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The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France [Kindle Edition]

Eric Jager
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

As the huge crowd seethed with pent-up excitement, the two deadly enemies studied each other intently, their breath hot behind their visors. Each sought the other’s death as fire and water seek each other’s annihilation. The walled field, at first a prison, now became a crucible where one man would be destroyed and the other purged in the name of justice. They would fight not only without quarter, but also without rules. And a horrible fate awaited the lady if her husband should lose . . .

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 during the devastating Hundred Years War between France and England, as enemy troops pillage the land, madness haunts the French court, the Great Schism splits the Church, Muslim armies threaten Christendom, and rebellion, treachery, and plague turn the lives of all into toys of Fortune.
At the heart of the tale is Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight who returns from combat in Scotland to find his wife, Marguerite, accusing Jacques LeGris, her husband’s old friend and fellow courtier, of brutally raping her. The knight takes his cause before the teenage King Charles VI, the highest judge in France. Amid LeGris’s vociferous claims of innocence and doubts about the now pregnant Marguerite’s charges (and about the paternity of her child), the deadlocked court decrees a “trial by combat” that leaves her fate, too, in the balance. For if her husband and champion loses the duel, she will be put to death as a false accuser.
Carrouges and LeGris, in full armor, eventually meet on a walled field in Paris before a massive crowd that includes the king and many nobles of the realm. A fierce fight on horseback and then on foot ensues during which both combatants suffer wounds—but only one fatal. The violent and tragic episode was notorious in its own time because of the nature of the alleged crime, the legal impasse it provoked, and the resulting trial by combat, an ancient but increasingly suspect institution that was thereafter abolished.
Based on extensive research in Normandy and Paris, The Last Duel brings to life a colorful, turbulent age and three unforgettable characters caught in a fatal triangle of crime, scandal, and revenge. It is at once a moving human drama, a captivating detective story, and an engrossing work of historical intrigue.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1386, Jean de Carrouges accused his former friend, Jacques LeGris, of raping his wife, and the young king of France allowed their dispute to be resolved in what was to be the last legally ordered judicial combat in Paris. Jager deftly blends this story with the background necessary to understand it: the ideas behind trial by combat, the realities of 14th-century marriage, the complexity of the regional and central powers in France, and the personal rivalries at court. Jager describes a harsh and violent era, when public executions were a form of entertainment and both commoners and elites eagerly anticipated the increasingly rare duel to the death. But it was also a time of lawyers, chroniclers and ceremony. Jager doesn't condescend to the people of medieval France but explains the complicated logic by which they could believe that a duel would prove guilt or innocence, pregnancy could be considered proof that sex had been consensual, and a lady could be convicted and executed as a false accuser if her champion lost. A brief history of the duel demonstrates its origins in age-old military tradition rather than divine providence. Jager acknowledges where the definitive facts of his story are unknown while presenting a riveting account that will satisfy general readers and historians alike.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Feudal society in the Middle Ages was founded on a hierarchy of relationships between servants and lords. Improving one's station in life generally meant winning and retaining favor with one's lord. Sometimes this led to competition and jealousy among knights serving the same lord. Such was the case with Jean de Carrouges and Jacques LeGris, two fourteenth-century French nobles (one a knight, the other a squire). A rivalry formed between the once-close friends that started with jealousy, progressed into lawsuits, escalated with the alleged rape of Carrouges' wife by LeGris, and ended with a judicial duel to the death by which (it was believed) the righteous man would be revealed by God himself. Jager provides an excellent depiction of feudal society, placing the reader into the lives of knights and nobles, detailing their relationships with each other and their lords. The ongoing Hundred Years' War and each man's role in it give this personal conflict its historical context. The story of the duel and the rivalry leading up to it make for quick reading as enthralling and engrossing as any about a high-profile celebrity scandal today. Gavin Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2087 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (October 12, 2004)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC2ISA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,923 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
On December 29, 1386, a knight and a squire faced each other on a field of battle outside a Paris monastery. They would fight to the death to prove which man's cause was in accordance with God's will. A crowd of eager spectators looked on, including King Charles VI and other royal courtiers. The accuser was Jean de Carrouges, a knight from a distinguished Norman family, whose volatile temperament had more than once found him involved in legal disputes. The accused was Jacques LeGris, a squire of lesser birth but with great political savvy, who was charged with raping Carrouges's wife, Marguerite.

In the Prologue, Eric Jager masterfully sets the scene on the battlefield to convey exactly how high the stakes were for the two noblemen --- and for Lady Marguerite de Carrouges, who would be burned at the stake as a false accuser if her husband were to lose. Jager then goes back in time to trace the sequence of events that found Carrouges and LeGris facing each other in combat. The crime against Lady Marguerite had taken place eleven months earlier, but the duel was the culmination of years of bitterness and rivalry between the two men, who had once been friends.

