to his courage
and ability as a soldier, and his versatility as an artist. While it
kept him constantly before the people, it gave him an opportunity to
gratify his ambition. It is useless to give any description of it, for
it is simply the representation of the siege of Orleans written by one
who, while he did not copy the journal, had it under his hand while
writing the drama. Because it is in verse, it will not be practicable
to translate much or any of it, but a few paragraphs will be given in
which Gilles de Retz figured, and will be inserted (Appendix C) for the
purpose of bringing out his part.

A description of one of these Mysteries has been given us by Monsieur
Paul Saunière. Its presentation took place in the Place Notre Dame
before the Cathedral at Nantes, on May 21, 1439, under the direction,
and at the expense, of Gilles de Retz. It was the Mystery of the Lord
Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary. It was written by a young poet,
Jean Lanoë, and Gilles de Retz is reported to have paid him the sum
of ten golden crowns. Whether the story told by Saunière is absolute
verity, is of slight consequence. There can be little doubt that
it represents truthfully the custom of the period relating to such
spectacles, and is a fair description thereof. Much of it is recognised
as in accordance with habits and customs of that country in the present
day.

All public proclamations and announcements by official authority in the
provinces are made through the aid of either trumpet or drum, but in
Brittany with the trumpet. The herald or other officer, when making
an official sale, begins generally at the City Hall, makes the round
of the city, sounding his trumpet at prominent places, calling the
people together to hear his announcement, which he makes _viva voce_,
and so passes on to the next place, repeating the performance. Lost
children are cried in the same way, except that when done by a private
individual a bell is used.

In the present case, the herald-at-arms was richly dressed in the
livery of his master, the Baron de Retz, accompanied by a guard of
four soldiers, or men-at-arms, who escorted him and kept the crowd at
a distance while he blew a call on his trumpet; and then he made his
announcement, which is given as follows:

    “We, noble and powerful Baron, Gilles de Retz, Marshal of
    France, Lord of Champtocé, Tiffauges, Machecoul, Saint
    Étienne-de-Mer-Morte, Pornic, and other places, do by these
    presents make known, that by the express permission of the
    high and powerful Lord Seignieur, Jean de Malestroit, by the
    Grace of God and the Holy Father, the Bishop of Nantes, there
    will be given on the 21st day of the present month, at two
    o’clock afternoon, at the Place of Notre Dame, a presentation
    of a Mystery concerning the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
    Christ, and of Madam, the Holy Virgin, His Mother.”

When the herald ceased, the soldiers closed up the circle that had
been made around him and prepared to escort him to another place,
while the crowd cried, “Liesse, Liesse, to the Marshal--Liesse to our
Lord Bishop!” The herald and his men-at-arms departed and the crowd
dispersed.

The locality of the presentation of this spectacle adjoined the
cathedral on its right as one stands facing it. This Mystery had but
a single scene, and required but a single stage. This stage, intended
for the use of the actors, was flanked on either side by an alcove or
balcony; that on the left, intended for the high dignitaries of the
Church and the city, the nobles, and other persons of distinction was
decorated with long and heavy curtains of blue velvet bordered with
gold, the upper portion thereof being provided with rings to slide upon
a curtain rod, by which means the occupants of the alcove could be cut
off from the view of the multitude. This balcony bore the arms of the
archbishop and those of the city of Nantes. The balcony on the opposite
side of the alcove was arranged with curtains in the same way, but it
was draped with red velvet decorated with a border of white velvet and
gold braid and tassels. This balcony bore two coats of arms, both
belonging to the Baron de Retz--one was the house of Retz itself, gold
with _croix de sable_; the other, that of Machecoul, _trois chevrons
de gueules sur le champ d’argent_. The stage for the actors formed
the centre of the alcove, but was brought to the front to enable the
populace to see it, and was decorated with red velvet bearing the coat
of arms of the city of Nantes.

As the hour for the spectacle approaches, the crowd gathers in the
place, and soon it is a mass of people, bourgeoisie and peasantry, most
of them wearing the peculiar costumes of the country.

[Illustration: A street in Nantes--Ancient houses.]

The archbishop with his suite could reach his balcony by a private
way. The Baron de Retz occupied his hotel called Maison de la Suze in
the Rue Notre Dame. This Maison de la Suze has been destroyed, and no
representation of it is in existence. There are, however, many other of
the ancient streets lined on either side with houses belonging, if not
to that precise epoch, to the one immediately following, and as such
may here be given with propriety as presenting a reasonably faithful
idea of the city. Many of these houses are historic and have been
occupied by persons of renown and distinction. Similar houses are to be
seen in other towns of Brittany--Vannes, Quimper, Angers, Laval, Dinan.
These houses are usually built of frames of wood with great beams and
posts as shown, and not infrequently the principal beams across the
front of the house bear a carved inscription. The author has seen these
in Vannes and Auray, of which the following are samples:

    PAX HVNC DOMVN ET OMNIBUS HABITAN IRVS IN EA ICI JAN FOLLIART
    MA FAICT FAIRE LAN 1560.

    AV NOM DE DIEV, DIEV SOICT EN MES AFFAIRES. YVES LEKME ET
    PERRINE LEBAR SA COMPAGNE ONT FAICT FAIRE SE LOGIS EN IVING
    1565.

Returning to the spectacle of the Mystery: The Baron de Retz passes
out from his great double gates or doors which form the entrance to
his Maison de la Suze, accompanied by his guards of honour, whose
glittering armour reflects brilliantly the rays of the sun. With
their halberts, they press back the crowd to make way for the Baron
and his suite. By his side, and within easy reach, walks one of his
men-at-arms, holding a casque upturned, more or less filled with
coined money, of which the Baron occasionally takes a handful and
scatters among the crowd, first on one side and then on the other.
Arrived at the balcony intended for him, the guards of honour open
their ranks, press back the crowd, take their station at the foot
of the steps and along the front of the balcony, while the Baron,
accompanied by his suite, among which were his chapel, as it is called,
comprising his bishop and some thirty ecclesiastics of divers names
and functions, mount the balcony and take their places, the Baron, of
course, at the front and centre. It is said that his display of church
and ecclesiastical dignitaries was unwarranted, that it had never
been authorised by the Pope, that his Bishop had no ecclesiastical
jurisdiction, nor was he lawfully entitled to perform the functions
or support the dignity, and it was also said that his appearance in
this character had always irritated, if it did not anger the Bishop of
Nantes.

The description of this spectacle has not been preserved to us, though,
as with the Mystery of Orleans, of which a few copies of the libretto
have been preserved, this spectacle at Nantes excited the populace
and aroused their enthusiasm, to which they gave vent with cries of
joy and great huzzas. The dignitaries were present with many of their
suite, in gorgeous dress and costumes, their men-at-arms with casque
and cuirass, Damascene steel and shining halbert and scabbard. Their
coats-of-mail were fire-gilt, and covered them from waist to knees;
gloves and boots of red leather completed a brilliant and striking
costume. The prelates, on the other hand, with their magnificent
official robes of scarlet and gold and silver, with the curtains and
hangings of such royal magnificence, all served as a background for the
play of the Mystery which, being of the Infant Jesus and the Virgin
Mary, excited the deep-seated religious fervour and enthusiasm of the
people. They manifested their joy and enthusiasm in the usual way of
crowds, but the principal share was devoted to the Baron de Retz. This
was the pleasure reserved for him; this was the compensation for his
great expenditure. It gratified his ambition, tickled his vanity, gave
him pleasure, justified his expenditure, confirmed his extravagant
habits, and led him farther in the course which ended in his ruin.

It would scarcely be possible at this late date, to obtain a more
complete report of the prodigalities of Gilles de Retz than is
furnished by the _Mémoires des Héritiers_, which, as it was sufficient
for the King, should be sufficient for us; but there will occasionally
crop out of the historical desert of this ancient time a record which,
by giving information on a particular subject, lifts the veil from
his life and gives us glimpses into certain extravagances, whereby we
may imagine the result. One of these, lately found among the archives
at Orleans, and contributed by M. Doinel, is a memorandum of a visit
of Gilles to that city from September, 1434, to August, 1435. He was
accompanied by his suite and retinue, military and ecclesiastic. His
brother, René de la Suze, was with him, which was the only time they
are shown to have been together, and, curiously enough, it must have
been while the _Mémoires des Héritiers_, if not already presented, were
being prepared, or at least contemplated; for the decree of the King
was published within the next two years; yet no mention is made therein
of René’s presence on this trip.

Arrived at Orleans, Gilles de Retz installed himself, with his personal
adjutants, at the Hôtel Croix d’Or (Golden Cross), while his suite
and high officers with their respective retinues, were installed at
the other hotels, until, as the minute says, there was not a hotel in
all Orleans but was occupied, if not filled, by him or by the officers
and men of his suite. His “college,” that is, the ecclesiastics,
twenty-five or thirty persons, were installed at the _Écu_ (Crown)
_de Saint Georges_; the choir and their leader at the _Enseigne de
l’Épée_ (Sign of the Sword); his armourer, Hector Broisset, at the
_Coupe_; his brother, René de la Suze, at the _Petit Saumon_ (Little
Salmon); his councillors, Gilles de Sillé, Guy de Bonnière, Guyot de
Chambrays, Guillaume Tardif, and Guy de Blanchfort, with his captain
of the guard, Loys l’Angevin, at the _Grand Saumon_ (Great Salmon);
his chevaliers, Monseignieurs de Martigné, Foulques Blasmes, Jean de
Rains, and Bauleis, at the _Image de Sainte Marie Madeleine_; Jean de
Montecler, with Colin le Godelier; his _Rais le herault_ (herald) and
suite, with men-at-arms, at the _Tête Noire_; his chariots and horses,
with those of his brother René, at the _Roche-Boulet_; the vicar of
the chapel, the priest Le Blond and his barber, and the horses of
the “college” at _l’Enseigne du Fourbisseur_; the Seignieur Jean de
Veille, Bois-Roulier, his provost, George the trumpeter, at the house
of Jeannette la Pionne; Thomas his _enlumineur_, at _le Dieu d’Amour_
(God of Love); while men-at-arms, servants, lackeys, and followers,
occupied the _Cheval Blanc_ (White Horse), _l’Homme Sauvage_ (Savage
Man), and _l’Écu d’Orléans_ (the Crown of Orleans).

While at Orleans, in 1434, he made thence, during the autumn, a trip to
the Bourbonnais country, stopping for a time at Montlucon, at the hotel
_l’Écu_ (Crown) _de France_. When his hotel bill for eight hundred
and ten _reaux d’or_ was presented, he could pay only four hundred
and ninety-five, and his two servitors, Jean de Sellier and Huet de
Villarceau, became his guarantors of payment. Everything during the
trip was at his expense. They all travelled on horseback, unless it
was some high dignitary or _quelque malade_ (sick) who had a chariot.
Horses and all expenditures were furnished by him, and preparing
for such a trip, everybody was provided with new, striking, and,
consequently, expensive costumes, suitable for the suite of such a rich
and puissant Baron.

On his return to Brittany in August, 1435, it was found that his
travels during the year had cost the round sum of eighty thousand
golden crowns. The _Mémoires_ say this trip left a train of “devoured
revenues, lands sold, seigniories mortgaged, works of art and
valuables hypothecated, with considerable debts and unpaid loans _très
onéreux_, which menaced ruin and opened an abyss threatening to engulf
everything.”

Among the records found at Orleans was one which, made under the
circumstances relating to his expenses and financial condition, throws
a strong side-light on his character, bringing out the recklessly
spendthrift side of it, and would go a long way towards justifying
the King’s decree of the interdiction of the sale and mortgage of any
property, which, it is not to be forgotten, shortly followed this visit
to Orleans.

This paper, prepared by Gilles, provided:

    “Saturday, xxvi day of March, MCCCCXXXIIII (1435 N.S.). The
    noble and puissant lord, Monsieur Gilles, Seignior of Retz,
    Count of Brienne, Lord of Champtocé and Pouzauges, Marshal of
    France, has lately, for the good of his soul, and looking to
    our Lord Jesus Christ, on behalf of himself, his late father,
    mother, relatives and friends, all sinners, made a foundation
    _in memory of the Holy Innocents_, at Machecoul in Rais, Duchy
    of Brittany.”

By this paper he appoints a full corps of priests, “vicar, dean,
archdeacon, treasurer, canons, chapter, and college”; for the support
and maintenance of this establishment he gives in trust, in due and
formal language, to the King of Sicily and Duke of Anjou his castle and
_châtellenie_ of Champtocé, and to the Duke of Brittany one-half the
Barony and lands of Rais. He confirmed this gift before notaries named.
He declared the two princes named should act as his trustees; and,
providing for their possible refusal to act, he names respectively, and
in succession, as future trustees, the King, the Emperor, the Pope; in
case they all refuse, the lands shall be divided between the knights of
the Orders of Saint John and of Saint Lazare.

All the Princes named refused, and each, as far as he could,
interdicted and prohibited Gilles from carrying out his project. It
accordingly fell through. Yet, at the moment of his establishing this
priestly organisation, he was engaged, as we shall see farther on, in
the commission of the most horrible and unnatural of crimes, for which
he was, before the end of the decade, to be ignominiously executed.

His Maison de la Suze has been described, whether actually or only
from similar houses of the epoch, is now impossible to tell; but it is
said to have eclipsed, in its luxury and taste, the palace of the Dukes
of Brittany. It was ornamented and decorated to a high degree. All
countries were laid under tribute to furnish riches for its decoration:
Italy for its painting and sculpture, Spain for its Cordovan leather,
Flanders for its tapestry, Venice and Bohemia for their crystals and
glassware, the Orient for its magnificent stuffs, and Persia for its
tiles and _faience_; while, without doubt, the ceramics of his own
and neighbouring provinces, like Tours, Orleans, Gien, Quimper, and
Poitou (the latter the forerunner of Limoges), were represented in the
luxurious fittings of the houses and châteaux of Gilles, the Baron de
Retz.

The _Mémoire des Héritiers_, setting forth the extravagant and ruinous
expenditures by which the principal of the estate was being dissipated,
was duly presented to the King and the necessary proof offered to
establish its allegations. The date is not given, but it should have
been about 1432–33. In 1435–36, the King, having become satisfied
of the truth of the matters alleged, through his Council of State
and by letters patent, issued his decree of prohibition against the
alienation or incumbrance by Gilles de Retz of any of his lands or
seigniories. This decree has been preserved to us in Guepin’s _Histoire
de Nantes_, pp. 131–133.

The Decree of Interdiction by the King, against the sale and
incumbrance of his property commences with a description of the
various noble families from which Gilles de Retz had descended; his
titles, his property, baronies, châteaux, seigniories, his marriage,
the properties of his wife--that is to say, Pouzauges, Tiffauges,
Chabenais, Confolens, Château-Morant, Savenay, Lombert, Grez-sur-Maine,
and other beautiful properties, the rental value of which amounted to
six or seven thousand livres (pounds, about three hundred thousand
francs, actual value); that from his said marriage, he derived also
personal property of the value of one hundred thousand golden crowns;
that he held in Grosses Baronies thirty thousand livres of true
domains; that from his office of Marshal of France he received grand
salary and pension from the King, with numerous gratuities; so that
he had a yearly income of forty or fifty thousand livres or more. The
said Gilles, after the decease of his father, took the administration
of his estate to himself and used it according to his pleasure; he
established himself in an estate grander than that to which he really
belonged; kept two hundred horsemen, maintained a chapel of singers
in his château numbering twenty-five or thirty persons, chaplain,
clerks, children, and others; these were taken with him when he
travelled; and in all things he managed his affairs so as to have in
his château, because of the said chapel, more than fifty men or persons
at his expense, and as many horses; he had also in said chapel a great
quantity or number of ornaments, cloth of gold, silk, chandeliers
and _censoirs_, crosses, plates, dishes, etc.; these were of such
sumptuosity that they cost three times more than their value; he had
several organs, one of which, carried by six men, was taken with him
wherever he went; he often purchased cloth-of-gold at sixty or eighty
crowns per _aune_ (ell) when it was not worth more than twenty-five,
and a pair of “orfrays” (embroidered cloth of gold) at three or four
hundred crowns, when they were not worth more than one hundred; he
kept in the said chapel a dean, choir-leader, or singing-master, an
archdeacon, vicar, schoolmaster, etc., as in the cathedral, and one
of these priests or officers he undertook to establish and treat as a
bishop; he paid to some of these four hundred crowns, and to others
three hundred; he dressed them in robes with scarlet trains trimmed
with plush and fur, with fine hats; all were kept and served with the
most costly and expensive viands; the service of all these so-called
priests (holy men) was nothing but vanity, without devotion and in
defiance of good order. The said Gilles sent on several occasions to
the Pope in the endeavour to obtain permission or authority that his
choristers, or leaders, should be mitred as prelates, or like the
canons of the church at Lyons. He made excessive gifts in wine, viands,
and _hypocras_, to all who desired to eat or drink, keeping open house
for that purpose, and those who had the government of his affairs lived
like great lords; while the commoners frequently had naught, _ni boire
ni manger_, when they came to table.

He played games, farces, _morisques_, and, on occasion, he performed
the Mysteries of Pentecost and Ascension, on high scaffolds under which
were _hypocras_ and strong wines, as in a cave.

The said Gilles constituted one of his familiars, Roger de Briqueville,
as his procureur, agent, or attorney-in-fact, empowered to marry his
daughter, Marie, at a time when she was only four or five years of age,
to whatever man should seem good to the said de Briqueville, against
the custom prevailing in the country to marry the daughters, issue of
such high nobility, only with the assent of their parents and friends.
He took it into his head to deal in alchemy, hoping thus to obtain the
Philosopher’s Stone; sent to Germany and to different countries in
search of the masters of this art, and brought to his château Monsieur
Anth. of Palermo, making, with him, outrageous expenses from which no
one derived any profit; in all of which things he acted without sense
or understanding, and in a foolish, if not crazy, manner. It is found
that he sold and alienated certain lands (describing them).

For these reasons, the King, being fully informed and having fully
ascertained of the evil government of the said Sieur de Retz, through
his Grand Council, issued his interdiction and prohibition against any
alienation, transfer, mortgage, or pledge, by the said Gilles de Retz,
of any of his lands or seigniories.

The King enjoined upon his Parliament the duty of carrying this decree
of interdiction into effect; and under severe penalties, he forbade
any captains, guards, tenants, or persons in charge, from attorning or
delivering up to any stranger (to the title) any château or fortress of
Gilles de Retz until Parliament should so order.

This decree was published “at the sound of the trumpet” at the
principal places concerned--Orleans, Tours, Angers, Champtocé,
Pouzauges, Tiffauges, Saint-Jean-d’Angely, and other places. The Duke
of Brittany refused to accept, register, or publish the decree, and
it was in vain that the “_femme, parents, et les amis_” of Gilles
solicited him. It is alleged that this was to enable the Duke to
take advantage of the necessities of Gilles, and purchase his lands
at ruinous prices. He purchased some and took mortgages on others;
Champtocé, Bourgneuf, Bénate, and Prinçay or Princé, were mortgaged for
the sum of 100,000 crowns of gold, to be repaid within six years. In
this way did Gilles, during these eight years of his life, dissipate
the sum of _deux cents mille écus_ (200,000 crowns) of the heritage.

The King’s interdiction of the sale or mortgage of any of his property
aggravated Gilles’s situation by increasing his difficulties in
obtaining money. He had no scruples about borrowing money of whomsoever
he could, and if repayment could be put off a sufficient length of
time, would promise the return of it doubled or trebled, as the
creditor demanded. The situation must have been irritating to Gilles,
and doubtless proved his incentive to magic, by which he hoped to
discover the Philosopher’s Stone, and, thereby, the means of converting
the baser metals into gold. Whatever he may have done, or thought, in
this direction prior to the passing of the decree, it seems that later
he entered into closer relation with the alchemist and magician, and
sought to study and practise the “black art” to a greater degree than
he ever had done before.

From this on, we have to treat Gilles as a changed man, not only in his
conduct, but in his character and desires. He separated from his wife,
but established her in the château of Champtocé, while he installed
himself with his retinue, including his magician, in the two châteaux,
one at Machecoul, which he had received from his father, Guy de Laval,
but principally at Tiffauges, which he had received from his wife.
Here we have to treat of him no longer as a soldier, or as a noble of
France, but in his character of magician, necromancer, debtor, robber,
murderer.

Under these circumstances what course was Gilles to pursue, and what
could he do to retrieve his fallen fortunes? He required money, he
was spending more than his income; he was selling off his property
and reducing his principal in the vain attempt to liquidate his debts
and provide for his present expenses. He did not have strength of
character to adopt a rigorous reduction of expenses and live on a
moderate and conservative plan; indeed, such would hardly have been
natural. The great man of a neighbourhood, who, having been entrusted
with large sums of money; or the banker or trader who, being deeply
indebted, endeavours to restore his broken fortunes by retrenchment of
expenditures, only precipitates the catastrophe he seeks to avert. The
ostensibly rich man who proposes to make himself better able to meet
the demands of his business by disposing of his horses and carriage,
closing up his houses, selling his yacht, giving fewer entertainments
to his friends, instead of proving himself successful and inviting
confidence in his ability to pull through, will prove the architect of
his own doom. Therefore, what was Gilles de Retz to do? What he did,
was to rely upon the success of his scheme for the discovery of the
Philosopher’s Stone, in the hope to thus replenish his empty coffers.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IV

GILLES’S CRIMES

  _Gilles’s Abduction of Children--His Familiars--Château
      Tiffauges--First Process against Gilles--Warrant--Arrest and
      Imprisonment--Château de Nantes._


Beginning in the year 1432, a district comprising a large portion
of western France, including the southern part of the Province of
Brittany, the western part of the Province of Maine, and the northern
part of the Province of Poitou, became excited by an undefined fear
which, increased by its uncertainty and vagueness, produced in the
people a feeling akin to terror. It was not the fear of war, for the
people had had an intimate acquaintance with war for many years; nor
was it the fear of an epidemic nor of sudden death; and it was not easy
to tell with exactness what it was. It was so indefinite that belief
in it was at first refused. It was considered by many to be the result
of superstition; some declared it to be something of the vampire race
which by some sort of resurrection had changed its horrible character
so that it did not wait to prey upon the dead, but made its attacks
upon the living, choosing young children and maidens, and timing the
place and manner of attack so that not only was there no defence, but
there was also no opportunity for pursuit or recovery.

Michelet (_Histoire de France_) describes it as a beast of
extermination, unseen, unknown, unnatural, indescribable, invisible,
supernatural, omnipresent, possessed of powers of disappearance on the
instant, and so of escape, dissolving into thin air. It was believed
by many to be a physical manifestation of the Evil One. It made its
appearance in one place on one day and at another place the next day,
and at a distant place the next; it was here to-night and far away in
the morning; it ravaged the country, spreading terror, and leaving in
its track not simply fear and mourning, but the torture of insanity and
death. There was a mixture of enchantment, of impossibility, about the
performance which left it to be accounted for only upon the principle
of legerdemain, magic, the black art, and the presence of the devil. On
all sides, right and left, east and west, north and south, within this
terror-stricken district, sometimes each day for a week, sometimes not
again for a month, then not for three, and again not for six months or
more, but subject to these intervals, came the story from one section
to the other, of the disappearance, as though by enchantment, of a
child or children of tender age. No apparent distinction of sex was
made, but the subjects of attack were always young, say from six to
sixteen years; old enough to go about the farm or from one farm to
another, possibly from one village to another, when, without warning,
apparently without cause, without the slightest evidence as to the
means used, and without leaving the slightest trace of the tragedy,
suddenly a child was gone. No one knew or could find in what direction
it had gone, or how it had been taken. All that the terror-stricken
parents and family knew was that their child was here to-day, and now
he or she was not--it was playing about the door only a half-hour
since; now it was gone, gone as completely as though swallowed by the
earth.

