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Few law reports survived the early years of the post-Norman conquest of England.

There is one cryptic inscription of 1207 that has survived. The record of Marion's Case is reproduced verbatim below but first, know that "Michaelmas" was a feast held on September 29th of each year, and it was used to refer to the term of the Court held annually at that time.

The law report describes Marion's sentence - trial by ordeal - but we are not told the result.

We have made some additions in square brackets, similar to the originals made by F. W. Maitland who was retained by the Selden Society to put together this edition of old legal records known as Select Pleas of the Crown.

"Michaelmas, A.D. 1207

"Marion, wife of Hugh Dobin, is suspected by the whole neighbourhood of Marcle of the death of Hugh Dobin her husband, to wit, that this was her purchase [i.e. done at her request], for that there often were quarrels and disputes between them over her offences, for many committed adultery with her, and likewise she is suspected because all the chattels were removed from the house.

trial by iron"So let her purge herself by ordeal of iron. She has waged [her law].

"Henry Blund is suspected of consenting to that death, because he was [Hugh's] servant and did not come to the hue [and cry] , and was always in the house of the said Hugh Dobin when the adulterers were there. Let him purge himself by water [trial by cold water ordeal].

"William of Triley, charged with the same death, and suspected because he was wont to commit adultery with the said Marion, has fled. So let him be exacted.

"William Miller, Tebelin's brother, suspected of the said death for the same reason, has fled. So let him be exacted.

Geoffrey of Norfolk was arrested for the same death because he came to the hue and cry with the bow and arrows of the slain man. It is testified that the wife of the slain handed these [weapons] to him that he might raise the hue and pursue the malefactors. He is not suspected. So let him be under pledge."

Under the rules of trial by ordeal imposed on Marion if she maintained that she had done nothing wrong. Trial by ordeal sought to defer to God the final determination of the true facts, the guilt or innocence of an accused's conduct.

Marion would have been placed in the middle of a church with a red hot iron rod sizzling in a nearby fire. She would stand and face three lines laid out on the ground, the equivalent of three paces. The iron was paced onto her open hand and she had to walk to the third line, where she was to drop the iron. Her hands were bandaged and she was given a three-day healing period.

On the third day, her bandages were removed and if the wounds were healing, she was considered to have been innocent of the alleged crime. If her wounds were not showing signs of healing by the third day, she was held to be guilty.