17. Jean de Carrouges returned to the wars despite achieving considerable wealth
In 1396 Jean de Carrouges joined in the Crusade of Nicopolis, serving under Jean de Vienne. The army swept through Central Europe, fighting the forces of the Ottoman Empire. They captured the now Bulgarian fortress city of Vidin, and in the honored tradition of the time massacred the Ottoman residents of the town. They then proceeded to Nicopolis, which they found too strongly defended and fortified to take by assault. The crusaders established a siege, and when they learned of a large relieving force nearby, attempted to force the city in an attack in late September. Both Carrouges and his commander, Jean de Vienne, perished in the battle. By then, Carrouges and his battle with Jacques Le Gris had already attained near-legendary status throughout France. Several versions of the story, embellished by the tellers, appeared in French literature. Yet even before his death, there were those who questioned Carrouges’ version of the story.
Both Voltaire and Denis Diderot wrote of the judicial combat, though neither claimed it to be the last example of approved judicial combat in French history. Over the centuries it gained that reputation, though judicial combats continued in France well into the 16th century. They fell out of favor with the Roman Church, and thus pressure from the bishops and cardinals led to the nobles’ disapproval of the “right” cited by Le Gris and Carrouges. Charles I of Great Britain interceded to prevent judicial combat in England in 1631, though Parliament did not abolish judicial combat until 1819. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Laertes and Hamlet engage in judicial combat. Both characters die as a result of the combat. Technically, judicial combat was still legal in the British North American colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and the ensuing United States has never legally abolished the practice.