The Last Duel

Written by Eric Jager

 

A fascinating insight into the medieval mindset, a world in which people believed that the question of who had committed a crime could be settled by judicial combat to the death between the accuser and the accused. The book is a detailed account of one such combat and the events which led up to it. The crime was rape, and the setting, late 14th-century France.

The two protagonists, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, came from very different backgrounds: Carrouges of an old, noble family, Le Gris from humble origins. As young squires in the service of their lord they had been friends, but over the years, hostility had grown between them. Then Carrouges’s young wife claimed that Le Gris had raped her, hence the judicial combat – to the death.

The book is packed with illuminating facts; for instance, the decline of such judicial combats as a means of establishing the guilt or innocence of the accused, went hand in hand with an increase in the use of another means of establishing the truth, namely torture. For anyone interested in this period, especially in the thought world of medieval people, this book is a must.