Jager, who first came across a reference to the Carrouges-LeGris duel a decade ago, draws on legal records, chronicles, and other historical documents to unfold the story. By putting the duel in the context of the time period, he also provides a fascinating account of life in fourteenth-century France.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A riveting page turner July 8, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Set in medieval France, a final duel is a juicy bit of history that the author, Eric Jager, writes as richly as a fiction novel. I found it to be much more like a true-crime drama than anything that could be real, but he had the facts to prove it! In this story, young King Charles the 6th of France sentences two men to a duel so that God will determine who is innocent and who is guilty.

As the book begins, we are set on the scene of a chilly morning, just after Christmas, in a court bustling with holiday festivities, and the woman accuser stands watching, waiting for a combat to begin that will determine the outcome of her own life. In this tumultuous era of Kings and Serfs, she will be put to death if her champion dies in combat. It was clear early on that this would be a book that would enchant and enthrall me, and sure enough, it did! Compared to other books on the topic like Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal (altho fascinating), it's a real page turner!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely enthralling! January 27, 2005
This is one of my first reviews here. If I had not read the person's review who gave this book one star and wrote such drek about it I would not feel compelled to add my thoughts. I bought the book after hearing the author being interviewed on NPR. The interview itself was so compelling that I had to buy it. It was extremely interesting all the way to the heart-pounding ending. A great read!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and downright riveting June 14, 2005
In The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France author Eric Jager provides a fascinating account of a feud that erupted in the late 1370s between two friends and culminated some years later in the disputants' trial by combat. The bad blood between Jean de Carrouges and Jacque Le Gris began with jealousy, as Carrouges watched Le Gris become the favorite of the Count whom both men served as chamberlains. Le Gris was Carrouges's social inferior, and it rankled that he rather than Carrouges was the more successful at court. Further insults followed, and Carrouges became increasingly hostile to his old friend, whom he suspected of plotting against him.

The final straw, the crime that led the principals in this story to seek one another's death before thousands of spectators and King Charles VI himself, was Le Gris's alleged rape of Carrouges's wife. Marguerite de Carrouges maintained that Le Gris had attacked her while her husband was away from home. The events of that day--whatever happened to Marguerite in fact--led inexorably to a walled-in jousting field on which the two combatants stabbed and hacked and beat one another until one of them lay dead.

Jager does a simply excellent job in this book. He builds the story of Carrouges and Le Gris carefully, describing the causes for complaint between the two and the progress of their feud as well as its historical and social context. We learn in the process about the history of judicial combat and the surprising particulars of the battle itself. The event was not, as one might suppose, an occasion for revelry, with rowdy onlookers yelling insults or encouragement at the fighters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic June 28, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The climax of this true story is so absolutely intense that I put my book down every paragraph just to absorb it. The entire story is absolutely riviting. The only thing I should warn people about is the book is written to a degree of detail that historians love but the layman can find a bit overwhelming.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hate, Greed, and romance, like the fairly tales of gallant knights and...
Fascinating detail in a fiction like rythym and speed. Lots to learn about 14th century France. Enjoy!

Published 8 days ago by james
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding historical treatise on the last recorded trial by combat...
I thought this was going to be another medieval adventure novel, but that is far from the truth. It is really a history book written in narrative form about the last recorded... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Clark Paton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well writen and enjoyed reading the book.
Published 5 months ago by Zoey
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great read! If you are interested in the concept ...
This is a great read! If you are interested in the concept of chivalry from a real historic perspective, then this is the book for you.
Published 6 months ago by Rifraf
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating true story
ric Jager is becoming one of my favorite writers. He writes non-fiction in a way that is fascinating. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Janet O'Donnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great price great book came right away
thank you Charles
Published 6 months ago by Charles I. Bernold
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew that such a dramatic tale could be pulled ...
Who knew that such a dramatic tale could be pulled from the pages of history with such detail? The prose was a little heavy on those sometimes (too much detail in some places for... Read more
Published 7 months ago by QS
5.0 out of 5 stars Medieval Noir
I read "The Last Duel" after I read his "Blood Royal" and I found both books astonishingly well written, well researched, and Jager's knowledge of the period--everything from the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Horace
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This was interesting from the viewpoint of history. Who knew about the last duel? I certainly didn't!!
Published 8 months ago by kay stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Very well written and thoroughly researched. The description of the duel is suspenseful and riveting. A pleasure for medieval history fans.
Published 8 months ago by Sue
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