Divorce by Combat
The Middle age practice of settling marriage disputes with trial by combat
Many believe that divorce is a modern 19th-century phenomenon. However, there is significant historical evidence to prove otherwise.
As it turns out, settling marriage differences through marital combat was a common practice, it was definitely cheaper than hiring a marriage counselor!
In 1467, a German fencing master, Hans Talhoffer wrote Fechtbuch which literally means ‘Fencing book’. The book, complete with illustrations depicts trial techniques when husbands and wives can no longer get along. He was also an adviser at court in regard to judicial duels.
Married couples took ‘till death do us part’ quite literally.
Given the obvious physical advantage of the husband over the wife, the wife was given certain concessions. Talhoffer presents his instructions and advice to both combatants. He gives two different versions of a fight, one with the man victorious, one with the woman winning.
As per the instructions, the husband was put up to his waist in a three-food-wide hole dug in the ground, with one hand tied behind his back. The woman was to be armed with three rocks, each weighing between one and five pounds, and each one wrapped in cloth. The man could not leave his hole but the woman was free to run around the edge of the pit.
If the man touched the edge of the pit with either his hand or arm, he had to surrender one of his clubs to the judges. If the woman hit him with a rock while he was doing so, she forfeited one of her stones.
The instructions included the clothing style for bodysuits and stirrup legs. Also described in detail were the tips and tricks both the genders can use if caught in the hold and common mistakes to avoid. The manual has step by step instructions on exploiting attacker’s vulnerabilities.
If the woman won, the man was executed; if the man won, the woman was buried alive.
That’s one helluva way to get out of a marriage!