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What are the rules, as specified in the canon, for a Trial by Combat.

Specifically:

  1. Is Trial by Combat a fight to the death?

  2. In what situation is a Prosecutor and/or Defendant allowed to nominate a Champion to fight for him/her?

  3. In what situation does the Defendant get a right to Trial by Combat?

  4. Is the Right to Trial by Combat merely a plea by the Defendant or his sole authority of the means of the trial, ie to say can the Defendants Trial by Combat option be authoritatively dismissed by the Prosecution & Judges?

  5. Does the Prosecutor have a right to Trial by Combat if he/his Champion is an extraordinary Swordsman?

Be generic as far as possible so that nobody is spoiled.

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Question #6 - What if both champions die during combat? –  Mike B Jun 2 at 15:59
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@MikeB the one who dies later should & would be the winner –  KharoBangdo Jun 4 at 5:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 22 down vote accepted

A trial by combat is essentially requesting to be judged by the gods. Denying someone the request of a trial by combat is possible, but has severe political consequences, since it implies that the denier doubts the judgement of the gods. However, it seems that only highborns are permitted to request a trial by combat.

A Trial by Combat:

  • May be requested at any point before or during a trial.
  • May be advised against, but even sovereign Lords and members of the Royal Family rarely even consider denying such a request outright.
  • May be fought by the parties themselves, but it is not unusual for either or both parties to choose champions to fight in their stead.
  • Ends when either party yields or is killed; or when the accuser takes back his accusation; or (presumably) when the accused declares himself guilty.

Considering the religious aspect of the trial, the champion of the just cause should prevail. Denying a champion is declaring that person to be above the gods.

It is less grievous to deny a choice of champion if, say, the champion is unable to arrive for the trial in a reasonable amount of time, or is unfit to fight, especially if there are other champions more readily available to the accused. If the accused is a royal, the champion must be one of the Kingsguard.

This is prior to the events of the books/show:

Of course, some find loopholes. For example, Mad King Aerys proclaimed fire to be his champion when Ned Stark's father and older brother went to King's Landing to seek justice for the kidnapping of Lyanna Stark.

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+1. A few additional points: In Book/Season 1, the individual who chose trial by combat in the Vale was not permitted his first choice of champion, and had to make do with someone else. (But that trial was being presided over by Lysa Arryn, who is, shall we say, eccentric.) Trial by combat only seems to be open to knights/nobility; none of the common criminals on the Wall mentioned it as an option. Finally, the champion does have to be willing to fight for the accused. You can't just name anyone you like so that he will be forced to fight for you. –  Royal Canadian Bandit May 13 at 8:47
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Anointed knights can also request trial by combat even if they are humbly born. We see it happen in The Hedge Knight. –  System Down May 13 at 16:19
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"Also only a knight of the Kingsguard can champion a queen in a trial by battle if she has been accused of treason." - i can only assume this is a spoiler... –  puser May 13 at 16:49
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Good post; would be excellent with citations though. –  Nick T May 14 at 2:26
    
"Of course, some find workarounds." you mean loopholes ;) –  Braiam May 14 at 2:47
  1. Yes, it is a fight to the death, or until someone yields.

  2. Someone is entitled to a Champion when he cannot fight for himself (if they are female, injured, crippled, a dwarf, or otherwise incapacitated)

  3. Whenever they want before or during a trial. When someone is on a formal/normal trial, (any moment) they can choose to be judged by the Gods, i.e. choose the Trial by Combat.

  4. If I'm not mistaken, it cannot be dismissed by anyone, because that would be offensive to the Gods, even by the Royal Families. (The Hedge Knight)

  5. Yes, I don't see why not. Everyone is entitled to be judged from the Gods.

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  1. No, either participant can yield. So you'd better be sure your champion really wants you to win your case.

  2. I think anyone can nominate a champion, eg the king has his Kingsguard and can't be expected personally to fight anyone who objects to his rulings. However, the champion has to agree.

  3. Any highborn or knight can choose judgement by the Gods in the form of trial by combat.

  4. Not allowing trial by combat is indicative that you believe that the gods are on the other side.

  5. I think only the defendant can require trial by combat.

As an aside, yes the Mountain could always demand trial by combat if he was brought to justice, as it is assumed that the gods would still cause him to lose if he was guilty. However it would be pretty hard to do so without killing him during his "arrest".

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the real practice of trial by combat in the middle ages (mostly in Germany and Britain).

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The article from Wikipedia is indeed very interesting! But Tyrion wouldn't have been able to ask for a trial by combat in the real world in my opinion: it was only granted in the absence of witnesses or strong evidence. –  Andres F. May 14 at 0:52
    
Yes, this is an area where A Song of Ice and Fire takes its cue from established fantasy tropes rather than history. –  Kaiser May 14 at 2:08
    
There aren't any witnesses or strong evidence, it's all circumstantial. –  dsas May 14 at 19:32

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