Did you know Bluebeard was a real man? I didn’t.
I’ve found another cool history factoid!
I grew up reading the Bluebeard fairytale that warns women everywhere and everywhen about the dangers of curiosity and not obeying your husband (which just underlines when the fairytale was created!).
It took growing up and getting married myself to understand why the stupid woman would ruin a perfectly good marriage by going and peeking in the cupboard. I still think she was stupid – there was a dozen other ways she could have handled it, but that would have ruined the story.
The real man that Bluebeard was loosely based upon was Gilles de Laval, sire de Rais, or Gilles de Rais, which is the more common version of his name. He was a French aristocrat living in the fifteenth century, and was a companion of Joan of Arc. He won fame and fortune for himself…then appears to have gone slightly, well, weird.
He started dabbling in the occult. He blew most of the fortune he had won fighting for France on staging elaborate theatricals that he wrote himself.
Then he started murdering children. The number of children he killed has never been completely established, but it is believed to be in the hundreds. He would have got away with the murders, except that he picked a fight with a local clergyman…and that brought the attention of the church upon him and his ways. In 1440, getting the church pissed at you was a really bad idea.
The church investigated him and the murders, and de Rais was executed that same year.
Believe it or not, there are some authorities who believe that de Rais may have been innocent of the murders, but the victim of a church conspiracy, instead. That makes it difficult to explain away the mass graves that were discovered in his district. Interestingly, none of the authorities who believe de Rais to be innocent are medieval historians.
The actual date of his execution is uncertain. Today is one date that is provided, and September 26 is another possible date. The year is not in question, though.
One of history’s earliest serial killers to be executed for his crimes….