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The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime,…
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The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in… (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Eric Jager

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Member:InsightsGal
Title:The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France
Authors:Eric Jager
Info:Broadway (2005), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager (2004)

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** spoiler alert ** The story of the Last Duel focuses on the last "legalised" duel to be held in medieval France in which one man seeks justice through trial by combat.

The two protagonists are a knight and a squire. First, these are misleading titles. Both are military men of comparable age; both men were - in the few years prior to the duel - of the rank of squire. One man was knighted on the field of battle - the other on the field of justice - therefore at the time of the duel both men were of equal rank. The title of squire or "escuier" was ascribed to a "battle hardened veteran" rather than the romanticised vision of a youth attending to his master. Though squire did serve their superiors, the context, in this case, as with the title of knight, is purely a military one.

Now to the protagonists themselves. There was a long period of friendship between the two, which slowly dissolved as one received preference over the other; and one felt that he was more deserving of preferment than the other. Tensions finally boil over when one man accuses the other of rape and violence against his wife, culminating in the long drawn-out process of having the case examined and pondered before (to the delight of all), the duel to the death is granted.

Jager goes to great lengths to fill in the background information on those involved and to enlighten the reader on the intracies of medieval French politics and law. In bringing the suit forward, the women herself, if her testimony proves false, faces a most grusesome end - to be burnt alive - and her champion, certain death. There is no half measures - at the end of the day, someone will die.

I have been wanting to read this book for some time since it was recommended to me about four years ago. And I highly recommend it myself. ( )
  Melisende | Mar 2, 2017 |
Artfully rendered history of scandal and the french legal system at a time of societal instability, disarray, and upheaval. Chock full of firsthand evidence, this work's defenses are impenetrable.
The author does a superb job of portraying the Middle Ages. ( )
  apomonis | Jun 2, 2016 |
This is shelved as non-fiction, but if you read Jager's notes, you realize that he's ...extrapolated from the existing texts. The narrative he tells is gripping, but I can't trust anything in the text here, and therefore cannot recommend it. ( )
  cricketbats | Apr 18, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this true account of a duel to the death in Medieval France. The wife of Jean de Carrouges was attacked and her husband took her case all the way to the King and Parliament and received the right to duel his wife's attacker to the death. I agree that the best part was the duel itself which was fascinating, hard to believe such things actually took place. ( )
  slvoight | Mar 31, 2013 |
Fascinating look at trial by combat in 14th century France. When the wife of a nobleman alleges rape, it only adds fuel to a long simmering dispute between her husband and the accused. Although the odds are stacked against the married couple, they persist in their quest for justice, even if they must stake their lives on the outcome. ( )
  barlow304 | Jul 10, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eric Jagerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burgoyne, JohnCartographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karolin, KaieKujundajasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerner, DeborahDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paldrok, KilluToimetajasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tedre, KristjanTÕlkijasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Traina, JeanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The elaborate rules of judicial combat left nothing to chance -- except, of course, the outcome itself.

-- Martin Monster,
Duels: les combats singulars
This duel was the last one ever decreed by order of the Parliament of Paris.

-- J. A. Buchon, editor of Jean Froissart's Chronicles
No one really knew the truth of the matter.

-- Jean Le Coq, Parisian lawyer, late fourteenth century
Dedication
For Peg
sine qua non
First words
The idea for this book first occurred to me ten years ago while reading a medieval account of the legendary quarrel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris.  (Author's note)
On a cold morning a few days after Christmas in 1386, thousands of people packed a large open space behind a monastery in Paris to watch two knights fight a duel to the death.  (Prologue)
In the fourteenth century it took several months for knights and pilgrims to travel from Paris or Rome to the Holy Land, and a year or more for friars and traders to journey across Europe and all the way to China along the Silk Road.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767914171, Paperback)

In 1386, a few days after Christmas, a huge crowd gathers at a Parisian monastery to witness what will become the nation's final "trial by combat"—a court-ordered duel intended to let God determine which of the two men was telling the truth. The dramatic true story of the knight, the squire, and the lady unfolds during the devastating Hundred Years' War between France and England, as enemy troops pillage the land, madness haunts the French court, the Great Schism splits the Church, Muslim armies threaten Christendom, and rebellion, treachery, and plague turn the lives of all into toys of Fortune. Bringing to life a colorful, turbulent age and three unforgettable characters caught in a fatal triangle of crime, scandal, and revenge, The Last Duel is at once a moving human drama, a captivating detective story, and an engrossing work of historical intrigue.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In 1386, a few days after Christmas, a huge crowd gathers at a Paris monastery to watch the two men fight a duel to the death meant to "prove" which man's cause is right in God's sight. The dramatic true story of the knight, the squire, and the lady unfolds during the devastating Hundred Years' War between France and England, as enemy troops pillage the land, madness haunts the French court, the Great Schism splits the Church, Muslim armies threaten Christendom, and rebellion, treachery, and plague turn the lives of all into toys of Fortune." "At the heart of the tale is Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight who returns from combat in Scotland to find his wife, Marguerite, accusing Jacques Le Gris, her husband's old friend and fellow courtier, of brutally raping her. The knight takes his cause before the teenage King Charles VI, the highest judge in France. Amid Le Gris's vociferous claims of innocence and doubts about the now pregnant Marguerite's charges (and about the paternity of her child), the deadlocked court decrees a "trial by combat" that leaves her fate, too, in the balance. For if her husband and champion loses the duel, she will be put to death as a false accuser." "Carrouges and Le Gris, in full armor, eventually meet on a walled field in Paris before a massive crowd that includes the king and many nobles of the realm. A fierce fight on horseback and then on foot ensues during which both combatants suffer wounds - but only one is fatal. The violent and tragic episode was notorious in its time owing to the nature of the alleged crime, the legal impasse it provoked, and the resulting trial by combat, an ancient but increasingly suspect institution that was thereafter abolished."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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