No one knew where the blow would fall next; no one knew whether his
family circle was to be invaded, his house stricken, his child taken.
Every care and watchfulness was employed, consultations were had
between the stricken parents, the officers of the law were consulted,
and all that was known--apparently all that could be discovered--was
that their children were here yesterday, engaged in their little plays
or about their own little duties around the house or on the farm, and
in a moment, though the most rigorous and extensive search was made,
they were gone--gone absolutely, gone beyond possibility of recovery,
gone in numbers, gone from every part of the district mentioned, and no
sign or trace left of their fate. Fear, fright, terror, took possession
of all, and this, mixed with sorrow and grief, broke many a heart, sent
many a loving mother in insanity to the grave. The peasants who, by
reason of their age and strength supposed themselves to be safe, walked
lightly, as though afraid to put their feet upon the ground; spoke in
low voices as if afraid to trust themselves in ordinary tones, and
everything throughout the country was done with bated breath as if in
the presence of the dead.

The peasants, superstitious at the best of times, were now overcome
with fear and gave themselves up a prey to the idea of enchantment and
magic, and could only account for the disappearance of their loved ones
by the presence of the arch-enemy of mankind, against whom they had no
means of fighting, and whose assaults upon their devoted children they
had no means of resisting. The frightened parents were tortured by the
uncertainty of the fate that had overcome their loved ones. “Are they
dead?” “Have they been taken to the realms above or to the tortures
below?” “Are they in prison?” “Are they still living?” “Are they never
to be seen again?” “Might they not be in a distant part of the country
enduring pains and tortures?” “Might they not, even now, be weeping and
screaming themselves half mad and demanding the presence and comfort
of their mother?” “In what direction should we go?” “Has nobody seen
them?” “Has search been made?” “In what direction have we yet to go?”
No answer came to all these questions. The fate of the children was an
impenetrable mystery.

Did the parents recover from it? Yes, they became accustomed to it.
Human nature can become accustomed to anything. Their fate seemed
better, not because it was better, but because, not getting worse, they
got used to it and were able to stand it better. The first theory upon
which the people settled was that the disappearance of their children
was due to fairies, to evil genii, to a supernatural and mysterious
enemy--that this mysterious enemy was supernatural, they did not doubt.
This belief served to increase the pangs of their grief and to render
the unknown and undiscoverable fate of their beloved ones more horrible
to contemplate and more difficult for the parents to bear. They felt
themselves incapable and incompetent to war against this mysterious,
devastating, supernatural force; hence they resigned themselves to the
affliction, considering it to have been sent upon them by Almighty
God as a punishment for their sins. They did not know what sins they
had committed, but felt sure that nothing they had done would justify
even Almighty God in the abduction of the little ones who had not been
at fault, and the torture of the parents incident thereto; so they
rebelled against their fate.

The disappearance of children did not at first create great excitement
among the people; their disappearance was explained in a natural
manner: some accident had happened to them, possibly they had fallen
into one of the many rivers and were drowned; the lakes and rivers
were plentiful, their waters deep, their currents swift, the banks
steep. One child here in one province, another child there in a distant
province--such a disappearance did not count for much and did not
unduly or wonderfully excite the people; but when it came to spread
over the entire country and, by the comparison and the overlapping of
searches and the employment of officers, it was discovered that this
beast of extermination, this great, powerful, mysterious, supernatural
visitor or power, was making itself felt throughout the entire country,
and that no house was safe, that no parent could say with certainty
that his own child might not be taken next morning--then the country
became excited, alarmed, and, finally, terror-stricken.

At last it became apparent that these ravages were confined to a given
district, a circle of country approximately bounded by the present
cities of Vannes, Rennes, Angers, La Rochelle, and so opening to the
ocean. Of this circle, Nantes was approximately the centre. This
condition continued, growing more acute year by year. Each year new
families were stricken, and the terror became more widely spread.

A man of the character and ambitions of Gilles de Retz would naturally
have about him a corps of men to assist in carrying out his nefarious
courses. They would necessarily be without fear and without conscience,
adepts in secrecy and deceit, with the instincts and abilities of
detectives and ready to obey any behest of their master. Gilles had
such a corps of lieutenants; most of them were Bretons as he was,
thoroughly acquainted with the country, most of them lowly born, many
of them illegitimate and strongly suspected to have had fathers of
higher birth than their mothers. Gilles made choice of these familiars
from among his retinue, selecting those best qualified to carry out his
projects and to be his right hand in executing his plans.

The names of some of these have been preserved to us in the process
against Gilles: Eustache Blanchet, Henriet Griart, Jean Roussignol,
Gilles de Sillé, Hugues de Bremont, Étienne Corrillaut (_alias_
Poitou), Robin Romulart, and one woman, Perrine Martin, _alias_
La Meffraye. These performed for Gilles the rôle of secretary,
aide-de-camp, assistants, guards, spies, or servants, as occasion
demanded, and became identified in the minds of the peasants as
servants and representatives of Gilles de Retz. They spent practically
their lifetime in his service, and toward the end of their career
they came to be feared throughout the countryside as much as Gilles
himself. Indeed, it was their actions which first attracted public
attention towards him. It came to be noted that when infant or child
had disappeared, some of these had been seen in the neighbourhood; and
when all things pertaining thereto were so mysterious, the people stood
ready to catch at any straw which might serve as a possible solution.
The wiser persons, who were not so superstitious and did not attribute
this disappearance of children to supernatural causes, but rather to
the action of fiends, discovered and remarked the coincidence of the
presence of some one of these with the disappearance of an infant. The
attention of the officers was turned in his direction, and certain
suggestions or suspicions were given to the Bishop of Nantes, who
thereupon determined to open a secret inquest for the solution of the
mystery. By this means the matter was brought to light.

The most prominent and powerful of these familiars of Gilles de Retz
was an Italian priest and alchemist, François Prelati. He occupied
a position different from the others. One of the before-mentioned
familiars, Eustache Blanchet, a _soi-disant_ priest, belonging to his
ecclesiastical retinue, appears to have been better acquainted with
the private affairs of Gilles de Retz than any other, and to have been
entrusted with higher powers, and sent oftener on journeys of diplomacy
and confidential business. For what purpose he should have been sent
to Italy can now only be surmised; but in the year 1436, while in
Florence, he met François Prelati. His history has been given by
Saunière, but no one knows how much of it is fact and how much romance.
It appears, however, that Prelati was born in Mont Catane in the Valle
Nero; that he was educated as an ecclesiastic, admitted to orders, and
given the tonsure by the Bishop of Arezzo. He became interested in the
study of the occult sciences, especially chemistry or, as it was then
called, alchemy; and his love for this science overcame his desire for
ecclesiastical service.

He was about forty-five years of age when he became acquainted with
Gilles de Retz; was well bred, highly educated, of elegant manners,
handsome in appearance, well kept and cleanly in person, devoting
much care to the welfare of his hair, beard, and hands, all of which
repaid and showed the attention bestowed upon them. He was a good
conversationalist, of smooth, insinuating, and seductive manner. He
spoke Latin as well as he did Italian; his French was excellent,
probably better than that of Gilles or the Bretons with whom he
associated, while a slightly broken pronunciation conspired to make
it more attractive. He had a brilliant and sparkling wit and an
active imagination, was well posted in the affairs of the world, and
attractive to his fellows, whether men of letters, men of affairs, or
_des hommes de guerre_. The description given of him would indicate his
appearance to have been that of an elegant gentleman. It goes without
saying that he was learned as an alchemist and expert as a necromancer.
Such was François Prelati, the man who had been brought by Eustache
Blanchet from Italy to France to teach Gilles de Retz the black art.

Gilles, during this period, occupied alternately, according to his
pleasure, the two châteaux of Machecoul and Tiffauges. The latter is
situated to the north of the village of Tiffauges and, according to
tradition, occupies the site of an ancient Roman camp and is about
15 kilometres south of Clisson and 40 south of Nantes. The château
occupies an elevated plateau which forms a promontory between the
junction of the creek Crume with the river Sèvre, both of which
bathed the foot of the walls on either side. The latter continues its
way northward and empties into the Loire below Nantes. The château
was a castle covering space enough for a city. It is now in ruins,
except the grand tower and adjacent halls. The walls may be traced by
the débris in rows of stones now covered with sod and grass. It was
attacked and burned during the religious wars of the sixteenth century,
but its present ruinous condition began with the breaking-out of the
Revolution in 1789. The Vendeans, after gaining the battle of Torfou,
occupied it, having repaired it sufficiently to afford shelter and to
make it a place of defence. It remained in a fairly good condition
until the return of Napoleon from Elba, when it was again occupied as
a recruiting-place, or place of security by the Vendeans. After the
battle of Waterloo and the restoration of Louis XVIII., fearing some
further use of it by enemies, the government destroyed it, reducing it
to its present condition. The lowlands in the neighbourhood are marshy
and almost become lakes. The lake of Grand Lieu is not far distant, and
others are in the vicinity.

The ruins are interesting and the débris is easily recognised. One
with a slight knowledge of the arrangement can trace the walls of
the structure, as well as the triple cincture of fortifications
surrounding it. These are now covered with sod and green grass and
used for pasturage, while the level places, like the courts within the
castle and the parade-ground within the lines of fortification, are
subjected to cultivation. The château of Tiffauges was partially built
in the time of Saint Louis; the grand tower now remaining is said to
belong to that epoch; the large tower, the small tower, the chapel,
the great hall wherein the Baron presided over his retainers or, if
need be, received such lords and seigniors as came to visit him; the
dining-room, kitchen, scullery, with all their necessary appurtenances
of cellar, storehouse, warehouses, well-room, were all in evidence;
bedrooms, halls, parlours, etc., were prepared in abundance for the
reception of lords, ladies, and all who might attend upon the occasion
of a ball or fête. On another side of the courtyard, but adjoining
the main building, was a shorter wing, large enough to lodge his
knights, men-at-arms, soldiers, servants, varlets, etc. It was, in
these regards, similar to most other extensive castles or châteaux, and
can be compared to the château of Nantes where Gilles was tried and
convicted. (See frontispiece.)

The Château Tiffauges was a favourite residence of Gilles de Retz; it
was a stronghold, in which, if need be, he could have great security
and, in case of war or attack, could make a good defence. It was large
and commodious. Here it was that Gilles de Retz and François Prelati,
the Italian, had their laboratory in which they endeavoured, first by
alchemy, then by magic, and lastly by murder, to discover the Elixir
of Eternal Youth and the transmutation of metals into gold. Here took
place the attempt to obtain a conference with the Evil One, with the
idea of obtaining his supposed influence in their sublunary affairs.

A description of this laboratory has been left us. The chamber was high
up in the tower, with communicating passages in various directions,--to
the large tower and also to the basement and, as is said, to the
_oubliettes_ and the secret passageway to the Crume and so outside the
château. The laboratory occupied the full diameter of the tower; an
immense chimney was on one side of the room, in which was placed the
furnace where the mutilated bodies of many of the dead infants were
consumed. The chamber had but two windows, one to the north the other
to the south, both high up in the wall, both capable of being closed
and darkened by solid shutters.

Lemire says (p. 27):

    “In the highest chamber of the small tower, he [Gilles] had
    installed a chemical [alchemy] laboratory and there employed
    his three sorcerers, one French, one English or Picardian, and
    one Italian”;

And he describes with minutest detail the apparatus employed (p. 28):

    “What Gilles desired was that Prelati should make gold, whether
    by science, by magic, by the intervention of the devil, or by
    these means united. He attempted the transmutation of metals
    into gold. He distilled into retorts different liquids destined
    to dissolve the mineral substances after certain formulas of
    magic repeated under the invocation of demons. Prelati declared
    to Gilles that to make these operations successful required
    the addition of the hearts, hands, or eyes, but above all the
    blood, of young children. The blood was to be used in tracing
    the magic circles and figures.”

Lemire believes (p. 30) that Prelati employed the secrets of chemical
art, sulphur and phosphorus and similar substances, in forming fiery
serpents to deceive Gilles:

    “Frogs and serpents, inoffensive but frightful in appearance, a
    leopard which was naught else than a large dog with bristling
    hair, cries of beasts, groans, sounds of trumpets; these were
    the apparatus employed in the scenes of invocation.”

Then he tells (p. 31) how, to furnish victims for these magicians,
Gilles carried on his abduction of children, choosing the little
peasants who would not be missed, or whose parents would not be likely,
from poverty, to pursue the search.

Apparently the first step, at least the first step made public, against
Gilles de Retz, charging him with crime, and the first paper forming
part of the ecclesiastical record in the archives of the Department of
Loire-Inférieure, is the “Declaration of Infamy against Gilles de Retz
by the Bishop of Nantes, July 30, 1440.” It was in Latin:

    “To all to whom these present letters shall come, Jean, by
    the permission of the holy apostolic see, Bishop of Nantes,
    with full assurance of salvation through our Lord and Saviour,
    salute those present:

    “We hereby make known by visiting in person the parish of the
    Holy Mary at Nantes, in which is built the house or château
    vulgarly called “la Suze,” the frequent habitation of Gilles de
    Retz hereinafter described, a parishioner of this church and
    of other parish churches designated further on. Upon public
    rumour and on the numerous reports that have come upon us by
    the denunciatory clamour of Agatha, wife of Denis de la Mignon;
    of Donété, widow of the defunct Regnaud Donété of St. Marie; of
    Jean Guibert and his wife of St. Vincent; of the widow Eonnet
    Kerguen of St. Croix, Nantes; of Jeanne, wife of Jean Darell
    of St. Similien near Nantes; of Theophanie, wife of Eonnet le
    Charpentier of St. Clement outside the walls; fortified by the
    depositions of the synodical witnesses of these churches and by
    men who, thanks to their probity and their well known prudence,
    are above suspicion, and who, in the course of our pastoral
    visit in the same churches, we ourselves have interrogated
    with the greatest care upon the facts below indicated, or
    of still others pertaining to the duty of the bishop in his
    pastoral visits, we have discovered, and the depositions of
    the witnesses have proved to us, among other things, that
    Gilles de Retz, our subject and justiciable, by himself or
    by certain men his accomplices, has strangled, killed, and
    inhumanly massacred a very large number of infants; that he has
    committed upon them crimes against nature; that he has made, or
    has caused to be made, numerous horrible invocations of demons;
    he has made to them sacrifices and offerings, and has passed
    a compact with them, without counting other crimes, numerous
    and enormous, all of which belong within our jurisdiction;
    and, finally, by several other visits made by us or by the
    Commissary acting in our name, we know that Gilles de Retz has
    perpetrated and committed these crimes and still others, within
    the limits of our diocese.

    “For which cause he was, and is now, and publicly for the
    knowledge of all, rendered infamous towards all grave and
    honest men. And to the end that no person shall have doubt
    upon this subject, we have ordained, or fixed, or caused to be
    fixed, our seal to these present letters.

    “Given at Nantes, the day before the last of July, in the year
    of our Lord, 1440.

    “By the command of Monseignior, Bishop of Nantes.

                        (Signed) “J. PETIT.”

It does not appear that this declaration of infamy was ever made known
to Gilles de Retz. It was made by the Bishop of Nantes in accordance
with his ecclesiastical right and duty. It had, from early Christian
times, been the duty of the bishops of the Church to make episcopal
visits throughout their respective dioceses. By the capitularies of
Charlemagne and Carloman, it became the bishop’s right, if not his
duty, to listen to any complaints of the common people. This was in
the nature of an inquest by church authority into the crimes of high
or powerful persons, or into public scandals which were without other
rectification. The proceeding might be likened to an ecclesiastical
grand jury. It was, like that of the grand jury, a secret inquest,
_inquisitio famæ_, and in this particular instance, establishing the
infamy of Gilles, it opened against him the inquisitory proceeding
according to the rule: _Inquisitionem debet clamosa insinuatio
prævenire_. This declaration of infamy, made by the bishop and based
upon the complaints he had received and scandals he had heard during
his episcopal visit, was the beginning of the prosecution against
Gilles.

The secret investigation doubtless continued and culminated in the
citation of the Bishop to Gilles de Retz, September 13th, to appear
on September 19th, and answer the charges. After the preamble and
declarations of the requisite power and authority, and his knowledge of
the crimes of Gilles and of the public clamour, called in the official
document _hurlements ululantium_, the bishop proceeds:

    “For these causes we will no longer hide the monstrous things,
    nor will we allow heresy to develop itself, that heresy which,
    like a cancer, devours everything if it is not promptly
    extirpated even to the last root. Farther than that, we would
    apply a remedy as prompt as it is efficacious. Therefore we
    enjoin you, all and singular, and to those of you in particular
    to whom the present letter shall come, immediately and in a
    definite manner, each for himself and without counting on
    the other, without depending upon the care of any other,
    to cite before us, or before the official of our cathedral
    church, on Monday, the fête-day of the Exaltation of the True
    Cross, September 19, Gilles, as aforesaid designated the
    Baron of Retz, to submit to our authority and to accept our
    jurisdiction; we ourselves cite him by these letters to appear
    before our bar to respond to the crimes that are laid upon him.
    Execute, therefore, these orders, you, and each of you, and
    every one of you, cause them to be executed.

    “Given at Nantes on Tuesday, the 13th of September, in the year
    of our Lord, 1440.

    “By the command of the Bishop of Nantes.

                        (Signed)     “JEAN GUIOLE.”

Whether the Bishop of Nantes had, in his official capacity, already
established a permanent ecclesiastical court for the trial of such
cases as might properly be brought before it, does not appear; nor
whether he had the necessary paraphernalia of officers such as
prosecutors, clerks, record-keepers, and an executive officer to serve
processes, maintain order, etc., etc., as would be usual and necessary
in all regularly established courts. So it is not known whether the
executive officer charged with the service of this writ was a regular
officer, or only one appointed for the occasion; but it abundantly
appears that one Robert Guillaumet, a notary of Nantes, received the
writ for execution, and that in this matter he acted as executive
officer for the Bishop.

Gilles de Retz was at that time at his château of Machecoul. Robert
Guillaumet took to his aid Jean l’Abbé, a captain in the service of
the Duke of Brittany, with a number of his troop, and together they
repaired to Machecoul for the purpose of arresting Gilles on the
warrant of the Bishop.

There has been some discussion over the part taken in the affair by
the Duke of Brittany himself, and how far the proceeding met his
approval, and how far he stood ready to give aid and assistance in
carrying out the purpose of the Bishop. Michelet (_Histoire de France_,
vol. v.) asserts that the Duke of Brittany was highly favourable to
the accusation; that “he was delighted at the opportunity to thus
strike at a Laval,” and he ascribes this to the fact that the Laval
family, though related to the Montforts, of which the Duke was one,
had formed against him an opposition, the intention of which was to
deliver Brittany to France. There can be but little doubt that the
Duke of Brittany was entirely favourable to the Bishop--they were near
relatives and good friends, they always had stood together, and though
the Bishop never had had any dispute with Gilles de Retz, yet the Duke
frequently had.

The Duke had already foreseen the waning fortune of Gilles, and stood
ready to profit by it. He had refused to make publication in Brittany
of the decree of interdiction of the King, for the sake of the
opportunity which might accrue to obtain good bargains in purchasing
the property of Gilles. It is scarcely possible, dependent as he must
have been upon the Duke and his government and the power and force of
the secular arm for the execution of any decree that might be passed,
that the Bishop of Nantes would proceed against so powerful a baron as
Gilles, the dean of the nobility of Brittany, Marshal of France, and
Lieutenant-General of the Duke’s army, and enter upon an undertaking
so gigantic, so fraught with danger, and so easy to miscarry, without
having first consulted with, and obtained the approval and favour of,
his sovereign, with the promise of material assistance and governmental
aid in case of need. This understanding between the Bishop and the Duke
is established by the outcome of the process. We see that in every step
the Bishop not only received countenance and favour at the hands of the
Duke, but that he could be relied upon to furnish the necessary strong
arm for the execution of the Bishop’s writs and decrees.

Armed with the writ and warrant of arrest, Robert Guillaumet and Jean
l’Abbé proceeded to Machecoul with their troop of soldiers. What was
their reception? Would they be successful in their undertaking and
bring the mighty Baron of Retz back to Nantes as prisoner? Would he
yield to the mandates of the law, obey the command of the Bishop,
and surrender himself as prisoner? He had a château, a veritable
stronghold, and he had his army of retainers within it--he could
defy both Robert Guillaumet with his writ and Jean l’Abbé with his
escort--but would he do so? Would he resist or would he yield? Michelet
passes the highest encomiums upon this little band, whose intrepidity
and courage he lauds as though it was leading a forlorn hope, for its
devotion to duty in entering upon so dangerous a procedure as this
arrest. There does not seem, however, to have been any reasonable
apprehension of danger. If Gilles resisted arrest, he would simply
remain within his castle, refuse to open his gate, and bid defiance
to the officers. They would then return to Nantes and report their
failure, and what would be done further was a matter for their
superiors, the authorities of the kingdom.

There may have been speculations as to what moved Gilles to surrender,
and no one can tell with certainty what thus influenced him. He
had three alternatives: resist arrest and fight it out with the
authorities, drive back the officers and then flee the country,
or submit to arrest. To shut himself up in his castle and resist
arrest would bring down the entire power of the kingdom, he would be
excommunicated by the Church and besieged by the Duke’s army--there
was little prospect of success in that direction. Flight would be a
confession of guilt, while he would have to leave everything behind--it
would be practically impossible for him to take his fortune or even
any considerable amount of valuables with him, and he would soon become
poverty-stricken and an outcast. It is more likely that he pursued the
conservative course of submitting to arrest, trusting to his rank,
fortune, power, and the law’s failure to make proof against him, hoping
by these to evade conviction.

That he was technically guilty of both heresy and sacrilege there
could be but little doubt, and it appears that he had greater fear of
these charges than of the others. When he found these were not to be
pressed, and that he was to be charged with the abduction of infants,
he may have felt stronger in the knowledge that he had never personally
committed these crimes, and that they could not be directly proved
against him. It is to be remembered that these offences had been
running for eight years; that they had been committed in all parts
of the country, always in isolated places, east, west, north, south;
and Gilles may have come to the conclusion, during the long series of
years, that whatever might be proved against his accomplices and active
agents, nothing could ever be proved against him. And now, as he must
make a decision immediately upon the arrival of Robert Guillaumet with
his warrant, Gilles may have felt that the shortest and easiest way
was the best. Partly, then, from pride, from policy, from bravado, and
in the belief that he would be able to defeat his adversaries in their
proofs, he gave orders to lower the bridge, to raise the portcullis,
and to open the gates of the castle.

Submitting himself to arrest, he is reported to have said: “I have
always had the design to become a monk, and here comes the Abbé to whom
I now engage myself” (_Procès Célèbres_: Paris, 1858, p. 14). Robert
Guillaumet and Jean l’Abbé made search of the castle. Prelati, Poitou,
and Henriet were arrested with Gilles at the château; Blanchet was
taken in the town; but most of the retinue of Gilles escaped. Then the
escort of Jean l’Abbé put themselves in order of march, guarding their
prisoners. Arrived at the château of Nantes, the gates were opened, and
Gilles de Retz, the dean of the barons of Brittany, Marshal of France,
and his party, were conducted within its heavy walls as prisoners and
malefactors. Gilles was assigned one of the upper chambers in the _Tour
Neuve_ of the château, and here he remained during the trial, until
the last day, when he was probably placed in the condemned cell. His
accomplices were not treated with the same consideration, but were
thrown pell-mell into the common prison of the castle.

The château of Nantes (frontispiece) is really a castle and would be
called such in England or in English-speaking countries. It was built
by, and had always belonged to, the government, first to the Duke and
afterward to the King. Its construction dates from the tenth century.
It was commenced by Conan, a Count of Rennes, an usurper, who commenced
the castle as a stronghold, by the possession of which he hoped to
resist the lawful claimant of the duchy and overawe the inhabitants of
the city. That portion called _Tour Neuve_ was built at this epoch,
situated at the confluence of the river Eure with the Loire, and the
waters of each of these rivers originally bathed the foot of the walls.
Conan did not long enjoy his possessions in Nantes; he was attacked
and overthrown, and Americ de Thouars took possession under the
title of Count of Nantes. During this epoch was built the château of
Champtoceau, which figured as the place of the capture of Clisson.

