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LAWmazing #3

The 3-Year Old Bride

Margaret of AustriaThe French are different in their own right but when it comes to young brides, they make Sharia law look like choir boy law ,... no pun intended.

Anyway, Charles was a young French royal heir, while only 13, in 1482, he married an Austrian women, girl, infant, all of three years old, but with a sizeable dowry.

After the marriage, she moved to Paris and her care was entrusted to the King of France, Charles' father, Louis XI.

Months later, Louis XI died and Charles became Charles VIII of France. Since his marriage to the young Margaret had not been consummated (Pope Innocent VII later confirmed this), Charles VIII married someone else (Anne of Brittany) and returned Margaret to Austria in 1493 along with her dowry, at about the same time the adjacent painting by Jean Hey was made.

Ever weirder than all of this. Anne was only 14 when she married Charles. But since this new Queen of France had been previously married to Margaret's father, when she was only 13 (1490) that made her his mother-in-law!

7-Year-Old, Occupation: Executioner

executioner's axeWhile we're talking about France, we have to mention the cute little boy, Charles Jean Baptiste Sanson.

The little boy's father was none other than the chief executioner of Paris, from 1699 to his death in 1726. But his eldest son, little Charles Jean Baptiste Sanson had been born in about 1719 so he was too young to assume this hereditary office. The child had to solemnly watch every beheading conducted by his deputy (François Prudhomme) until he turned 20, at which time he was of age and could wield the official ax of France in the name of his father and of the Royaume! There were, after all, a constant stream of heretics and the highway robbers to dispose of.

Many of the executions were more torture than anything else, the French particularly fond of the wheel, which slowly broke the convict's back, and the torture bed (you don't want to know) to encourage confessions. Other duties including severing body parts such as the hands of thieves.

Charles served as executioner of Paris until 1754 when a stroke prevented him from doing his job. He gave the office to his son Charles-Henri, who was only 15 at the time. Charles-Baptiste died in 1778 but his son was the executioner during the French Revolution and that new invention, the guillotine, which he used on Louis XVI, Robespierre and Danton.

Conservative Lawyers

Lawyer gownWhen Queen Mary II died of smallpox, in 1694, her widow, the bisexual King William III ordered all judges and lawyers to attend court wearing black gowns, as a token of public mourning for the Queen.

The order was never formally rescinded and, anyway, the lawyers liked having their own distinct uniform, and the stark, intimidating presence the garb gave them in court.

Even though the funeral for Queen Mary II is long over (!), lawyers around the world still wear black gowns in Court. In the British Columbia Supreme Court, during trials at which he acts as counsel to a party, the author has to wear a black gown, black pants and shoes, black vest but white shirt and white legal tabs (his "William & Mary" legal gown pictured).

The Brits later added the silly-looking white whig but, thankfully, they remain one of the few jurisdictions to have retained that relic (for more on the whig, see Old Bailey).

The Life-Psaving Psalm

Psalm 51, verses one through four was a veritable lifesaver. During the fanatic years of the Roman Catholic religion in Europe, from about 1300 to 1800, a person convicted of a crime for which he was to be sentenced to death, if it was a first offence, could claim benefit of clergy, which meant that, if he could prove that he was religious (by reciting the Psalm 51), he could avoid the death penalty. They were branded on the thumb so they could never use the defence a second time.

The life-saving words:Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

$234-Million For A License to Use Two Words

King Joao or John V of PortugalKing John V of Portugal, aka King Joao (pictured), lived from 1689 to 1750. Joao became head of state (king) and chief law-maker at the tender age of 17. He married his first cousin in 1708, as was the custom at the time.

But just as his reign began, fantastic amounts of gold began to arrive from the new Portuguese conquests in Brazil, of which the King, as of right, took 20% for himself. Historians estimate that because of these new gold mines in South America, the amount of Gold in Europe doubled.

King Joao hardly knew what to do with all this money. He certainly never convoked the senate of noblemen, known as the cortés, to advise him in improving the lot of the Portuguese.

