Author: Eric Jager
Publisher: Broadway Books (2004)
I was delighted when Michael sent an email my way asking if I'd be interested in a revisit to the joint post series for a book that has recently been adapted.
For those that are new to what was once a monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here.
The Last Duel, while technically a misnomer, is perfectly summarized by its subtitle. If you decide to pick this one up, you will indeed learn the true story of France's last trial by combat. The combatants were Jean de Carrouges, an unlikeable, litigious knight of good family, and Jacques Le Gris, a newly influential squire and former friend of the above. Le Gris was also a very close friend to the overlord of both men. The trial comes about because Marguerite de Carrouges accused Le Gris of rape [note: the assault and thus the testimony is graphic]. He is acquited of the crime by the above-mentioned overlord and thus Jean de Carrouges, Marguerite's husband, appeals to the king to seek justice via trial by combat. And so began what was a surprisingly (to me) bureaucratic chain of events. Trial by combat was an old and, by this time, unusual legal proceeding which had very strict rules governing it. Additionally, under fuedal law, Marguerite herself had no legal standing in this case without her husband's support and so rather than being the plaintiff, she was the chief witness. This was not a position without danger, if her husband lost the combat she would also be seen to have been false in her testimony and so would be put to death.
So if in theory rape was a serious crime for which the law provided heavy penalties, in practice it often went unpunished, unprosecuted, and even unreported.
The altar was maintained by a tax on lawyers and alms paid by the accomplices in the murder of Evain Dol, a judge of the Parlement slain by his wife's lover in 1369.
rating: 4 of 5 stars