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Immerse yourself in this disturbing and mysterious past

The beast of Gevaudan

From June 30, 1764 to June 19, 1767,
between 82 and 124 people were victims of the Beast of Gevaudan!

These attacks took place in a vast territory which today covers the French departments of Lozère, Cantal and Haute-Loire.
From the outset, these events will take on a considerable scale due to international media coverage without equal at the time!
Engravings of the Beast are published everywhere, from Paris to San Francisco!
Why such an impact?

This territory does not play a major role in the economic life of the Kingdom of France.
Gévaudan is a fairly poor breeding ground.
The north of Gévaudan where the Beast rages is separated between the Aubrac plateau and the Margeride mountains.
Far from being as wooded as today, this vast territory is made up of moors and grazing meadows punctuated by groves and a few thin forests (Mercoire, La Tenazeyre, Bois de Pommier, etc.).

This rough country fueled the imagination of the chroniclers of the time.

Because it is the press that explains the scope of this case.
The end of the Seven Years’ War* left a gaping void in the editorials of the newspapers, until the Gazette d’Avignon took over the affair.
Its editor skillfully embellished the rather deficient news that came from the field.
This media pressure pushed the king,Louis XV of France, to action. Discredited by the loss of the conflict, he must affirm his ability to protect the Kingdom.

*The Seven Years’ War opposed France allied with Austria against Great Britain allied with Prussia (1756-1763).

Moreover, the influence of the Choiseul family must not be underestimated in this case.
Indeed, if Duke Etienne-François de Choiseul is the closest minister to the King, his cousin is none other than the Count-Bishop of Gévaudan: Gabriel-Florent de Choiseul-Beaupré.
In a text that has remained famous under the name of the “Mandate of the Bishop of Mende“, the latter describes this beast as a divine scourge and therefore gives a mystical dimension to this affair.
As a representative of the temporal power, the bishop ensures, through his services, a follow-up in the hunt, and the sending of the king’s “porte-arquebusier” (=harquebus bearer) is undoubtedly not foreign to his relations with his cousin.

During this period, many wolves hunt were organized and among the large number of wolves eliminated, two large wolves were killed.
The first by the porte-arquebusier  François Antoine on September 20, 1765 at the Bois de Pommier then a second by Jean Chastel on June 19, 1767 at the Sogne d’Auvers.

The death of this last animal definitively put an end to the attacks of the “Beast” in the region.

Since the 19th century, this story has fuelled many legends.

There are many theories about the nature of the “Beast of Gévaudan“, from the wolf to the hyena and also to a serial killer.

History and its legend are also a source of artistic inspiration, plays, novels, comics, cinema….

The places are still there,
even if the landscape is much more wooded than then,
Why don’t you also follow in the footsteps of the Beast?

Reference works:

  • CHABROL Jean-Paul, La bête des Cévennes et la bête du Gévaudan en 50 questions, Editions Alcide, 2018.
  • MAURICEAU Jean-Marc, La bête du Gévaudan: Mythes et réalités, Éditions Tallandier, pp.624, 2021
  • MAURICEAU Jean-Marc, La Bête du Gévaudan, la fin de l’énigme ?, Editions Ouest France, 2015.
  • MAURICEAU Jean-Marc, La Bête du Gévaudan, Larousse, Paris, 2008.
  • MAURICEAU Jean-Marc & MADELINE Philippe, Repenser le sauvage grâce au retour du loup : les sciences humaines interpellées, Presses universitaires de Caen, coll. « Bibliothèque du Pôle rural » (no 2), 2010
  • SOULIER Bernard, Sur les traces de la bête du Gévaudan et de ses victimes, Editions du cygne, Paris, 2011.