Talk:Ashford v Thornton

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Featured article Ashford v Thornton is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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Misleading caption[edit]

The picture at the top right appears to be captioned "Court of Kings Bench," referring to the English court in which this 19th century trial took place. But the details on the picture make it out to be a 16th century German picture; these cannot both be right. The picture is a fine illustration of the concept of trial by battle, but it should not be captioned "Court of Kings Bench," I think—or else the picture details could be wrong. Ezrakilty (talk) 00:44, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

It is not captioned Court of King's Bench, that is simply where the infobox puts the text of what court the law case took place in.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:53, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
See, for example, Rylands v Fletcher. That hole in the wall is not the House of Lords!--Wehwalt (talk) 00:57, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Ezrakilty said: "appears to be captioned", and it does appear to be captioned that way. I think the problem is that most pictures on Wikipedia have captions (every other one in this article has one), so it is easy to assume that the text below is the caption. I think we should add one, so there's no confusion; there's a spot for a caption in the template Template:Infobox Court Case. What caught my eye was that this picture appears to depict something from the middle ages, when this trial took place in the 1800s. Another problem is that the description of the picture isn't written in English, so English-only readers can't tell what what the picture depicts, or represents, or why it is there. It doesn't even appear to have anything to do with this particular trial, the century it took place, or even the country the trial was in. Maybe the picture should be moved down to the "trial by combat" section, and replaced in the template with something more relevant to this particular trial.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 06:55, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Template:Infobox Court Case states for the image: "An image to represent the court, such as a coat of arms or a photograph of a courthouse". Here's a link to a image of the "Court of the Kings Bench" [1] (near the bottom of the page). It is out-of-copyright by age, so maybe we could use it. The artist lived from 1756 to 1827, roughly the time of the trial, this link dates the picture to 1808 [2], so I think this picture is more relevant for the template, than the German one from the middle ages. Maybe we could find the coat of arms of the court, if there is one.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 07:09, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I've changed the template so it looks less caption-y, if you haven't noticed. Not that I care about the image choice at all. --Cybercobra (talk) 08:26, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I hadn't noticed really. I have just switched the image, and I moved the other one down into the body of the article. I have added captions to both too. I think it's clear what is, and isn't a caption. So all's good.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 09:13, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I've restored the trial by battle one to the infobox and kept the one from 1808 too, further down in the article. Since there were no trials by battle for several centuries before Ashford, we cannot give a 19th century trial by battle, but it is sufficient to illustrate the concept, especially since the German one is taking place in lists similar to those described under English law. I think this should do the trick.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:42, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Can you explain how your edit improved the article? It's a step backward IMO. The mediaeval image (1) clearly doesn't fit the template. The template is supposed to show the court. The court image (2) does that. Compare the images further.
  • (1) Wrong court, wrong trial, wrong century, wrong country
  • (2) Right court, wrong trial, right century, right country
We've got a whole section devoted to trials of combat, that doesn't have one image. That's where the first image should go. There's no connection between the mediaeval image and this trial.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 11:16, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Instructions for a template are not policy, as you can see from the Rylands article above, actual practice is to put in an image evocative of the subject of the article. Since not everyone reads much of an article, it gives the reader an illustration, generally, of what trial by battle is, about which this case revolved, at the top of the article, and the caption eases any misconception. It does far better than an image of a court that left me squinting both due to the darkness of the drawing and the small size. The image of the court adds nothing to the infobox, court case ho hum. The image of the battel is far superior in that regard.--Wehwalt (talk) 11:25, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
No battle took place. No one was duelling in mediaeval German armour. The only ones duelling were the lawyers inside the courtroom. That is the problem. Luckily the other image shows shows what the court room would have looked it back then. I don't think the template is about leading on readers on what could have happened. I think it is about more about what happened at this specific trial and the court. A generic medieval image of a trial by combat can easily live in a generic section about trials by combat and their use in the middle ages. Is there a problem with moving it into that section? I can't see a problem. I'm unsure about the squinting thing, I'll look for a better image; 800×586 for an image should be OK though.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 07:52, 12 June 2010 (UTC)

I boldy moved the pictures around. The Court of King's Bench picture is FAR more suitable for the infobox (which is about the court and case), and the image of an earlier trial by battle makes FAR more sense in the section describing the history of trials by battle. Modest Genius talk 22:59, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

Seems like Wehwalt reverted someone along the way. I've just re-positioned them how I and you had them before, so now the battle pic is in the battle section. No problems have been shown with this placement, but several have been raised with placing it in the template.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 08:05, 12 June 2010 (UTC)


The author(s) ha(s/ve) done an awesome job on the article. I found it very engaging, very well-written and very interesting (trial by battle :D). (talk) 01:50, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

Has. Me, I guess. Thanks!--Wehwalt (talk) 01:53, 10 June 2010 (UTC)


