Wager of Battel

(redirected from Trial by combat)
Also found in: Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Wager of Battel

A type of trial by combat between accuser and accused that was introduced into England by William the Conqueror (King William I) and his Norman followers after the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Wager of battel was founded on the belief that God would give victory to the party who was in the right. The kings maintained control over the practice, and it came to be reserved for cases affecting royal interests, such as serious criminal cases or disputes over land.

King William and his successors had distributed much land to their loyal supporters, but a century after the conquest it was impossible to produce witnesses who had seen the symbolic delivery of a clod of dirt or a twig representing title to the land. A party could, therefore, hire someone, a champion, to swear that the champion's father had told him on his deathbed that the party was the true owner of the land. The other party also produced a champion who swore just the opposite. The defendant's champion came forward and threw down his glove as a pledge. The plaintiff's champion accepted the challenge by picking up the glove, and the two waged battle or set a time to do so. The winner was held to have good title to the land. It was said that many monasteries, which owned vast tracts of land, had virtual stables of champions in waiting to settle disputes that might arise.

In the early twelfth century King Henry I specifically recognized the right to defend by battel, but the party accused might elect wager of battel or trial by jury. If he chose the wager of battel, he answered the charge before the court by saying that he would be tried by God; if he chose a trial by jury, his plea was that he would be tried by the country. The last demand for wager of battel occurred in 1818. The practice was abolished by statute during the reign of George III (1760–1820).



WAGER OF BATTEL. A superstitious mode of trial which till lately disgraced the English law.
     2. The last case of this kind was commenced in the year 1817, but not proceeded in to judgment; and at the next session of the British parliament an act was passed to abolish appeals of murder, treason, felony or other offences, and wager of battel, or joining issue or trial by battel in writs of right. 59 Geo. III. c. 46. For the history of this species of trial the reader is referred to 4 Bl. Com. 347; 3 Bl. Com. 337; Encyclopedie, Gage de Bataille; Steph. Pl. 122, and App. note 35.

Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
Drances is the individual who proposes the trial by combat as a means to decide the dispute between Turnus and Eneas, as both seem to have a potentially valid claim (8616-18).
Formal adherence to the established traditions of the trial by combat is also seen in the disputants' raising of the issue of their respective degrees of nobility.
In 1215, the Lateran council disapproved of trial by combat.
Whether it's ship to ship fighting; raiding a Cornish king's fortress; or trial by combat, the action is superb as Uhtred builds his reputation and gathers treasures - and the odd woman - on the way.
Similarly the trial by combat between Edgar and Edmund turned into a street brawl.
Even as French treatises began to supersede Italian models in the seventeenth century, writers increasingly presented dueling as a native institution, connected to trial by combat, which they inaccurately identified with ancient Saxon culture, and thus essential to the self-image of the upright British gentleman.
You have not responded to my challenge to Trial by Combat within the fourteen days stipulated in my letter to you dated 5/10/2002.
LEON Humphreys shocked magistrates by demanding the right to trial by combat under medieval law.
Hubert must engage in a trial by combat to save Edmund's life.
2) Staging the trial by combat (also known as the judicial duel) emphasizes its underlying rationale as a stylized performance of justice.
It's been a long road from trial by combat to trial by jury.
IN EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE, IT WAS CUSTOMARY TO SETTLE legal disputes with trial by combat.