Surreal law facts
The truth is always stranger than fiction.
Gross travesty of military "justice"
Teetotaller John Wilson enlisted in the British Army and was sent to India to quell native uprisings in 1815. He served in the 84th regiment of the British Army (Yorkshire and Lancaster).
In an extraordinary example of the harshness of military law, he was court martialed for his refusal to consume the daily ration of a glass of rum to each soldier.
In fact, in one of the most egregious legal decisions of all time, military law or otherwise, he was found guilty of failure to obey orders and shot! He is buried in Agram Cemetery, Bangalore, India.
A tree for a life
Modern justice seems so well organised and rule based that you just don't get the judgments of yesterday. Take Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603), for example. She was stuck with meting out punishment to John Copleston, a rich nobleman from Warlegh.
One fine day in 1580, at Tamerton-Foliot, England, Copleston murdered his own grandson in full view of all his townsfolk then just exiting from Sunday church services. The grandson had angered Copleston and had made the mistake of showing up at church. Copleston followed him outside and threw his dagger at his back.
The knife hit the grandson square in the back and killed him.
Normally, such a crime would merit capital punishment but if nothing else, Elizabeth was, well, royal. It did not hurt that Copleton that he quickly and discreetly gifted to the Queen thirteen manors in Cornwall.
Oh well, figured the Queen, maybe he wasn't that bad after all.
She added one unusual punishment for which Copleston would be pardoned for his crime. He was to plant an oak tree on the scene of the crime.
The murder tree, which became known as Copleston Oak, adorned Tamerton-Foliot for two hundred years.