Bluebeard Story & Gilles de Rais

A fairytale that many children around the world are familiar with is that of ‘Bluebeard’ (Barbe bleue) written by 17th century French author Charles Perrault. It’s a frightening tale (suitably published today ahead of Halloween) of a man who married and murdered successive wives and how the curiosity of one of them got the better of her.

Perrault is known to have based his stories on folklore and legend that he had previously encountered and many believe that the idea for Bluebeard came from Perrault’s knowledge of the life of the infamous French aristocrat Gilles de Rais (de Retz) who fought alongside Charles VII and Joan of Arc against the English in the Hundred Years War.

Gilles de Raiis connected to the Bluebeard storyFor those who know nothing of Gilles de Rais, he was a man who seemed to lead two entirely different lives. As a young man he seemed destined for a colourful, exciting life and glittering military career. He became a Field Marshal a the age of just 25. However, something in him changed and he became unhinged after witnessing the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake in Rouen.

When his extravagant lifestyle left him in financial trouble he became a desperate man and got involved in alchemy, believing that he could make gold from the blood of children that he murdered. It is believed more than 200 children local to his castle (Château de Tiffauges) suffered this terrible fate. He was brought to justice and hung for his crimes in Nantes 1440.

You can read more on our detatiled page about Gilles de Rais (aka Bluebeard).