An engrossing work of historical intrigue in the tradition of Barbara Tuchmann's A DISTANT MIRROR and Umberto Eco's THE NAME OF THE ROSE.
An award-winning professor of English at UCLA, Eric Jager holds a Ph. D. from the University of Michigan and has also taught at Columbia University. He is the author of two previous books, including The Book of the Heart (a study of heart imagery in medieval literature).
Basing his narrative on original chronicles, legal records, and other surviving documents as well as secondary sources, Jager (English, UCLA) presents a vivid re-creation of "the last judicial duel sanctioned by the Parlement of Paris" and a painstakingly documented picture of courtly love, pride, dishonor, and judgment in 14th-century France. Upon his return from a military expedition, Jean de Carrouges was informed by his wife, Marguerite, that she had been raped and was pregnant by Jacques LeGris, a squire at the court of Count Pierre and once a friend of de Carrouges but now a rival. Marguerite brought charges of brutal assault and rape against LeGris; LeGris brought countercharges of unfounded accusations against Marguerite. "Where the sources disagree," Jager warns, noting that people often made contradictory claims in court, "I give the most likely account of events." Jager suggests that the contemporary notoriety of this public trial by combat might have hastened "the demise of an institution...regarded as one of the most barbarous judicial practices of the Middle Ages." Despite this plausible thesis, this is a purchase most suitable for libraries with an interest in the period. Recommended for large public libraries. Robert C. Jones, Warrensburg, MO Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"'a genuinely suspenseful and well written piece of narrative'. - The Spectator" "'succeeds brilliantly in combining page-turning intensity with eye-opening insights' Sunday Times" "'Jager knows his territory well; we learn a good deal about medieval armor and weaponry, fashion and custom, the legal system and sexual ideas, court politics and religion. His skilful prose quickly ensnares readers in the web of the characters' invention, allowing no escape until very near the end- Sex, savagery, and high-level political maneuvers energize a splendid piece of popular history.' Kirkus Reviews" "'A riveting account that will satisfy general readers and historians alike.' Publishers Weekly'As enthralling and engrossing as any [story] about a high-profile celebrity scandal today.' Booklist (starred)"
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. Agent, Glen Hartley for Writers Representatives. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.