In the year 1207, Guy de Thouars repaired the château of Nantes, and
in 1227, Pierre de Dreux enlarged it, and so it remained until the time
of Francis II., when, under Du Cherfan in 1480 to 1499, it was enlarged
to its present dimensions. The bastion or _Tour Mercœur_, constructed
in 1588 by the duke of that name, then Governor of Nantes, was situated
at the angle of State Street and Port Maillaird. It has been renewed
and restored sundry times since then, but not to affect the integrity
of the building as a whole. The _Tour Neuve_ was the prison of Gilles
de Retz, and in the second story was the grand hall or audience-chamber
in which the ecclesiastical court was held.

The château of Nantes has figured largely in the history of Brittany
and France. It was the official residence of the Count of Nantes.
The Duke of Brittany resided there when in the city. So also it was
occupied by the kings of France and other great and noble personages
during their passage through, or temporary residence in, the city.
Charles VIII. and Duchess Anne were married in its chapel. The
celebrated Edict of Nantes, issued by Henry IV., King of France, in
April, 1598, by which the Protestants were permitted to exercise their
religion without hindrance, was passed and signed in this building. In
1654, the Cardinal of Retz (not to be confounded with Gilles de Retz)
was a prisoner here, and thence made his escape. Minister Fouché was
prisoner in this château; Madam Sévigné was also held here in 1648; in
1842, the Duchess of Berry was also prisoner in this château.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER V

GILLES’S TRIAL BEFORE THE ECCLESIASTICAL TRIBUNAL

  _The Ecclesiastical Tribunal--Record in the Archives of
      Loire-Inférieure--The Trial--His Confession--Judgment and
      Sentence._


The ecclesiastical trial Against Gilles de Retz was of course conducted
by the Bishop. He was the representative of the Church in the diocese,
and he alone had the authority to act. His name was Jean de Malestroit.
He was originally Bishop at St. Brieuc, but had been Bishop of Nantes
since 1419. He called, as his assistants in the trial, to aid by their
counsel and advice, the Bishops of Mans, of St. Brieuc, and of Saint
Lo, one of the officials of the Church at Nantes, and with them Pierre
de l’Hospital, President of the High Court of Brittany, and whose aid
was asked to represent the civil law and to direct the charges, the
witnesses, and the debates in such manner that they should come within
the civil law. Three of the notaries of Nantes were made clerks, with
a foreign assistant. Robert Guillaumet was the executive officer,
that is to say, the sheriff or bailiff of the court. The prosecuting
officer appointed by the Bishop was William Chapeillon, the Curé of St.
Nicholas at Nantes.

It has been said that the Bishop, for a considerable length of time,
had been receiving and hearing complaints and charges against Gilles
de Retz, and that especially during the last month he had been
investigating their truth. In this he was aided by the aforesaid
William Chapeillon, who would thus have been entirely familiar with the
charges against Gilles de Retz. It was, therefore, eminently proper
that he should be appointed prosecutor. Whether the Bishop had the
full power under either the civil law or the ecclesiastical law, to
make the foregoing appointments of colleagues on his own motion and
according to his own will, is not here determined, nor does it appear,
in making these appointments, whether the accused was consulted or
whether he gave his consent, nor does it appear that he either took
or had the right to take exception to them or any of them and by such
exception deprive them of the right to act in his case. As to one
aid to the Bishop, Gilles’s consent was asked and obtained before he
was allowed to sit, that was Brother Jean Blouyn, of the Order of
_Frères-Prêcheurs_ at the Convent at Nantes. He had been appointed
as Vice-Inquisitor for the diocese of Nantes by the authority of the
Grand Inquisitor of France, B. N. Medici, who had been appointed to
that office by the Pope. Great stress is laid, throughout the process
wherever this appointment came in question, on the fact that Gilles de
Retz had consented to it before the priest took his seat on the bench.
Jean Blouyn was a man of about forty years of age, who seemed to have
commended himself for his moderation in making a decision, and for his
firmness in adhering to it. Abbé Boussard classes him as _digne de tout
éloge et apprécié de tout le monde_.

Another tribunal represented the civil law, and it was by this that the
secular sentence of execution was passed.

In France, as in all countries under the civil or Roman law, and
in some of the countries under the common law, there has been a
separate jurisdiction of certain offences for the ecclesiastical
court. As a matter of course, and necessary for the continuance and
good administration of justice, there would be some controversies of
which these two courts would have concurrent jurisdiction. It is quite
impossible in such a work as the present to go into this question.
Those who are interested in the subject are respectfully referred, for
France, to the _Histoire du droit criminel en France_ (pp. 74 and 85)
by Du Boys; to Faustin-Helie’s _Traité de l’instruction criminelle_;
Fornier’s _Les officialités au moyen âge_; Esmien’s _Histoire de
la procédure criminelle en France, et spécialment de la procédure
inquisitoriale depuis le XIII^{me} siècle jusqu’à nos jours_ (Paris,
1882); and for the general criminal procedure and jurisdiction of the
ecclesiastical tribunal, to Beiner’s _Beitrage zu der Geschichte der
Inquisition, prozesses_ (pp. 16–78). For a general history of these
subjects as applied to England, one should consult the great work on
the _History of Common Law_, by Sir Henry Maine.

The record of the process against Gilles de Retz in the archives of
the Department of Loire-Inférieure has been adverted to. We now come
to a point where it is almost the entire evidence. It consists of the
records of the two courts, one the ecclesiastical court, kept by the
clerks before-mentioned, and to which the names of some one or all
of three are signed for each day, either Jean Delaunay, Jean Petit,
Guillaume Lesne, or Nicholas Giraud. This record, made each day,
apparently was supervised and made official by the prosecutor, William
Chapeillon, and it seems that more than one copy was made of it at that
time. This was in Latin, though French was interjected occasionally.
The other record was of the civil tribunal, the record of the day’s
proceedings being reduced to writing and signed by Touscheronde as
Commissioner of the civil court, or by one of his aids, or, as they
call them, _assesseurs_, who signed, alternating with Touscheronde.
Their names were, Nicholas Chatau, Michael Eveillard, and Jean
Coppegorge. This record was kept in French, the vulgar tongue, and very
bad French and a very vulgar tongue it was. It would be interesting to
philologists to note the changes during the last five hundred and fifty
years in the spelling and, doubtless, pronunciation of the words of the
French language.

These two records of the trial, the ecclesiastical and the civil, are
treated as one, and their originals are filed together in the archives
of the Department of Loire-Inférieure in the locality designated as
Coté E, 189. Four copies of this record have been made, two in the year
1530, one of which was at the request of Gilles de Laval, the other for
the Sire de la Tremoille. The copy given to the family of Laval has
disappeared and no trace of it is known; the other for Tremoille was
placed in the château of Thouars which, it is to be remembered, was the
family name of the wife of Gilles de Retz.

This copy has taken its name from this château and is known in history
as the Manuscrit de Thouars. It was left in this château until its
existence was forgotten. When the château was bought by the State and
became part of the national domain, all papers and documents belonging
to the family were transported to the château of Serrant in Anjou,
of which one of the ladies of the family of Tremoille was mistress.
This copy of the record was in a pile of documents, tossed pell-mell
and without order, and here Monsieur Marchegay, the archivist of the
Department of Maine-et-Loire, discovered it. The Duke de la Tremoille
immediately took steps for its preservation. This record was on
parchment like the original, and comprises four hundred and twenty
pages, of which three hundred and three, in Latin, are the record of
the ecclesiastical trial; the last hundred and eight pages constitute
the record of the civil tribunal, and are in French.

Two other copies have been made in modern times, one for the
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, made under the Second Empire, and one
for the Public Library at Carpentras, both of which have been certified
as true. The author procured a photograph of an open page from the
original ecclesiastical record in the archives at Nantes. It was made
on his personal application while he was Consul of the United States at
Nantes. These records will be explained in this work, and upon their
foundation rests the entire history of Gilles de Retz. Without this
record or its copies, the true story of Bluebeard could not be written.

Michelet (_Histoire de France_, vol. v., pp. 208 _et seq._), in his
description of the arrest and trial of Gilles de Retz, depends on two
manuscript copies which he mentions in a note; one in the Bibliothèque
Royale (No. 493 F)--the other communicated to him by M. Louis Du Bois.

The warrant of arrest of Gilles de Retz was signed by the Bishop on
the 13th of September, 1440, it was executed the next day, the 14th,
and on that day Gilles was thrown in prison. On the 19th, five days
after, he was brought before the Bishop in the great hall of the _Tour
Neuve_, in the château of Nantes. No information had been prepared, and
no indictment filed. The prosecutor informed Gilles that he was charged
with the crime of heresy and asked if he was willing to be tried before
the ecclesiastical court, to which he consented, and added, with a
defiant air full of assurance, that he would recognise in advance any
other ecclesiastical judges, as he had great desire to clear himself of
such accusation in the presence of any inquisitor, _n’ importe lequel_.
It was on this occasion that the Bishop of Nantes called to his aid as
an auxiliary judge, Jean Blouyn of the Order of _Frères-Prêcheurs_,
the Vice-Inquisitor of the faith for the diocese of Nantes, and then,
this business having been brought to a close, the session of the court
was adjourned until the 28th of September, when the witnesses would be
heard.

The record of this session is rendered in Latin, a translation of which
is here given:

  (Translation)[3]      “Monday, September 19, 1440.

    _“Proces-verbal, appearance in court of Gilles de Retz and his
    submission to the jurisdiction of the Court._

    “On aforesaid Monday after aforesaid feast of the Exaltation
    of the Holy Cross, there appeared personally in court before
    the afore-mentioned reverend Father the Lord Bishop of Nantes,
    in the great hall of the new tower of the castle of Nantes,
    to give hearing before the tribunal holding session there,
    the honourable Guillermus Chapiellon, promoter of cases
    of office of the aforesaid court, reproducing in fact the
    letters of citation enclosed above, together with the enclosed
    execution of them,--there appeared this Chapeillon on the one
    hand, and on the other the aforesaid M. Egidius, soldier and
    baron, the accused. And this M. Egidius [Gilles], soldier and
    baron, after he in his wisdom had perceived that the promoter
    accused him of heresy, said that he wished to appear before
    the aforesaid reverend Father the Lord Bishop of Nantes, and
    some other ecclesiastical judges, also before the inquisitor
    for heretical wickedness, and to purge himself of the crimes
    laid against him. Then the aforesaid reverend Father appointed
    for the aforesaid Monsieur soldier and baron, who agreed in
    this, the 28th day of the aforesaid month to legitimately
    appear before the religious, the brother Jean Blouyn, the vicar
    of the inquisitor of cases of heretical wickedness, in the
    afor-mentioned place, to answer to the crimes and charges to be
    urged against him by the aforesaid promoter, ... to be tried in
    things pertaining to faith, as is lawful and proper....

    “In the presence of the distinguished men Master Oliverio
    Solidi de Beauveron, and M. Johannis Durandi of Blain, rector
    of the parochial churches, of the diocese of Nantes, called as
    witness to the foregoing.”

    [3] The entire ecclesiastical record was written in Latin with
        an occasional interjection of French.

The commission of Jean Blouyn as Vice-Inquisitor was written in Latin
on parchment, to which was attached the great seal in red wax, which
hung dangling by two silken cords. It was as follows:

    “William Merici, of the order of Friars Preachers, professor of
    Sacred Theology, by the apostolic authority Grand Inquisitor of
    Heresy in the Kingdom of France, to our well-beloved brother in
    Jesus Christ, Jean Blouyn of the convent of our order in the
    city of Nantes, salvation by the author of our faith, the Lord
    Jesus Christ:

    “Heresy, says the Apostle, is an evil that, if not cut up by
    the roots by the iron of the Inquisition, will propagate itself
    as a cancer in secret, and in darkness bring death to the most
    simple soul. Thus, in order to proceed in the interest of their
    own salvation against heretics, their aiders and abettors, and
    the evil men, because of heresy or suspected of the crime,
    against those who oppose the Inquisition, or who restrict its
    free agency, it is necessary to proceed with great caution and
    rare prudence. We have fullest confidence in the Lord that
    you are endowed with a capacity, jurisdiction, and good will
    to exercise this high charge. For this reason, by the counsel
    of several of our brothers of which the wisdom is recognised
    by all, we have made, established, and created to-day, and by
    these presents we do make, establish, and create you in all
    forms and with all the conditions required by the law and the
    best authority which are in our hands, as our vicar in the city
    and diocese of Nantes.

    “By these letters, then, and by this concession, power is given
    to you against heretics and against the culpable persons above
    designated which may be there or otherwise. Also requests,
    citations, interviews, interrogations, you can take against
    all; you can cause them to be retained prisoners and proceed
    against them in justice in any manner that you may judge
    convenient, even including a definite sentence. You will have
    finally all that by custom or by law belong to the charge of
    Inquisitors; for in all this, as well as by the force of the
    common law as by the grace of spiritual privileges enjoyed by
    the Inquisition, we give to you, as much as it is in all our
    power.

    “In testimony of which, we have set our hand and seal to these
    letters patent.

                        (Signed)  “G. MERICI.

    “Done at NANTES July 25, 1426.”

This letter was read to Gilles, and he was asked if he recognised
it. He declared “No!” It was submitted to, and proved by, the
court, and was recognised as authentic and genuine, and under its
authority Brother Jean Blouyn was admitted to a seat upon the bench as
representative of the Holy Inquisition and as judge in the case, aid to
the Bishop.

The session of October 11th was ended, and Gilles led back to prison.

On Wednesday the judges met, not in the great audience chamber,
but in the hall below, _aula bassa_. It was, and is, the custom in
the prosecution of criminal cases to have the investigation of the
witnesses before either the court or some high officer of justice prior
to the public or official trial. In this investigation the procedure
corresponds in some degree to that of our grand jury, or more properly
before the prosecuting attorney as well as the presiding judge. The
inquests made by the Bishop of Nantes, and with him his present
prosecuting attorney, William Chapeillon, during the summer preceding,
had been secret, the witnesses having been called up separately and
examined privately; but on this occasion the session was open, at least
to all witnesses, and, as Michelet describes them,

    “a cloud of witnesses, poor people, came up single file, crying
    and sobbing while they recounted the details of the abduction
    of their children. Their cries and tears added to the horror
    of the crimes which they recounted and showed the great sorrow
    and grief to which they had been subjected, and the terrors
    through which they had passed.”

The following is a record of this session, and the depositions of the
witnesses heard:

                        “Wednesday, September 28, 1440.

    “_Procès-verbal de réception des plaintes._

    “The register in the case and cases of faith, in the presence
    of the Reverend Father in Christ, lord Jean de Malestroit,
    Bishop of Nantes, and of brother Jean Blouyn, vicar of Father
    Guillermus Merici, the inquisitor mentioned below, against M.
    Egidius (Gilles) de Rays, soldier, lord, and baron of the same
    place, under accusation.

    “In the name of the Lord, Amen.

    “In the year of the Lord 1440, on Wednesday, September 28, in
    the third indiction, in the tenth year of the pontificate of
    our most holy Father in Christ and Lord Eugenius IV., Pope
    by divine providence, and during the session of the council
    of Basle, there appeared before ... the lord bishop Johannes
    de Malestroit, ... and brother Johannes de Blouyn, ... vicar
    of Guillermus Merici, the inquisitor in matters of heretical
    wickedness, ... and before their scribes, ... the persons to
    be mentioned below, who, ... in tears and sorrows complained
    of the loss of their children and grandchildren and of others
    mentioned below, asserting that these children and others had,
    by the aforesaid Egidius de Rays and certain other accomplices
    of his and his abettors, been treacherously carried off and
    inhumanly strangled, and that he had committed upon them sins
    against nature, ... that he had often invoked evil spirits
    and offered homage to them, and had committed very many other
    enormous and unheard-of crimes of which the ecclesiastical
    court takes cognizance....

    “Of whom the first complainant is Agatha the wife of Denys de
    la Mignon, of the parish of Holy Mary of Nantes, stating that
    a certain Colin her grandchild, the son of Guillermus Apvrill,
    about 20 years of age, small of stature and white of face,
    having on one ear a birth-mark, in the year 1439 in the month
    of August or thereabouts, on a Monday morning early went to the
    house commonly called la Suze in the city of Nantes (belonging
    to and occupied by Baron de Rays).... And afterwards she did
    not see the aforesaid Colin nor did she hear anything about
    him until a certain Perrina Martini _alias la Meffraye_, was
    arrested and shut up in the prisons of the secular court of
    Nantes. After this arrest she says that she heard it said by
    many that very many boys and innocent children had been carried
    off and killed by M. de Rays, she does not know to what purpose.

    “Likewise the widow of Reginald Donété of the parish of Holy
    Mary of Nantes, also complained that Jean her son and son
    of aforesaid Donété used to frequent the house de la Suze
    in the city of Nantes; and since the feast of St. John the
    Baptist of the year 1438 she heard nothing about him until the
    aforesaid Perrina Martin, _alias la Meffraye_, was arrested and
    imprisoned and confessed that she had given him over to the
    aforesaid de Rays and his companions.

    “Johanna, the wife of Guibeleti Delit, of the Parish of St.
    Denys of Nantes, likewise complained that her son Guillermus
    used to visit the house de la Suze, and went there during the
    first week of last Lent; and she had heard M. Jean Briant say
    that he had seen him in the aforesaid house on seven or eight
    successive days; that she had never afterwards seen her son,
    and that she suspected that he had been put to death in that
    house.

    “Johannes Hubert and his wife, parishioners of St. Vincent of
    Nantes, complained that a certain son of theirs Jean by name,
    about 14 years of age, went to the house la Suze two years
    before the feast of the Nativity of St. John of last year, and
    then returning to the house of his parents, told his mother
    that he had cleansed the room of the aforesaid de Rays in the
    house de la Suze and had therefor bread in the aforesaid house,
    which bread he brought home and gave to his mother; to whom
    he also said that he was in favour with M. de Rays, and that
    the lord had given him white wine to drink; consequently he
    immediately returned to the house of Suze and was never again
    seen by his parents.

    “Johanna, the wife of Johannes Darel, of the parish of St.
    Similien near Nantes, complained that on the feast of Sts.
    Peter and Paul of the year before last, she was going home from
    the church of Nantes in the evening, and a child of hers aged
    seven or eight years was following her. When she had reached
    the church of St. Saturnine of Nantes, or was near it, she
    looked around to see her son, whom she thought to be following
    her, but she saw him neither then nor ever after.

    “The wife of Yvon Kyeguen, stonecutter, of the parish of the
    Holy Cross of Nantes, complained that she had given to a
    certain Poitou, a servant of M. de Rays, one of her sons (this
    she did between the feasts of Easter and Ascension) to be a
    servant to him, as the aforesaid Poitou asserted; the son was
    about 15 years of age; and afterwards she never saw him again.

    “Theophania, the wife of Eonette le Charpentier, butcher, of
    the parish of St. Clement near Nantes, complained that Peter
    the son of Eonet le Dagaye, the grandchild of the complainant,
    ten years old or thereabouts, was lost two years ago, and
    from that time nothing was heard of him until the aforesaid
    Perrina Martin, _alias_ la Peliszonne, nicknamed _la Meffraye_,
    confessed, as is said, that she had given him to the followers
    of M. de Rays.

    “The wife of Peter Coupperie likewise complained that she had
    lost her two sons, one eight and the other nine years old.

    “Johannes Magnet complained that he had lost a son. Wherefore
    the said complainants said that they suspected that the
    aforesaid M. de Rays and his accomplices were culpable and
    conscious of the loss and death of the aforesaid children.”

The judges and those present and in authority were much moved by these
scenes, and they declared that such crimes should not go unpunished,
however high the rank of the accused, and they directed the bailiff to
notify Gilles to appear before their tribunal the 8th of October to
respond in their presence to the accusations against him. On that day
more witnesses were introduced, but their depositions were not written
out, or at least are not in the record.

The court was opened in the great audience chamber in due form and
solemnity, at about nine o’clock in the morning. The audience was
public, and the hall was crowded. Gilles was brought to the bar as a
criminal, and required to plead. He carried a high head, looking around
him disdainfully, as in the days of his power and strength. The bailiff
recited that in accordance with the orders given to him, he had the
possession of the body of Gilles de Retz, which he now presented before
the court. Immediately the prosecutor arose, and proceeded verbally
with the arraignment of the prisoner. It is to be remembered that the
methods of procedure in the courts of that country are now, and were
then, quite different from that of the common law courts.

After the oral statement of the crimes of which he was accused, the
prosecutor called upon Gilles to plead, to which Gilles (also orally)
declared his refusal, and demanded an appeal from the Bishop of Nantes
and the Vice-Inquisitor,--supposed to be an appeal to the Archbishop
at Tours or to the Pope himself. His appeal was refused immediately,
and his plea demanded. Michelet (_Histoire de France_, vol. v., p. 210)
justifies Gilles in his refusal to plead and his demand for an appeal.
“For,” he says, “one cannot deny that the judges before whom Gilles was
to be tried were his enemies.” Gilles seems, in making these demands,
to have intended to use the law’s delay more than to have had any
special hope of being sustained by the higher courts.

It is remarkable, though, to consider the value attached by the court
to Gilles’s plea. It was evident that when he did plead, it would be a
plea of “not guilty”; but this seemed to have had no effect upon the
judges or upon their course of procedure. They appeared quite willing
to permit the plea of “not guilty,” but were determined to have a
plea of some kind entered. It would be curious to trace the causes of
this solicitude on the part of the judges. The filing of the plea may
have been required for some purpose deeper than the appearance would
indicate; possibly it stood in the stead of the present rule of law
that requires the criminal to be arrested and brought before the court
in order to give it jurisdiction. True, the party can, in France, be
tried in his absence and convicted _in contumacion_; but this can only
be done after the party shall have been arrested and filed his plea. In
murder trials, no conviction can be had in the court of any civilised
country until the proof shall be made of the _corpus delicti_. It would
appear as though the importance of this plea was that it should be an
evidence of the presence of the prisoner before the court. It may have
been, in the eye of the law, a synecdoche, wherein a part stood for the
whole,--a plea standing for the evidence of arrest and presence of the
prisoner before the court,--which was necessary to give it jurisdiction
over the case. However this may have been, the court manifested great
determination to obtain the plea from Gilles. They gave him some days
to consider the matter, but he replied at once that

    “none of the articles which you have presented against me are
    true except two things therein charged; the baptism that I have
    received, and the renunciation which I have sworn against the
    demon, his pomp and his works. I am now, and always have been,
    a true Christian.”

Upon the receipt of this answer and defiance, the prosecutor became
indignant. He offered his oath to support each and every one of the
articles he had presented. Turning to Gilles, he demanded that he
make the same oath, and in the same manner, that is, between the
hands of the Bishop and the Vice-Inquisitor (“_entre les mains de
l’évêque et du Vice-inquisiteur_”). This was demanded of him four
different times--he was begged, pleaded with, implored, threatened,
menaced with excommunication, but he remained strong in his refusal.
What a strange thing is human nature! This man had committed the most
fearful, inhuman, and base crimes,--crimes against the innocent and
defenceless,--and yet, when brought to the bar of trial, he insisted
he was a true Christian, and whatever else he might do or have done,
he stood firm in his resolve not to take a false oath. He could commit
murder times without number, and he seemed to consider the punishment
for this relating only to the body. A false oath taken before God
seemed to him to carry its punishment into the next world and to
imperil his soul through eternity. He was willing to commit murder, but
he was afraid to commit perjury.

The hearing was postponed until the 11th of October, to give the
prosecutor time to prepare the information which should serve as an
indictment and which had not yet been formally presented nor made a
matter of record.

In the meantime, public attention must have been greatly attracted to
the proceedings as they were progressing, and invitations went out to
all persons who had lost children by abduction within the specified
time and who had reason to suppose that the crime could be laid to
Gilles, or his accomplices, to present themselves before the court and
make their complaints.

