The True Story of The Last Duel and Judicial Combat
The True Story of The Last Duel and Judicial Combat

The True Story of The Last Duel and Judicial Combat

Larry Holzwarth - February 25, 2022

The True Story of The Last Duel and Judicial Combat
Trial by jury has long since supplanted trial by combat in judicial systems around the world. Flickr

20. The emergence of the jury system brought an end to trial by combat

By the beginning of the 14th century, the legal profession and the practice of trial by jury gradually brought about an end to the practice of trial by combat, though several occurred into the 16th century. The opposition of the Church to the practice rendered it unpopular with courts and magistrates. Nonetheless, many nobles and minor nobles, such as Jean de Carrouges, demanded it as their birthright. The last known legally sanctioned judicial combat in France took place in in the mid-16th century. In Britain, the last likely occurred in 1597. Other proposed wagers of battle in Britain were circumvented by the intervention of the monarch, including Elizabeth I and Charles I during their reigns. Certainly, the most well-remembered of all trials by combat remains the affair of Jean de Carrouges and his slaying of Jacque Le Gris.

In the centuries since, some scholars have argued that Le Gris was unjustly maligned by Carrouges, whose motives seemed to be the removal of a rival from court, rather than outrage over his wife’s rape. Others have stated Marguerite put her own life at risk by refusing to recant her charge against Jacques Le Gris. Had her husband lost the battle, she faced burning at the stake. Thus, three lives were at stake when Le Gris and Carrouges took the field. Had Le Gris confessed to the crime of rape once combat had begun, he would have been executed, though not for rape, a property crime. He would have been executed for giving a false oath before God. Following his death, the absurdity of relying on the Almighty to render judgment on those accused of a crime through trial by combat gradually led to its fading into history.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Trial by Battle”. Article, Peter T. Leeson. Yale Law School. Online

“The History behind demands for ‘Trial by Combat'”. Eric Jager, History News Network. March 7, 2021

“The Medieval Revival of Roman Law: Implications for Contemporary Legal Education”. Henry Mather, The Catholic Lawyer. Spring, 2002

“Ordeal: Trial Method”. Article, Britannica Online.

“Trial by Ordeal: When fire and water determined guilt”. Duncan Leatherdale, BBC News. February 9, 2019

“Trial by Ordeal”. Robert C. Palmer, Michigan Law Review. 1989

“King Henry III”. Jessica Brain, Historic UK. Online

“The Last Duel”. Article, History vs. Hollywood. Online

“A Brief History of Trial by Combat”. Alex Mayyasi, Priceonomics. Online

“Under law, rape was at first a crime only against a father’s property”. Susan Brownmiller, The New York Times. October 1, 1975

“Trial by Combat: Medieval and Modern”. Ken Mondschein, Online

“Trial battle in France and England”. Ariella Elema, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. 2012. Online

“Medieval trial by combat: the real history behind The Last Duel”. Hannah Skoda, History Extra. October 15, 2021. Online

“The True History Behind ‘The Last Duel'”. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine. October 14, 2021

“The True Story Behind ‘The Last Duel’ – and History’s Attempt to Erase It”. John-Paul Heil, TIME Magazine. October 15, 2021

“Who is Marguerite de Carrouges?” Olivia Olphin, The Focus. 2021. Online

“The Last Duel”. Eric Jager. 2004

“The True Story Behind ‘The Last Duel’ Is Still Being Debated”. Arya Roshanian, Bustle. October 15, 2021