I've changed some presumably inadvertent AE spellings, including one in a quote form a British judge. I'm surprised that these weren't picked up at FAC Jimfbleak - talk to me? 09:22, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

I don't know if the phrase "wager battle" is what was intended -- I would guess "wage" but am not sure.--Jrm2007 (talk) 22:24, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

Wager is correct. Modest Genius talk 22:53, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

Appeal against acquittal[edit]

I know I'm not supposed to ask questions about the subject, only the article, but I'm intrigued - on what basis was Ashford able to appeal against Thornton's acquittal? Wouldn't the rule of double jeopardy prevent any re-trial? SteveRwanda (talk) 10:46, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

It's OK. The statute which governed trial by battle explicitly stated that it was exempt from double jeopardy. Originally, crimes were prosecuted privately. The Crown gradually took it over, and the King's suit had precedence, but the right of the next of kin to bring an appeal (which was not to a higher court, it was effectively a do over) was preserved, though rarely exercised, until 1819. There are general statements in my sources that judges had long been uncomfortable with the ability of the appellor to put aside a jury verdict without cause, and had long construed the appeal strictly, and they seemed to happen about once every thirty years or so. The wager of battle was almost never made, but it is pretty clear from the sources that with three attempts at it in four years, it was becoming a strategy rather than a rarity, and Parliament put an end to it.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:54, 10 June 2010 (UTC)


re [3], what on earth is an image of a 15th century German duel doing in this article? At first I thought I was looking at vandalism or a joke, but apparently my removal of this obviously misplaced image has been taken as "controversial". I would be interested in how its presence can be defended. Because it is "a duel"? By this logic, can we slap any image of any duel, never mind which century, in the lead of any other article that mentions duels?

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a cheap newspaper. We don't do "stock image is unrelated". We should either show an image that is related to the topic, or no image at all. This article has enough images that are related, so I see no reason to display random medieval imagery. --dab (𒁳) 15:23, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

Please keep in mind that had Ashford and Thornton battled, they would have done so by rules which had not been used since the 15th century, so I query your claim of anachronism. Yes, the image is German, but so what? It shows the reader what trial by battle is like. Certainly, it would have looked slightly different had one been held in England (under the law, the Bench and Bar got reserved seats) but this effectively gives the reader what trial by battle is. A picture is worth a thousand words.--Wehwalt (talk) 16:04, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Indeed: A misleading picture can cancel a thousand correct words. No trial by battle occurred in Britain in 1818, and none had occurred for some two hundred years. We have no idea what such a trial would have been like if it had actually happened, and have no reason to believe it would have been anything like a German trial by battle which took place 400 years earlier.
Should we also include a video of a barking dachshund to illustrate the curious incident of the dog in the night-time in Silver Blaze? --macrakis (talk) 19:54, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I got your point, you value not "misleading" the reader by showing him a trial by battle from another country over the value of showing a reader who has never seen a trial by battle, one, but not one identical with that under discussion.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:27, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Just like to add that with the caption, there's no change of confusing what is obviously a picture from the Middle Ages from what's discussed in the article, as it's made pretty clear than no such combat took place in the the UK in the nineteenth century. I do think it helps illustrate what "trial by combat" is. It's far more than just a stock image. (talk) 21:37, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
The image certainly belongs in the Trial by combat page (where it shows up already), but given that "a picture is worth a thousand words", it creates a completely incorrect impression of what actually happened in Asford v Thornton.
If there had been a trial by combat in 1818 in England, it probably would have looked nothing like the trial by combat in 1409 in Germany. Indeed, it would probably have looked more like a 19th-century duel or a 19th-century boxing match. But since it never happened, we don't know, and WP policy clearly forbids original research and unverifiable speculation.
By the 'thousand words' effect, including the picture also gives the strong impression that the pictured event actually happened, which of course it did not. --macrakis (talk) 14:09, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
Yep, I agree about the if and could have OR. We should let the readers do there own imagining in the section actually about trials by combat. That's what the whole section if for, to describe the things. So lets illustrate the things there as well.--Brianann MacAmhlaidh (talk) 08:01, 12 June 2010 (UTC)
I'll live with the present version. It works good enough. I may change that overwordy caption though.--Wehwalt (talk) 11:27, 12 June 2010 (UTC)

Had Ashford and Thornton been Vikings, and had they battled, and had they been in a Wagner opera, they would have worn horned helmets and would have sung arias while having at each other. Hey, this article absolutely needs some pictures of Vikings! Seroiusly, I think you need to look up encyclopedia :o)

The current image is still clipart, but at least it is marginally relevant to the topic and the period in question. --dab (𒁳) 09:46, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps there was a Viking production of the battle scene in Lohengrin? In the meantime, advise you check out our civility policies, they do apply, even to admins.--Wehwalt (talk) 17:14, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

Declared infamous[edit]

If the plaintiff said the word craven ("I am vanquished"), and gave up the fight, he was to be declared infamous, deprived of the privileges of a freeman, and was liable for damages to his successful opponent.