Lemire relates (p. 39) this incident:

    “On the 10th of October, a herald-at-arms of the Duke of
    Brittany, bearing his livery, sounded the trumpet three times
    before the château and then, in a loud voice, demanded that any
    person having knowledge of the affair of Gilles de Retz was
    summoned to appear before the court and tell what he knew under
    pain of fine and imprisonment. No person responded to this
    appeal.”

So great was the number appearing the next day in response to this
notification that the court was unable to proceed with the trial,
and consumed the 11th and 12th in its inquest, hearing and recording
complaints of the many witnesses. As we have seen, these witnesses
were presented before the judges, interrogated, and their statements
taken down in the form of depositions, to the end that they might be
included in the information against the prisoner. On October 13th,
having finished this work, the court had the prisoner brought before
it. The session of the court was held in public; the bench appears to
have been filled with ecclesiastical dignitaries, many of them bishops
from the neighbouring dioceses, with judges and lawyers; while below,
an immense pressing, pushing, exasperated crowd of bereaved parents and
friends, filled with emotion, added much to the excitement by their
declarations of the losses they had sustained by the abduction of their
dear children, and who filled the room with their cries against the
perpetrator of the crimes by which they had been robbed of their loved
ones.

The hour for opening was, as usual, nine o’clock. The first business
was a return to the question of the plea to be filed by the accused.
Gilles refused with greater hauteur than before, and pushed his refusal
disdainfully, ending by becoming abusive of the judges and officers of
the court, and conducting himself in a highly improper and insulting
manner. The following extracts are from _Procès-verbal_ of the audience
(translated):

                        “Thursday, October 13, 1440.

    “On the above-mentioned Thursday, the 13th day of October,
    there appeared in the court before the Lord Bishop of Nantes,
    etc., etc....

    “Then the same Lord Bishop and the Vice-inquisitor and the
    aforesaid promoter, asked the aforesaid Egidius [Gilles],
    the accused, whether he wished to reply to the positions and
    articles against him, or whether he wished to say anything
    against them or to take any exception to them. He answered with
    pride and haughtiness that he wished to give no answer to the
    positions and articles, asserting that the aforesaid lords, the
    Bishop and Vice-inquisitor, were not his judges, and that he
    appealed from them, speaking irreverently and improperly.

    “Moreover, the aforesaid Egidius, accused, then said that
    the aforesaid lords, the Bishop of Nantes and brother Jean
    Blouyn the vicar of the aforesaid Inquisitor, and all other
    ecclesiastical men were guilty of simony and were ribalds,
    and that he would rather be hanged by the neck than to answer
    before such ecclesiastics and judges, feeling it a grievance
    to have to appear before them, ... and finally addressing the
    lord Bishop, he said in the vernacular, ‘_Je ne feroye rien
    pour vous comme évesque de Nantes_.’ ... Then under pain of
    excommunication he was asked to reply to the charges made
    against him, but he refused, saying that he wondered how it was
    that Petrus de l’Hospital, the President of Brittany, could
    have permitted that the ecclesiastics should be present at the
    accusation of such crimes against him, stating that he was
    a Christian and a Catholic, and that he was aware that such
    crimes would have been against faith.

    “Then he was formally excommunicated, and it was decided to
    proceed with the trial, paying no attention to his declaration
    that he had appealed, since such appellation was merely in
    verbal declaration and not in writing, and since the enormity
    of the crimes of which he was accused demanded immediate
    attention.”

No progress was made during the day, and the court was adjourned until
the morrow, when the information would be completed and formally lodged
against the accused.

The criminal proceedings in France, while different from those
under the common law, yet still have some analogy therewith. There
is no grand jury, but in its stead is an officer now called _juge
d’instruction_. In this court no such special officer seems to have
existed, but the duty of examining the witnesses, as done by the grand
jury in the United States, was performed by the court itself, aided by
the prosecutor. Instead of an indictment charging the crime as under
the common law, an information is filed. The information is signed
and presented in court by the prosecutor, and while being prepared is
entirely within his control. He has, under the law, the power of our
grand jury of charging, or refusing to charge, crimes; therefore the
indictment is his. This information, instead of simply charging the
crime directly, and in legal language, sets forth the history of the
case, the jurisdiction of the court, the attending circumstances of
the crime charged, and ends with the usual prayers for conviction and
punishment.

The information against Gilles de Retz contained forty-nine articles,
and charged him with three distinct crimes: (1) the crimes of
abduction, violation, and murder of the infants named; (2) the crimes
of magic and sorcery; (3) sacrilege in having violated the ecclesiastic
immunity of the chapel of Saint Étienne-de-Mer-Morte. The information
was divided into three parts. The first fourteen of the forty-nine
articles were occupied with stating the jurisdiction of the court,
that is to say, that Jean de Malestroit was the Bishop of Nantes, that
he was properly and legally appointed as such, that he was under his
superior, the archbishop, whose ecclesiastical province or cathedral
was located at Tours; then followed the power, authority, and right
to sit, of Jean Blouyn, the Vice-Inquisitor; then the declaration of
the nativity of Gilles de Retz, his residence in the diocese of, and
duty owed to, the Bishop of Nantes; a declaration of the ecclesiastical
authority of the Bishop within his diocese over the château of
Machecoul and the chapel of Saint Étienne-de-Mer-Morte and, in fine,
a complete statement of all necessary authority over the accused, and
this part finished with the declaration that all things herein set
forth were true, notorious, manifest, and within the knowledge of all
and every person.

The second part of the information comprised articles fifteen to
forty-one. Article fifteen was a general statement of all the
crimes charged against Gilles and his accomplices. The names of the
accused were first stated: Gilles de Retz, Gilles de Sillé, Roger
de Briqueville, Henriet Griart, Étienne Corrillaud, _alias_ Poitou,
Andrea Bouchet, Jean Rossignol, Robin Romulart, called Spadin, Huguet
de Bremont, and the crimes charged were the murder of infants, killed,
dismembered, burned, treated in an inhuman manner. Then there were the
immolation damnable of the bodies of these infants offered to the demon
as a sacrifice; consultation with the demon, odious conduct, frightful
abomination, brutal debauches, and, taken together, a catalogue of
crimes, a luxury of offences that exhausted the prosecutor to qualify
in proper terms, and which, before a mixed assembly, could only be
pronounced decently in Latin and not in vulgar language.

He told of the excitement, dread, fear, of the people; the public
clamour that had sprung up from one end of the country to the other;
how it at last settled around the château of Machecoul, and that
every time an abduction took place some one of the accomplices of
Gilles had been discovered in the neighbourhood. In making this part
of his accusation, the prosecutor became filled with emotion, excited
in his address, and eloquent in his words. He described the conduct
and feelings of the people, and especially of the stricken parents,
of their cries (_clamosa_, for his first presentation and reading of
the information was in Latin), the loud lamentations (_lamentabile_),
the immense sorrow (_plurimum dolorosa_), the accusing insinuations
of the people; he showed the innumerable persons of both sexes and
all conditions, both in the cities and in the diocese of Nantes,
(_præcedentibus vocibus quam plurimarum personarum utriusque sexus_),
who, bowed down by the weight of their grief and fright, had appealed
to justice and to heaven with howls and cries (_ululantium_), and had
presented their complaints together before the seat of justice, their
visages bathed in tears (_conquerentium et plangentium_), for the loss
of their sons and daughters, bringing to the Bishop, the commissioners,
and the prosecutors the authority of their tears and their griefs in
support of this accusation.

Article sixteen commenced with the charge of the crime of conjuration
and invocation of demons. Over this the prosecutor also became
eloquent. His accusation was of an infraction of ecclesiastical law,
and he dealt largely with the law of the Church; his charges abounded
in quotations from the Bible (Fourth and Thirty-ninth Psalms),
adjurations from holy men, and was filled with many brave and eloquent
words in description and denunciation of the abominable crime of black
magic, conjuration, and sorcery. He takes up the Italian priests from
their respective places in their native country, and brings them along
until they are joined to Gilles in Brittany. In the articles alleging
crimes against infants, in article twenty-seven, the accusation says,
“and the number of victims is upward of one hundred and forty, and
possibly more. The articles of the accusation following set forth the
details of all these horrors; the action, conduct, and aid of the
familiars of Gilles and his accomplices; when, where, for whom, and
by whom the infants were taken, and their respective fates. These
were all set forth in great detail and with great particularity, and
article forty-one closes with the words: “These are the crimes which
make Gilles de Retz infamous, a heretic, an apostate, an idolate, and a
_relaps_.”

Articles forty-two to forty-seven were occupied with a recapitulation
of the crimes committed by Gilles and his accomplices, and in article
forty-nine he concludes with the assurance that by such crimes and by
such offences the accused had incurred the sentence of excommunication
and all other pains which follow the punishment to be assessed against
such culpable of being _auruspex et ariolus_, the doers of evil deeds,
the conjurors of evil spirits, their aiders and abettors, their
friends, their dependants, and, finally, all those who have delivered
themselves over to magic and the prohibited art. That the accused
had fallen into heresy, that they were guilty of _relaps_, that they
had offended the majesty of God, which was infinitely worse than the
offence against the priests; they had incurred, consequently, the
penalties for crimes against His Majesty Divine; they had broken the
commands of the Decalogue, the laws of the Church; they had sown among
the faithful Christians the most dangerous errors; finally, that they
were rendered culpable of crimes as enormous as they were hideous, all
of which were in the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Nantes. And in the
closing sentences the prosecutor demands that he shall be admitted
now to make proof of what he has advanced, and this he will do, so he
promises, without further superfluity, reserving only the right to add,
to correct, to change, to diminish, to interpret, and to put in order
and produce any new matters if they shall be necessary at the time and
place convenient; and he demands the application of the punishment due
for this crime. The prosecutor admitted that certain of the crimes
set forth in the information were not within the jurisdiction of the
ecclesiastical court, and that they would have to be remitted to the
secular court if punishment was expected.

Gilles de Retz interrupted the reading of the information many times,
making denials in favour of himself, blaming his judges, and denouncing
the prosecutors. Everybody seems to have preserved his temper except
Gilles, and at the close of the reading of the information, the judges
turned to him and demanded his formal plea to the various accusations
against him. Gilles remained obstinate and refused to plead, and
demanded an appeal to the higher court. His conduct during the reading
was such as to destroy any sympathy the judges may have had. Bishops
and judges are but men, and it was too much to expect that the human
side of the court would hear, unmoved, this abuse and contumely heaped
upon it.

Gilles’s continued refusal to plead gave the prosecutor and court an
opportunity to exercise their legal power, and the prosecutor demanded
a decree of excommunication against Gilles for his contempt in this
behalf committed. This was an interlocutory order, intended to correct
the faults of Gilles during the trial. It was useless to imprison him,
for he was already a prisoner; it was useless to threaten him with
any other pains or penalties applied to his physical body; therefore,
the court, using the only other power it had as an ecclesiastical
body, issued its decree of excommunication, the only thunder it could
fulminate against him.

It is a curious commentary upon human nature, and throws a side light,
not simply upon the ecclesiastical courts, but also upon the human
nature of that day, that Gilles, who had committed all the crimes in
the calendar, and deserved death a thousand times if he had had that
many lives; who seemed to have no fear of any punishment inflicting
physical pain or discomfort in this world, yet was so filled with
dread of punishment in the next world, arising from the decree of
excommunication which he believed and feared would deprive him of the
solace of his religion and the benefit of the vicarious intercession of
his holy Mother Church that, as we shall see, it produced the greatest
effect upon him and was of the greatest efficacy in changing his course.

The decree of excommunication having been passed upon Gilles de Retz, a
postponement was ordered until the Saturday following, October 15th.

At the next sitting Gilles had had two or three days in which to think
over his condition. Brought to the bar, the Court put to him the
original question, “Do you recognise us as your legitimate judges?”
To which question, to the suprise of everyone who heard him, Gilles,
who had heretofore been so proud and disdainful in all his refusals to
respond affirmatively to this question, spoke out, “Yes; I recognise
the Court as at present constituted. I have committed crimes, and they
have been within the limits of this diocese.” With words of humility
and regret, his voice broken with emotion, with tears in his eyes, he
demanded pardon of the Bishop and Vice-Inquisitor for the words he had
spoken so harshly against them.

The Bishop, who had heretofore been dignified, reserved, severe,
as became a judge in the trial of a case, on hearing these words
of submission and request for pardon, turned the other side of his
character towards the repentant. He then became the priest whose duty
was to pardon, comfort, and console erring and sinful men; and when
Gilles prayed that his decree of excommunication be revoked, that he
should be re-admitted to the fold of the Church and again be given the
comforts of his religion, the Bishop granted the prayers, and received
him again into the Church, giving him words of comfort and good cheer.

When this scene was finished, the prosecutor asked for the progress
of the trial in the usual way. Gilles raised no objection, and
expressed his willingness to enter his plea and take oath to speak
the truth in all things whereof he was accused. The information was
read to him at length in the Latin language, and explained, section by
section, in the common French. Gilles responded to the first fourteen
articles, admitting in succession the powers of the Bishop and of the
Vice-Inquisitor, the lawful constitution of the court, and that he
was a member of the Church, and that the _venue_, as laid, was within
the jurisdiction. Being further interrogated, he, however, denied all
dealings with the Evil One, all performances of magic, all attempts at
sorcery, or that he had ever, either by himself or by another, sought
to have communication with the Evil One, or to invoke his power in
any way in order to obtain riches, power, or long life. He admitted
that he had once possessed a book that treated of alchemy and of the
invocation of demons; that he had obtained it from a soldier who had
been thrown in prison at Angers; that he had talked with the soldier
upon that subject, but had done nothing more--he had returned the book.

The record recounts how, at this period in the trial, the prosecutor
demanded of Gilles that they two, in order to be on equal terms,
should take the oath to speak the truth. They advanced together, the
prosecutor and the defendant, and putting their left hands between
the hands of the Bishop and of the Vice-Inquisitor, their right hands
bearing upon the Holy Evangel, they took together the oath “To speak
the truth and nothing but the truth,” as to the matter before the court.

This ceremony over, the formal plea of “not guilty” was entered by
Gilles. Then came the introduction of witnesses, who were, Henri
Griard, Étienne Corrillaud, _alias_ Poitou, François Prelati, Demontie
Cativo, Eustache Blanchet, Étienne of St. Malo, Steophanie Etiennette,
widow of Robert Branchee, and Perrina Martin, surnamed _la Meffraye_.
They were all brought to the bar by Robert Guillaumet, the bailiff, and
appeared on the side of the prosecutor and against the defendant. The
oath which the witnesses took is given in substance in the record. They
were sworn between the hands of the Bishop and the Vice-Inquisitor, as
Gilles and the prosecutor had been, and their oath was that neither
favour, nor resentment, nor fear, nor hate, nor friendship, nor
relationship, should have any part in their words; and they put aside
every spirit of party and all personal affection, having regard only
for truth and justice.

The judges announced to Gilles the privileges of cross-examination,
putting the questions himself if he desired to do so, for, be it
understood, usually in criminal trials under the civil law, especially
in France, the questions, whether they be by the prosecutor or by the
accused, have to be handed up, and are put by the presiding justice.
But as it is usual for the witnesses to proceed and tell their story
without interrogation, Gilles declared his willingness to have the
regular course pursued, and that he would leave the matter to the
conscience of the Court. This being done, the witnesses were removed;
for, be it understood, by no court practice in France are the witnesses
who have not testified permitted to remain while others are giving
testimony. The presence of Gilles’s accomplices as witnesses against
him must have given him an awful shock. As soon as the witnesses had
left the court-room, it seems that the condition of affairs presented
themselves to Gilles in their true light, and showed him his serious
and compromising situation. He was moved to great emotion, whether of
remorse or fear cannot now be said. He demanded, in supplicating tones,
that the revocation of the decree of excommunication should be in
writing, not simply by oral decree.

It would appear from such of the history of this great criminal as
we have, that the only thing which produced any emotion in him and
caused him to exhibit fear or dread of his position was this decree of
excommunication. The Bishop was in his forgiving mood, he had resumed
his _rôle_ of priest, and, very properly, he consented to do in writing
what he had already done verbally, and the decree of excommunication
was revoked.

The court adjourned until the Monday thereafter, the 17th of October,
when it was expected that the introduction of evidence would begin. The
examination was taken either orally (_viva voce_), before the court,
or by the clerks, or _greffiers_, who acted as examiners, or notaries,
and reduced the testimony to writing, reporting it or its substance
to the court. De Alneto, Jo. Parvi, and G. Lesne were _greffiers_,
and took most of the testimony for the ecclesiastical court; while de
Touscheronde did the same for the civil court, and it was reported
under their respective certificates.

October 17th was occupied with witnesses proving the crime of sacrilege
committed on the chapel of Saint Étienne-de-Mer-Morte. On the 19th the
witnesses were examined touching the crime of abduction of infants.
This interests us more than the other, and therefore we follow it
with the names of the witnesses: Professor Jean de Pencortic, Jean
Andilanrech, André Seguin, Pierre Vimain, Jean Orienst, Jean Brient,
Jean Le Veill, Jean Picard, Guillaume Michel, Pierre Drouet, Eutrope
Chardavoine, Robert Guillaumet (Doctor), Robin Riou, Jacques Tennecy,
and Jean Letournours. All of these were sworn, as before, to tell the
truth without consideration of prayers, or recompense, or fear, or
favour, or hate, or resentment, or friendship, or acquaintance’s sake.
Gilles again declined to cross-examine the witnesses; he declared his
willingness to abide by their conscientious declarations.

On the 20th of October the court was convened for the purpose of
hearing the depositions, and Gilles was asked, with many questions,
what response he had to make. He continually said he had none: nothing
to say, nothing to ask of the witnesses, and no witnesses of his own
to introduce. Practically, he made no controversy over the testimony
against him.

The ecclesiastical court was equal to a court of the Inquisition. Two
hundred or more years of practice by the Inquisition in prosecution
of heresy had served to formulate rules of practice. And here is
introduced one of the curiosities of human nature manifested in trials
of justice when they are started in a given direction. Recurring to
remarks concerning the legal necessity of obtaining a plea to the
indictment or information, in order, possibly, to show the presence of
the accused, and speculating upon that as the origin of the theory of
the common law requiring the personal presence of the accused in order
to give the court jurisdiction to try the case, and the proof of the
_corpus delicti_ in order to convict, it seems proper that a similar
course of procedure and reasoning should prevail in cases of heresy, an
offence which dealt so largely with matters of belief; therefore, the
ecclesiastical court, or the Inquisitor, whether established as a court
or not, deemed it necessary to appeal to the inner consciousness and
the private knowledge of the accused in regard to his belief, and to
that end put questions that demanded an answer.

As a matter of course, the prisoner, if a heretic, would refuse to
answer because he would not convict himself, and hence grew up (this
is only a suggestion of the author) a system which seems horrible
and revolting to all lawyers; that is, the application of torture to
compel the prisoner to make the necessary answer. No other punishment
could be provided, for the accused was already a prisoner, and being
punished as such. As nothing in the way of legal punishment further
than imprisonment would be visited upon him, the Inquisition fell upon
torture as a means of extorting a confession, and thus it forced from
the unwilling lips of the accused a declaration of his belief. This
would soon extend to include all his knowledge concerning matters at
issue; and when he should declare himself innocent, however true it
might be, the torture could be applied again and again, harder and
greater, until the power of resistance on the part of the accused was
overcome, and he would give up because of his inability to resist
further.

So it appeared in the case of Gilles. The witnesses had testified to
everything necessary to be proved; Gilles had admitted the jurisdiction
and the _corpus delicti_, had practically admitted his immediate and
direct connivance and assistance in the various abductions, as well as
the sacrilege; still, on his refusal to proceed further, the prosecutor
demanded the application of torture.

It was, according to our ideas, a lamentable condition of the course of
justice when the application of the torture should have been so common
a proceeding that, on demand of the prosecutor, it would be allowed by
the court, even when the guilt of the prisoner was beyond dispute. This
seems to have been the course of the court in the case of Gilles, and
the petition for torture, as made by the prosecutor, was allowed by the
court, and the next day set for its application.

    “Et tunc idem promotor dixit quod, attenta confessione
    dicti Egidii, rei, productionibus testium et eorum dictis
    depositionibus satis constabat de intencione sua in causa et
    hujusmodi, sed nichilominus, ad veritatem lacius elucidandam
    et perscrutandam, torturam seu questionem dicto Egidio, reo,
    per eosdem dominos episcopum Nannetensem et Fratrem Johannem
    Blouyn, judices, et ipsum questionari debere, instanter
    postulavit.

    “Qui quidem domini episcopus et vicarius dicti inquisitoris,
    prius habito per eos super his omnibus consilio cum peritis,
    premissis consideratis, decreverunt questionem sive torturam
    dicto Egidio _de Rays_, et eum torturam pati, ipsumque Egidium,
    reum, torturis sive questionibus subici debere.”

It was said that the instrument of torture had already been put in
place, and for the convenience of all parties the prosecutor had chosen
the hall adjoining that occupied by Gilles, to the end that the torture
could be applied with as little trouble as possible, and whatever
might be the result of it that Gilles could be properly attended to
in case of need. On this demand of the prosecutor for torture, and
its allowance by the judges, Gilles’s courage left him; he became
frightened, turned pale and trembled. So full of fear and terror was
he, as scarcely to be able to speak intelligently. He threw himself at
the feet of his judges and, in broken accents, with cries and sobs,
besought and supplicated them not to put him to this test, making all
kinds of promises as to what he would do in order to escape torture.

He prayed for leave to make confession of his crimes, and to have the
Bishop of Saint-Brieuc assigned for that purpose.

It was agreed that the judge, Pierre l’Hospital, the President of
Brittany, should sit with the Bishop to hear the proposed confession,
and that the session should be held at two o’clock that afternoon.
Gilles agreed to this, as he would have agreed to anything else, and he
promised to make a clean breast of the whole affair. But as an evidence
of the terror with which he contemplated the torture, he demanded
(this seems to have been his only condition) that his examination and
confession should be taken in a hall as distant as possible from that
of the torture. The court agreed to this proposition at once, and the
two officials named were assigned the duty. The secretaries, or clerks
of the court, acting respectively for these high functionaries, were
Jean Parvi for the ecclesiastical court, and Jean de Touscheronde for
the civil court.

It is said that Gilles’s confession before these two representatives
of the ecclesiastical and civil powers was made in public, where
everybody who desired could enter and hear. This confession of the
same day is headed, in the records (archives), _extra-judiciare_, for
what reason is unknown; but, as there was a fuller, and apparently a
judicial, confession made by him the next day, which will be given at
length, the confession _extra-judiciare_ is omitted, the incident only
being mentioned.

The President of Brittany, Pierre l’Hospital, undertook the
interrogation of Gilles. He took up first the crimes against the
infants, their abduction and murder, and went through that with great
minutiæ, pushing it to all details; then the same with regard to
sorcery and the invocation of demons; the bloody sacrifices that had
been offered to the Evil One, as had been in evidence so many days.
Pressed to tell where this commenced, Gilles said it was at the château
of Champtocé, that the time was so long ago that he had forgotten and
was unable to identify it, except that it was in the year in which his
grandfather, Jean de Craon, had died. “Who gave to you, and how did you
get, the idea of committing these crimes?” “No one; my own imagination
drove me to do so. The thought was my own, and I have nothing to which
to attribute it except my own desire for knowledge of evil.”

It appears, from the report of the case, that the President of Brittany
did not believe these statements of Gilles’s to be possible. He was so
much astonished to hear this declaration that he pushed the examination
with great detail, and insisted upon fuller and more specific answers.
He approached Gilles sometimes from the legal side, sometimes from the
ecclesiastical; sometimes he threatened him with the punishment of the
secular arm, at other times he pleaded with him and held out the offers
of pardon from the Lord Jesus Christ; and by virtue of all these, he
besought Gilles to go back over the words which he had spoken, to make
a truthful and honest avowal of the causes which had led him to the
commission of these frightful crimes.

