November 14, 2020 at 2:19 am #1591PhilologusParticipant
Many people know the story of the trial by battle of Jean de Carrouges and Jacques LeGris over Marguerite de Carrouges’ claim that LeGris had raped her by force while her husband was away. A famous historical-novel-disguised-as-a-history tells the story, and Ariella Elema and Steve Muhlberger give a more medieval version.
But there was another judicial duel in France in 1386 between Pierre Touremine and Robert de Beaumanoire in Brittany. French chronicler Jean Juvénal des Ursins summarizes what happened:
In Brittany at that time (the year 1386) there was a knight named Monsieur Robert de Beaumanoir, who called before the duke another knight named Pierre de Tournemine, on pledge (gage) of battle. And he said that he had a relative of his name and arms, who was obliged to maintain the daughter of a worker (laboureur), whom the aforesaid de Tournemine approached and told that he would be a real no-good, if he did not kill or put to death the relative of the said de Beaumanoir, in view of the cause mentioned above, and advised him that he could do it; and so he encouraged the aforesaid worker, who got ready to kill him on many occasions, and one day he found him at a disadvantage, and killed him. And the aforesaid de Beaumanoir said that the killing had been done on the encouragement of the aforesaid Tournemine, and that he had done this falsely and wickedly, and if he wanted to deny this, he was ready to fight, and threw down his pledge. Tournemine replied by denying everything which Beaumanoir had said. And in the end, in view of the situation, and all things considered, the pledge was approved, and he said that it was a pledge of battle. And the chosen day and place arrived, on which the parties appeared in the presence of the duke, and speeches were given in the customary fashion. And after the cry had been given, that each should do his duty, they approached each other, and fought for a really long time, and we hardly know which of the two had the better. In the end de Tournemine was overcome, without retracting the case, and was brought out of the field as if he were dead.
I think that sometimes, judicial duels and trials by combat survived longer in small, weakly governed places like 14th century Brittany. In strong kingdoms, usually someone with a degree in Roman or canon law law got it into his head that these things were far to messy and unpredictable and got them written out of the king’s law or just advised the king to not give permission. That lead to the craze of unauthorized duels under military law in the 16th and 17th century, but that is another story.
The French (and a very detailed set of terms for the challenge listing all the arms and armour and horse tack in detail) is on the Armour Archive forum.
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