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Physical combat engaged in by an accuser and accused to resolve their differences, usually involving a serious crime or ownership of land. It was recognized by the English king from the eleventh to seventeenth centuries.
Trial by battel was introduced into England by William the Conqueror. It was based upon the belief that the winner of the battle, which was tried by God, was the party who was in the right in the dispute.
BATTEL, in French Bataille; Old English law. An ancient and barbarous mode
of trial, by Bingle combat, called wager of battel, where, in appeals of
felony, the @appellee might fight with the appellant to prove his innocence.
It was also used in affairs of chivalry or honor, and upon civil cases upon
certain issues. Co. Litt. 294. Till lately it disgraced the English code.
This mode of trial was abolished in England by stat. 59 Geo.,III. c. 46.
2. This mode of trial was not peculiar to England. The emperor Otho, A. D. 983, held a diet at Verona, at which several sovereigns and great lords of Italy, Germany and France were present. In order to put a stop to the frequent perjuries in judicial trials, this diet substituted in all cases, even in those which followed the course of the Roman law, proof by combat for proof by oath. Henrion de Pansey, Auth. Judic. Introd. c. 3; and for a detailed account of this mode of trial see Herb. Antiq. of the Inns of Court, 119-145.