Yes. The Last Duel true story reveals that prior to his marriage to Marguerite de Thibouville in 1380, Jean de Carrouges had been married to Jeanne de Tilly, the Lord of Chambois' daughter. The two were married in the early 1370s. Jeanne gave birth to a son not long after their wedding. Carrouges' friend and neighbor, Jacques Le Gris, was chosen to be the boy's godfather. In the late 1370s, tragedy struck the family when both Jeanne and their son died of unknown natural causes, likely illness. To help channel his grief, Carrouges left home to fight the English under the command of Jean de Vienne in a five-month campaign. -Eric Jager
Yes. As indicated earlier, the two men were initially neighbors and friends. However, after both men joined the court circle of their new overlord, Count Pierre d'Alençon, their friendship deteriorated when the Count began to favor Jacques Le Gris (played by Adam Driver) and overlooked Jean de Carrouges (portrayed by Matt Damon). In researching The Last Duel's historical accuracy, we learned that Le Gris brought in more money and was educated, making him more valuable to the court. The Count rewarded Le Gris' service on the court with a newly purchased estate at Aunou-le-Faucon. Le Gris also inherited his father's lordship of the castle at Exmes. This made Carrouges jealous of Le Gris and they became rivals on the court.
Though actor Adam Driver is more than ten years younger than Matt Damon, who is in his early fifties, the real Le Gris and Carrouges were both in their mid-fifties and approximately the same age.
Yes. The movie is based on Eric Jager's 2004 book The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France. Jager is an English professor at UCLA. The book also inspired a similarly titled 2008 drama-documentary that chronicled the Jean de Carrouges duel, which aired on BBC Four.
Yes. The Last Duel true story confirms that the charge, to which Le Gris denied, is what led to the Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris' duel. The circumstances surrounding the rape unfold in the movie much like author Eric Jager describes it in the book. Carrouges had set off on a trip to Paris and his wife Marguerite was home alone on the morning of January 18, 1386. Her mother-in-law had left to tend to legal business in a neighboring town and took almost all of the servants with her.
According to Marguerite, a man-at-arms named Adam Louvel showed up at the chateau door asking about a loan he owed her husband. He then told her that Jacques Le Gris was outside and insisted on seeing her. When she refused, Louvel pleaded, telling her that Le Gris loved her and "will do anything for you and he greatly desires to see you." Marguerite tried to deny them access but Le Gris forced his way into the home. He propositioned her, telling her he would pay her to keep silent of the affair. When she said no, he violently raped her with the help of Louvel and told her that he'd kill her if she spoke of what happened. When her husband returned several days later, she told him of the attack. Carrouges decided to bring legal charges against Le Gris.
The Last Duel fact-check confirms that Carrouges felt that the initial legal proceedings were heavily tilted against himself and his wife. Count Pierre d'Alençon, who was an ally of Jacques Le Gris, presided over the local trial. Carrouges had such little faith that he would receive a just outcome, neither he nor his wife showed up at the proceedings. Furthermore, the word of Marguerite, the only witness, carried little weight in this time period. As expected, Count Pierre dropped the charge against Le Gris. In response, Carrouges went to Paris and appealed directly to King Charles VI.
Knowing that his wife Marguerite de Carrouges' testimony didn't carry much weight, he decided to appeal to the King and the French court for the necessity of a judicial duel, also known as a trial by combat. On July 9, 1386 at the Palais de Justice in Paris, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris presented themselves to Parliament to issue the formal challenge. A gauntlet was thrown down to symbolize their desire to fight. The King and the Parliament of Paris decided that they would first hear the case as a regular criminal trial, and they would later decide on whether to grant a trial by combat after both sides had provided their testimony.
Yes. The idea was that if her husband lost the duel, the outcome would "prove" that Marguerite was guilty of perjury, meaning that her claim that she was raped would be considered a lie. She would then be immediately taken to Montfaucon and burned at the stake.
Yes. There is little dispute over whether or not the King was at the December 29, 1386 duel. The two contemporary historical accounts of the duel that are considered the most reliable (because they were likely eyewitness accounts) mention the King being present, and we found no accounts denying it. In fact, according to the writings of the Monk of Saint-Denis, the King's official historian, the duel was initially set for November 27, 1386. However, as stated in Eric Jager's book, King Charles VI was delayed on his return trip to Paris due to bad roads in Flanders. He sent a messenger to Paris, ordering that Jean de Carrouges' duel be postponed a month so that he would be able to attend. It was then rescheduled for December 29, 1386. The King's family was present, including several royal dukes. Many of the most esteemed French nobles were in attendance as well, along with thousands of ordinary French citizens. It's true that the King, who came to the throne when he was 11, was 18 at the time of the duel and still rather young.
While carrying out The Last Duel fact-check, we discovered that two of the most trusted contemporary historical texts that describe the duel mention that Carrouges (Matt Damon in the movie) was weak because of fevers. Jean Le Coq, the lawyer of Jacques Le Gris who likely witnessed the duel, stated that "even though Carrouges was weak because of fevers, he himself said they helped him."
Yes. The personal notes of Le Gris' lawyer, Jean Le Coq, describe him as being made a knight "a little before he entered the field." The idea was that if Le Gris was made a knight, then the two men would be of equal standing during the fight.
