The Last Duel by Eric Jager

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: This is why we have lawyers.

Quick synopsis: The story of the last trial by combat in France in 1386.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are set to write and act in the movie version of this book. That is all the pandering I will do for the rest of the post.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: It was really hard to kill a fully suited up knight! Turns out unless you have excellent aim, most of the weapons in 1386 would bounce right off.

My Take: Trial by combat really was a thing. And it was a very one-sided affair if you lost. Here’s how it worked:

  1. Crime is committed or alleged to be committed.
  2. Wronged party calls for a trial by combat.
  3. Accuser and accused suit up in a fight to the death.
    1. If accuser wins, then the accused is obviously guilty.
    1. If accused wins, obviously the accuser was a liar.
  4. Fun wrinkle, if you submitted before being killed, then you’d be executed anyway.

Pretty straight forward, right? Here’s the story of this dual to add some flavor. A knight was accused of raping another knight’s wife. Accuser calls for trial by combat. The big danger here was that is the accuser lost or quit, then his wife would also be executed for lying.

So, the next time you say you hate lawyers, just remember what it would be like if we didn’t have them at all.

Verdict: A really great book for history nerds. It may get too into the weeds for a non-nerd but hey, that’s what the movie is for. (Reminder: The book is always better.)

If You Liked This Try:

  • Hallie Rubenhold, The Five
  • Thomas Asbridge, The Greatest Knight
  • Joel Harrington, The Faithful Executioner
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The Last Duel by Eric Jager
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