Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Battle Wagerof

Battle, Wager of, a quasi-judicial form of trial introduced, it is believed, into English procedure by the Normans, but in consonance with a widespread notion of primitive jurisprudence that the decision of a case might thus be thrown on divine providence. In cases of treason or capital felony, the appellant or prosecutor having made his charge against the defendant the latter might elect to be tried by battle instead of by jury. If he was defeated, the penalty of death followed; but should he have got the best of the fight or held his own till sundown, the appellant was subject to heavy damages. Instances of the custom are frequent enough in early English history, and an illustration will be found in Shakespeare's Henry VI, pt. II. i. 3. Cases occurred in the Stuart period - notably that of Lord Rea. In 1818 one Ashford appealed in the King's Bench against Thornton, who had been acquitted of the murder and violation of Ashford's sister. The defendant "waged his battle" and the appellant allowed the charge to drop: Next year an Act (59 Geo. III. c. 46) was passed to abolish trial by battle.