Trial by ordeal

A look at Anglo-Saxon trial by ordeal of fire or water and Norman trial by combat.

The Anglo-Saxons used trial by ordeal to determine proof through the Judgement of God, the Judicium Dei. The two main types of ordeal are explored, trial by hot iron and trial by water. Harry Potter then discusses with legal historian John Hudson why people were chosen to be subjected to ordeal. The introduction of trial by combat by the Normans is explored with re-enactor Jesper Lorenzen who explains the purpose of the combat in civil and criminal cases concluding with an account of a trail by combat involving Thomas of Eldersfield.

Teacher Notes

Students could identify the key words while watching the clip. Consider why ordeals were seen as an effective method by the Anglo-Saxons.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching History. This topic appears in OCR, AQA, Edexcel, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.