Friday, December 02, 2016

Death by overexertion, an English duel of 1380

Some of you probably know that I am writing a source reader -- a book that combines medieval documents with modern commentary -- on the subject of judicial duels.  These were considered to be the most dramatic "deeds of arms" by contemporaries and modern re-enactors are very interested in them.  My book in fact was inspired by Will McLean's collection of sources in his blog, and he will be credited as co-author.

This book includes an account of an English duel between as squire,Thomas Katrington, and Sir John de Annesley.  Annesley, the knight accused Katrington, who had commanded a castle in France, of treason, because, said Annesley, he had surrendered it to the French when he had the resources to defend it.  After a certain amount of political back and forth among major players, including Duke John of Gaunt, a duel was arranged.  There was so much public interest that the crowds who attended were said to exceed those at the recent coronation of Richard II.

An interesting point is the way the duel ended.  It was said to be half an hour long, and very strenuous, with the weapons of either man being destroyed so that (I think) they  were fighting on foot with daggers.  They ended up both lying on the ground with Katrington on top.  The question then arose, what next?
Soon after [Annesley, the knight] was raised up, without any support he eagerly went to the king, while the squire [Katrington]who had been raised, was not able to stand nor go anywhere without the support of two men; and therefore, he was put upon a chair,  and he remained there quietly. The knight therefore came to the king and asked him, and his nobles, that he would grant him the grace, he should be put in the same place as before, with the squire on top of him... he realized that the squire was nearly at his last breath from the excess of [labor] and heat, and the weight of arms which had almost taken the vital spirits from him.
 In the meantime the squire, lacking breath, suddenly  fell off the chair, as if dead, among those who stood around him. Many therefore took care of him, pouring wine and water over the man; but nothing helped at all, until his arms and all of his clothing were removed . This being done  it proved that the knight was the victor and the squire defeated. After a long delay, however, the squire's spirit began to revive, and opening  his eyes he began to raise his head, and terribly began to look at all of those standing around ; when this was announced to the armored knight, (for the knight had not taken off his armor from the beginning of the fight) he approached the squire and called him a false traitor, and asked if he dared to repeat the duel. Since [Katrington] indeed had neither sense nor breath to answer, it was announced that the fight was over and that each should return to his own place. The squire therefore was soon carried to his bed, and he began to rave; and persisting  in his madness, the next day, about the ninth hour, he breathed forth his spirit. 
Interesting that an experienced warrior could end up dying of overexertion caused by among other things the weight of his armor.

In addition, a short piece from Froissart (book III, chapter 7; also late 14th century):

A squire of Navarre was there slain, called Ferdinand de Miranda, an expert man at arms. Some who were present say the bourg d'Espaign killed him, others that he was stifled through the heat of his armour. 

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