There were three languages employed in these proceedings; probably all
three were spoken by the higher orders: the Latin by the ecclesiastical
authorities, and that language was employed by the ecclesiastical
court; then the French language, which was foreign to Brittany, but
which probably Gilles and all those concerned in the trial understood;
while as for the common people, doubtless their knowledge was confined
to the Breton language. The confession of Gilles, reduced to writing
by the clerk’s secretary, not verbatim, nor pretending to be so, but
to have been written out only in substance, as is done in the case of
testimony before an examiner or notary who employs longhand.

While the President was pushing this investigation and
cross-examination so far, to the visible annoyance and great trouble
of Gilles, he cried out in French: “Alas, Monseigneur, you torment
yourself and me also, both of us, unnecessarily!” “No,” replied the
President of Brittany, “I do not torment myself; but I am astonished at
what you have said, and I am scarcely content with it. My only desire
is to have you tell the truth concerning the causes which I have so
oftentimes asked you.” Responded Gilles: “There is no other cause; I
have told you the truth and everything as it happened; _Je vous ay dit
de plus grans choses que n’est cest cy, et assez pour faire mourir dix
milles hommes_ (I have said to you all things as they are, and enough
to kill ten thousand men).” Then the President gave over interrogating
him, and accepted his declaration as true. He was sent back to his
chamber, and his accomplice, François Prelati, the Italian priest,
chemist, and alchemist, was brought out.

    _Transcription of opposite page, being sample (photograph by
    the author) of a Latin manuscript of the Record in the process
    against Gilles de Retz, from the Archives of Loire-Inférieure,
    Nantes, a page of his (extra-judicial) confession._

    “hoc facere illo anno quo defunctus avunculus suus dominus _de
    la Suze_ decessit.

    “Item, interrogatus per ipsum dominum presidentem quis
    eundem reum advisavit, consuluit vel instruxit ad predicta
    facinora facienda, respondit quod hec de se ipso imaginatus
    fuit, cogitavit, fecit, et perpetravit, nemine consulente
    seu advertente aut ipsum ad hoc introducente, sed ex proprio
    suo sensu et capite ac pro complicencia et delectacione suis
    libidinosis explendis, et non pro quacumque alia intencione
    seu fine, predicta peccata, scelera et delicta fecerat et
    commiserat. Et, cum dictus dominus presidens, admirans, ut
    dicebat, qualiter ipse reus hec premissa scelera et delicta
    de se ipso et nemine instigante fecisset, ipsum reum iterum
    summasset ut ex quo motivo seu intencione et ad quem finem
    dictorum puerorum occisionem, cum eis commixtionem seu
    pollucionem, et ipsorum cadaverum combustionem, et reliqua
    scelera et peccata predicta fecisset, vellet ipse reus, ad sue
    consciencie, ipsum verissimiliter accusantis, exonerationem,
    et pro venia clementissimi Redemptoris inde super commissis
    facilius obtinenda, plenius declarare: tune idem reus,
    quasi quodammodo indignatus super tam sollicita et exacta
    inquiscione dicti domini presidentis, dixit eidem verba que
    secuntur gallice: _‘Helas, Monseigneur, vous vous tourmentez
    et moy avecques’_: cui reo dicenti dominus presidens ita
    dixit gallice: _‘Je ne me tourmente point, mais je suis moult
    esmerveillé de ce que vous me dites et ne m’en puis bonnement
    contenter. Ainczois, je desire et vouldroye par vous en savoir
    la pure verité pour les causes que je vous ay ja souventes foiz
    dictes.’_ Cui domino presidenti ipse reus tunc respondit, hec
    dicens gallice: _‘Vrayement, il n’y avoit autre cause, fin, ne
    intencion que ce que je vous ay dit: je vous ay dit de plus
    grans choses que n’est cest cy, et assez pour faire mourir dix
    mille hommes.’_ Qui quidem dominis presidens tunc omisit ipsum
    reum.”

[Illustration: Facsimile of folio page from archives of trial at
Nantes. Confession of Gilles de Retz.]

Prelati had already confessed to the invocation of evil spirits, and
that he had made offerings of the blood and of the members of an
infant. Being interrogated, he made his formal confession, also reduced
to writing, but it turned out that this was only a repetition of an
informal confession, so excited no great surprise. The interrogators
seemed more interested in the invocation of demons than in the
abduction and murder of the infants. Gilles and François were brought
together before the judges and the Bishop, and upon the conclusion of
the séance they were sent back to their respective prisons. On parting,
Gilles turned towards François, and sobbing, embraced him with sorrow,
and addressed to him his last words: “Adieu, François, my friend. Never
again will we see each other in this world. I pray that you may have
good patience and hope in God, and that we will see each other in the
great joy of Paradise. Pray to God for me and I will pray for you.”

They tenderly embraced each other and then separated, never to see each
other again. This scene happened, and these two confessions were made,
before the two officers in private audience, in chambers, as it were.

On the next day, Saturday, October 22d, the _judicial_ confession of
Gilles was made, and presented before the court. It is herewith given
in the _procès-verbal_ of the session:

    TRANSLATION OF THE CONFESSION OF GILLES DE RETZ.

    “On Saturday, the 22d of the aforesaid month of October, the
    aforesaid master Guillermus Champeillon, promoter, prosecutor,
    on the one hand, and the aforesaid Gilles de Retz, defendant,
    on the other, personally repaired to the trial before the
    before-mentioned lords, the reverend Father, the Lord Bishop
    of Nantes, and Brother John Blouyn, vicar of the said
    Inquisitor, who had taken their seats in the tribunal there
    in the aforesaid place at the vesper hour for the rendition
    of justice. And acting in accordance with the assignment of
    the day of trial on the motion of the said prosecutor, the
    afore-mentioned lords, the Bishop of Nantes and Brother John
    Blouyn, vicar of the aforesaid Inquisitor, asked the aforesaid
    Gilles, defendant, whether he wished to say anything or make
    any opposition or objection to (the evidence or charges)
    produced or maintained in this case and similar cases. The
    defendant, indeed, said and replied that he did not wish to
    say anything, and fully and of his own accord, and with great
    compunction and bitterness of heart, as was evident at first
    sight, and with copious shedding of tears, confessed that
    the already recorded [charges], elsewhere, as [mentioned]
    above, extra-judicially confessed to, [namely] in his room in
    presence of the aforesaid reverend Father, the Lord Bishop of
    Saint-Brieuc, of master Pierre de l’Hospital, the President,
    of John de Touscheronde and of John Parvi, as well as all and
    everything contained and described in the articles inserted
    above, will be and are true. And adding to his extra-judicial
    confession already inserted and not receding from it, which the
    same accused wished right here [to be considered] as repeated
    and declared, and as he stated, rectifying the defects if
    perchance he had omitted anything in it, and moreover more
    fully declaring and enlarging, he freely confessed some things
    contained in a summary form in certain of the afore-mentioned
    articles, and said, to wit, that he had committed and
    perpetrated very many other greater and more enormous crimes
    and sins against God and His commandments than are contained
    in the articles already inserted, from the beginning of his
    iniquitous youth against God and His writings, and that he
    had offended our Saviour Himself by the evil training he had
    had in his boyhood in which he had endeavoured to perform
    whatever pleased him with unbridled rein and had given himself
    to everything illicit; and imploring those present who had
    children, that they have their sons brought up and trained in
    their youth and boyhood in religious instruction and virtue.

    “After this confession, as it is already stated, judicially
    given and made by the aforesaid Gilles de Retz, the accused,
    of the contents in the aforesaid articles, and, [after] that
    extra-judicial [confession] repeated and declared, the same
    accused moreover made another confession of the following
    tenor, separate and apart, in the presence of the reverend
    Father in Christ, Lord John Prigencii, Bishop of Saint-Brieuc
    and the nobleman Pierre de l’Hospital, the above-mentioned
    President of Brittany, and of John Abbatis, the shield-bearer,
    and of me, John Parvi, notary public and general examiner
    of the ecclesiastical court of Nantes, a second of the
    secretaries of [this] cause and of similar causes, and of
    John de Touscheronde, also secretary of the civil court of
    the same place, concerning the afore-mentioned perpetrations,
    crimes, and sins, embracing the vices and sins mentioned ...
    [all] iniquitously committed by him: not only as much as is
    perhaps contained in the aforewritten articles already freely
    confessed to, by Gilles himself, the accused, and in order
    that said secret confession be more widely published, the same
    Gilles, defendant, thought it proper that, without departing
    from the said extra-judicial confession made by him concerning
    the said charges, but rather to strengthen and corroborate
    it, the confession itself be published in the vernacular for
    the benefit of the people and all then and there assisting,
    of whom the greater part knew no Latin; that, however, an
    introductory remark be added informing those present that the
    culprit submitted to this general revelation of his guilt in
    order by the shame this publication and confession of such
    crimes committed by him would cause him, the more easily to
    obtain from God pardon and remission for his sins and to have
    wiped away the transgression committed by him. [He wished the
    public to know] that during his youth he had always been
    tenderly reared, had committed as much as in him lay and
    with nothing to check his inclination, all the evil deeds he
    could, had centred all his hope, intention, and work upon the
    commission of illicit and shameful deeds and had employed [his
    hope, intention, and work] in unlawful acts by perpetrating
    said crimes--most earnestly beseeching and exhorting the
    fathers, mothers, friends, and relatives of all youths to
    guide their charges along the paths of honesty by setting them
    a good example and instilling into them sound doctrine, and
    to chastise every fault against good morals to save them from
    the snares into which he himself had fallen. By this secret
    confession which was examined and publicly read in court in
    the presence of the said Gilles, defendant, and approved by
    Gilles himself, the defendant, the said Gilles de Retz, the
    defendant, manifested of his own accord before all present
    and confessed that he, led by passion and the delight he took
    in satisfying his carnal appetite--of which mention will be
    made later on--had stolen or caused to be stolen very many
    boys--the number he could not remember; that he had put these
    boys to death and caused them to be killed and that with them
    he had committed crimes and sins ... [that he had killed]
    these boys, sometimes himself with his own hand, and sometimes
    through the agency of others and especially the above-mentioned
    Gilles de Sillé, the Lord Roger Briqueville, soldier, Henriet
    et Poitou, Rossignol and Little Robin, by various kinds and
    modes of torture, some by the amputation and separation of
    their heads from their bodies using daggers or poniards and
    knives; others, however, with sticks or other implements for
    striking by beating them on the head with violent blows;
    others again by tying them with cords and fastening them to
    some door or iron hook ... in his own room that they might be
    strangled and languish. [He continued] that with these boys
    even whilst languishing ... and after their death he took
    delight in kissing, in gazing intently at those who had the
    more beautifully formed heads and in cruelly opening or causing
    to be opened their bodies that he might see their interior, and
    that frequently, whilst these boys were dying, he would sit
    on their stomachs and take great pleasure in seeing them thus
    dying, and that he used to laugh heartily at the sight with the
    said Corrillaud and Henriet. The corpses he caused afterwards
    to be burned and reduced to ashes by the same Corrillaud and
    Henriet and others.

    “Interrogated concerning the places where he had perpetrated
    the afore-mentioned crimes and at what time he had begun to
    do these things and concerning the number of those killed
    after this manner, he answered and said that [first he had
    done so] in the Château de Champtocé and from that year on in
    which lived the lord de la Suze, the maternal uncle of said
    defendant; that in this place he had killed and caused to be
    killed very many boys--the number he could not remember--
    ... the aforesaid Gilles de la Sillé alone knowing of the
    matter at that time; but that afterwards the aforesaid Roger
    de Briqueville and then Henriet, Stephen Corrillaud (_alias_
    Poitou), Rossignol, and Robin became successively his
    accomplices and sharers in these crimes. And he said that the
    bones both of the heads and the bodies of the boys killed in
    the aforesaid Château de Champtocé, as has been stated, which
    had been thrown into the lower apartment of a certain tower
    of that castle, he himself, defendant, produced from that
    spot, placed in coffins or chests, and transported by water to
    the place and castle of Machecoul aforesaid, burned there and
    caused to be reduced to ashes; that also, in the same place of
    Machecoul, he himself, defendant, seized, killed, and caused to
    be stolen and killed many other boys in large numbers--how many
    he could not recollect; and that, again, in the manor called
    la Suze, of Nantes, which he, Gilles, defendant, then owned,
    he had similarly killed and caused to be killed, burned, and
    reduced to ashes many other boys of whom he could not remember
    the numbers.... The same Gilles de Retz, defendant, narrated
    and confessed that all misdeeds, crimes, and transgressions
    above mentioned he committed and criminally perpetrated of his
    own free will and accord alone, for the purpose of satisfying
    his evil and iniquitous complacency and pleasure and not out of
    any other motive or intention, with no one to urge or advise
    him, defendant, or even to call to his attention such thoughts.

    “Furthermore, he declared and confessed that, after the
    expiration of a year and a half, the Lord Eustace Blanchet
    aforesaid summoned the aforesaid François Prelati from the
    country of Florence in Lombardy and invited him to the same
    Gilles, defendant, for the purpose of invoking demons according
    to the intention of the defendant, and that François, summoned
    to the same defendant, informed him that he, François, had
    discovered in the country whence he had come means of conjuring
    up a certain spirit by the aid of incantations, which spirit
    had promised him, François, that he would cause a certain demon
    called _Barron_ to come to him, François, as often as the same
    François might desire.

    “Likewise, the same Gilles de Retz declared and confessed
    that the same François made several invocations of demons
    in compliance with a command of himself, defendant, both
    during his absence and sometimes when he was present, and
    that he himself, defendant, was in person present at three
    such invocations of François who made them: One in the
    Château Tiffauges, another in Bourgneuf de Retz, aforesaid,
    and that concerning the third aforesaid invocation he did
    not recall in which place it was made. And he added that the
    said Lord Eustace knew that the said François was making such
    invocations, but that the same Lord Eustace was not present
    at these invocations, since neither the defendant himself nor
    François would permit him to be present at the incantations,
    as the same Lord Eustace had an indirect, evil, and restless
    tongue.

    “Besides, the selfsame defendant declared and confessed that
    during these invocations there were traced as characters on
    the ground figures of a circle and a cross, and that the same
    François possessed a book which he had carried about his
    person, as he used to say, which contained many names of demons
    and formulæ for the making of such conjurations and invocations
    of demons, which names and formulæ he, defendant, could not
    remember; that the said François held and read this book for
    about two hours during and for each invocation; but that at
    none of his own conjurations or invocations the defendant saw
    or noticed any devil, and that none spoke to him, at which he,
    defendant, was much displeased and vexed.

    “Afterwards the same defendant declared and confessed that
    after a certain invocation made by the said François during
    the absence of the said defendant, the same François on his
    return from that very invocation informed the said defendant
    that he, François, had seen and addressed the said _Barron_,
    who had told him, François, that he, _Barron_, did not appear
    to the said defendant because the defendant had deceived
    _Barron_ regarding some promises read by the said defendant
    to the said _Barron_ and because he had not fulfilled his
    promise. Hearing this, the said defendant bade François ask the
    same devil what he wished to receive from the said defendant
    and that whatever the same _Barron_ might wish to receive
    and ask of the said defendant, he, the defendant, would give
    him--except his soul and life and provided the devil would
    give and grant him, defendant, whatsoever he would ask. The
    defendant added then that it had been and was his intention
    to ask and acquire from the same devil knowledge, riches, and
    power, by the possession and aid of which he, defendant, would
    be enabled to return to his former state of dominion and power;
    and that, afterward, the same François told the said defendant
    that he had conversed with the devil and that the said devil,
    among other things, required and wished that the defendant
    present to him, the devil, a limb or limbs of some infant.
    That the defendant, later, delivered to the said François the
    hand, heart, and eyes of an infant to be offered and given to
    the same devil by the said François, on the part of the said
    defendant.

    “Again, the said Gilles de Retz, defendant, declared and
    confessed that before he, defendant, took part in the second
    of the three aforesaid invocations at which he assisted in
    person as is stated above, he [defendant] wrote and signed
    with his own hand a grant ... to the bottom of which he
    appended his name in the vernacular, videlicet ‘Gilles,’ the
    contents of which, however, he does not remember; which grant
    he composed and signed with the intention of handing it over
    to the devil if and while he came, conjured or summoned by
    the said François, and this he did acting upon the advice of
    the said François, who previously had told the defendant that
    he, the defendant, must hand over that grant to the devil as
    soon as the spirit should come or approach: and that during
    this invocation the defendant continually held that grant in
    his hand waiting to hear the promise and agreement concerning
    which François and the devil should come to terms regarding
    the matters which the said defendant was to promise and to do
    for the devil, who did not appear or speak with them so that,
    accordingly, the defendant did not ever hand over the mentioned
    grant.

    “Again, said defendant declared and confessed that he himself
    sent the aforesaid Stephen Corrillaud, _alias_ Poitou, along
    with the said François, as François was one night going out
    to make one of the aforesaid invocations. These two on their
    return, drenched by a heavy rainstorm, stated to the said
    defendant that during the invocation nothing had come to them.

    “Again, the said defendant declared and confessed that wishing
    to assist at a certain invocation which François proposed to
    make, the latter expressed his dissatisfaction that Gilles
    should then be present at the invocation. Returning from the
    invocation, he told the said defendant that, if he had been
    present at the invocation, he would have run great risk, for at
    that invocation there came and appeared a serpent to the same
    François which filled him with great fear: hearing this the
    said defendant after taking and causing to be carried near him
    a particle of the True Cross in his possession, expressed a
    longing to go to the spot of the said invocation where the said
    François claimed to have seen the reptile. This, however, he
    did not in deference to François’s prohibition.

    “Again, the same Gilles de Retz, defendant, declared and
    confessed that at one of the three aforesaid invocations at
    which he assisted, as is stated above, the said François
    informed him that he, François, had seen the said _Barron_ who
    showed him a large quantity of gold and, among other things, an
    ingot of gold; but the said defendant said he had seen neither
    the devil nor the said ingot but only a sort of gold-leaf
    [_auripelli aurum-pellis_ (?)] under the form of a leaf of gold
    which he, defendant, did not touch.

    “Again, the said defendant declared and confessed subsequently
    that when he was recently at the court of the most illustrious
    Lord and Prince, the Lord of Brittany, in the Canton Jocelin,
    of the diocese of Maclovia he, defendant, caused to be killed
    several boys furnished him by the aforesaid Henriet, ... in the
    above stated manner.

    “Again, the same defendant declared and confessed that the said
    François, acting on the instigation and during the absence of
    the defendant, performed there, viz. at Jocelin, an invocation
    of the demons, at which he learned that nothing took place.

    “Again, the said defendant, setting out from Bituris, dismissed
    the said François at the same Château de Tiffauges, asking
    him meanwhile and during the absence of the said defendant
    to attend and devote himself diligently to such incantations,
    and to repeat to the defendant whatsoever he would learn, do,
    and think in that regard; and that François wrote to him, the
    absent defendant, as has been stated, in cipher, called in
    French _par paroles couvertes_, that his transactions went on
    satisfactorily and that at this time the same François sent
    him, the defendant, a certain object after the manner of an
    ointment lodged in a silver capsule and purse (_bursa_) also
    made of silver, the said François writing at the same time to
    the aforesaid defendant that this was an entirely precious
    object and advising the said defendant furthermore in his
    letter to guard the object solicitously. The defendant, giving
    credence to this admonition of the said François, hung the
    object with the above-mentioned _bursa_ about his neck and wore
    it for several days thus suspended; afterwards, however, the
    defendant removed the object from his neck and threw it away,
    as he discovered that it would not in the least benefit him.

    “Again, the same defendant declared and confessed that the said
    François once told him that the aforesaid _Barron_ bade the
    defendant feed, in the name of the said _Barron_, three poor
    men on three great feasts, which the defendant did on a certain
    All Saints’ Day, and only once.

    “Interrogated why he thus kept in his house and about his
    person the afore-mentioned François, he made answer that
    François was clever, valuable to him, and pleasant company
    because he spoke Latin beautifully and charmingly, and because,
    furthermore, he showed himself anxious concerning the proper
    administration of his affairs.

    “Again, the said defendant declared and confessed that, after
    the last festival of St. John the Baptist, a certain handsome
    youth who stayed with a man named Rodigus dwelling in the
    aforesaid Place Bourgneuf de Retz, was one night brought to
    him, defendant, as he dwelt in the same place, by the said
    Henriet and Stephen Corrillaud, _alias_ Poitou, and that during
    that night the defendant ... caused him to be killed and to be
    burned near Machecoul.

    “Again, the said defendant declared and confessed that, news
    having reached him that the soldiers of the municipal fortress
    of Paluau strove to put to death the captain of the fortress,
    St. Stephen de Mala, when, indignant at this, he, defendant,
    set out with his men and rode on a certain day, which he did
    not remember, from daybreak intending to attack the soldiery of
    the fortress of Paluau, seize them, and punish them if he could
    meet them, the said François, who rode among the others in the
    retinue of the said defendant, foretold from the start of this
    expedition that the defendant would not find on that day the
    said soldiery of the fortress of Paluau, and that in fact he
    did not meet them, so that the intention of the defendant was
    frustrated.

    “Again, the same Gilles de Retz declared and confessed that
    he had detained in his power and caused to be killed two
    apprentices, one of Guillemain Sanxaye and the other of Petri
    Jaquet, named Princzay or Princé....

    “Again, the said defendant declared and confessed in court
    that, at the time of his last stay at Vienne (_Veneti_) in the
    month of last July, Andrew Buschet handed over and delivered
    up to the said Gilles, defendant, in the dwelling house of
    a certain John Lemoyne at which the said Gilles, defendant,
    was at that time enjoying hospitality, a certain boy, ... and
    that he himself afterwards caused the said Poitou to throw the
    killed lad into the privy of a residence belonging to a certain
    Boetdan, close by the residence of the said Lemoyne, in which
    residence or house of Boetdan the horses of said defendant had
    been sheltered (_apud marchiliam_) near the market-place of
    said Vienne, and that Poitou for this purpose flooded the privy
    so as to submerge and cover the corpse of said boy, lest it be
    discovered.

    “Again, the said Gilles similarly declared and confessed that
    before the arrival of the aforesaid François he had had other
    conjurors of demons, that is to say, a certain trumpeter
    called de Mesnill, master John Ripparia, a certain Louis,
    master Anthony de Palermo, and another whose name he could
    not remember; that these conjurors at the instigation of said
    Gilles, defendant, made several incantations of spirits, at
    some of which the said Gilles, defendant, was present in
    person, both near the aforesaid Château de Machecoul and
    elsewhere [and that he attended], principally to see the circle
    or outline or sign of a circle drawn on the ground prior to
    the incantation, with the intention of seeing the devil, of
    speaking with him, and making bargains with him. But the same
    defendant declared that he never could see nor converse with
    the said devil, though for this purpose he had taken all the
    pains he could, so that indeed it was not the fault of the said
    defendant that he did not see the devil nor converse with him.

    “Again, the frequently mentioned Gilles declared and confessed
    that the aforesaid de Mesnill, wizard, informed the defendant
    once that the devil, in order to do and fulfil the things
    which the said defendant intended to ask and obtain from the
    said devil, desired to receive from the said defendant a
    grant, written, made by him, defendant, with his own hand,
    and signed with the blood of one of his fingers, in which
    grant the aforesaid defendant should promise to give to the
    said devil whenever he appeared during the invocation of the
    said defendant, certain things which he, defendant, could
    not remember; and that the same defendant, for this purpose
    and end, signed the said grant with his own hand, with blood
    drawn from his little finger, and subjoined his own name to
    the said grant, i. e., _Gilles_ [see p. 22]. That he could not
    accurately remember the other statements contained in this
    grant, except that he promised by the honour of said grant to
    deliver up to said devil the articles mentioned in the grant,
    provided that the devil would give or grant the same Gilles
    knowledge, power, and riches. But the defendant is quite
    certain, as he says, that whatsoever he may have promised the
    devil by this or other grants, he always and decidedly made
    exception of and reserved his soul and his life: and he says
    that this grant was not handed to the devil at this time, since
    he did not appear to the said Gilles, defendant, at or during
    said incantation.

