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The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  118 reviews

The gripping, atmospheric true story of the "duel to end all duels" in medieval France: a trial by combat pitting a knight against a squire accused of violating the knight's beautiful young wife.

In 1386, a few days after Christmas, a massive crowd gathered at a Paris monastery to watch the two men fight a duel to the death - a trial by combat meant to 'prove' which man's

Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published April 10th 2010 by Cornerstone Digital (first published January 1st 2004)
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3.88  · 
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 ·  779 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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MINI-REVIEW: 1386 . . . shortly after Christmas . . . this engaging historical study focuses upon the last legal duel in Medieval France in which one noble accused another noble of raping his wife. Because the legalities were not conclusive enough on either side it was eventually decided to be resolved violently between two heated parties. Those two parties, by the way, were Squire Jacques LeGris and a knight and his lady, respectively Jean de Carrouges and Marguerite Carrouges.

Note in those day
Ordered on the back of Blood Royal

Description: The gripping, atmospheric true story of the “duel to end all duels” in medieval France: a trial by combat pitting a knight against a squire accused of violating the knight’s beautiful young wife

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 d
Stephen Richter
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the history of the last official "Trial By Combat" in France. Using primary sources Eric Jager paints a picture of two knight whose long simmering feud ended in this event. Jager paints a picture of life in Medieval France , a biography of the individuals and places involved in this event. A very interesting tale.
Melisende d'Outremer
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melisende by: Ricker - Shadowed Realm Medieval History Forum
Shelves: crime, history, reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacqueline J
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True story of the last trial by combat in medieval France. It was written very accessibly, not dry and dusty at all. It almost felt like a novel. It was interesting to see how the judicial system worked and very interesting to see how women and rape were perceived at the time. I highly recommend it. In fact I wouldn't mind reading it again, which for a history narrative is rare as duck's teeth.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
One man accuses another of a crime. The other denies it, and accuses the first of filing a false charge against him. Forensics aren't an option, and it's one man's word against another's. How do you decide who's telling the truth? In medieval France, the two men may duel to the death to prove who is truthful, because God will protect the honest man and help strike down the dishonest man.

This book relates the story of the last trial by combat sanctioned by the French government. The case is prett
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Liked the general idea of the book, but some parts were so dull I had a tough time staying interested, much less involved. I don't generally like to skim/scan, because usually I don't want to miss anything. I guess I wanted to miss (or hurry?) some things here, so some skimming was done.
2.5 stars

A popular non-fiction book on a fascinating subject: judicial duels or trials by combat. Jager follows one famous case: the fabled last judicial duel to ever take place in France. Two men fight to the death over the accusation that one has raped the wife of the other. The subject has all the good ingredients for a juicy historical story: the Hundred Years War, a noblewoman seeking justice, the world of the lower nobility, medieval legal and military antics....

Good popular historical non
Aug 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book provides an extremely in-depth chronicle of the last officially sanctioned duel by the French government in the 1300s. While the story itself is relatively simple (a feud builds between two former friends, one accuses another of a heinous crime and the outcome is finally decided by a duel), the book includes many details of life in France, including stories about king Charles, various wars, customs of the day, and even architecture. I found the most interesting part of the book to be t ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a book that everyone might like. over and above the medieval historical story is the idea of how history becomes what we want to believe... or more specifically who we believe of the relators and why they say what they do. The story as he relates it is fascinating, detailed (!) and very well documented. The various versions that have passed down to us are spun, distorted and sometimes completely made up. This shows how history becomes what the interpreter wants us to believe and what drives ...more
Definitely an interesting story, but told in almost too straightforward a fashion. At times, I almost felt like I was reading notes. His more recent book Blood Royal, was, I thought written in a smoother and more engaging manner.

Great book for discussion and not long - gives background on the surrounding time period as well.
Rebecca Huston
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, france
A look at a real-life trial-by-combat in France that I found absorbing to read, and a real eye-opener. Compared to a lot of the silliness written out there about the subject (it seems to crop up a lot in historical fiction), this is the real thing. Recommended for anyone interested in medieval life.

