16. WILLIAM I: ORDINANCE CONCERNING TRIALS

William, king, gives friendly greeting to all before whom this writing may come throughout all England, bidding and urging all men throughout all England to observe it, to wit: —

If an Englishman challenges any Frenchman to combat for theft or for manslaughter or for any cause in which combat or judgment ( dom ) is customarily had between two men, he shall have full leave to accept [the challenge]. And if the Englishman rejects combat [as a mode of trial], the Frenchman whom the Englishman has accused shall clear himself by oath against him, with oath-helpers according to Norman law. Furthermore, if a Frenchman challenges an Englishman to combat, for [one of] the same causes, the Englishman shall have full leave to defend himself by combat, or by [the ordeal of] iron, if that suits him better. And if, being infirm, he will not or cannot engage in combat, he shall get him a lawful champion [to take his place]. And if the Frenchman is overcome, he shall give the king 3. And if the Englishman will not defend himself [either] by combat or with oath-helpers, he shall clear himself by [the ordeal of] iron. And in all cases involving outlawry the king ordains that the Englishman shall clear himself by [the ordeal of] iron. And if an Englishman accuses a Frenchman in a cause involving outlawry, and then wishes to prove the charge against him, the Frenchman shall defend himself by combat. And if the Englishman does not dare to challenge him to combat, the Frenchman shall defend himself by an unprescribed ( unforedan ) oath. [1]

(Anglo-Saxon) Liebermann, Gesetse, I, 484.


[1] One that did not have to be letter-perfect, at least not in Anglo-Saxon.