The Beast of Gévaudan would have claimed more than a hundred victims between 1764 and 1767, in the province of Gevaudan, in the south of Auvergne. The wounds, extremely unusual, such as the size of the bites and the beheading, could not be done by a wolf but only by a "stupid". Faced with the scale of the massacre and the inefficiency of the local lords, the peasants ended up asking Louis XV.
The Beast of Gévaudan sows terror
On June 30, 1764, an event which will mark the conscience occurs in the village of Hubacs, near Langogne, on the high Vivarais plateaus, in the Massif Central. Indeed, that day, a young 14-year-old shepherdess, Jeanne Boulet, was found dead, after having been attacked by a ferocious beast, according to the priest who buried her. This is not the first time that a "beast" has attacked a young girl in the area. At the beginning of the month, already, a cowherd had returned injured, her clothes in tatters.
From there, attacks on young shepherds will multiply, despite the great beating, and psychosis will spread in this breeding region called Gévaudan, which corresponds to the current Lozère department. From now on we will evoke the famous “beast of Gévaudan”. Subsequently, several witnesses will assert that it is "a beast with a very large head, reddish sides, with a black band all along the back, a very bushy tail, wide paws with large claws. ".
The king forced to intervene
The excitement is such that King Louis XV decides to send a regiment of soldiers, dragoons, to the scene, but in vain. The number of victims increases and nothing seems to be able to stop "the beast". Finally, on September 21, 1765, a king's arquebus holder named François Antoine killed a large wolf on the grounds of the royal abbey of Chazes. We are then convinced that it is "the beast". The wolf of the chazes is stuffed and sent to Versailles, for whom the case is closed.
However, other victims are to be deplored thereafter. It is believed today that there were several "beasts", probably wolves or large dogs. Eventually, the attacks ended on June 19, 1767, shortly after a peasant named Jean Chastel killed an animal identified as a large wolf or a large dog.
This story had negative consequences on the end of Louis XV's already complicated reign. Not only were the peasants always under the threat of the "beast", but they were exhausted by the many hunts without being able to plow their fields. In addition, Louis XV became the laughing stock of the courts of Europe, especially in England, and the underground newspapers severely attacked his authority. The case fascinated all French people and became one of the main topics of conversation for many years.
- The Beast of Gévaudan, by Michel Louis. Tempus, 2003.
- The Beast of Gévaudan, novel by Abel Chevalley. The Awakening Editions, 2018.