For the longer review, please go here:
Matt Ryan
Wordy. Definitely written by an English professor, one who apparently doesn't think his reader can remember information from previous chapters. Well, he teaches at UCLA. Fine but inflated. No surprise either, it's fairly obvious who is going to win the duel.
J.B. Siewers
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it
Great book, really gives you a sense of being in 14th century France. Bonus points to story line and intrigue. I was surprised at the degree of Suspense built up. If you like historical novels , this has the benefit of being real. Read it :)
Jun 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Even if the law-oriented details of the last recorded "judicial duel" which took place in France during the Hundred Years' War bring you down, take heart! The actual battle is thrilling. I won't say who wins though.
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
France in the year 1380. The King has died. There is a political shift as a new king takes the throne. This political backdrop for the story. We get introduced to Jean de Carrouges, a squire, looking to better his position and obtain more land. At every turn he gets denied. Causing him to make enemies. One in particular, another squire, Jacques Legris. They were once friends but Legris has been granted the land Carrouges wanted and now is a favorite to their lord. Carrouges who will not go down ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Medieval France was crazy. This fascinating book proves it. Reads like a novel, well-researched, and increasingly jaw dropping page by page. The book covers in excellent detail the lead up, event, and aftermath of the last judicial duel allowed by the French Parlement, a trial by combat, to the death, between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. The matter at hand? The brutal rape of Marguerite Carrouges, Jean Carrouge's wife, by Le Gris, who just happened to be the darling of the French court ...more
Bill Tyroler
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, crime
True crime stories, it's sometimes said, are not just morality tales, but explanations of how the world works. The best ones, anyway -- and Eric Jager's "The Last Duel" ranks among the best. The setting is late-14th century France, and the crime is the brutal rape by a squire, Jacques Le Gris, of fellow squire Jean de Carrouges', wife. More precisely, Margueritte de Carrouges alleged the assault, but Le Gris denied it, causing some doubt as to whether it had occurred at all (or, as some later po ...more
The Last Duel described the process of dueling in the Middle Ages (13th-14th century) in France from the details of the crime (rape of a lady by her husband's former friend), through the accusation by the knight on behalf of his wife, the rebuttal by the other man, petitions to the king (couched in the proper legalese by lawyers), the permission of the Parlement of Paris in the king's name to duel to the death on a particular date and place, the oaths made, the armour and horse necessary, the se ...more
Aw man, this book. Take everything that infuriates you about most sexual assault cases and trials these days, and multiply that by a thousand. Imagine having to go to trial to prove that someone assaulted you, and when you've successfully proved that there's enough evidence to probably convict, you don't even get a conviction; you just get the right for your husband to fight with the guy (because after all, at the end of the day, it's just a property crime, and he's really the one with the griev ...more
Tim Robinson
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Anyone who thinks that the Middle Ages were lawless should read this book. The laws were unequal and brutal, but people valued justice just as much then as they do today. There were courts, records, lawyers, judges, procedures, precedents and rituals. This particular book describes a trial by combat – not a very good quality of justice you might think. But it was the final court of appeal for a case that had already been tried. The duel could not take place until both the King and the Parlement ...more
Christopher Zachary
I found The Last Duel to be an excellent glimpse of the less happy side of life for the lesser noble of the late 14th century. The author did an excellent job of communicating as much detail as was available in a compelling manner. While the topic of the book is hard to read about it provides insight into the legal proceedings of the era without which one cannot form a complete image of what life was like for a portion of the population.

The author also does a great job of filling in the importa
Kevin Manoffski
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Serious page turner. The story is so theatrical it would be entertaining as fiction, let alone as the notable historical event it was. Being a historical tale, it was also quite informative, with tons of details about the process of dueling, marriage and politics for nobles, the cloudy sense of national identity in feudal times, constant warfare, and a great scene-setting depiction of the chaotic state of France during the hundred years war, culminating in a genuinely tense and dramatic battle t ...more
Leslie Raver
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book. Very brutal as expected. I couldn’t help but pity the poor horses that carried these warriors into the crusades (and duel). Also admired the lady’s fortitude in standing strong against her perpetrator. The author gave good geographical descriptions of France and surrounding countries/city of Paris/towns and of the castles and battle grounds/dueling grounds. I enjoyed the interesting facts of the times throughout the book. Glad I was not born during the times of the Crusades. I ...more
Jen Hyatt
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating look at the last trial by combat in Medieval France. Jager thoroughly researched the story-- no easy task, given that the events played out in the 1380's, and documentation was hard to come by. It reads as a mashup of history, soap opera, and suspenseful crime thriller as Jager builds a story of two once-friendly nobles who are ruined by jealousy, greed, rivalry, and an accusation of rape, culminating in an eventual fight to the death. I found it entir ...more
Mike O'Connor
Fine and interesting account of a trial by combat case in medieval France, but the subject matter feels a little padded out for a book-length treatment. A long-form magazine article might have been a better approach, or to adapt it as a historical fiction. Still, it was never boring, and I did find it humorous that even in the fight to the death scenario of letting God's own justice sort out the truth of criminal accusations, you still needed to hire a good lawyer to let you get to the point of ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very engaging, fast-paced read with quite a bit of tension and suspense as the story leads to the deadly duel. Jager has a nice skill for keeping things light and exciting, while simultaneously teaching you all sorts of great tidbits about medieval law, armor, fighting strategies, war tactics, and land management. I love history and read a great deal about it, and still found information that surprised me & taught me new things.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy certain parts of this story, and it was certainly riveting at times. But 80% of this book seems to be made up of speculative phrases, such as 'such and such "must have been"' or "would have", or "probably". It did throw me off a little and I feel it would have been a far more captivating read had it been rendered as a proper novel.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating historical novel that reads like a novel. I spent a whole afternoon reading the last half of the book because I wanted to see how the duel turned out. It was even more gripping knowing that this happened to real people a long time ago.
David Staats
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fans of mystery novels will enjoy The Last Duel, by Eric Jager, for it is not only a suspenseful mystery story, it is a historical investigation and a legal thriller.
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Eric Jager is Professor of English at UCLA, where he teaches medieval literature courses on Beowulf, Chaucer, the epic, and the romance. His other interests include classics, Saint Augustine, the history of the book, and literary theory.

Jager previously taught at Columbia University. He received his B.A. from Calvin College in 1979, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1987. He receiv
“As ordeals and duels gave way to confession as a proof of guilt, judicial torture was actually increasing in France.” 1 likes
“fire applied to the soles of the feet,” prolonged sleep deprivation, immersion in cold water, and water forced down the throat to the point of suffocation.” 1 likes
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