Trial by combat has become a popular trope in television shows and movies set in medieval times or fictional fantasy environments. Hit franchises like Game of Thrones use trial by combat as a plot device for obvious reasons: they provide a dramatic and suspenseful way of settling conflicts, and are far more action-packed than a court trial. The real question that many people have is what trial by combat is really like.
Real-life trial by combat was a genuine method of resolving criminal and civil disputes throughout history, mostly in Europe starting in the 7th century. It was a relatively simple process, with the accused choosing this route rather than going through more traditional legal proceedings. They would then fight the complainant, often to the death, to see who was right. A trial by combat not only provided some extra entertainment for the peasants, but it often ensured a quick end to any disputes. The practice started falling out of favor in the 14th century, replaced by more civil means of conflict resolution.