No. There are five contemporary historical texts that describe the duel. Two of those texts, one written by the Monk of Saint-Denis, Michel Pintoin, and the other written by Jacques Le Gris' lawyer, Jean Le Coq, are likely firsthand accounts and are considered to be the most accurate. Pintoin was King Charles VI's official historian and was often at the King's side.
In The Last Duel movie and book, the battle begins with a joust. However, both Pintoin and Le Coq describe Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris as "abandoning their horses as soon as the marshal gave the signal for mutual attack." Le Coq stated that some people thought the lists (the barriers built to enclose the jousting area) were too small for lance combat, stating that "they had been made for two men who fought on foot and not on horses."
In the less reliable text of Jean Froissart, a contemporary of Carrouges and Le Gris, he states that the two men "jousted for the first engagement, but nothing was forfeited." His book that contained the account was published in 1390, less than four years after the duel took place. However, Froissart was living in the Netherlands at the time and was not present for the fight. He heard the story later from unknown sources. Of the five medieval texts that describe the duel, Froissart's is the only one that mentions a joust. To enrich the scene, Eric Jager, author of The Last Duel, quotes Froissart's account of an entirely different event, the Saint-Inglevert jousts of 1390.
No. This appears to be movie fiction that was drawn from a fictional element in Eric Jager's book The Last Duel. King Charles VI's official historian, Michel Pintoin, who was likely at his side and observed the duel, wrote that the two men "abandoned their horses" at the start of the battle. Jean Froissart, who was living in the kingdom of the Netherlands at the time, wrote about the duel several years after it took place and stated that the two men "arranged themselves on foot" after first being on their horses. None of the contemporary historical accounts of the duel mention either of the horses dying during the duel.
It's possible that the two men held shields during the fight, but it seems unlikely given that Carrouges had his sword in his right hand and grappled Le Gris with his left hand, throwing him to the ground. Eric Jager's book describes the lance heads being buried in the shields during the joust. The shields are then damaged more when they are hacked at in the book's almost-certainly-fictional equestrian axe battle. Even if we were to take Jager and the movie's account as fact, the shields would not have magically regenerated for the sword fight, as they seem to do in Jager's book.
In his book, Eric Jager portrays Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris as using single-handed cutting and thrusting swords worn on their belts, which he somewhat confusingly refers to as "estocs." Most estocs (or tucks) that we've researched are two-handed. It seems just as possible that they would have been using longswords in 1386, especially given that they were fully armored. Specifically, these would have likely been standard 14th-century type XV arming swords. If they were indeed using longswords, it's also possible they were half-swording. This involves gripping the sword blade near the center with the opposite hand in order to deliver more forceful blows into an opponent's armor. -HROARR
Not likely. The most reliable historical accounts of The Last Duel true story do not mention Carrouges lifting Le Gris' visor and stabbing him in the throat. The book's author, Eric Jager, seems to possibly be drawing this from later, less reliable retellings. Revealing Le Gris' face certainly adds to the drama in the movie and book, especially since we know that Carrouges repeatedly demanded that Le Gris admit he raped Marguerite. Jager also describes Carrouges fumbling with the lock on Le Gris' visor, yet there is no evidence of such locks existing this early in history.
Le Gris' lifeless body was reportedly taken to the gibbet (a structure or gallows from which dead or dying bodies were hung for public display) at Montfaucon located outside the walls of Paris. A historical rendering of the gibbet at Montfaucon is displayed below. Le Gris body was hung from chains where it was left to rot for the next several months as a reminder of the fate of rapists, liars, traitors, etc.
Yes. Carrouges' victory at the duel allowed him to rise financially and professionally. According to medieval historian Jean Froissart, Carrouges was awarded 1,000 francs along with a royal income of 200 francs per year. A few weeks after the fight, Parliament awarded him an additional 6,000 livres in gold and he was given the position of King Charles VI's royal squire.
His wife, Marguerite de Carrouges, was saved from a fate of being burned at the stake. Together, they became celebrities and extended their wealth by way of gifts and investments. In the years following the trial by combat, they had two more children. Jean de Carrouges died in battle fighting the Ottoman Turks roughly a decade after the duel.
In order to determine the overall accuracy of Ridley Scott's The Last Duel, we have to look at the accuracy of author Eric Jager's book on which the movie was based. We know that various parts of Jager's book are fiction. In the author's note, he admits as much, stating, "Where the historical record is silent, I use my own invention to fill in some of the gaps." Jager's substantial lack of references and footnotes, in addition to his questionable understanding of the weapons and armor of that period, raises significant doubt around the book's overall historical accuracy. The book itself seems to take the level of creative license that is usually reserved for films.
Based on the most reliable medieval accounts describing the duel, the movie's version bears little resemblance to those historical texts. Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris almost certainly did not joust, nor did Le Gris kill Carrouges' horse. There's also no mention of an axe fight. Much like how the story of the duel itself seems to have been embellished over the years, the lengthy climactic duel in the movie and book draws from those accounts and is similarly dramatized for dramatic effect. The scenes that focus on the events surrounding the assault hue closest to history, as they were drawn straight from Marguerite de Carrouges' testimony.