Gilles de Laval, Lord of Rais 1404-1440, Arrested for his Strange Crimes by Lucien Napolean Francois Totain, 1838-1900
Gilles de Rais was arrested on September 15th 1440.
He was at Machecoul. He could have resisted almost indefinitely behind its fortifications, but he gave himself up for arrest. This was not the action of a guilty man. In all probability he thought that his arrest was a mere formality in connection with the affray at St-Etienne-de-Mer-Morte - he had had a meeting with Jean V in July to discuss the fine he had been given for this matter. Clearly the meeting had given him no reason for serious misgivings.
Initially, Gilles accepted his judges, but at this point he did not know the true nature of the charges against him. It was not until October 8th - a full three weeks after his arrest - that it was revealed to him that he stood accused of murder and sodomy. And it was at this point that he railed against his judges, calling them simoniacs and ribalds. This has always been taken to be another example of the madness of Gilles de Rais; in context, it would appear to be the shocked and frustrated outburst of a man who realises that he has fallen into a trap. He was now in the clutches of the Inquisition. He had no counsel for the defence. He was denied the right of appeal because he had necessarily, because unforewarned, attempted to appeal orally instead of in writing. He denied these charges until the point when he was shown the forced confessions of his servants and threatened with torture himself.
Jean V had already confiscated and disposed of Gilles's property on September 3rd, twelve days before he was arrested.
The cynicism is breathtaking.
Long before he was arrested, Gilles de Rais was a dead man walking.