    “Furthermore, the said defendant likewise declared and
    confessed that once the said master John Ripparia made one of
    his invocations in a wood or grove situated near the Château
    de Pouzauges, and that this Ripparia, before going to make
    this invocation, armed himself with weapons and implements of
    protection to his body, and thus armed he approached the said
    grove intending to make the invocation;--and that, when the
    said defendant, accompanied by his servants and, especially,
    by Eustace, Henriet, and Stephen Corrillaud, _alias_ Poitou,
    aforesaid, started after a little while towards the said grove
    and met the said de Ripparia returning from that grove, then
    the said de Ripparia told the said Gilles, defendant, that he
    had seen the devil coming to him in the guise of a leopard
    that passed in front of him and told something to him, de
    Ripparia, which, as he said, infused great fear into the said
    de Ripparia. And the defendant added in his narration, that
    the said de Ripparia, to whom the defendant had given the sum
    of twenty louis d’or (_regalium auri_), took his departure
    after this invocation, promising to return later to the said
    defendant, which he did not do.

    “Similarly, the same accused said and confessed that when
    another invocation of the demons which the accused and a
    certain one of the above-mentioned invocators, whose name
    is not mentioned, and who was an associate of Gilles de la
    Sillé, made in a certain room of the above-mentioned Château
    Tiffauges, de la Sillé himself did not attempt to enter
    the circle or circular sign made in the said room for the
    invocation, nay, rather, he withdrew to a window of that room
    with the intention of jumping out if he should feel anything
    terrible approach, there holding in his arms an image of the
    Blessed Virgin Mary; and the said accused standing within
    the circular sign, feared very much, and especially as the
    said invocator forbade him to make the sign of the cross, as
    otherwise they, the accused and the invocator, would be in
    great danger, nor did the accused for this reason attempt
    to make that sign, but then remembering a certain prayer
    of the Blessed Virgin Mary which begins ‘_Alma_,’[4] said
    invocator ordered the said accused to go out of the circle, and
    withdrawing quickly and going out of the room, the invocator
    being left remaining there, and the door of the room being
    closed by the above-said invocator, he went to the aforesaid
    Gilles de la Sillé, who forthwith said to the accused that the
    invocator thus left in the room was beaten and struck to such
    an extent as if the striking was done by kicking. And when the
    accused heard this, he opened the room right away, and in the
    entrance of the room said accused saw said invocator [lying]
    on his face, grievously wounded and weakened in other parts
    of his body, among other strokes and blows then sustained by
    said invocator, ... in the forehead and otherwise wounded so
    that the invocator could not support himself, wherefore said
    accused, fearing that said invocator by reason of that beating
    would die, wanted and made said invocator receive the sacrament
    of confession; he, however, did not die, but got well after
    that same trouncing.

    [4] _Alma Redemptoris Mater_, an anthem chanted during Advent.

“The said Gilles de Retz, accused, also said and confessed that he
commissioned the aforesaid Gilles de la Sillé [to go] to the upper
country to look for and bring to said Gilles, accused, invocators of
demons or malignant spirits. And that this Gilles de la Sillé, thus
commissioned and then having returned, related to the same Gilles,
accused, how he, de Sillé, had found a woman who occupied herself with
such invocations, and that she said to the same de Sillé that unless
Gilles de Retz would remove his heart from the Church and his chapel,
he could never fulfil his intention; and that the said de Sillé found
in those parts another woman who had said to the same de Sillé that
unless the said accused would desist and cease from a certain work
on which he was intent and which he desired to follow out, he would
never have a day’s luck. Also, said de Sillé had found in these parts
an invocator whom the said de Sillé proposed and began, as he said,
to conduct to the said accused, but that on the way, the invocator,
being disposed to come to the said accused, as he was crossing a
river or stream, accidentally fell in. Also said Gilles, accused,
said and confessed that de Sillé brought another invocator to said
accused and that he died without delay; in and from the obsequies of
such unfortunate deceased and from other previous difficulties, which
interfering he could not come to the aforesaid invocations and his
other damnable intentions; he said that he believed the Divine clemency
and intercessory prayers of the Church, from which his heart and hope
never deviated, mercifully preserved him from perishing in such risks
and dangers, and for this reason he proposed to desist from his bad
life for the future and to visit the [holy] places in Jerusalem and
to visit abroad the principal places of the life and Passion of his
Redeemer, and to perform other [penances] by which he might mercifully
obtain from his Redeemer the pardon of his sins. Wherefore, after he
had said and confessed freely and of his own accord the aforesaid
things at the trial, as recorded, he exhorted the people there present,
and especially the ecclesiastics who were present in the majority, that
they always hold in reverence and in the highest esteem holy Mother
Church and never depart from it, especially adding that had he, the
accused, not directed and attached his heart and mind to the Church,
he could never have escaped the malice and schemes of the devil, nay,
rather he believed that the devil would long since have strangled him
and almost have carried off his soul by reason of his enormous crimes
and sins; and he, moreover, exhorted every head of a family to avoid
permitting their children’s being clothed in soft raiment and living
in idleness, hinting and asserting that from idleness and excess at
table many evils spring, more expressly declaring in his own case that
idleness and the too frequent and too choice partaking of delicate
meats and blood-stirring wines were the chief sources of his having
committed so many sins and crimes.

“For which sins and crimes committed by him, as stated, he, Gilles
de Retz, accused, humbly and in tears begged mercy and pardon of his
Creator and Most Holy Redeemer, as well as of the parents and friends
of the aforesaid children cruelly murdered, and of all others whom he
had sinned against, or injured, both those there present or elsewhere,
and the help of the devout prayers of all Christ’s faithful and
Christ’s worshippers, both present and absent.

“Wherefore the aforesaid master, Guillermus Chapeillon, promoter in
case of said Gilles de Retz, accused, having the free confession of the
matter and the other facts legitimately proved against same accused,
immediately asked that a certain day and suitable closing day of
trial for same Gilles de Retz, accused, be preferred and assigned for
bringing [trial] to an end, and seeing to its being brought to an end
as well as for judgment and definite sentence [being pronounced] by
said reverend Father in Christ, the Lord Bishop of Nantes, and Brother
John Blouyn, vicar of said Inquisition, and by every one of them or
of those, and by those assigned and deputed to this [trial], and made
in writing and promulgated in [this] trial and trials of this kind:
or that said Gilles de Retz, accused, should state cause, if he had a
reasonable one, why this should not be done. Whereupon the lords, the
Bishop, and the vicar of the aforesaid Inquisition said that Tuesday
next was fixed, determined on, and assigned for the prosecutor and for
Gilles de Retz, accused, he not opposing it, to proceed to justice, as
it might seem necessary in this and similar trials.

“Of the aforesaid [things], said prosecutor asked that one and several
documents be made and drawn up for him by us, the subscribed notaries
and scribes. There were present in aforesaid place [of trial] reverend
Father in Christ, Lord Jean Prigencii, Bishop of St. Brieuc, master
Pierre de l’Hospital, President of Brittany, Robert de Ripparia and
Lord Robert d’Espinay, aforesaid soldier, and the nobleman Yvone de
Rocerff, as well as the honourable men, masters Yvon Coyer, dean, John
Morelli, chanter, Graciano Ruitz, Guillermo Groygueti, licentiate of
laws, Jean de Castrogironis, Peter Aprilis, Robert Vigerii, Gauffredo
de Chevigneyo, licentiate of laws, the seigniors of Nantes, Gauffredo
Piperarii, capicerio, Peter Hamonis, John Guerrine, John Vaedie, and
John Symonis, the canons of the Church of the Blessed Mary of Nantes
and St. Brieuc, Herveo Levy, Seneschal Corisopitensi, and master
Guillermo de la Loherie, licentiate of laws, advocate of the secular
court of Nantes, as well as several other witnesses gathered in [that]
great crowd, being specially summoned and called for the aforesaid
things.

                        (Signed)  “DE ALNETO. }
                                  “JO. PARVI. }    Notaries.”
                                  “G. LESNE.  }

By this time all hope seemed to have departed from Gilles. He had none
of the bravado that sustained him at the beginning of the trial. He
apparently had recognised his condition and had thrown himself upon
the mercy of God. One can easily understand how he was thus affected
while under the influence of the saintly churchmen by whom he was
surrounded, with their prayers and beseechings that if his body was
to be condemned for the deeds done, he should at least save his soul
from the fires of hell. When Gilles was interrogated before the court
as to the genuineness of this confession, and asked if he desired to
make any retraction or explanation, he seemed to add to, rather than
detract from, it; and believing, as was probably the truth, that he
could only save his soul by making a surrender of all his thoughts and
a confession of all his sins, he seemed to insist on having the record
of his crimes made fuller and in greater detail, so that none of them,
even with all their horror, should be omitted. It was during this
session that he used the remarkable words partially quoted in the early
part of this book, page 7:

    “If I have so much offended against God, I owe it, alas, to the
    evil direction that I received in my youth. I went, at that
    time, the reins upon my neck, free to pursue all my pleasures,
    and did not restrain myself from anything evil.”

And addressing himself to the parents in the crowd, he said:

    “O you, who have sons and daughters, I pray you to instruct
    them in good doctrine in their infancy and their youth, and to
    lead them with care in the paths of virtue.”

The relief produced on his mind by his confession, casting off the
great load he had been carrying, caused his spirits to rise to a
contemplation of the situation, which produced a calm, if not a joy, in
the assurance that he had made his peace with God and secured a place
in Paradise. Apparently stimulated by this feeling, he grew eloquent,
and though some of the words may have been put into his mouth by those
who reported him, yet one can easily see that he was filled with
emotion, and that the thoughts crowded thick upon him because of his
belief that in this way his soul had escaped hell fire:

    “Judged by the declaration that I have made here, of the faults
    of which I am culpable, by the shame which appears in my face,
    I hope to obtain more easily the Grace of God and the remission
    of my sins. I think they will be easier forgotten in His mercy.
    My entire youth was passed in the delicacies of the table, I
    was subject to my caprices, nothing to me was sacred, all the
    evils that I could do have been accomplished. In this I put
    all my hope, all my thought, all my care. Everything that was
    prohibited, everything that was dishonest, attracted me, and
    in order to obtain it there was no means, however shameful and
    disgraceful, that I was not ready to employ.”

Addressing himself this time to the public present, he said:

    “Fathers and mothers who hear me, and you all, friends,
    relatives, and guardians of the young whom you love, whoever
    you may be, I pray you be watchful over them, form for them
    good manners, set for them a good example, teach them healthy
    doctrine, nourish them in your hearts, but above all, do not
    fear to correct their faults, for, as I myself have been, so is
    it possible for them to become, and so likewise, they may fall
    into the same abyss.”

As he sat down amidst the silence of that awful hour, a visible
shudder ran over the audience; judges and priests, accustomed, one to
condemn, the other to console, both hearing these terrible confessions
of evil deeds, were visibly affected. Before any word or business could
be spoken, Gilles arose again to say another word:

    “Whatever may be the perils of my soul, I am still not drowned
    or lost--I am redeemable, and I believe that the clemencies
    of God and the suffrages of the holy Church, in which I have
    always put my hope and my heart, have succoured me with such
    mercy. To all who hear me, clerks and priests of the Church,
    I would say: love always our holy Mother Church, revere her,
    give to her always the greatest respect. If I had not had this
    reverence and respect for her in my heart and in my affliction,
    I never would have been able to escape the hands of the demon.
    The nature of my crimes is such, that without the protection of
    the Church, the demon would have strangled me and carried me,
    soul and body, to the depths.”

It is reported that, addressing for a third time the fathers of
families, he said:

    “Guard you well, I pray you, to lift your infants above the
    delicacies of life and the fatal sweetness of idleness, for the
    excesses of appetite and the habits of idleness give rise to
    the greatest evils. Idleness, the delicacies of the table, the
    frequent use of wine, drinking, appetite, drunkenness, these
    things are the causes of my faults and my crimes. O God, my
    Creator and my well-beloved Redeemer, I ask mercy and pardon!
    And you, parents and friends of the infants that I have so
    cruelly put to death, you against whom I have sinned and whom I
    have so nearly destroyed, present or absent, in whatever place
    you may be, as Christians and faithfuls of Jesus Christ, I pray
    you on my knees and with tears, to accord to me, oh, to give to
    me, the succour and aid of your pious prayers.”

The effect of these words can be better understood than described. Amid
the impressive silence of such a spectacle, nothing was to be said.
The court adjourned until the next day, Tuesday, October 25th, and the
crowd poured silently and sorrowfully into the streets on their way to
their homes, each heart filled with the most profound emotions, and
each person cherishing the remembrance of the most solemn scene he had
ever witnessed and the gravest advice he had ever heard.

The session of the next day was to hear the sentence of the court.
It had been reduced to writing, and was read by the clerk, Jacques
Pencoetdic, an official of the church of Nantes:

    “In the holy name of Christ, we, Jean, Bishop of Nantes, and
    Brother Jean Blouyn, Bachelor of Holy Scripture of the order
    of Friars Preachers and the Delegate for the Inquisitor for
    heresy for the city and diocese of Nantes, in session as
    attributed, and having nothing before our eyes but God alone,
    the advice and consent of our Lord Bishop, the Jurisconsuls,
    the doctors, professors of Holy Scripture here present; after
    having examined all the depositions of the witnesses in charge
    called in our own name and in the name of the prosecutor
    deputised by us, against Gilles de Retz, our subject, and
    under our jurisdiction, after having reduced to writing and
    digested the depositions, after having heard his own proper
    confession made spontaneously in our presence, and after having
    weighed and considered these and all other reasons which can
    affect our determination, we pronounce, we decide, we declare,
    that thou, Gilles de Retz, cited before our tribunal, art
    shamefully culpable of heresy, apostacy, invocation of demons;
    that for these crimes, thou hast incurred the sentence of
    excommunication and all the other punishments determined by
    right and by law; and, finally, thou oughtest to be punished
    and corrected according to the will of the law and the
    exigencies of the holy canons, as an heretic, apostate, and
    invocator of demons.”

The second sentence was in similar language, concluding, however, as
follows:

    “Thou, Gilles de Retz, hast shamefully committed crimes with
    infants of one or the other sex; thou hast committed sacrilege;
    hast violated the immunities of the Church; by these crimes,
    thou hast incurred the sentence of excommunication and all
    other punishments fixed by law; and thou art, by consequence,
    to be punished and corrected according to thy salvation and the
    will and exigencies of law and the holy canons.”

All Gilles’s fears returned when he realised that he was to be
convicted of heresy and condemned to excommunication. Falling on his
knees, tears in his eyes, trembling, he humbly pleaded and begged the
judges to lift from his life, now so near ended and so worthless, this
excommunication. After consultation together, it was determined by the
Bishop and the Vice-Inquisitor to grant this prayer, and the decree of
excommunication was annulled in the usual form. Gilles was admitted to
the administration of the Holy Sacraments, and permission given him to
commune with the faithful. Gilles immediately demanded the appointment
of a priest to hear him in confession, that he might profess his
penitence and receive absolution from his sins, and the Frère Jean
Juvenal, a Carmelite of Plouarmel, was designated for that purpose.

So terminated the ecclesiastical trial of Gilles de Retz. It commenced
on the 17th of September and lasted one month and eight days. It ended
in his conviction of the only crimes of which the ecclesiastical court
had jurisdiction, to wit, heresy, apostacy, and invocation of demons.
The sentence was excommunication, which, we have seen, was lifted, and
the final outcome of this trial was the repentance of Gilles de Retz.

Now we turn to the process instituted by the civil tribunal for the
trial of Gilles upon other charges than those of which he was convicted
by the ecclesiastical court. The usual close of the sentence of an
ecclesiastical court, wherein the accused was charged with other crimes
than those with which the court had jurisdiction, would be: “Go in
peace, the Church can no longer defend thee, she delivers thee to the
secular arm” (_bras séculier_). But this declaration was not made; it
was useless, for it was well known to the judges that the civil court
had already been organised and had taken cognisance and jurisdiction
of the various crimes of Gilles, such as had been charged and so well
proved before the ecclesiastical court.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VI

THE TRIAL BEFORE THE CIVIL COURT

  _Trial before the Civil Court--Depositions--Conviction and Sentence_


Upon the arrest of Gilles and his henchmen, and during their trial
before the ecclesiastical court, the army of retainers which had been
employed by him, including his chapel and all his familiars, fled as
would a flock of young chickens on the approach of a hawk. François
Prelati, Eustache Blanchet, Henriet Griard, and Poitou seem to have
been all who were arrested with Gilles. Gilles de Sillé and Roger
de Briqueville had fled to the south before the blow fell. The rest
got under cover as quickly as possible; instead of standing by their
master, they got as far away from him as they could. Gilles was the
only one tried by the ecclesiastical tribunal. No particular reason
has been given why François and Blanchet were not tried with him, for
they were undoubtedly guilty, equally with Gilles, of the charges of
sorcery and invocation of demons; but they were priests, one of them an
Italian priest, and whether they were promised freedom in consideration
of their testimony against Gilles, is now unknown.

When, on the 19th of October, it had been decided by the ecclesiastical
court to apply the torture to Gilles, it was done on the confessions of
his accomplices. Why François Prelati and Eustache Blanchet had been
excused or overlooked is, as has been said, unknown; but Henriet Griard
and Poitou were then delivered to the civil court for trial. This civil
court was presided over by Pierre de l’Hospital, who, as has been
seen, had assisted in the ecclesiastical court, and was necessarily
officially cognisant of the developments. Pierre de l’Hospital was the
chief justice of the duchy of Brittany, and the civil courts were under
his authority; so immediately after the confessions of Henriet and
Poitou, they were transferred to the civil authorities, and Pierre de
l’Hospital, as supreme judge, brought them before the court on the 20th
or 21st of October. The civil court held its session at the Bouffay,
then, and until 1848, the _Palais de Justice_. The Bouffay had been a
castle, but had been reconstructed and used as the _Palais de Justice_
during many centuries. It was in proximity to the Château de Nantes. It
was enclosed in a high wall, possibly to make a jail-yard, and occupied
the present Place, or Market, Bouffay.

It was within this palace yard that the celebrated trial by duel took
place, by direction or authority of the Duke of Brittany, between Count
Robert Beaumanoir and Sieur Pierre Tournemine, on a charge of murder
made by the former against the latter.

The castle, or palace, has been destroyed, as well as the wall, and it
now stands all open. One side of the Place abuts on the river Loire,
adjoining the Bridge de la Poissonerie, over which the prisoners were
taken to the Prairie Madeleine, the place of execution.

The proceedings of the civil court need not be followed in their
details. Preparing for the trial, as is the custom of criminal courts
in France, the prosecutor called the witnesses before him, and took
down their depositions, and it is worth our while to pause and
examine the record as it appears in the archives of the department of
Loire-Inférieure.

The records of the two trials, the ecclesiastical and the civil, on
file in the Departmental Archives, are unequal in the extent and detail
with which they have been respectively reported. It is to be explained
that it is a considerable work, and scarcely possible to have been
completed in all its parts as the trial progressed, without immense
labour on the part of the clerks and notaries. The proceedings of the
ecclesiastical court, reported in Latin, comprise three hundred and
eight pages, of which the photograph on page 137 of this memoir is
a sample. The proceedings of the civil court, in French, comprise a
hundred and nine pages, the two together making four hundred and twenty
pages in parchment, without including the sentence, which was in Latin,
much mixed with French. The sentence is about the size of the original
Declaration of Independence of the United States. It is said to have
been written in its entirety in a single night, and an inspection of it
corroborates the story, for it bears evidence, by way of erasures and
interlineations, of haste and rapid work.

The report of the evidence in the ecclesiastical trial is not nearly
so satisfactory, nor has it been recorded so clearly, or with so much
detail, as was that in the civil court. It is also much more convenient
to render that of the civil trial, and the author has, therefore, used
it in making a transcript. (Appendix D.)

It must not be forgotten that the evidence was taken by deposition, out
of court; that it was rendered, not in the language of the witness,
but of the scribe. The depositions were not signed by the witnesses,
but were reported to the court under the signature of the notary or
commissioner. Eighty-six witnesses were examined, and their testimony
appears to have been reduced to writing by Jean Colin, and certified
to by Jean de Touscheronde. The dates of the various sessions are
not given, but each witness, or each batch of witnesses, appears to
have been examined independently and certified to separately. This
examination of witnesses in the civil court seems to have begun about
as early as did that in the ecclesiastical trial, for the first record
is under date of September 18, 1440. For the purpose of showing the
style of the French language in use at that time, that it may be
compared with modern French, and the changes noted, the heading of
these depositions is here reproduced textually:

                        “September 18, 1440.

    “Informacion et enqueste a trouver, se estre peut, que le sire
    de Rais, ses gens et complices, out prins et fait prandre
    pluseurs petiz enffans et autres gens, et les murtriz et occiis
    pour en avoir le sang, le cueur, le faye et autres parties
    d’elx, pour en faire sacrifice au deable, et autres malefices,
    de quoy il est grant clamour. Celle enqueste faite par Jehan de
    Touscheronde, commissaire de duc, nostre souverain seigneur, en
    ceste matere, appellé Jehan Colin, pour le prouchain tesmoign
    que eust en sa compaignie, le xviii^e jour de septembre, l’an
    mil IIII C quarante.”

Before reporting the testimony in the depositions against Gilles de
Retz, and that it may be better understood, it should be explained that
there were two methods pursued by Gilles in the abduction of children:
one, the secret and forcible abduction, and the other the hiring of the
child for service as a page, or his being taken with the consent of
the parents on a pretended duty, by which he should be attached to the
retinue of the Baron. Both systems were pursued, and, it is believed,
always by the followers and “familiars” of the Baron, for it does not
appear that he was ever personally engaged in either. The demand
of the parent for the presence of the child was always put off by
indefinite statements: the boy was at another château, or he had gone
with the masters, or men-at-arms, and would be absent for an indefinite
time; sometimes, that he had gone to a distant province; other times,
that he had fled and was a fugitive, and they knew not his whereabouts.
These were all equivocal responses, and far from satisfactory to the
demanders; but out of them there grew the reports circulated through
the country, as set forth in the first pages of Chapter IV.

On the trial, Henriet Griart and Poitou made no defence, but pleaded
guilty. They confessed openly their crime, and being pushed to detail,
they admitted that they had been concerned in the abduction of more
than fifty children, and Henriet added that during his last trip to
Jocelyn with Gilles de Retz, he had captured three of them with his own
hands.

The confession of Henriet and of Corrillaud called Poitou, appears in
the records, and following it, on October 23d, is the condemnation by
the civil court under Pierre de l’Hospital, as follows:

    “After the confession of the aforesaid Henriet and Poitou, and
    on the advice of the assistants, advocates and others, heard
    in the case, and considering all the facts, it was adjudged
    and declared by the aforesaid seignior the President, that the
    aforesaid Henriet and Poitou should, and ought to be, hung and
    burned” (_penduz et ars_).

But the execution of the sentence was postponed to await the conclusion
of the trial of Gilles before the ecclesiastical court.

On the 25th of October, Gilles’s sentence was passed upon him by
the ecclesiastical court, and he was turned over to the civil court
(_bras séculeir_). He was delivered to the prison at the Bouffay on
the same evening, and the next morning was brought before the civil
court with Pierre de l’Hospital as supreme judge. All hope of escape
was lost to Gilles, and, like his accomplices, he seemed to be more
interested for the salvation of his soul than care for his body. He
made no defence,--indeed defence was useless, for the trial was only a
formality. Being charged with the crime of murder and interrogated as
to the facts, he repeated his confession of guilt.

In the consultation of the court as to the sentence, there were some
differences of opinion among the judges. That he merited death, there
was no question, and that appears to have been accepted by all. But as
to the manner of death and the degree of odium to be attached thereto,
there was some debate. However, as he had been excommunicated by the
Church, as his accomplices had already been sentenced _penduz et ars_,
and as the crime shocked all the world who knew of it, the argument
prevailed that, as Gilles had been the chief promoter, and as he and
his two accomplices had been together in their crimes they should not
be separated in their punishments, and therefore first, a fine should
be upon him of fifty thousand pounds; and second, that he should be
hung and burned alive on the gibbet of Piesse.

