The source of inspiration for this work was the figure of Gilles de Montmorency-Laval, Baron de Rais (1405-1440), a knight and Lord of Brittany, Anjou and Poitou. A leader in the French army and a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais was heir to a vast fortune and forged a distinguished military career. He was, however, later denounced by his family as a spendthrift with a penchant for alchemy and the occult. In 1440, Gilles de Rais was sentenced to death for murder and heresy although the debate regarding his guilt or innocence has long since raged.
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