• The Last Duel

  • A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France
  • By: Eric Jager
  • Narrated by: Robert Glenister
  • Length: 6 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (591 ratings)

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The Last Duel

By: Eric Jager
Narrated by: Robert Glenister
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Publisher's Summary

“A taut page-turner with all the hallmarks of a good historical thriller.” (Orlando Sentinel)

The gripping true story of the “duel to end all duels” in medieval France that pits a knight against a squire accused of violating the knight’s beautiful young wife, soon to be a major motion picture with Ridley Scott directing stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer.

In the midst of the devastating Hundred Years’ War between France and England, Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight, fresh from combat in Scotland finds his wife, Marguerite, accusing squire Jacques Le Gris of brutally raping her. A deadlocked court decrees a “trial by combat” that also leaves Marguerite’s fate in the balance. For if her husband loses the duel, she will be put to death as a false accuser. 

While enemy troops pillage the land, and rebellion and plague threaten the lives of all, Carrouges and Le Gris meet in full armor on a walled field in Paris. What follows is a fierce duel before a massive crowd that includes the teenage King Charles VI, during which both combatants are wounded - but only one fatally.

Based on extensive research in Normandy and Paris, The Last Duel brings to life a colorful, turbulent age and three unforgettable characters caught in a fatal triangle of crime, scandal, and revenge. The Last Duel is at once a moving human drama, a captivating detective story, and an engrossing work of historical intrigue with themes that echo powerfully centuries later.

©2004 Eric Jager (P)2020 Eric Jager

Critic Reviews

"Jager spins a complicated and sanguinary tale with the skill of an accomplished thriller author.... Sex, savagery, and high-level political maneuvers energize a splendid piece of popular history.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Succeeds brilliantly in combining page-turning intensity with eye-opening insights into the bizarre ritual of judicial combat in the Middle Ages.” (The Times, London)

"Riveting.” (Publishers Weekly)

“As enthralling and engrossing as any...high-profile celebrity scandal today.” (Booklist)

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What listeners say about The Last Duel

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History or Fiction, It’s a Story Well Told

This book combines the known history with a plausible dramatic story that’s very entertaining and thoroughly immersive. The author then follows up by disclosing a broad spectrum of perspectives on the core story, and some of the reasoning behind them. The result is that it makes me want to delve even deeper into the history, and that’s everything I look for in good historical fiction. I only wish I could find more like this.

7 people found this helpful

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A must read for fans of medieval France.

The author does an amazing job of painting the characters as they were, based on testimony of those who interacted with them. Unfortunately, in doing so it creates doubt for the parties involved in the trial and the testimony they deliver. This becomes apparent in the constant back and forth of historians, authors and legal
Scholars for centuries to come over the guilt of LeGris. I personally believe that margarette was in fact raped, but not by Le Gris and was forced by her husband to testify against him so that Carrouge could dismantle his friends name and legacy. It’s a sad story, where ever you land on your decision, but you should read the book and decide for yourself where your judgment falls. Hopefully the movie will be as enthralling and unbias as the book.

5 people found this helpful

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What a story!

14th century France was fascinating and this story was absolutely awesome. Not sure if I am forward to seeing the movie adaptation or not, but the book was great.

5 people found this helpful

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Another fabulous retelling of medieval crime

I had read and profoundly enjoyed "Blood Royal", by E. Jager, but only chanced upon this book due to the recent movie adaptation and decided to give it a go on the strength of the author's other book.

I needn't have worried. The book is fantastic. I was glued to my phone for an entire Sunday until I finished it in one sitting. The story is meticulously researched as expected, based on contemporary 14th century chronicles and court records. The author manages to reconstruct the lives of the three main characters with considerable detail considering the intervening 750 years, and the retelling of both the crime and the duel is quite disturbing as they are described basically blow by blow. Even more interesting is the examination of the workings of the wheel of medieval justice, instance by instance, with its arrest and interrogation of witnesses, the hearings, the writs presented by the parties and the elaborate ritual and practical logistics of the organization of the duel.

The story is also very well set in its larger context of court politics and warfare, between the Hundred Years War and the Nicopolis crusade, giving a fascinating glimpse of how the lives of even the minor nobility was intertwined with the fate of king, country and the larger world. Characters whose lives and interests should have revolved essentially among the villages of Normandy turn up in Paris, in Scotland, in England and even Greece and the Balkans during the course of the story.