Piesse was a little open prairie on the island of La Madeleine in the
river opposite, forming part of the city of Nantes. It was reached by
two bridges communicating with the Place Bouffay.

Pierre de l’Hospital in pronouncing the sentence upon Gilles, concluded:

    “You have naught to rely upon now but the mercy of God; I ask
    you so to dispose yourself as to die in good state, and to seek
    repentance for having committed such great crimes. To-morrow,
    at one o’clock, the sentence against you will be carried into
    effect.”

Gilles preferred three petitions, through the judge, to the Bishop.
One, that the execution of the three, himself and his two servants,
should be at one and the same time, to the end that he might comfort
and aid them by his presence upon that dread occasion; that they should
see that his execution actually took place, and should not be tormented
with the thought that either his wealth or power could procure the
postponement of the execution, and finally, or possibly, a pardon.
The second was, that his ashes might be buried in consecrated ground;
and when this prayer was granted, he chose the Carmelite church at
Nantes. The third was, that on the day of the execution, a procession
of litany, such as was common in that country, should be organised to
make prayers to God for him and his two servants, that they might be
sustained and supported in their repentance, and that their salvation
might be assured. Accordingly, on the morrow, at nine o’clock, this
procession was organised and marched through the streets of the city in
the most solemn manner, headed by the clergy of all ranks, reciting the
prayers for the dead.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VII

THE EXECUTION


On October 26, 1440, at eleven o’clock, the time fixed, the procession
approached the prison Bouffay; Gilles, Henriet, and Poitou were brought
out, and with this long procession for an escort, were conducted
across the two bridges to the place of execution. The two courts,
ecclesiastical and civil, were present, and it has been said that the
Duke of Brittany was also present. Three gibbets had been erected with
their cross-arms, and at the foot of each a pile of wood and fagots
(_bucher_) was laid. It is needless to describe the details of the
execution. Some of them may be apocryphal; they were not recorded
at the time, and they may have been made for the occasion; in any
event, they add nothing to the strength of the story. It seems
agreed, however, that at the given signal the three malefactors were
suspended by ropes from the gibbets, that the wood was fired, and
that they were hung and burned at the same time; that they died with
words of repentance upon their lips, expressions of hope for pardon
from the God whom they had offended, and stating their hopes and
beliefs of salvation. There was no sermon, no reading of sentences, no
prolongation of agony. Prayers for the dead were continually recited,
but the execution proceeded with as much rapidity as possible.

The historians of the day, Monstrelet, Chartier, Argentré, all agree
that the body of Gilles was rescued from the flames before it was
burned to ashes, and enclosed in a coffin and carried to the church of
the Carmelites at Nantes, where it was buried privately and without
ceremony, while the ashes of the two accomplices were scattered to the
winds of heaven and the waves of the Loire.

[Illustration: Grotto of Bonne Vierge de Crée-Lait.

Expiatory altar of Gilles, erected by his daughter.]

This was the punishment of Gilles de Retz, and this the expiation of
his crimes. It is curious to remark its effect on human nature, and
how it was regarded by the people. If Gilles de Retz had escaped the
punishment of his crimes, the whole country would have been in arms,
and he would have been denounced in the fiercest terms, as the most
execrable of human beings. But, after having suffered this terrible
punishment before the eyes of all men, and it was thus made known
throughout the country, the spirit of hate and vengeance seems to have
turned to pity, and sorrow and grief seem to have taken their places.

In commemoration of his sufferings, an altar was erected in his memory
and to his name, upon the spot where he died. A niche was made for the
reception of a statue, though none appears to have been erected, and,
unexplainable as it is,--almost marvellous,--it came in after years to
be called the altar of the “Bonne Vierge de Créé-Lait.” The spot where
was executed this man, who had decimated Brittany by the abduction and
murder of its infants, came in a superstitious manner to be esteemed as
a place of value in furnishing milk for nursing mothers. Offerings of
flowers and similar objects were frequently placed upon the altar to
secure the good offices of Saint Anne, who was supposed to have it in
charge. This is evidence, not only of the instability of the judgment
of the multitude and the changeableness of the public, but the
elusiveness of and want of dependence in tradition.

The family of Gilles seem to have made no demonstration, not even an
appearance, during this trying time. No record or mention is made of
their presence at the trial, or of any interest therein. His widow
married within the year, and his daughter Marie, then about fifteen
years of age, married within two years, after his death. His widow
married Jean de Vendôme, and the daughter’s first husband was Prégent
de Coétivy, Admiral of France. These united in a _Mémoire_ addressed
to the King of France, to save the property that had belonged to
Gilles de Retz from confiscation by the Duke of Brittany. Prégent de
Coétivy was killed on June 20, 1450, during the siege of Cherbourg,
by a cannon-shot. His widow (Gilles’s daughter) married, for a second
husband, André de Laval, her cousin. She died, without issue, November
1, 1457, and was buried in the Church of Notre Dame, at Vitré. René
de la Suze, brother of Gilles, married Anne de Champagne. He left
a daughter, Jeanne de Retz, who married François de Chauvigny, the
Prince of Deol, April 11, 1446. They had one child, a son, André de
Chauvigny, who died, unmarried, in 1502. And thus, within sixty-two
years after the death of Gilles de Retz, his family became extinct.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

APPENDIX A

MOTHER GOOSE PUBLICATIONS


Nearly every publisher in France, and many of those in England and the
United States, have issued editions of Mother Goose stories. Most of
those from France have been reprints, with variation, of the originals
by Perrault: Boussod; B. Bernardin; Biblioth. Nat.; MM. Chavery; Dentu;
Flammarion; Boulanger; Lemerre; Bornemann; Cattier; Duployé; Fayard; E.
Guérin; Hachette; G. Delarue; Garnier Frères; Magnin.

The editions of Mother Goose fairy tales and nursery rhymes in England
and the United States are given in the publishers’ catalogues with
essays on the same subject as follows:

_MOTHER GOOSE:_

    _The Original Mother Goose’s Melodies as First Issued about
    1760._ W. H. WHITMORE. 1890. Munsell.

    ---- _Fairy Tales of Mother Goose_, first collected by
    Perrault, 1696. 1892. Damrell.

    _Favourite Rhymes from Mother Goose._ MAUD HUMPHREY. 1891–1893.
    Stokes.

    _Nursery Rhymes, Tales, and Jingles._ 1890. Routledge.

    _Contes des fées_, with notes and vocabulary. 1884. Macmillan.

    _Fairy Tales._ 1877–1882. Routledge.

    _Tales from Perrault_, translated by J. R. Planche, 1860. 1891.
    Routledge.

    _Mother Goose, or the Old Nursery Rhymes._ Illustrated by K.
    Greenaway, 1881. Routledge.

    _Mother Goose Goslings._ E. W. TALBOT. Cassell, P., G. & Co.

    _Mother Goose Rhymes_, with silhouette illustrations by J. F.
    Goodrich, 1877. 1879. Lee & Shepard.

    _Mother Goose Masquerades._ Mrs. E. D. KENDALL. Lee & Shepard.

    _Mother Goose Melodies._ Illustrated. 1879. Lippincott.

    _Mother Goose Melodies, with Chimes, Rhymes, and Jingles_, with
    pictures designed by Billings and engraved by Hartwell. 1878.

    _Mother Goose Set to Music._ New edition. Illustrated. 8°.
    1877. McLoughlin.

    _Mother Goose Fairy Tales_, illustrated by eminent artists.
    1877. New edition, 1882. Routledge.

    _Mother Goose Melodies, or Songs for the Nursery._ Illustrated
    in color by A. Kappes. 1879. Houghton, Osgood & Co.

    _Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes._ Collection of alphabets,
    rhymes, tales, and jingles. Illustrated. 1876. New edition,
    1882. Routledge.

    _Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes._ Illustrated. 1877. McLoughlin.

    _Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales._ Illustrated.
    1877. Routledge.

    _Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales._ 1891. Routledge.

    _Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales._ 1892–1896. Nister.

    “Mother Goose’s Melodies.” JOEL BENTON. New York _Times,
    Saturday Review_, Feb. 5, 1899.

    “Who Was Mother Goose?” THOMAS WILSON. _St. Nicholas._

An investigation of the foregoing volumes will show a series of
Mother Goose stories other than those written by Perrault. These are
well-known rhymes and jingles principally from England, and are of
indefinite and undetermined age.

The edition above mentioned by W. H. Whitmore, gives its history of
the English and American Mother Goose. The collection was first made
for and by John Newbery of London, about A.D. 1760. Its popularity was
due to the Boston editions of Monroe & Francis, A.D. 1824–1860.

The first rhyme in these editions was styled “A Love Song”:

   “There was a little man,
      Who wooed a little maid;
    And he said, ‘Little maid,
      Will you wed, wed, wed?’”

Mr. Whitmore examines the claim made for the first time in 1856 that
the origin of these melodies was due to Mrs. Elizabeth Goose, or
Vergoose, of Boston, and that her son-in-law, Thomas Fleet, published
a volume containing them in 1719, and pronounces the claim without
foundation.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

APPENDIX B

BLUEBEARD STORIES


The story of Bluebeard has permeated modern literature. Reference is
made to some of its publications.

It appeared as a comedy with three acts, under the name of
_Barbe-Bleue_. The music was by Grétry, and it was presented for the
first time at Paris in the Théâtre des Italiens in 1789.

Another was an opera bouffe written by MM. Henry Meilhac and Ludovic
Halévy, music by Offenbach, presented for the first time at Paris in
the Théâtre des Variétés in 1866.

Monsieur Charles Lemire published, in 1894, a lyric representation
with music, dances, etc., in four parts and ten scenes, entitled
_Barbe-Bleue_ (Le sire de Rais). Some of the scenes represented the
interior of the Hôtel de la Suze, the public square at Nantes, the
Château de Tiffauges, the gate of Machecoul (the arrest), Château de
Nantes (the trial), Prairie Piesse (the execution), ending with an
allegoric apotheosis.

A Picardy romance of Comte Ory was rendered by Scribe and Rossini into
an opera in which the characteristics of Gilles de Retz were presented
in the hero.

Walkenaer has investigated, with marvellous patience, the tradition
of Bluebeard, and has sought to trace it throughout its various
ramifications in literature.

La Rousse in his _Great French Dictionary of the XIXth Century_,
under the title of _Barbe-Bleue_, introduces quotations from French
littérateurs who have referred to Bluebeard: J. Sandeau, Toussenel, H.
de Balzac, Ch. Nadar, Max. du Camp, Oct. Feuillet.

Essays or volumes on Bluebeard have appeared either separately or in
magazines or newspapers as shown in the following list:

    “Bluebeard.” E. VIZELLY. _Gentlemen’s Magazine_, N. S., vol.
    xxii., p. 368.

    ---- T. C. WOOLSEY. _Lakeside_, vol. v., p. 314.

    ---- Origin of Story of. W. C. TAYLOR. _Bentley_, vol. xxiii.,
    p. 136.

    ---- Original. _Once a Week_, vol. xviii., p. 15.

    ---- Rehabilitated, Verses. W. H. HARRISON. _Dub. Univ._, vol.
    xc, p. 728.

    “Bluebeard’s Ghost.” W. M. THACKERAY. _Fraser_, vol. xxviii.,
    p. 413.

    “Bluebeard’s Keys.” _Cornn._, vol. xxiii., pp. 192, 688. Same
    article _Living Age_, vol. cviii., p. 685; vol. cx., p. 139.

    “Bluebeard.” H. C. LEA. _Nation_, vol. xliii., p. 377.

    “Gilles de Retz, Baron de: Original Bluebeard.” L. FRECHETTE.
    _Arena_, vol. i., p. 141.

    “Bluebeard, Case of.” P. EDWARDS. _Green Bag_, vol. v., p. 543D.

    “Maréchal de Retz.” _Belgra_, vol. lxxx., p. 58.

    _Gilles de Retz (Barbe-Bleue)._ L’ABBÉ EUGENE BOSSARD. 1886. H.
    Champion.

    _Barbe-Bleue, de la Légende et de l’Histoire._ CH. LEMIRE.
    1886. Ernest Leroux.

The works of Abbé Bossard and M. Charles Lemire have been issued since
the author left Nantes. Much of the matter in this paper was prepared
before these volumes were issued. But the author has not scrupled to
use them, as he has those of Michelet, Monstrelet, or Guépin, or to
verify from them what he has written, especially their later rendition
of the archives. He had access to these records equally with these
gentlemen, but he freely acknowledges the aid received from the printed
copy of ancient manuscripts, the difficulties of which will be apparent
on an examination of the photographic copy on page 137.

M. Paul Saunière published in the _Publicité_ at Nantes, a feuilleton
entitled _Barbe-Bleue_, and a novel entitled _The Black Douglas_, by
S. R. Crockett, lately published, and a book entitled _La Bas_, by
Huysmanns, all deal with Gilles de Retz.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

APPENDIX C

MYSTERY OF THE SIEGE OF ORLEANS


Abbé Bossard is authority for the statement that the unique and
original manuscript of the _Mystery of Orleans_ in modern times is in
the library of the Vatican, No. 1022, registered under _de la reine de
Suède_ (Queen of Sweden). This copy came from the library de Fleury
or of Saint-Henoit-sur-Loire. It was written, he says, in the second
half of the sixteenth century, and made a quarto volume of 509 leaves
with 20,529 lines, and its author is unknown. It was published for
the first time (from the manuscript in the Vatican library in 1862),
by MM. Guessard et de Certain, and forms part of the great collection
of _documents inédits de l’histoire de France_. Quicherat says that
the first author in modern times to mention the _Mystery of the Siege
of Orleans_ was M. Paul Lacroix in his _Dissertation sur quelques
points curieux de l’histoire de France_ (Paris, 1839). M. Adelbert
Keller in his _Ronvart_ (Mannheim, 1844), gave a more extended notice
with extracts. M. Salmon, a student in the _École des Chartes_,
made elaborate notes of the Vatican MSS., which notes fell into the
hands of M. Quicherat while writing his _Procès de condemnation et
réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc_.


_Extracts from the “Mystery of the Siege of Orleans” as acted by Gilles
de Retz_

According to this drama, it was Gilles de Retz, with Ambroise de Loré,
who were charged by the king to conduct and act as guards for Joan of
Arc from Blois to Orleans.

There is in the drama or poem the following speech made by the King to
the Maid, directing her to go to Orleans:

   “Et pour vous conduire voz gens
    Aurez le maréchal de Rais,
    Et ung gentilhomme vaillant
    Ambroise de Loré arés;
    Esquelz je commande exprès
    Ou il vous plaisa vous conduisent,
    En quelque lieu, soit loing, soit près.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Marshal de Retz says to the Maid:

   “Dame, que vous plaist il de faire?
    Nous sommes au plus près de Blois;
    Se vous y voulez point retraire
    Et reposer deux jours ou trois,
    Pour savoir où sont les Anglois,
    Aussi pour rafrachir vos gens,
    Ou se vous aymez mieulx ainçois
    Aller droict jusques à Orléans?”

To which the Maid responded:

   “Monseigneur, je suis bien contans
    Que à Blois donques nous allons,
    Pour noz gens la contre atmendans;
    Ce pendant, aussi penserons
    De noz affaires, et manderons
    Es Anglais que devant Orléans
    S’en voisent, ou combatuz seront,
    En mon Dieu, de moy et mes gens.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Marshal to the Maid:

   “Madame, tout incontinant,
    Vostre vouloir acomplirons;
    Nous ferons assembler noz gens,
    Et presentement partirons.
    Droit à Orleans, nous nous menrons,
    Dame Jehanne, sans plus atendre.”

The Maid responded:

   “Je vous empry, faictes le dont,
    Et vous pry y vueillez entendre.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A discussion took place as to the proper route to follow. The Marshal
thus expressed himself:

   “Je doute aller par la Beausse:
    Le plus fort des Anglois y est,
    Toute leur puissance et force,
    Et tout le pays à eulx est.
    Y nous pourroient donner arrest,
    S’i savoyent nostre venue,
    Et peut estre grant intérest
    Seroit a nostre survenue.
    Si me semble que vauldroit mieulx
    Y aller devers la Sauloigne:
    Le dangier n’est pas si perilleux
    Et n’y a pas fort grant esloigne.
    Mieulx vault faire nostre besoigne,
    Et le dangier passer ainsi,
    Entret par la porte Bourgoigne,
    Et yrons passer à Checy.”

Ambroise de Loré responds:

   “Vous avez très bien devisé,
    A Checy, nous y fault aller;
    Et est a vous bien advisé:
    Vous ne pourriez mieulx conseiller.
    Si n’en conviendra point parler
    A la Pucelle nullement;
    Si non que on la veult mener
    Droit à Orleans, tant seullement.”

This resolution being taken, Jean de Metz asked if it was not time
to notify the Maid; to whom Gilles expressed his readiness to depart
instantly:

   “Je suis prest aussi, par mon âme,
    A aller quant elle vouldra.
    Dame, se il vous plaist partir.
    Voicy en point trestouz vos gens,
    Pour vostre vouloir accomplir
    A vous convoyer à Orléans.”

The Maid responded:

   “En mon Dieu, croy que il est tant
    Et avons beaucoup demeuré,
    Que, ainsi comme je l’entend,
    Orléans a beaucoup enduré.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Marshal to the Maid on their arrival at Checy:

   “Dame Jehanne, la Dieu mercy,
    Vous estes bien icy venue,
    En ceste ville de Checy,
    Sans nulle fortune avoir eue.
    Vous n’estes pas que à une lieue
    D’Orléans, comme je puis entendre;
    Ferons icy une repeue,
    Puis à Orléans yrons descendre.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The English are put to flight; the Maid, about to return to the King,
says to her companions in arms:

   “Si est le baron de Colonnes,
    Viendra avecq moy, si luy plaist.
    De par moy luy prie et denonces
    Que luy et ses gens soient prest,
    Avecques le sire de Rais,
    Se c’est son plaisir y venir.
    Je les en supplie par exprest
    Compaignie me veullent tenir.”

The Sire of Colonnes accepts the invitation, as does the Baron de Retz,
who says:

   “Aussi moy, dame, ne doubtez.
    Faire vueil ce qui vous plaira;
    Mes aliez et depputez,
    Dame, sachez, tout y vendra.
    Et vostre voloir on fera
    Du tout en tout, à vostre guise,
    Et quand vouldrez on partira,
    En faisant à vostre devise.”

The Maid to both:

   “Mes bons seigneurs, je vous mercie,
    Tant comme faire je le puis,
    De vostre haulte courtoisie.
    Nobles, vaillans princes gentilz
    Quant ainsi vous estes soubmis
    A mes bons voloirs acomplir.
    Je vous en rens cinq cens mercis
    Qu’i vous plaist cest honneur m’offrir.”

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

APPENDIX D

DEPOSITIONS AGAINST GILLES

_The Depositions in the Civil Court_


Peronne Loessart of Rochebernart, makes oath that the Baron de Retz,
on returning from Vannes with his retinue, stopped in her town, at
the Hotel of Jean Colin, in the immediate neighbourhood of her house.
She had a son ten years of age then going to school whom one of the
retinue of Gilles, called Poitou, desired to obtain as his page. It was
agreed that he should have four pounds (_livres_) for his services,
and Peronne, _cent souls_ (_sous_), five francs, for a dress, and
Poitou should continue the boy at school. A pony was bought from the
hotel-keeper for the boy to ride, and he departed on the morrow in the
company. She talked with Gilles de Retz, and he commended her wisdom in
placing the boy, and assured her it would be for her and his advantage.
She had never seen her son afterwards, though this had taken place two
years before. On a future journey, she had met the servants of Gilles,
and on demanding news of her son, was informed that he was either at
Tiffauges or Pouzauges.

                        (Signed)  DE TOUSCHERONDE.[5]

    [5] The depositions were all signed by Touscheronde and some
        other.

Jean Colin, his wife Olive, and her mother, support Peronne, and Colin
says that he sold Poitou a pony for the sum of LX s., on which the boy
was mounted and departed with the rest of the company.

Jean le Meignen, his wife, Allain Dulis, Perrot Dupouez, Guillaume
Ganton, Guillaume Portuys, Jean le Fevre, clerc, all of Saint Étienne
de Montluc (Loire-Inférieure) depose on their oaths that since about
three years ago they had known a Guillaume Brice of their parish. He
was a mendicant and had a son about eight or nine years of age named
Jamet; that the father was now dead about one year; that last Saint
John’s day the said child disappeared and had never been heard of since
in the neighbourhood. No one knew what had become of him. He was last
seen near the wood of Saint Étienne, and Dupouez says that about the
same time he met a woman of fifty or sixty years, hardened and strong,
with a visage _vermaillé_ (bronzed), supposed to be _la Meffraye_, who,
it was believed, had abducted the boy. She was making her way towards
Nantes.

Guillaume Fouraige, his wife Jehanne, the wife of Jean le Flou,
Richarde, wife of Jean Gaudeau, from the Port de Launay near Coueron
(Loire-Inférieure), record on their oaths the loss of the son, an
infant of about twelve years, of Jean Bernart, their neighbour; that
he started in the direction of Machecoul to ask alms (on a begging
expedition) from which he had never returned, nor had anybody in their
neighbourhood ever received news of him. The woman, Fouraige, told
of meeting or seeing an old woman with a gray gown and black bonnet
(supposed to be _Meffraye_) with a young boy in her company, who said
she was on her way to Machecoul. In two or three days she returned
alone. Being asked what had become of the child, she responded that she
had placed him to live with a good master.


                        28, 29, and 30 September, 1440.

André Barbe, shoemaker, living at Machecoul, says that since Easter he
has heard that the son of Georget le Barbier has been lost; that he
(the witness) had seen the boy on a certain day gathering apples in the
rear of the hotel Rondeau, and since that time he had never been seen
in the neighbourhood; that the mothers of the neighbourhood had great
fear for the loss of their children and guarded them very closely. He
had been at Saint Jean d’Angely where some of the residents demanded
whence he came, and when he said “from Machecoul,” they responded,
“That is the place where they eat the small children.” He recounts
the loss of several other children from his neighbourhood: Guillaume
Jeudon, Jehannot Roucin, Alexandre Chastelier. He had heard at the
church of Trinity de Machecoul, a stranger in search of his child of
seven years, who had been gone for eight months or more.

Jehannet, wife of Guillaume Sergent, of Saint Croix de Machecoul, said
that during the Pentecost a year before, she and her husband went to
dig the field to sow hemp, leaving in their house a son of eight years
to care for a baby one and a-half years. On their return the boy was
gone and has never been heard of seen since.

Georget le Barbier, living near the gates of the Château de Machecoul,
deposed that he had a son named Guillaume, of the age of eighteen
years, that about the fête of Saint Barnabas he went after dinner to
Machecoul to play _pelote_; that since vespers of the day on which
he had played _pelote_ he had never been seen or heard of, although
he, the father, had made every investigation and demand possible. He
further says it is notorious and the people murmur, saying that infants
are murdered in the said château. He has also heard that the boy who
was page of Monsieur François Prelati, and who lived with him, was also
lost.

Guillaume Hylairet, and his wife Jehanne, living at Machecoul, have
heard say that the son of the said Georget le Barbier had been lost,
and no one knew where he was or what had become of him. They say,
further, that about eight or seven years ago they had living with them
a child of twelve years, the son of Jean Jeudon, as an apprentice to
learn the trade of furrier; that Gilles de Sillé, accompanied by Roger
de Briqueville, had asked to send the boy to the château of Machecoul
with a message, which was accordingly done; that the boy never returned
and was never seen or heard of in the neighbourhood; that upon his
demand, made to Sillé and Briqueville, as to what had become of the
boy, they responded that he was possibly at Tiffauges, but thought
some of the _larrons_ (thieves) had carried him off to be their page;
that he, the witness, knew of the loss of the infants of Jehannet
Roucin and Alexandre Chastelier; that he had heard the parents complain
of their loss _doloreusement_. Guillaume says that about five years
since he heard a man, Jean du Jardin, then living with Monsieur Roger
de Briqueville, say that they had found at the castle of Champtocé a
caskful, _toute plaine_, of the bodies of dead infants; that it was
common and notorious talk that these infants were murdered at the
château of Machecoul; that he has heard the same complaint made by
others, of the _perdicion d’autres enffants_.

