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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trial by Combat and Trial by Ordeal

Recall The Inquisition? Spanish or otherwise?


Monty Python: Nobody expects The Spanish Inquisition


The concept of trial by ordeal, a legal code where the accused were subjected to all manner of horrendous bullshit, based on the concept that the innocent would experience divine intervention or a high level of physical prowess resulting from moral superiority.


Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
King Arthur tangles with the Dark Knight

Similarly, there was a concept of trial by combatIf accused of a crime (murder, treason, abduction, perjury, rape, heresy or the like) there were circumstances where the accused could challenge the accuser to a physical contest. The winning combatant would be declared the moral and therefore legal victor. 

I'm assuming you are following the staggering errors in this logic . . . 



 Illustration by N.C. Wyeth for The White Company by A. Conan Doyle . . .
Which has nothing to do with the Carrouges duel but which is nevertheless a fantastic illustration.

The last duel ordered by the Parliament of Paris, occurred in 1386. Sir Jean de Carrouges, a knight who had been away on an overseas deployment, accused Sir Jacques Le Gris of raping his wife. The case could not be decided by the court who adjudicate the dispute to judicial duel where "God would choses the victor."

Highly anticipated, the King postponed the date until he could be in attendance. The event had the drawing power of an additional gruesome death in that, should Carrouges lose, his wife would be burnt at the stake for perjury. 

Le Gris, whose attorney had believed him guilty, was defeated and his nude body was put on display with the other executed bodies of murderers and thieves . . . 

and even without the additional burning at the stake of a pregnant women, all was right with the world . . . 

in France . . . 

in 1386.  

Dresden Codex (early to mid-14th century),
illustrating how two combatants must share the sun,
align themselves perpendicular to the Sun so that neither has an advantage. 

Civil disputes were also settled by combat with a litany of regulations including taking oaths against witchcraft and sorcery.

If the defendant was defeated and still alive, he was to be hanged on the spot. However, if he defeated his opponent, or if he were able to fend off his opponent from sunrise to sunset, he would go free. 

Either combatant could end the fight and lose his case by crying out the word "Craven". The party who did so, however, whether litigant or champion, was punished with outlawry (determined to be outside the protection of the law.)

A 1540 depiction of a 1409 judicial combat in Augsburg between Marshal Wilhelm von Dornsberg and Theodor Haschenacker. Dornsberg's sword broke early in the duel, but he succeeded to kill Haschenacker with his own sword.

Hans Talhoffer, a 15th-century German fencing master, authored several fencing manuals including a codex explaining additional rules of trial by combat. 

If the plaintiff was a woman, above 60 years of age, a minor, lame or blind, they could decline the challenge, and the case would be determined by a jury.

However, should a women and man engage in a fight to the death, Hans had that covered. 



Here is how a man and woman should fight each other, and this is how they begin. Here the woman stands free and wishes to strike; she has in the cloth a stone that weighs four or five pounds. He stands in a hole up to his waist, and his club is as long as her sling. 


Since she wishes to strike, she has stepped too close to him, so that he grabs her leg and will throw her. Here he has pulled her to him and thrown her in the hole.


Here she has grabbed by the neck and by his member and wishes to drag him out of the hole. She has him fairly effectively pinned, so this is a victory for her.

Duels, in defense of honor, followed a code duello or an elaborate set of rules.


The Irish code duello influenced dueling in America


The parameters typically limited lethality of disputes and provided standards offering ego assuaging resolution without physical demise. 

That aside, something about powered wigs and aristocracy made dueling desirable and the upper classes experienced some culling. 

During an 18 year period in the early 1600s, over 4,000 French aristocrats were killed while dueling. Over the same time period there were an average of 23 duels a day in Ireland.

Duelo de Mujeres by Jose de Ribera 

Isabella de Carazzi and Diambra de Pettinel
 of Napels, in 1552, engaged in a public sword fight over the affections of Fabio de Zeresola. Outcome and Fabio’s requirement to provide affections are unknown. Possibly he rejected both ladies to favor a mate who did not retaliate with sharp implements. 


Champion warfare an extension of trial by combat, in an epic, mano a mano, Pokemon Battle type of way. A hero from each side of a warring group would be chosen to battle for supremacy and mythic adoration . . .  

which would have been preferable to our current mess because I think Sanders is scrappy. He could have gone the rounds. 

Grace Kelly on the set of The Swan

I understand the reluctance in committing to a two part post. Nothing but hassle and commitment. However, my two favorite duels of this collection are in the next part:
Trial by Combat and The Duel

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