Surreal law facts
The truth is always stranger than fiction
The tree prison
The 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 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).
The 24-hour marriage
Leave it to the monarchy to once again test the speed limits of the law.
In the annals of matrimonial and marriage law, one marriage stands out as a record-maker. Peter the Cruel (of Castille, now part of Spain) lived from 1334 to 1369. Also known as Pedro I, he was a tyrant but nonetheless quite creative when it came to pickup ruses.
In May 1354, at the age of 19, he fell head over heels with Dona Juana de Castro, sister of Fernando Perez de Castro. Though Pedro was already married to Blanche of Bourbon, he dismissed that as null and void, gathered two bishops to attest to this and to preside over the wedding, and proceeded to marry his new queen at the Church at Cuellar.
He consummated the marriage that night - we know this because Juana bore him a son. But the very day of his wedding, he received a very distressing courier - that an enemy army was poised to invade Castille and that Fernando, incensed at the trickery of his sister, had joined leagues with the enemy.
The next day, Pedro the Cruel disavowed his new marriage and left Juana never to see her again. A civil war ensued which was resolved only when Pedro agreed to honour his original marriage to Blanche.
After losing yet another civil war in 1369, Pedro was beheaded by his own brother.