Jehan Thipholoz, Sr., Jehan Thifoloz, Jr., Jouhan Aubin, Clemens Doré,
of Tonaye (Charente-Inférieure) have heard the complaints of Mathelin
Thouars, of the same parish, for about half a year, that his son, a
child about twelve years, had been lost, and that he had no knowledge
of his whereabouts, nor could he obtain any news of him.

Jehan Roucin, of Machecoul, says that about nine years ago his son,
a child then about nine years of age, was in the field guarding the
cattle; at night he did not return, and has never returned, nor have
they ever had any news of him. They were told by a neighbour, since
dead, that she had seen Gilles de Sillé with a tabart and an estamine
(a sort of cloak and veil) going to and speaking with the child, whom
he conducted to the postern-gate of the château; that the complaints of
their neighbours, especially Jeudon, of the loss of their infants, are
notorious.

Johanne, widow of Hemery Edelin, and previous wife of Jehan Bonneau,
of Machecoul, says that she had a son of the age of eight years, going
to school; that he lived with his grandmother near the château. About
eight years ago her child was lost and has never been heard of since;
that she knew the boy Roucin, and another of Geudon, which were lost;
that about fifteen days after, another child, that of Macé Sorin,
was also lost; that this created a great clamour, upon which it was
explained that these children, with others, had been captured to serve
as hostages with the English, for the deliverance of Monsieur Michel
de Sillé, then prisoner, and it was said that the ransom of the said
Michel had been fixed by the English at twenty-four male infants.
About two or three years before, the witness had seen, at Machecoul,
a stranger from Saint Mesme, near Chinon, who was crying piteously,
complaining of the _perdicion_ of his child, but no news had ever
been heard. She had heard the same complaint from a couple named Aisé
or d’Aysée. She had also heard of the loss of many other infants in
Brittany, of which great complaint had been made; that seven alone had
been lost from Tiffauges; that they had all been taken from the fields
while guarding the cattle, and no one knew what had become of them or
what to do about finding them.

Macé Sorin and his wife recount the loss of several of the foregoing,
of whom nothing had ever been heard, and that it was presumed that they
had been taken by the English for the ransom and deliverance of Michel
de Sillé, prisoner.

Perrine, the wife of Clemens Rondeau, of Machecoul, declared that
Monsieur François Prelati, and the Marquis de Ceva, while part of the
retinue of the Baron de Retz, were lodged in a chamber of her house;
that she heard the Marquis say to François that he had found a handsome
page at Dieppe, at which François was joyful; that the page came to
live with the said François, and was there for about fifteen days.
Upon her demand of François as to where the boy had gone, and what had
become of him, François responded that he had been deceived in him and
had sent him away. That François and Eustache Blanchet also occupied
another small house in the neighbourhood belonging to Perrot Cahn; that
on the descent of Jean l’Abbé there had been found in the chamber the
powdered bones of an infant, or infants, and she had seen an infant’s
bloody chemise, which gave forth a bad odour.

André Brechet, of the Parish of Saint Croix de Machecoul, says that
about a year and half before he was a watchman, or was watching at the
castle of Machecoul, and after midnight he fell asleep; he was awakened
by a contest on the wall in which a large man had his naked dagger, and
said to the little one by his side, “You are dead” (_Tu est mort_);
that he, the witness, was filled with great fear and quietly escaped.

Ysabeau, wife of Guillaume Hamelin, makes oath that about seven days
before the end of the past year, she sent her two sons--one fifteen
years, the other seven, or thereabouts--to the town of Machecoul
to purchase bread, giving them the money therefor; that they never
returned, and she has never had any news of or from them. She reports
having heard a similar story from Micheau Bouer and his wife, who had
also lost one of their infants, who had never since been seen. She was
supported in the testimony of her loss by Perrot Pasqueteau, Jehan
Soreau, Katerine de Grepie, Guillaume Garnier, Perrine wife of Jehan
Caeffin, Jehanne wife of Estienne Landays, and Perrot Soudan.

Guillemete, wife of Micheau Bouer, declares upon her oath that seven
days after Easter last, her son of eight years, a beautiful white
infant, _bel enffant et blanc_, went to Machecoul; that he never
returned and they have never received any news, however many searches
she and her husband have made. That on the day after they had given
charity at Machecoul for the deceased Mahé Le Breton, she, who was
guarding the cattle as they grazed, was approached by a large man, in
black, who, among other things, asked of her where were the children
who usually guarded the cattle. She said that they had gone to
Machecoul, when he departed in that direction.

Guillaume Rodigo, living at Bourgneuf-en-Rais, testifies to the loss
of his apprentice, aged fifteen years. Marguerite Sorin, chambermaid
for Rodigo, tells how, as she and the boy were playing some games
together in the house after supper, Poitou came and, taking the boy
apart, talked to him in a low voice. On his departure she interrogated
the boy as to what was said, but he refused to tell. Soon after he left
the house in his doublet without saying where he was going. Since then
she has never seen him or heard any news of him. They were supported by
Guillaume Plumet and his wife, and Michel Gerart.

Thomas Aysée and his wife, living at Machecoul, declare that at the
last fête of Pentecost they sent their son of ten years to ask alms at
the castle, and that they have never seen their son since; he has never
returned. They heard, from a girl, that she had seen the son at the
château, along with others who were also asking alms; that alms were
given first to the girls and then to the boys; that this girl said she
had heard one of the men of the castle say to this boy that he had not
had any meat (that is, to eat), and invite him into the castle to be
fed, whereupon both entered and the boy was seen no more.

Jannette, the wife of Eucasse (Eustache?) Douret, of Saint Ligier,
declares on oath that about fifteen days before Christmas last, having
heard that the Baron de Retz would give alms, according to the custom
in her own town, she sent her two boys, one of ten years, the other of
seven, and though some of her neighbours had seen them on the way, and
at the town of Machecoul, she had never seen them since, and although
she and her husband had made every search, they had obtained no news.


                        October 2, 1440.

Jehan de Grepie, Regnaud Donété, of the parish of Notre Dame of Nantes,
says under oath, that about Saint John’s day, two years past, she
lost a child of about twelve years while on his way to school, and
since then she had never seen him. The only news had been that Perrine
Martin, a prisoner in Nantes, had confessed that she had taken the said
child to the Baron de Retz in his chamber, at his Hôtel de la Suze in
Nantes; that the said Baron had commanded her to take the child to
Machecoul and deliver him to the porter, and this she had done. That
she had heard Jean Hubert and Denis de Lemyon, acquaintances of his,
complain each one of having lost a son; that at the time of the loss of
his son, Gilles de Retz was at his Hôtel de la Suze in Nantes, and that
the said Perrine lived near him. The witness made complaint to various
of the servants and followers of Gilles at his said house (Hôtel de la
Suze) and she was always told that they thought his son had gone to
Machecoul to become a page.

Jean Jenvret and his wife, of Nantes, declare their loss of a son of
nine years in the same way, and by the same person as told by Donété.

Jean Hubert and his wife, of Saint Leonart, in Nantes, declare that on
Thursday after Saint John’s day last, two years ago, they lost their
son, fourteen years of age; that he made the acquaintance of some
of the men servants, or followers of Gilles de Retz; that he talked
with his mother of the promises they had made if he would enter the
service with them. He recounted how he had seen the Baron de Retz in
his chamber and waited upon him, for which he had received a present of
some cake which he had brought to his mother; that after his permanent
entry into the service of the Baron, and his departure from Nantes,
they had never seen or heard of him more.

Agaice, wife of Denis de Lemion, says that about a year and a half
before, her nephew of the age of eighteen years, who frequented the
Hôtel de la Suze, where resided the Baron de Retz, was approached by
one of his men, or servants, with an offer to enter the service of the
Baron, which he did, and has never returned or been heard of since.

Jehanne, wife of Guibelet Delit, declares that during the Easter
holidays, she lost a child of seven years; that he frequented la Suze,
where a man named Cherpy had persuaded him to join the service of the
Baron de Retz. This done, she had never seen or had news of her child.

Jehan Toutblanc, of Saint Étienne de Montluc, records that at Saint
Julian a year ago, on departing from his house, he left it in charge of
a young ward of fourteen years, named Jean also, for whom he was tutor.
On his return from his journey, he could not find the boy, has never
seen him, nor heard any news from him.

Jean Fougere, of Saint Donacien, near Nantes, records that about two
years since he lost his son of twelve years, a well-favoured boy, and
that since that time he has had no news as to what became of him.

Jean Ferot, Guillaume Jacob, Perrin Blanchet, Thomas Beauvis, Eonnet
Jehan, Denis de Lemyon, of the parish of Notre Dame, of Nantes, record
under their oaths, their knowledge concerning the loss of the sons of
Jean Hubert, Régnaud Donété, and Guillaume Avril, that complaints and
public clamour have been heard by these witnesses for two years and a
half; that for one year past it has been commonly said that the Baron
de Retz abducts infants in order to slay them.

Nicole, wife of Vincent Bonnereau; Philipe, wife of Mathis Ernaut;
Jehanne, wife of Guillaume Prieur, all of the parish of Saint Croix of
Nantes, support the claim of Jean Jenvret and his wife as to the loss
of their son of nine years, and that for a year and a half they have
heard by common report that _le sire de Retz_ and his men capture and
kill small children. They have also heard of the loss of the young son
of Eonnet de Villeblanche, and that for three months past he has not
been seen in his neighbourhood nor heard from.


                        October 6, 1440.

Jean Estaisse and Michele, his wife, testify to the loss of a boy of
the age of eleven years named Perrot Dagaie. Relate the notoriety of
the rumour that the Baron de Retz and his men capture and kill infants.

Jean Chiquet, parchment-maker, testifies to the evil reputation of the
Baron de Retz and his men in abducting children.

Pierre Badieu, cloth merchant of Chanteloup, testifies to the abduction
of two children aged about nine years, the infants of Robin Pavot.

Jean Darel describes his son, who, while the father was sick in bed,
was captured in the Rue du Mercheil, where he was playing with other
children; that he has no knowledge by whom or where he was taken; that
he has never seen or heard of him since.

Jehanne, wife of Darel, says that on the day of Saint Père (or Pierre)
June 29th, one year ago, there was abducted from her place in the
city of Nantes, her son, Olivier, seven or eight years of age, since
which time she has never seen him nor had any news of him. Her mother
describes the abduction by saying that she was coming from vespers,
leading the child; that near the church of Saint Saturnine, when in
the crowd, somebody made away with the child; that she and all his
relatives sought for him in every direction, but they have never seen
or heard of him since.

Eonnette, wife of Jean Bremant, supports the foregoing witnesses as to
the abduction of Olivier.

Nichole, wife of Jean Hubert, of the parish of Saint Vincent, had a
son named Jean of fourteen years of age, who was lost or abducted as
described by her husband aforesaid. She sustains him in his testimony.

Jean Bureau and his wife, Johanne, Thebault Geoffroi and her daughter,
and Guillaume Hemeri, support the claim of the abduction of the Hubert
child.

De la Grepie, Régnaud Donété, Jean Ferot and his wife, Pierres
Blanchett, and Guillaume Jacob, all support the claim of the abduction
of the apprentice, Donété, heretofore described.



[Illustration]

INDEX


  A

  Abduction of children by Gilles de Retz, chap. iv., 64–71, 106, 195

  Aids, assistants, and familiars of Gilles, 71–75

  Allegiance to Duke of Brittany, 11

  Ancient buildings, description of, 46, 47;
    inscriptions on, 47

  Appendix A, Mother Goose publications, 188

  Appendix B, Bluebeard stories, 186

  Appendix C, _Mystery of the Siege of Orleans_, 189

  Appendix D, Depositions in Civil Court against Gilles, 195

  Army service of Gilles, in histories of France, 22, 23

  Arrest of Gilles, 84–90

  Attack and capture of Rainefort, 17


  B

  Beaumanoir, duel with Tournemine, 169

  Bishop of Nantes, 80–84, 93–95, 100–116, 122, 127, 139

  Blouyn, Jean, Vice-Inquisitor, 95, 100, 102, 105, 140

  Bluebeard, an infantile classic, ix., xiv.;
    stories of, Appendix B, 186

  “Bonne Vierge de Créé-Lait,” niche and statue of, 179

  Bouffay, Palais de Justice, 169;
    duel between Beaumanoir and Tournemine in courtyard of, 169


  C

  Cathedral of Nantes, 45

  Château of Champtoceaux captured and John V. released, 11

  Château of Malicorne captured, 17

  Château de Clisson transferred to Gilles, 12

  Château de Nantes, 90–92 (frontispiece);
    Edict of Nantes signed by Henry IV. in, 91;
    prisoners in: Cardinal of Retz, Minister Fouché, Madam Sevigné, and
          Duchess of Berry, 92

  Citation to Gilles, 82–84

  Confession of Gilles, 135–159

  Coronation of the King, 20;
    Gilles guard for the Sainte Ampoule at, 20

  Court, officers of, 94–97, 130;
    opening of, 100;
    presided over by Bishop of Nantes and assistants, 93;
    records of, 98–101, 105–108;
    Appendix D, 195

  Craon, Marie de, mother of Gilles, 3

  Crimes of Gilles, chap. iv., 64–93

  Criminal law in France and other countries, history of, 96

  Criminal practice in France, 131–133


  D

  Declaration of infamy against Gilles, 80–82

  Decree of excommunication, 124, 164;
    revoked, 126, 165;
    in writing, 129

  Depositions against Gilles, 105;
    Appendix D, 195

  Duel between Beaumanoir and Tournemine, 169

  DUKE OF BRITTANY:
    Alliance of, with France, 15–16
    l’Abbé, Jean, captain in service of, arrests Gilles, 84, 90
    Blois, family of, John V., 9
    Decree of King against Gilles refused by, 60
    Defeat of Blois, peace with Montfort, 9
    Favors bishop against Gilles, 84, 85
    France, alliance with and war for, 15, 16;
      history of, 13–23
    Gilles’s father and family on side of Blois, 9
    Imprisonment of, in Château de Champtoceaux, 11;
      release of, 11, 15
    Montfort against Penthièvres and Blois, 9
    Nantes, château of, castle for the Duke, 90, 92
    Penthièvres and Blois condemned and banished, 12, 13
    Son of a younger son _vs._ daughter of an elder son, 9
    War for the succession of, 9, 11


  E

  Education of Gilles, 6–8

  Espousal of cause of King of France by Gilles, 15

  Evidence against Gilles, 105;
    Appendix D, 195

  Excommunication of Gilles, 124, 126, 129, 165

  Execution of Gilles, x., chap. vii., 177

  Expenses greater than income, resorts to magic, 62, 63

  Extravagance of Gilles, 39, 40, 50–53, 55, 57, 60


  F

  Family of Gilles, _see_ Gilles de Retz

  Folly and ambition of Gilles, 39, 40

  France, alliance with Brittany, 15, 16;
    history of, 13–23

  Friends and companions of Gilles, 17


  G

  GILLES DE RETZ:
    Abduction of children by, 64, 71, 106, 195
    Aids and assistants, familiars of: Eustache Blanchet, Henriet
          Griart, Jean Roussignol, Gilles de Sillé, Perrin Martin
          _alias_ LaMeffraye, François Prelati, Hugues de Bremont,
          Étienne Corrilaut _alias_ Poitou, Robin Romulart, 71–75
    Allegiance of, to Duke of Brittany, 11
    Army service of, in histories of France, 22, 23
    Arrest of, 84–90
    Attack and capture of Rainefort by, 17;
      of Lamballe, Guingamp, Broon, Malicorne;
      Champtoceaux captured and demolished and John V. released by, 11
    Château de Clisson transferred to, 12
    Citation to, 82–84
    Coronation of the King, guard for the Sainte Ampoule at, 20
    Crimes of, chap. iv., 64–93
    Declaration of infamy against, 80, 82
    Education of, 6–8
    Espouses cause of King of France, 15
    Expenses greater than income, resorts to magic and philosopher’s
          stone, 62, 83
    Family of, (Laval [Montmorency-Laval], Rais [changed to Retz, 1581],
          Machecoul, Craon), 1
      Father, Guy, 1–3;
        death of, 4
      Mother, Marie de Craon, 3;
        remarriage of, 4
      Brother, René de la Suze, 4
      Wife, Catherine de Thouars, 5;
        separated from, 61;
        remarriage of, 180
      Daughter, Marie, married, 180;
        died, 180
      Grandfather, paternal, Guy Bremor, 2, 10
      Grandfather, maternal, Jean de Craon, 2, 4
      Grandmother, a sister of great Du Guesclin, 2
      Great-grandmother, Jeanne _la Folle_, 2
      After execution of, 180, 181
    Folly and ambition of, 39, 40
    Friends and companions in arms of:
      Ambroise de Loré, Baron Beaumanoir, La Hire, 17
    Joan of Arc, Gilles is captain of guard for, and in service with,
          through France, ix., 9, 19, Appendix C, 189
    Life of, at home in Brittany (1430–1439), 24–63
    Life, pleasure, business, etc., of, 27
    Magic, resorts to, in aid of his failing fortunes, 61–63
    Maison de la Suze, expensive decoration of, 55
    Marriage of, 6
      First and second betrothals, fiancées both die, 5
      Married to Catherine de Thouars, 5
      Wife’s dot, 5
    Marshal of France, 19
    Music, fondness for, 27
    Personal appearance of, 24–27
    Property of, raided by Margaret de Clisson, 12
      Lands inherited, 2, 5, 28, 29
      Sales and transfers, 30–32
      Value of, estimated, 30, 39, 41, 50, 53, 55, 56, 60
    Religious hierarchy of, bishop, chapel, paraphernalia, etc., 27, 28,
          41, 48, 53, 54, 57, 58
    Ruinous expenditures of, 39, 40, 50–53, 55, 57, 60
    Search for Elixir of Youth and Philosopher’s stone, x.
    Siege and capture of Orleans by, 19
    Signature and rubric of, 22
    Sixteen years old at commencement of civil war, 10, 13
    Soldier (1420–1429), chap. ii., 19–23;
      for France, 17
    Spendthrift, 53
    Submits to arrest, 86, 89, 100
    Theatre, love for, and indulgence in, 33–50
    Trial and execution of, x., chaps. v.–vii., 93–182
      Before Ecclesiastical Tribunal, chap. v., 93–166
    Before Civil Court, chap, v., 167
    Depositions, Ecclesiastical Court, 105;
      Civil Court, Appendix D, 195
    Jean Blouyn, Vice-Inquisitor and aid to Bishop, commission of, 102,
          103
    Officers of court, 94, 95, 97, 130
    Opening of court, 100
    Presided over by Bishop of Nantes and assistants, 93
    Records of, 98–101, 105–108, Appendix D, 195

  Guard of honour at coronation of King, 20


  I

  Infamy, declaration of, against Gilles, 80–82


  J

  Joan of Arc, ix., 19, 21–23


  L

  La Hire, prayer of, before assault on Montargis, 18

  Laval, original family name, changed to Rais by will of Joan la
          Sage, 3


  M

  Machecoul, château of, 1, 2, 5, 29

  Magic, resort of Gilles to, to aid his failing fortunes, 61–63

  Maison de la Suze, Nantes, 46;
    decoration of, 55

  Marshal of France, Gilles made, 19

  _Mémoires des Héritiers_, 28
    Gives lists of Gilles’s lands and from what family inherited, 28, 29
    Inaugurated by his brother and cousin, 28, 29
    Interdiction of sale or transfer by the King, 55–61
    Sales and transfers of property by Gilles, 30–32
    Sentence of the King under, 55–61
    Value of his property estimated in, 30, 39, 41, 50, 53, 55, 56, 60

  Montargis, siege of, 18

  Mother Goose publications, 183

  Music, Gilles’s fondness for, 27

  _Mystery of the Siege of Orleans_, 41–43;
    Appendix C, 189;
    of Lord Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, 43–49


  N

  Notices, public, made in France by trumpet or drum, 43–45, 60


  O

  Orleans, expensive visit of Gilles to, 50–52


  P

  PERRAULT, CHARLES:
    Author of the story of Bluebeard, xi.
    Identity of Gilles de Retz with Bluebeard, xiv.
    Life and history of, xi.
    Member of Academy of France, xii.
    Mother Goose stories, first publication of, by, xiii.;
      names of, xiii.
    Writings of, xi., xiii.

  Personal appearance of Gilles, 24–26

  Pierre de l’Hospital, Chief Justice of Brittany, 93, 135–138, 168,
          174, 175

  Portraits of Gilles, 24

  Prairie de Piesse, place of execution, 175

  Prelati, François, alchemist, 73, 127, 139, 167, 168

  Property of Gilles:
    Lands inherited, 2, 5, 28, 29
    Raided by Margaret de Clisson, 12
    Sales and transfers of, 30–32
    Value estimated, 30, 39, 41, 50, 53, 55, 56, 60


  R

  Records of trial in archives of Loire-Inférieure, 98–100, 170

  Religious hierarchy (pseudo), 27, 28, 41, 48, 53, 54, 57, 58

  René de la Suze, brother of Gilles, 4, 28, 29

  Retz changed from Rais in 1581, 1, 3

  Richemont, Count of, Constable of France, 16


  S

  Sentence of Henriet and Poitou, 174;
    of Gilles, 168, 175

  Shahan, Dr. Thomas J., ix., xv.

  Streets, decoration of, custom continued in France, 36, 37

  Suze, Maison de la, 55


  T

  Theatre:
    History of, in France, 32–38
    Mysteries, moralities, dramas, and farces, 35–38
    Religious plays, fostered by the clergy, 33–35
    Streets decorated during, custom in France, 36, 37
    Travelling shows in small towns in France, 35, 36

  Three languages spoken in Brittany in time of Gilles, 7, 137, 172

  Tiffauges, castle of, 75–78;
    laboratory for magic and black art, used as, 78, 79

  Torture of Gilles, order for, 134

  Tournemine, duel with Beaumanoir, 169

  Trial of Gilles by Ecclesiastical Court, chap. v., 93, 167
    Address to public, 160–163
    Acknowledges jurisdiction and admits guilt, 125
    Bishop of Nantes presiding officer, 93
    Blouyn, Jean, Vice-Inquisitor, aid to Bishop, 95, 100, 102, 105, 140
    Confession of Gilles during, 137–159
    Criminal law in France, history of, 96;
      practice of, 131–133;
      torture under, 134
    Decree of excommunication, 124, 126, 129, 165
    Depositions, 105–109
    Excommunication, 124–126, 129, 165
    Information against Gilles, 116, 123
    Order for torture of Gilles, 134
    Plea of “not guilty” entered, 127
    Refusal to plead, of Gilles, 110–116, 123, 124
    Sentence of Court, 163, 164
    Three languages employed, 137, 172
    Witnesses against Gilles, 105–109, 127

  Trial of Gilles before Civil Court, chap. vi., 167–177
    Bouffay, Palais de Justice, 169
    Depositions, Appendix D, 195–206
    Henriet, Griart, and Poitou tried with Gilles, 167
    Palais de Justice, Place Bouffay, 169
    Pierre de l’Hospital, presiding, 93, 135–138
    Poitou tried with Henriet and Gilles, 167
    Record of trial in archives at Nantes, 98–108, Appendix D, 195
    Sentence of Gilles, Henriet, and Poitou, 174, 175

[Illustration]



Transcriber’s Notes


Italic text is enclosed in _underscores_; small-caps text has been
raised to ALL-CAPS; superscripted text is preceded by a caret ^e, and
enclosed in braces ^{me} when more than one character in length.

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left
unbalanced.

The spellings of non-English words were not reviewed by Transcriber.

The Title page hyphenates “BLUE-BEARD”; the rest of the book does not.

Uncaptioned illustrations are decorative headpieces and tailpieces.

The index was not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page
references.





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