A quick trip to El Googlius doesn't turn up much here (just that some crimes are "declared infamous" such as severe felonies). What exactly did this mean, and is there an appropriate wikipedia article / wiktionary to link it to? Is it only what the modern English meaning implies, where the state declares the plaintiff is one bad dude? (Kind of a strange non-punishment if so.) Or was "infamous" some kind of special condition that actually imposed penalties or restrictions on someone, and that use is now archaic? SnowFire (talk) 23:51, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

That's basically a direct quote from Hall, "More than this, should the appellant turn 'craven' and give up the fight, he was to be declared infamous and deprived of the privileges of a freeman and, in that event, the appellee could recover damages and be forever quit of all indictments for the offence of which he had been appealed." I felt it necessary to explain that "craven", which has passed into the language, was the medieval equivalent of saying "uncle". My best guess is that such a person was outlawed or something close to it. I don't usually paraphrase so closely to a text, but I felt it was necessary just because I didn't want to make a mistake with these archaic legal concepts by too broad a paraphrase.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:02, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
A quick dictionary search for infamous gives the following definition:
3. Law. Of a person: Deprived of all or certain of the rights of a citizen, in consequence of conviction of certain crimes. An infamous person is, until he has served his sentence, disqualified for any public appointment, any public pension or allowance, the right to sit in Parliament or exercise any franchise. He is permanently disqualified (unless restored by a free pardon) from serving as a juror; and, down to 1844, was incapacitated from giving evidence in a court of law. Oxford English Dictionary
I'm sure this answers the question. ChlotteBache (talk) 17:25, 12 June 2010 (UTC)

More nonsense[edit]

After addressing the hilarious Viking Late Gothic images gracing this article, in the section above, I find more nonsense of the sort "Trial by battle was a procedure in Britain with roots lost in antiquity." Whoever wrote this stuff clearly didn't even bother to look at the Trial by battle article linked as {{main}} for some reason. Trial by battle, as is very clearly pointed out there, was unknown to Anglo-Saxon law and was only introduced to Britain in the Norman (High Medieval) period. I realize some people like writing in a style of "roots lost in the mists of antiquity", "shrouded in mystery" and what have you. You would be more at home writing for a glossy popular science magazine, we are still trying to write an encyclopedia here. It is bad enough to use "shrouded in mystery" when a simple "origins unknown" would do, but the "roots lost in antiquity" for something introduced in the 11th century is rather rich.

I seriously have no idea what people are up to at FAC these days. It would seem cheesy imagery and cheap journalistic style is actually encouraged. While on the other hand, nobody seems to bother about the accuracy of content much. Too many of the "content sorters" and collectors of FA/GA badges treat article content as something of a nuisance that has to be endured as a side-effect of polishing nice colourful shiny articles. Sorry for the rant, but sheesh. --dab (𒁳) 09:58, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

And when I meet admins who were sysoped in the early days of the project, and have not had to account to the community since, I begin to understand why a growing number want regular recertification of admins, looking especially closely at civility! Which I see you were applauded for at what passed for a RFA for you. Wonder if that would happen again if you faced reconfirmation. Sorry for the rant, but sheesh. I've noted that trial by battle came in by the Norman route and was not present at Saxon law.--Wehwalt (talk) 11:41, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

In the spirit of the article, it seems that one of you has "insulted" the other, and there is only one way to settle it... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:16, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

It would certainly make some WP disputes more interesting (talk) 20:37, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Redundant content[edit]

The "Legal" section discusses the general background of trial by battle etc., largely reproducing what is discussed in the trial by combat article. I'd think we should make it much shorter, and move anything that is not already in trial by combat into that article. --macrakis (talk) 19:16, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

You are free to take whatever you want, but I think all, or almost all of the substance should remain here. There is a lot that won't be meaningful to the reader without having read that section. While I do not recall any specific discussion on this point, reviewers at FAC (whom I would be glad to bring into the discussion) seemed to see nothing inappropriate in it. Alternatively, I will be glad to start a RFC.--Wehwalt (talk) 19:24, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Wehwalt here; it's good to bring some background to an article, and there's no reason the same information shouldn't be in two articles. (I reviewed this at FAC.) Ucucha 19:25, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. I don't think that Wikipedia is a scavenger hunt for information, which is limited to one appearance. We're not written on paper, you know! And I notice that the reason there are similarities between this section and the section in trial by combat is that two paragraphs from this article were moved there, verbatim.--Wehwalt (talk) 19:27, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
By Dbachmann. Today.[4].--Wehwalt (talk) 19:34, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
Limiting duplication is not to save paper, but to respect the user's attention and intelligence. --macrakis (talk) 13:59, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Best way, then, is not to create it.--Wehwalt (talk) 14:01, 15 June 2010 (UTC)