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Spoiler warning

This question contains details about S07E07.

This recent question: Why did the Starks kill this character by trial, and not by simply having Arya do it in secret? explain a lot about the motivation of some of the characters. These others from movies.se highlight additional details about what is going on, even behind the scenes, before and during this event of S07E07:

Given this information, my question is

Could had Littlefinger asked for trial by combat and hope to get away with murder (and treason) if his champion had bested the Starks' champion?

And, on one note

To be clear, I'm not interested on knowing if the Starks' champion would had been Arya and if she is unbeatable or not. My question clearly is if Littlefinger could had done this request and hoped for the best to succeed.

  • Do you mean "demanded" a trial by combat?. He could absolutely have asked for it, and also hope to get away with it. – Mandsome Sep 2 '17 at 2:11
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No.

This answer uses an out of universe information about how trial by combat works, but I think it may give some idea.

Trial by combat is a way to determine the guilt, not if the accused can walk free even if he was guilty.

Trial by combat was a method to settle accusations in the absence of witnesses or a confession in which two parties in dispute fought in single combat; the winner of the fight was proclaimed to be right. In essence, it was a judicially sanctioned duel.

If we applied this to the show, we'll see it matches.

Some examples:

  • In both Tyrion's trials, no one knew for sure if he was guilty or not, so he was able to demand it.

In other cases when there was enough evidence:

  • Jon executing Ser Alliser: Ser Alliser Thorne couldn't because the ruler (Jon) was certain of his guilt.

  • The same when Rob executed Rickard Karstark.

  • The same when Ned sentenced The Mountain to death, he listened to the villager testimony and because he believed it, he passed the sentence.

Someone like The Mountain can't just go around killing people then demand a trial by combat every time, as long there are witnesses, confession or a way to make the ruler certain of the guilt, he'll pass the sentence and the accused can't demand a trial by combat.

The ruler in this case was Sansa, if she witnessed the crime herself, or believed Bran, she can just pass the sentence.

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20

Yes, he could have requested trial by combat, but his request would have been declined for any of several reasons.

1. King Tomnen declared it illegal.

Under the influence of the High Sparrow, King Tommen Baratheon discontinued trials by combat, deciding it is barbaric and an easy way for people of influence and power to evade justice. In doing so, he robbed his mother, Cersei Lannister, of her best chance to escape any sort of punishment from the courts as she can no longer play her trump card by using Gregor Clegane as her champion.

2. Even if the North still allowed trial by combat, he might not get support.

The North might not enforce declarations of a king they considered illegitimate, and thus still allow the practice. However, Baelish has few friends in the North, and many northern lords are wary or suspicious of him. I don't see any vassals of House Stark putting their lives (or their best soldiers' lives) on the line for him even if they did want to keep the right of trial by combat.

If Littlefinger requested a champion, any person he chose might decline. We have twice seen times when people declined to be a champion. When Tyrion requested trial by combat at his trial in the Eyrie and asked for a volunteer, none of the men in the Eyrie volunteered until Bronn did. When Tyrion requested trial by combat after he was accused of killing Joffrey, Cersei chose the Mountain, and Bronn declined this time because he did not want to fight against the Mountain. It's possible that Littlefinger being disliked in the North, nobody would fight on his behalf.

3. He was not a born into a major house.

Another factor that could prevent Littlefinger from getting his request is that trial by combat is a right given only to highborn noblemen and noblewomen. He's from a minor house that once had no lands, no army, no maester, no name, no gold, and just a small keep for a castle. Although he acquired more lands, an army, and gold through his position as Master of Coin and from his scheming, he was not born into a major house. This means he was not a highborn nobleman, and thus ineligible.

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  • 2
    Plus it feels less like a trial, and more like a “Hey, you killed your wife, you admit you killed your wife, we’re all pretty sure you killed your wife, that’s a death sentence.” Like the guy who abandoned the Night’s Watch in episode one. You’re done, son. – Paul D. Waite Sep 2 '17 at 9:53
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    King Tommen’s ruling would have absolutely no bearing on a kingdom that considered itself independent of his, so that entire section only confuses matters and detracts from the answer. And while Littlefinger might likely fail to get a champion, that doesn’t explain why he didn’t try. And you should back up your claim that trial by combat was a right given only to highborn; that might be so but I don’t recall ever seeing that in show or books. – KRyan Sep 3 '17 at 15:32
  • @KRyan I don't have a quote from the books (yet) which say trial by combat is only a right of the highborn. However, three answers to this question mention it is a right of the highborn, and not of commoners. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/56176/… I am assuming the people who answered that question know the source even though they did not quote it. Some of those answers also say it was a right of knights as well, but that would not apply to Littlefinger since he is not a knight. If you find a canon quote for it, let me know. – RichS Sep 3 '17 at 16:12
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Yes he could have. Trial by combat was a solution that Littlefinger could have chosen. As there was no true evidence on his crime and all the Starks had was Bran's visions and Sansa's association with half his crimes. None of them was half as good as the evidence against Tyrion in his trial, and after all, he was a noble-born with all the right to ask it.

But he knew it would be a bad idea for a simple reason: according to Westerosi traditions unless you are a woman, a person with a disability, or a member of the royal family you can't have a champion to fight your battles.

if Baelish chose a trial by combat he would have had to carry a sword and fight any champion Sansa would choose to take him out making it a suicidal move for a man with his non-physical skills

Or he could over-complicate the situation and pull a Ser Dunkin the Tall by asking a trial of seven as having other 6 good knights by his side could even the odds but even a man with half Littlefinger's intelligence would know that none of the knights of the vale - even those who don't despise him - would risk his life in such a once of a century trial known with its dangers and Sansa wouldn't give him a time or chance to hire sellswords that reside the closest south of the neck.

So he chose to play it the only way he knows how and tried to manipulate Sansa one last time by trying to get her sympathy. It was a desperate move that until the last second he believed it would work. It didn't but at least gave him a quick death, something he wouldn't have gotten if he chose to ask for a trial.

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