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There is a type of trial by battle called a Trial of Seven in Westeros.

I'd like to know:

  • What is it
  • What are its rules
  • Who can demand one, and who can participate
  • How is it different to a regular trial by battle
  • What does its outcome mean

What are the details of a Trial of Seven?

37

It's an Andal tradition that favors the well connected

The trial of Seven is best described in The Hedge Knight after a dispute between Prince Aerion Targaryen and Ser Duncan the Tall. Instead of the one on one of trial by combat, it consist on seven champions fighting on each side. It´s an Andal tradition that honors the Seven, seen as more likely to be just.

Dunk was lost. “Your Grace, my lords,” he said to the dais. “I do not understand. What is this trial of seven?”

Prince Baelor shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It is another form of trial by combat. Ancient, seldom invoked. It came across the narrow sea with the Andals and their seven gods. In any trial by combat, the accuser and accused are asking the gods to decide the issue between them. The Andals believed that if the seven champions fought on each side, the gods, being thus honored, would be more like to take a hand and see that a just result was achieved.”

“Or mayhap they simply had a taste for swordplay,” said Lord Leo Tyrell, a cynical smile touching his lips. “Regardless, Ser Aerion is within his rights. A trial of seven it must be.”

The Hedge Knight - GRR Martin

One of the strategical advantages to choose this form of duel is that, if you claim it, you force the other to find six champions. If a man cannot find six others to stand with him, then he is guilty.

Six knights, Dunk thought. They might as well have told him to find six thousand. He had no brothers, no cousins, no old comrades who had stood beside him in battle. Why would six strangers risk their own lives to defend a hedge knight against two royal princelings?

“Your Graces, my lords,” he said, “what if no one will take my part?” Maekar Targaryen looked down on him coldly. “If a cause is just, good men will fight for it. If you can find no champions, ser, it will be because you are guilty. Could anything be more plain?”

The Hedge Knight - GRR Martin

Another difference is that the one that claims the trial of the Seven has to fight. Even though I can't find that rule written, all the times it's been invoked (Dunk vs Aerion and Ser Morrigen vs King Maegor) the challengers take part in the duel.

  • 2
    I saw this on the front page and went "Hedge Knight! Yes!" Great answer! – jaichele Aug 16 '16 at 14:06
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What is Trial of Seven?

As already stated by Ram, Trial of Seven is another form of Trial by Combat. In it, Both the defenders and accusers are divided into two teams of Seven men each. They fight until one of the party either surrenders or dies.

This was explained by Prince Baelor Breakspear:

Prince Baelor shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It is another form of trial by combat. Ancient, seldom invoked. It came across the narrow sea with the Andals and their seven gods. In any trial by combat, the accuser and accused are asking the gods to decide the issue between them. The Andals believed that if the seven champions fought on each side, the gods, being thus honored, would be more like to take a hand and see that a just result was achieved.”


What are the rules?

A Trial of Seven has following rules:

  1. All participants must be Knights. Ser Steffon Fossoway explained it in The Hedge Knight:

“Raymun the Reluctant,” mocked his cousin Ser Steffon. An apple made of gold and garnets fastened his cloak of yellow wool. “You need not fear, cousin, this is a knightly combat. As you are no knight, your skin is not at risk. Ser Duncan, you have one Fossoway at least. The ripe one. I saw what Aerion did to those puppeteers. I am for you.”

  1. There must be seven men on each side. If one party can't find seven men, it is judged guilty and there is no need to conduct a trial. When Duncan could not find a seventh man to take up his cause, he offered to fight six against seven but was refused.

“Six,” said Dunk. “Ser Lyonel is knighting Raymun Fossoway. We will fight you six against seven.”

Men had won at far worse odds, he knew. But Lord Ashford shook his head. “That is not permitted, ser. If you cannot find another knight to take your side, you must be declared guilty of the crimes of which you stand accused.”

  1. If the accuser dies or withdraws his allegations during the combat, the trial is over and the defendant is cleared of all charges. If the defendant dies or presumably admits his guilt, the trial is over and the defendant is judged to be guilty. Otherwise, the trial continues until all members of one party either die or surrender. Prince Baelor explained this to his men during the trial at Ashford:

If Ser Duncan is killed, it is considered that the gods have judged him guilty, and the contest is over. If both of his accusers are slain, or withdraw their accusations, the same is true. Else-wise, all seven of one side or the other must perish or yield for the trial to end.


Who can demand one and who can participate?

Only knights can demand a Trial of Seven. When Prince Aerion demanded a trial by Seven in response of Duncan's demand for Trial by Combat, Lord Leo Tyrell agreed that "Ser Aerion" (Notice he uses Ser, not Prince) was within his rights:

"A trial of seven,” said Prince Aerion, smiling. “That is my right, I do believe".

.

.

“Or mayhap they simply had a taste for swordplay,” said Lord Leo Tyrell, a cynical smile touching his lips. “Regardless, Ser Aerion is within his rights. A trial of seven it must be.

As stated already, only knights can participate on either side:

“Raymun the Reluctant,” mocked his cousin Ser Steffon. An apple made of gold and garnets fastened his cloak of yellow wool. “You need not fear, cousin, this is a knightly combat. As you are no knight, your skin is not at risk. Ser Duncan, you have one Fossoway at least. The ripe one. I saw what Aerion did to those puppeteers. I am for you.”


How is it different than a regular trial by combat?

I have created the following table to summarize differences between regular trial by combat and the trial of Seven.

Property Trial by Combat Trial of Seven
Is between two people i.e. 1 Accuser and 1 Defendant X
Participants have to be knights X
Can be demanded only by Knights X
Features more than two combatants X
Is an Andal tradition
Ends with death/surrender of Accuser
Ends with death/surrender of defender
Allows nominating champions in stead of Accuser/defender Unclear

What does its outcome mean?

There can be multiple outcomes.

  1. If the accuser dies or withdraws his accusation, the defendant is cleared of all charges.
  2. If the defendant dies or confesses his guilt, the defendant is judged guilty.
  3. If the accuser's party is killed or forced into surrender, the defendant is declared innocent.
  4. If the defendant's party is killed or is forced into surrender, the defendant is declared guilty.

It is unclear what happens if both sides die (King Maegor vs Warrior's sons was a close thing as all the combatants died and sole survivor, King Maegor fell into comma right after killing his last foe). I would assume that the party whose members die the last will be considered the victor.

  • "I would assume that the party whose members die the last will be considered the victor." Yes, the same as a standard Trial by Combat; in the trial between Ser Gregor Clegane and Prince Oberyn Martell, Oberyn effectively dominated the fight and felled his opponent without so much as a scratch, but Ser Gregor surprised and killed Oberyn before ending the match via yielding (unlikely for Ser Gregor) or dying, which he did shortly after he crushed Oberyn's skull. Since Oberyn died first, Oberyn lost in the eyes of the Seven. – TylerH Aug 16 '16 at 13:54
  • @TylerH Precisely, that's my reason for that assumption as well. – Aegon Aug 16 '16 at 13:55

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