The Flitch Trial: Swear Your Love and Bring Home the Bacon

In Essex, England, married couples who can prove their undying love for each other can take home half a pig in a tradition that dates back to the 12th century. According to the rules of the “Flitch Trial,” couples must swear before a court that they have not regretted their marriage for a year and a day. If the jury is convinced, the winning couple is awarded a “flitch” of bacon — a cured half pig. The tradition began when the Lord of the Manor Reginald Fitzwalter and his wife presented themselves before the Prior of the Augustinian Priory dressed as humble folk and begged for a blessing exactly a year and a day after their marriage. The Prior, impressed by their devotion to one another, bestowed upon them a flitch of bacon. Upon revealing their true identity, Fitzwalter gave his land to the Priory on the condition that a flitch should be awarded to any couple who could claim that they were similarly devoted. The modern trials take the form of a court presided over by a Judge. Successful couples are then carried shoulder-high by bearers in the Flitch Chair and taken from the court to the marketplace, where they swear an oath similar to ancient marriage vows. Those couples who fail to convince the judge and jury of the merits of their case have to walk behind the empty chair to the marketplace, consoled with a prize of gammon (smoked ham).