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The Last Duel Essay Sample


The Last Duel is a book by the author Eric Jager that talks deeply of a story of the late 14th century trial combat in France. It precisely talks of an invent dated December 29 1386 where there was a war and stand off between a Norman knight named Jean de Carrouges and a squire by the name Jacques Le Gris. The former accused the latter of having raped his wife and therefore a court ruling made required that the two face off in a battle, whichever of the two combatant who would be the last standing, would then be ceremoniously declared the winner as a sign of God’s will. The wife of the accuser Marguerite de Carrouges in the event that his husband the knight lost the duel was to be punished by suffering a burn at the stake .This was to be the last record of such court ruling and thus named the last duel in French history.

The Effect of the Feudal Status of Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris on the Storyline of The Last Duel.

Eric Jager a great time writer brings forth a complicated and sanguinary tale with his artistic style of an accomplished thriller. In his story , he involves two main characters who are portrayed as great enemies who were once big time friends, the two are said to be squires in Medieval France and they are named as  Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. The two worked together for the king it is however paramount to note the Carrouges was socially greater than his then fast friend le Gris, this was what firstly brought forth signs of enmity. Working together, the latter rose in favor in the eyes of the king while the former fell. The author seeks to clearly illuminate the jealous character of the former; he feels bitter and is jealous of his work mate.

After an unfortunate demise of Carrouges wife and son, he remarried to a younger and much more beautiful wife; he consequently was knighted in his service for the king. He went away on a long departure and when he arrived, he met the sad news from his wife that le Gris raped her. Sad and filled with fury, he initiated a legal procedure that led to the lat duel before a silent crowd, a matter of do or die. This was the effect that the feudal status of the once fast friends had on the storyline of the text by Eric Jager. Due to this feudal status, the author successfully manages to bring forth the character traits of the two squires, he brings the former out clearly as a jealous and temperamental character. On the other hand portrays the latter as superior in matters political the main reason why he was able to rise higher in favor with the authorities while working in the same position under the king with Mr. Carrouges. The effect is also seen in the text because the author is able to develop so much unbearable tension before even the duel date by simply fully elaborating the feudality. This has great effect on the story line of the novel.

Role of Women

The author Eric Jager does not fail to adequately describe the role of women in his book. It is also proper to note that he also does not fail to explain the French political system, the position of a woman in Medieval France. This we can conclude that he adequately achieves in the character of Mrs. Carrouges. The duel as he explains, never started by the raping incident, it was developing from long time stemming from jealousy and utmost hatred among the two, but he does not fail to show that the act of rape was the final nail on the coffin which sparked out the Last Duel. This according to him is the role of women; it is good to notice that though the woman was raped a long time ago, she could not directly accuse the squire; he had to wait for her husbands return. This shows the position of women in Medieval France. In case of her husbands loss at the battlefield, he was to endure more pain by been burnt alive. This is as far as the author has explained the role of women.

Legal Concepts Leading to The Last Duel

After receiving complains from her young beautiful wife whom she sought to protect at all costs, Carrouges appeals to the court, he does this knowing very well that the same court was in good terms with the accused, this does not stop him an inch. After adequate judicial consultations among the jury, the parliament and the then monarch King Charles VI, the plea presented by the knight was approved paving way for the bloody last duel. Carrouges however achieves this after facing formidable procedural struggles this been because of the relationship between the accused and the government. The author fails to adequately explain why many other judicial cases never received a trial by combat judgment while that for the two squires received such judgment, however he is quick to ascertain that the duel was agreed upon by the parliament and the King.

Reason for Minimal Mentioning of The Two Major Events of 14th Century in The Book.

The main reason why the mentioning of the two events of the 14th century (the Black Death and the Hundred Years War) is made minimal is that, by the time of eventuality of the Black Death, the system of feudal punishment and trial by combat had begun to break down. There was a transition from early medieval times to modern time culture and practices, changes that would eventually transform the societal structure by rendering feudalism obsolete were put in place. The Hundred Year’s War had consumed the energies of many European countries, all this occurred after the last duel which is the last trial by combat judgment in record times of Medieval France.

Effects of the Black Death and the Hundred Year’s War

The two periodical events of the 14th century in Europe have since made the same century be named as the worst century in Europe’s history. The Black Death is to be remembered for the demise of about 25 million people which constitutes about a third of the continents total population. At the end of the plague, one notable positive effect was that some of the landlords started concentrating on the soil fertility which bred positively as better yields were to be experienced. The Hundred Year’s of War between the English and the French is one to be remembered. Feudalism had been a common judicial way in Europe that is reportedly to have rested on delicate balance based on legal contract; this was not to be so for long, by 14th century, the delicate balance already upset a number of forces. War became more expensive to sustain this impacted negatively on the tax payer as the taxes were raised to hire mercenaries. There developed numerous conflicts from the many factions which made the people suffer a period of utmost distress. Soldiers would loot steal and kill and the battlefront was mainly on French soil, this status quo persisted for 100 years causing utter suffering.


Finally in conclusion, after proper analysis of the efficiency of the feudal system in ancient time Europe, we can’t fail to note that the system was more anti than pro. This clearly means that the system adopted then by European rulers failed as it had very wide negative effects. The trial by combat method was not at all good nor was any other event of the 14th century. This is why this is one of the darkest period in Europe. In Jager’s story, it is only lucky that the accuser was able to kill his accused in battle; however, we cannot fail to question the case where the opposite is true. This is because at the battle, there is 50% chance for either participant. What happens when the guilty is better of? The feudal system in Europe was a great failure.