What Sorts of Men Ought not to be Admitted to Trial of Arms

*Originally posted November 9, 2010

This is a transcription that I did from a passage of The Third Book of Of Honor and Arms that I thought might make interesting reading for a [Saturday] morning.  I took the liberty of modernizing some of the language in hopes of making it easier to read.  If anyone would like it in the original please feel free email me.  My contact information can be found on the about page.


Reference: Author Unknown. The Booke of Honor and Armes. Published by Richard Jones. 1590. Available from http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home. Downloaded Sept. 2007

What Sorts of Men Ought not to be Admitted to Trial of Arms

Because the trial of arms is the realm of the gentleman and gentility itself is an honorable state it is not fit that any person of base or mean condition (i.e. any ungentlemanly person) should be admitted into that realm.  Just as judges of civil trials will often reject the testimony of an infamous witness, so to should a man of mean or base quality be disallowed from accusing an honorable man.  After all, how can such a man charge another of a crime when he himself has committed an offence against his own reputation?

1.       It has therefore been determined that no man having committed treason against his prince or country should be admitted.

2.       Also any man who has had intelligence or conference with the enemies of this prince or who having been taken by his prince’s enemies chooses to remain with them even if he has the means to return to his prince’s service.

3.       He who becomes a spy for the enemy, takes an oath against his prince, or takes his prince’s money and leaves before serving his full time.

4.       He who abandons the army of his prince and flees to the enemy, or who after having been discharged goes to the enemy during a skirmish or fight.  He shall be reputed as infamous and as a traitor.

5.       He that abandons the ensign of his prince or captain or that either during the day or night maliciously departs from the place of his charge about the prince’s person or in camp.

6.       All thieves, beggars, bawds[1], victuallers[2], excommunicated persons, usurers, men banished from the army, and every other man engaged in an occupation or trade unfit and unworthy of a gentleman or soldier.

7.       Finally, whosoever is defamed of any notable crime or who is by law not allowed to bear witness.

These are the men who should rightfully and lawfully be disallowed from challenging any gentleman or soldier and should also be abhorred by every honest person.  If a man of good reputation should fight with such person be besmirches his own character in doing so.  However, if a gentleman would refuse a challenger on these grounds he must confidently know that this man has been condemned for such crimes or at least he has been condemned for crimes so notorious that the repulsed party cannot deny it.  It should be known though that if any man of such infamy were to be challenged by a gentleman or a soldier, he may not himself refuse, unless after the challenge the challenger commits some infamous act which must be observed by both parties.

Citation: Unknown. The Booke of Honor and Armes. http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home. (1590) p.30-32

[1]Bawd: a person dealing in the prostitution industry.

[2] Victualler: a person licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.  Also used to refer to the landlord of a public house or similar establishment

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