Reply To: CSI Poitiers 1398

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Hans Hellinger

Yes this kind of thing – data about homicides and other violent incidents- has been a subject of interest in HEMA circles for ~ 20 years.

Each country, political system and region had it’s own methods for prosecuting or investigating homicides, duels, informal fights and so forth.

– In England, the coroner was obligated to fill out a detailed report about every homicide in his district and most maimings, woundings etc. So we have the coroners rolls of London, Boston, York etc.

– In most of the Italian City-States, the barber surgeons were required to write reports of deaths and non fatal injuries received in violent altercations, so we have such records from Florence, Rome, Pavia, Sienna and so on.

– In the German Free cities, the town council conducted thorough investigations of every homicide and every fight, even quite a few minor incidents in which nobody was hurt. Scribes recorded these interrogations. So we have transcriptions of these and sometimes translations, for example Ann Tlusty translated a bunch of these for Augsburg.

– In the German feudal courts, similarly, investigations would be conducted and duly recorded. In both princely court and Free City, violence done under the right rules could be permissible (self defense or according to the rules of the Fedhe). In the event that someone was seriously (i.e. corporeally) punished or executed, there is also the hangman’s diary.

– In France, lawyers wrote “letters of remission” every time there was a violent incident resulting in a homicide. As in England, under most circumstances dueling or violent fracas were prohibited on pain of death, so the lawyers report was designed to exonerate their client, who starts out from a position of guilt (and in great legal peril). These are required to be quite detailed and are probably the best single source of information regarding most homicides in medieval France.

The article I linked was a survey of ~ 300 or 400 such letters, in which the author Pierre Henry Bas, tried to find some patterns as to what weapons were used by both assailant and victim, and what were the results vis a vis mortality. Due to the relatively small sample size it’s not really that telling in terms of weapons, just more of a curiosity.

The only relevance to the incident with Pseudo-Jacquemart and De Holland is that the Duke had a letter of remission drafted which led to their ‘rehabilitation’ – and Pierre Henry Bas collected a few hundred of these, and IIRC they were in roughly the same time period (14th-15th Century) it’s possible some of his sources could be relevant.