The narrator is very good and sets an excellent pace. I can only fault him for his pronunciation of names and places which, between the English accent and the medieval French, is sometimes a bit haphazard. Otherwise I have no complaint.

I'm very happy I picked up this audiobook and I'm considering purchasing a physical copy for my library for future reference. And I will definitely be looking out for any future publication of this author.

4 people found this helpful

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  • AN
  • 10-07-21

Good, but repetitive

The story is interesting, but it’s short, and the author repeats and belabors information in order to generate “more” material. It’s rather like reading a student’s paper and realizing that they’re reiterating and piling on fluff in order to make word count. The narrative voice also has an annoying vacillation in viewpoint on the affair, shifting between objectivity and partisanship. The author should have staked his position more clearly from the beginning —God forbid a history include a preface or an Author’s note! — and then stuck to it throughout. The inconsistency in perspective was frustrating.
Overall, it was decent — but the reader would’ve been better served, perhaps, if the author had removed the fluff and instead published this story with his other book. As it is, I’m not sure I can justify the expense of the other for more fluff.

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Awesome nonfiction, historic narrative

One of the best nonfiction accounts of an historic event I’ve ever heard. The Last Dual movie doesn’t come close to explaining the events in this incredible but true story from medieval France. Eric Jager fairly explains all elements of the events that led to a heinous crime and the even more astonishing events that took place in the wake of that crime. Listen or read. Do not skip the epilogue or appendix!

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More than I realized I wanted to know about Middle Ages Law

This is a well thought out and reasoned response to a popular myth as to why Trial By Combat was ended in Medieval France. Jager does an excellent job of painting a human picture of politics and society of Middle Ages Europe. And the central crime story is riveting. Great read (or listen).

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Fascinating story for this history fan!

While more of a history account than a novel, I was still enthralled by the storytelling and suspense built by the author. What a great listen!

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So good

Like GoT? Listen to this! A account of the last trial by combat in France.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent Audiobook

Highly recommend this book. The narrator is fantastic. The story well told. It is a book I definitely listen over and over again.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ash Roskell
  • 10-01-22

Well Narrated, But Flawed Analysis

Robert Glenister is a reliable stalwart of audiobook narration and an accomplished actor of screen and stage, who’s name is an assurance of fluid reading, intelligent interpretation and quality in general. So it’s a great listen in that regard.

And the pace of the narrative, the ground covered and related events included all make for a lean, to-the-point breakdown of the culture, concerns and lives of the protagonists, without flab or padding.

However, the one flaw in this depiction is in the apparent flipping of the author’s point of view. Beginning the first third of his account by telling us of the events entirely from the point of view of the victim, stating them as fact and then spending the remainder of the book attempting to adopt an unbiased perspective. This switch occurs right at the point when the reader is expecting the author to lay out his reasoning as to why he has adopted his position and show us the historical evidence to back up his claims. The result is a lurching effect on the listener who, up to this point, has been faithfully following the retelling of an appalling crime, only to learn that it may just be an appalling slander. It is as though the author thought better of his biases after realising he had no conclusive evidence one way or the other, or he had just decided to begin his narrative with a novelist’s ear to the most impactful way to draw in the listener.

The effect is to leave most listeners with their established bias and a sense that the author has abandoned his own convictions. All of which could have been avoided with a few lines of qualification here and there. This opacity is further compounded when the author blurs the lines between his own conclusions and the people who’s views he is expressing, which is as much a problem of grammar and syntax as it is about muddled thinking.

Despite this rather damaging flaw, which leaves the listener confused about who said or did what and when, (a problem that we must lay as much at the feet of the editor as the author himself) it is still a fascinating listen. Worth the price of admission for those who want to peer through window into the Medieval psyche and the events that contributed to a moment of self reflection and change in Europe’s brutal culture.

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  • dp litchfield
  • 04-13-22

Great story telling.

loved this historical story using many sources to give a dramatic portrait of the last duel to occur by consent in France.

would recommend enthusiastically

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  • J Rojas
  • 10-24-21

Brutal times for quarrels and laws of resolution

I really liked the atmosphere, detailed accounts, references and sources cited for the spectrum of interpretations relating to the events… the fanfares marking every chapter add a great sense of the medieval period!