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Eric Jager’s The Last Duel is an account of the last officially sanctioned trial by single combat to occur in France. The matter under dispute was this: Sir Jean de Carrouges IV had accused his former friend Jacques Le Gris of raping his wife.

The duel was actually a part of the judicial process. The guilt or innocence of the parties was predicated on the duel. If Carrouges succeeded in killing Le Gris, it would mean that his accusation was correct and Le Gris was indeed guilty of rape, if on the other hand, Le Gris succeeded in killing Carrouges, his wife Marguerite would be burned at stake for the crime of making a false accusation of rape (Jager).

Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris were both people of high social standing. They were both vassals of the Count Pierre d’Alençon. Jean de Carrouges was a hereditary knight while Jacques Le Gris was a wealthy squire and a rising star in the court of Count Pierre d’Alençon (Jager).

While Le Gris’ fortunes and influence increased, those of Carrouges wavered. Le Gris became a favorite of the Count and the lands under his control were increased. Carrouges suffered from jealousy at Le Gris’ rising fortunes and their relationship changed from one of close friendship to becoming severely opposed rivals at the court of Pierre d’Alençon (Jager).

Relations between the two worsened at the death of Carrouges’ wife and son in 1380. Le Gris was the godfather of Carrouges’ infant son and with his death the family ties between the two erstwhile friends was completely severed (Jager).

After the death of his wife and child, Carrouges went off on a military campaign against the British in Normandy, while Le Gris continued rising and improving his position in the Count’s court. Due to the influence of Count Pierre at the royal court, Le Gris was given the title of Royal Steward by King Charles VI (Jager).

In 1381 Carrouges married a beautiful young woman Marguerite de Thibouville who was much younger than him. Marguerite was the only daughter of the lord Robert de Thibouville who had twice committed treason against the French monarchy by siding with the British forces in territorial conflicts (Jager).

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