cover image Bluebeard: Brave Warrior, Brutal Psychopath

Bluebeard: Brave Warrior, Brutal Psychopath

Valerie Ogden. History (Midpoint, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (284) ISBN 978-1-940773-07-0

Gilles de Rais, early 15th century Marshall of France and companion of Joan of Arc, was tried and executed for the torture and murder of numerous children over a period of many years. Ogden argues that his crimes were triggered by childhood trauma and PTSD caused by the execution of Joan, his idol. However, her understanding of the period is as superficial as her knowledge of psychology. Ogden's only primary sources are the records of de Rais's trial and its aftermath, and her secondary sources consist of amateur or non-medieval historians. The writing style is that of the tabloids: "The events he witnessed... stoked his smoldering thirst for blood," and "De Briqueville, with his blazing, hungry eyes, felt no affection, loyalty or gratitude to de Rais." Ogden also implies that her subject's supposed homosexuality was part of what led him to the perversions of pedophilia and murder, and throughout offers thoughts and feelings without sufficient substantiation. She brushes aside recent doubts among scholars that Gilles de Rais may have been innocent; his trial, like that of the Templars and Joan of Arc, was full of false reports, gossip, and confessions given under torture. Certainly his accusers benefitted from his conviction. Couched in purple prose with no serious scholarship, this book will not resolve the issue. (Oct.)