Champion, a term derived from chivalry, and signifying one who undertakes to defend his cause by force of arms. Custom allows a wider latitude of application to the word. In the ruder stages of society, when might constituted right, the right was frequently submitted to such an arbitrament. The two elements which then chiefly entered into the social system, namely, religion and love of military glory, both inclined toward a ceremony in which God should be called to indicate the righteousness of the cause by success in the trial by battle. Accordingly, we find from the earliest ages of feudalism the trial by private combat recognized as a legal mode of settling disputes. The trial came gradually to be hedged in by formalities, until it was only appealed to in cases of grave import. It is obvious that in many cases of personal encounter the disputants must be so unequally matched that they could not be pitted against each other with any chance of a fair result; the law therefore permitted the plaintiff or the defendant in cases of accusation to name a proxy or champion. Appeal to combat could be made in court martial, that is to say, in cases coming under the jurisdiction of the court of chivalry or honor, in appeals of felony, and in certain cases upon issue joined in a writ of right.
Ladies and minors, being disqualified by reason of their physical incapacity, prosecuted their claims by a champion. The champion usually challenged his opponent by casting down his glove, which the latter accepted by taking it up. Combat was then joined, and carried on to the death, or till stopped by the judges. Verdict was given for the victorious party. It is from this custom that our modern phrase is derived, "to appeal to the God of battles." Judicial combat appears to be of Gothic origin. William the Norman introduced it into England, where it was practised as late as 1638.
In the 13th year of Queen Elizabeth a trial of brittle was fought by champions in Tothilltields, "Westminster, on a writ of right. The custom was suppressed in France by St. Louis in 1270, but remained unrepealed on the English statute book to the time of George III., when a highwayman escaped from justice by claiming an appeal to wager of battle. In the ceremonies until recently in use on the coronation of the kings of England, a champion figured conspicuously. The championship of England is hereditary in the family of Dymocke, whose eldest male representative heir, armed cap-a-]ne in the style of the middle ages, should ride into the ring, and throwing down his gauntlet dare any one to dispute the right of the sovereign to the throne. This portion of the ceremonial last occurred in 1821, at the coronation of George IV. William IV. and Victoria dispensed with it. - The knight who during a tournament had charge that insult or injury be not offered or done to the ladies assembled was also called a champion.