Although many witnesses suspected that Gilles de Rais had abducted their children, they did not know for what reason he had seized them. One reads that there were numerous rumors, all false, about the abductions: it was reported that Gilles abducted boys in order to turn them over to the English as ransom for one of his soldiers [sic], Michel de Sillé, that he ate children, and that he was writing a magical book with the blood of infants. There is no evidence in the testimony of witnesses that it was rumored that Gilles sodomized the missing children. Indeed, only a very few of Gilles' chosen servants, sworn to secrecy, were aware of how he abused children. It is surprising, therefore, that the first document relative to the prosecution, dated 30 July, refers specifically to declarations by these same witnesses that Gilles “committed the sodomitical vice” with children. It is apparent that this document and a number of others were emended after the truth of the crimes was divulged by Gilles' accomplices Etienne Corrillaut on 17 October. It is doubtless, too, that the prosecutor's articles of accusation, dated 13 October, were emended after the confessions of Corrillaut and Griart, for the accusations contain many details about the crimes, such as the number of victims, the circumstances of the murders and the secret cremation of the corpses, that only Gilles and his accomplices could have known. It is probable that these articles were emended years after the trial, since they consistently date Gilles de Rais' crimes between one and a half and four years earlier than they occurred. The emendation of the legal documents was a right which the inquisitorial court reserved for itself, as stated in the last paragraph of the articles of accusation.
Reginald Hyatte, Laughter For The Devil, introduction
When I wrote about this discrepancy in a blog post from 2012, The Elephant in the Room, I put forward various suggestions as to how it might have arisen. Reginald Hyatte, writing in 1984, was more radical, although he may not have realised it. Anxious to avoid any implication that the trial testimony was a tissue of lies from start to finish, he advanced the theory that the minutes of the trial might simply have been altered after the event. This is a highly controversial but plausible theory; it does explain some of the odd chronological errors, such as the misdating of the incident at Saint-Étienne-de-Mer-Morte to 1439.
Professor Thomas Fudgé, a scholar of mediaeval history, feels that it is most unlikely that the records were tampered with in this way - "There is the possibility that notaries or other court officials fraudulently manipulated the legal record of the trial of Gilles de Rais. I can find no grounds for sustaining this possibility." Hyatte differs, and for once I find myself agreeing with him. It is perfectly true that a rubric at the end of the articles of accusation reserves the right to edit the document: in Hyatte's own translation, without violation of of the rights of correction, expansion, emendation, diminution, objection, amelioration and further presentation and proof, if need be, at the opportune place and time.
It is also true that, if the documents were edited, it poses an enormous problem for the traditionalists. The record of the trial is the only contemporary document we have concerning the supposed crimes of Gilles de Rais. If it was partially rewritten afterwards, that compromises its authority enormously. Put bluntly, if it was altered to update the charges against Gilles, which other sections may have been tinkered with? Which parts, if any, can we trust?
Excellent questions, of course, and ones that revisionists are happy to see asked. Reginald Hyatte, I suspect, not so much.