16 Brutal Realities of Trial By Combat Fighting Throughout History

A portrait of Samuel Shepherd. Wikimedia.

14. Trial By Combat Wasn’t Outlawed in the UK Until 1819

Unlike the US which acted to outlaw dueling upon its founding quickly, the United Kingdom tolerated the practice for a couple of extra decades. Dueling had been a favorite aspect of law for the upper classes in England, with the gentlemanly duel at dawn an iconic image of masculinity and good breeding. However, this practice was brought to an end in 1819 by Attorney General Samuel Shepherd. He proposed a Trial by Battle Abolition Bill specifically to end the practice, which he found unjust.

Attempts to ban the practice in the UK started in the 16th century but were unsuccessful. The most significant push to ban the practice came as English laws were reformed in response to the Boston Tea Party. British Parliament attempted to pass legislation that would have outlawed trial by combat in the US colony, but constitutionalist members of parliament repelled it. The final judicial recording of an attempt at trial by combat occurred in 1818, in the case of Ashford vs. Thornton, which thankfully did not actually proceed to the combat portion of the hearing. Much as in the US, requests for trial by combat still occasionally occur in the UK, with one Welshman requesting a trial by combat in response to a parking ticket in 2002.