Blood Feud

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Blood Feud

Avenging the Wrongful Death of a person's kin by killing the murderer or by receiving compensation from the murderer's possessions.

During the Middle Ages all European nations had similar customs concerning the murder of their inhabitants. The closest next of kin to a person who had wrongfully died at the hands of another had the primary duty to retaliate against the killer. This obligation was subject to certain laws and customs concerning the type of permissible vengeance, the amount of compensation that could be exacted, the location at which the compensation was to be made, and the circumstances in which compensation was not required. For example, a blood feud was not sanctioned if the person killed was a convicted thief or if the person who did the killing did so to defend his lord or a close female family member. The idea of the imprisonment of a person who had committed a Homicide was unknown during this period of history.

There is dispute over whether the blood feud was legal under Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon law. During the ninth-century reign of Alfred, a feud could lawfully commence only after an attempt was made to exact the price of a life. The price, called weregild, also applied when other atrocious personal offenses were committed and was paid partly to the monarch for the loss of a subject, partly to the lord for the loss of a vassal, and partly to the next of kin of the injured person. In Anglo-Saxon law, the amount of compensation, called angylde, was fixed at law and varied with the status of the person killed.

The Catholic Church exerted much influence to have a death avenged through the payment of compensation, not further violence, but the blood feud continued throughout England until after the Norman Conquest (1066).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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