6. The Real Life Monster Behind the Fairy Tale
The inspiration behind Bluebeard, Gilles de Montmorency-Laval, Baron de Rais, better known to history as Gilles de Rais (1404 – 1440), was an aristocrat from Brittany. De Rais was a respected knight, and a national hero who rose to prominence as Joan of Arc’s chief captain and right hand man. Then his true nature was revealed, and his celebrated career was cut short, along with his head, when it was discovered that, away from the limelight, he was an outright monster.
De Rais’ family, the House of Montmorency, was one of the oldest, most respected, and most distinguished aristocratic families in France. From an early age, de Rais seemed to live up to the high expectations of a scion of such an illustrious clan. By age fifteen, he had distinguished himself militarily during a series of wars of succession that wracked the Duchy of Brittany. He distinguished himself even more in Anjou, fighting for its duchess against the English in 1427.