Eric Jager, the historian who delivered a “Last duel”

Sometimes one era responds to another. By adapting The Last Duel, story by medievalist Eric Jager, published in France by Flammarion in 2010, the English director Ridley Scott found a resonance in phase with the #metoo movement, again relaunched by the hashtag #DoublePeine, following the recent controversy targeting the police station of Montpellier concerning a rape victim.

“This duel shows a Europe at a crossroads, on the verge of discovering modernity. I see many people today refusing to be vaccinated for free in the midst of a pandemic. In the Middle Ages, people would have given everything in exchange for a plague vaccine. »Eric Jager

The news item documented by this professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, is, to say the least, out of the ordinary. In 1386, two Norman lords, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, decided to bring their dispute before God. Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite, accuses Le Gris of having raped her, taking advantage of her husband’s absence. The Parliament of Paris authorizes, unusual decision, a judicial duel. If Jean de Carrouges were to lose (and therefore die), his body would be hanged and his wife burned alive, since the vanquished is considered a liar in the face of God.

“Responding to a rape charge with a fight trial may seem odd to say the least, note Eric Jager, but this story brings out a whole era. First, there is the scandalous treatment of women, the result of a violent and warlike culture combined with a judicial system that is not yet the one we know. In theory, divine justice was exercised through a duel that would reveal the truth. The idea continues to appeal. Let us not forget that in 1967, two French deputies had faced each other in a duel [Gaston Defferre, alors député socialiste des Bouches-du-Rhône et maire de Marseille, avait traité d’un nom d’oiseau René Ribière, député gaulliste du Val-d’Oise]. More recently, in the United States, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s lawyer, called for a “trial by combat” to settle the contested elections of 2020. ”

A news item chronicled by Jean Froissart

In the early 1960s, Eric Jager’s father worked for NATO, and his family had moved to Châteauroux for two years. The child, then 5 years old, is quickly fascinated by the medieval past of the city. From this stay there remained a love of the French language for his parents, and the obligation placed on their son to speak and read it. So, the baseball enthusiast finally chose medieval literature.

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