The Trial By Combat, Between A Man And His Victim's Dog
It's Middle Ages Week at Cracked. Put on your tunic, and eat some cabbage!
The other day, we were telling you about a dog put on trial for murder (the victims were a series of cats). But much weirder than a dog as a defendant would be a dog serving as prosecutor against a human—and succeeding in eliciting a confession.
And so we have the case of Aubry Mondidier, in 14th-century France. Mondidier went missing, and then his dog led a friend, Chevalier Ardilliers, to a tree. Ardilliers spotted signs of digging, investigated, and found Mondidier's corpse buried there. In the days to come, the dog repeatedly attacked another acquaintance of Mondidier's, Chevalier Maquer, and everyone remembered how the two men had been on bad terms. The authorities brought the dog and the man before King Charles V, who saw the dog attack Maquer and only Maquer. This, combined with the dog knowing Mondidier's burial site, suggested it had witnessed its master's murder.
The King ordered trial by combat, between Maquer and the dog, on the Isle of Notre Dame. Maquer would get a chance to slay the dog, but if the dog turned up victorious, that would prove its accusation correct and Maquer guilty. Maquer carried a lance, but the dog managed to get its jaws around his throat. At this point, Maquer signaled for help and confessed to the crime rather than let the dog tear him apart. Naturally, confessing to murder didn't end his problems, and he was now sentenced to a more standard execution, by hanging.
Now, this tale is about as documented as a fair number of incidents from the 14th century, and it remains immortalized in stained glass and as a bronze sculpture in the French town of Montargis. Still, we have to point out that it sounds a tad improbable. If you want to take any real historical knowledge from this, it shouldn't be from the story of the loyal dog, which may just be a legend, but from the broader concept of trial by combat, which was very much a real thing in the Middle Ages.
Trial by combat, as seen in such recent stories as Game of Thrones and The Last Duel, pitted an accuser against a defendant in the arena. If the defendant prevailed in the fight, that meant God supported his defense; otherwise, God judged him guilty. The death of the defendant or the death of the false accuser were both seen as just (and the deaths of anyone else who joined to support them in the duel was also considered just).
In reality, of course, whoever won the fight might well not have been right, they might have just been a better fighter. But then, the same is true for today's trials: Whoever wins the trial might not be right, they might just have a better lawyer.
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