Sedgwick wrote of King Joao's:

"... arbitrary and violent disposition who substituted for the national representation his own absolute and despotic will. The monarch abandoned himself to the unrestrained indulgence of his passions."

A poster-boy for anti-monarchists, John V razed down hundreds of homes in Lisbon and had erected a new palace, a mini-Versailles. Then, he began buying priceless art all over Europe (much of which was lost in the great earthquake and subsequent tsunami of Lisbon in 1755).

But the real kicker came in about 1741, six years after his mental abilities had been affected by a stroke, and he turned "religious".

He paid the Vatican (Pope Benedict XIV) New World gold valued at $234-million, for the exclusive license to use two (2) religious words, rei fidelissimo (most faithful king) as part of his title!

To the great shame of the Church, this formal title not granted on merit but was based on Portugal's payment of $234-million dollars in South American gold, all of which was extracted in Brazil using slave labor; and which in one fell swoop, depleted the Portuguese treasury.

Chief Justice, Momma's Boy

Richard Burdon - Lord HaldaneLord Haldane (the made-up British nobleman title for Richard Burdon, his real name), was a Scotsman who lived from 1856 to 1928.

A successful lawyer, Burdon reached the pinnacle of that career in Great Britain, achieving England's equivalent for Chief Justice and Minister of Justice, Lord Chancellor, in 1912. He also served as British War Secretary during World War I.

And he was the momma boy of all momma boys.

For every single day, from the death of his father in 1877, to the death of his mother at the age of 100, in 1925 - some 48 years - the United Kingdom's most senior lawyer dutifully wrote a letter to his mother, Mary Burdon-Sanderson.

Burdon remained a life-long bachelor after the one woman he proposed to broke off their engagement.

He was forced to resign as Lord Chancellor in 1915, when at the height of the war, he was unable to resist public suspicion of German sympathies.

The Zero-Student Law School

All Saints CollegeAll Souls College (pictured) is a law school and history college and part of Oxford University but which, since it opened in 1438, has never had a single student. It does, though, have a huge building, a website ( and an outstanding library (Codrington).

All Souls College, though officially an higher-level educational institution, is, in reality, an old boy's club. At one point, memberships (called "fellowships") were sold for cash.

Today, it is an association of select British hoidy toidies and academics, in history and law, some of which are seconded to other colleges at Oxford University as teachers (William Blackstone was a member).

It was named by its founder, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to encourage prays for "all (the) souls" of the numerous English who had died in ruinous wars against France.

The Tree Prison

Prison tree, Derby, WAThe ancient Greek town of Vostitza (also spelled Vostizza and now called Aigio) on the Island of Zante, once had a plane-tree which, because of a hollow that had formed under it, served as the town jail.

Near the town's springs, the hollow tree had a circumference of 14m (46 feet). During the Greek War of Independence (1821-1929), men were held prisoner in the hollow.

The tree grew so large that it was cut down in 1872 as a threat to nearby homes.

In Derby, Western Australia, another hollow tree served as a local jail. The Boab tree (pictured) held rebelling aboriginals, circa 1890 (a small door had to cut into its side).

The Boab prison-tree is estimated at 1,000 years old and has the same circumference as the Vostitza tree-jail (14m).


  • All Souls College, Oxford University, Oxford, England
  • Boab Prison Tree, undated article at About Australia (
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 1
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 2
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 4
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 5
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 6
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, LAWmazing 7
  • Playfair, R., Handbook to the Mediterranean (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1882), page 245.
  • Pulling, A., The Order of the Coif (London: William Clover and Sons, 1884), page 224, re Conservative ... To A Fault.
  • Sanson, H., Memoirs of the Sansons (London: Chatto and Windus, 1876); re Seven-Year-Old, Executioner.
  • Sedgwick, J., A History of Europe, and her Dependencies, During the Last Four Centuries (Oxford: Oxford University, 1850), page 244, re King Joao of Portugal.
  • "The Soul of All Souls", Time Magazine, May 19, 1961, re The Zero-Student Law School.

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