Trial by combat

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Oberyn Martell vs Gregor Clegane - by Zippo514 ©

Trial by combat or trial by battle Westerosi custom and method of law and justice used to determine the guilt or innocence of a person. A trial by combat is usually fought between two people, although a variation known as a trial of seven exists as well.[1]

Practice

Trial by battle - by Nicole Cardiff ©

When a person is accused of a crime, especially when he or she is highborn, that person cannot be denied a trial where the highest ranking lord or lords sit in judgement.[2] At any point before or during a trial, one can request a trial by combat, in which the accuser and accused ask the gods to decide the issue between them.[1] Knights, no matter their status of birth, cannot be denied a trial by combat.[1] Highborn women accused of a crime can request a trial by battle as well; In that case, a champion will fight in their stead.[3] Men who are no warriors can request a champion to fight for them as well.[2] The trial by combat ends when the accuser yields and withdraws the accusations,[1] or when one of the fighters die.

When the person who stands accused is a member of the royal family, their champion has to be a knight of the Kingsguard.[3] When the accuser is royalty, however, they are within their rights to select a champion who is not a sworn member of the Kingsguard.[4]

In rare instances, for example when one person is accused of a crime by multiple people, a trial by seven can be requested. In this ancient form of a trial by combat, seven champions fight on each side as the Andals believed that doing so would make the gods feel honored and make them more likely to interfere and ensure that a just result is achieved.[1]

History

Lord Commander Duncan the Tall fighting Lord Lyonel Baratheon in trial by combat, as depicted by Chase Stone in The World of Ice and Fire.

The trial by combat originates from the Andals in Essos. When they invaded Westeros, they brought their customs with them.[1]

In 42 AC, during the Faith Militant uprising, King Maegor I Targaryen claimed the Iron Throne after the death of his brother, King Aenys I. When Maegor arrived with his mother, Dowager Queen Visenya Targaryen, in King's Landing, she challenged all in the city who challenged Maegor's right to the throne. Ser Damon Morrigen, the Grand Captain of the Warrior's Sons, accepted the challenge. Maegor insisted upon a trial by combat, and Morgan proposed a trial of seven, which Maegor accepted. Damon fought with Ser Lyle Bracken, Ser Harys Horpe, Ser Aegon Ambrose, Ser Dickon Flowers, Ser Willam the Wanderer, and Ser Garibald of the Seven Stars against Maegor and his six champions, Dick Bean, Ser Bernarr Brune, Ser Bramm of Blackhull, Ser Rayford Rosby, Ser Guy Lothston, and Ser Lucifer Massey. Maegor was the only survivor of the trial.[5][6]

During the reign of King Aegon IV Targaryen Queen Naerys Targaryen was accused of adultery and treason by the knight Ser Morgil Hastwyck. Naerys's brother, Prince Aemon Targaryen, defended his sister's honor in a trial by combat and slew Ser Morgil, thereby disproving the accusations.[7][8][3] This event became famous and inspired many songs, stories and fables by bards, furthering Prince Aemon's renown much to King Aegon's annoyance.[8]

In 209 AC during the tourney at Ashford Meadow, several events led to a trial of seven in which the princes Aerion and Daeron Targaryen accused the hedge knight Duncan the Tall. Although both princes eventually withdraw their accusations, the trial ends with tragic results as Crown Prince Baelor Targaryen is among the deceased.[1]

Lord Lyonel Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End during the reign of King Aegon V Targaryen, rebelled against the Iron Throne when Prince Duncan Targaryen broke his betrothal to Lyonel's daughter. The rebellion was eventually settled in a trial by combat between Lord Lyonel and King Aegon's champion, Ser Duncan the Tall, a knight of the Kingsguard.[9]

In 282 AC, Lord Rickard Stark demanded a trial by combat when called to answer for his son Brandon Stark's alleged crimes. King Aerys II Targaryen granted the request, but when Rickard arrived dressed in his armor, he was brought to the throne room where Aerys named fire as the champion of House Targaryen and declared that in order to prove his innocence, all Rickard had to do was not burn. Aerys then had Rickard suspended from the rafters while a fire was lit beneath him. Rickard cooked in his armor as his cloak burned away and his armor melted in the heath.[10]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

When accused of the murder of Lord Jon Arryn by Lady Lysa Arryn and of the attempted murder of Bran Stark by Lady Catelyn Stark, Tyrion Lannister requests a trial by combat at the Eyrie. Bronn champions for Tyrion Lannister and Ser Vardis Egen, captain of the Arryn guard, champions for Lady Lysa’s.[2] Bronn wins and Tyrion is released.[11]

A Clash of Kings

King Joffrey I Baratheon often rules that disputes should be resolved by trial by combat, usually to the death.[12][13][14]

A Storm of Swords

Sandor Clegane is accused of murdering Mycah. Ser Beric Dondarrion decides to judge him by combat and loses,[15] therefore decreeing Sandor innocent of that crime.

When Tyrion Lannister is accused in the murder of King Joffrey I Baratheon, Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne offers to be his champion in trial by combat[4]. His opponent, representing the accuser Cersei Lannister, is Ser Gregor Clegane.[16]

A Feast for Crows

The accusations directed towards Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister make both consider demanding trial by combat. Their status as queens makes it necessary for both to choose from the Kingsguard members, at a time when their ranks are seriously depleted. Cersei writes a letter to Ser Jaime Lannister, her brother and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, currently in the riverlands, asking him to return to King's Landing to be her champion.[3]

A Dance with Dragons

After learning of Jaime's disappearance, Cersei must choose a new champion from the Kingsguard for her trial by combat.[17] Ser Robert Strong is the eventual choice.[18][19]

Quotes

The gods know the truth of my innocence. I will have their verdict, not the judgment of men. I demand trial by combat.[2]
Tyrion Lannister


The gods have seen fit to proclaim him innocent, child. We have no choice but to free him.[11]
Lysa Tully to Robert Arryn regarding Tyrion Lannister


I am innocent, but I will get no justice here. You leave me no choice but to appeal to the gods. I demand trial by battle.[16]
Tyrion Lannister to the people gathered in the throne room

References

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