En Garde! 5 Greatest Duels In History!
As early as the 19th century some countries, (mainly France), would settle their disagreements by the way of the duel. This was a proper and honorable way for gentlemen to settle their differences. However, other duels seem to be a mixture of jackass and trial by combat. Here are some of the best.
1. The Billiards Duel
In 1843 France, two men named Melfant and Lenfant started their day off like any other. Went down to the local pool hall and played a friendly game. But as all games do with friends, especially Monopoly, the game turned ugly. After not being able to settle upon the correct rules and if someone had broken them to get an unfair advantage, they decided the only way to settle this was a duel. Seeing that the dispute was over billiards, they decided that they would use pool balls. They would stand at 12 paces apart and agree to not move while taking turns throwing the billiard balls at each other. They drew straws to see who would throw first and Melfant won. He announced for all to hear, “I am going to kill you with the first throw!” And then to not be called a liar, he did exactly that. Hurling the ball, hitting Lenfant’s forehead killing him instantly. Melfant was not able to celebrate long, however. As the authorities were called and he was subsequently tried for murder. The officials did not view it as an honorable duel and he was convicted for manslaughter. Brings a whole new meaning, to calling your shot.
2. The Hot Air Balloon Duel
Sometimes you think you read the title wrong. Congratulations you didn’t. The story goes that in 1808 two Frenchman, Monsieur de Grandpre and Monsieur do Pique, we’re caught up in a soap opera love triangle involving a miss Mademoiselle Tirevit. She had been secretly sleeping with both men and could not choose. The two men could not give up their love and decided as we all would, to duel to the death in hot air balloons. The story goes, to not seem barbaric is the reason for the air battle. They considered themselves intellectually superior to the average man and “above” the norm of dueling. Like a steampunk hipster, after some debate, it was then decided that they would duel in hot air balloons, with a pilot to steer and a blunderbuss, (think pirate shotgun).
On May 3rd, 1808, the duelists entered their balloons in front of a huge crowd and reached the height of two thousand feet above Paris. De Pique’s balloon charged forward and he took a shot and somehow missed a whole air balloon. Go figure. De Grandpre’s shot struck true however and popped any dreams of De Pique’s hope’s for victory. The balloon, pilot and duelist plummeted to their deaths that day in Paris to the audience below. Which leaves me the saddest about the hot air balloon conductor, who didn’t even get to kiss the mademoiselle at all. Choose your friends wisely!
3. Lincoln’s Duel (not against vampires)
In the time we live, it is easy to say that we lack the morals of our forefathers. That we should try to be more polite, courteous and intelligent like the people we admire. We should also never forget the time that Abraham Lincoln almost killed a businessman with a sword.
In 1842, James Shields, the state auditor of Illinois, supported the closing of the Illinois State Bank. Instead of confronting him in person, Lincoln did the troll route. Writing under an alias, wrote a scathing letter about the moronic views of Shields and how lucky women were that they didn’t have to marry him. To show her ride-or-die status, Mary Todd, Lincoln’s then-girlfriend also got in on the assault, writing an even more juicy review of James douchey, terrible self.
Shields understandably upset, demanded the editor, to tell him who had written the letters. The editor soon buckled and revealed the identity of the author, to be Abraham Lincoln. Shields then confronted and demanded a duel for his honor against Abraham. Lincoln accepted being the badass he was and as the challenger, was entitled to choose the conditions of the duel. He chose the heaviest weapons he could, broadswords. Lincoln known for his strength and height at (6’4″) against James height of (5’9″) had a clear advantage in a physical altercation. They faced off on Missouri’s Bloody Island ( a perfect name for a place to fight to the death). The morning of the duel was here. Lincoln approached James Shields and hacked down a high overhead tree branch with one swing to warm up. After seeing the ease of such a decapitating strike by Abraham. Shields decided he wasn’t that angry after all and an abrupt truce was struck. Both men agreeing to a peace. Years later, during the Civil War nominating James for the promotion of Major General when he was president. So, Next time you hear a story about honest Abe, never forget to remind them of the internet troll/barbarian that he was also known for.
4. The Topless Duel Heard Around The World
If you ever thought men were the only people to settle their disputes in the form of violence then let the glass ceiling be shattered by Princess Pauline Metternich. In 1892, Austria, the Princess, and Countess Kielmannsegg were discussing decorations for an upcoming musical concert. The battle of words became so heated that the only way they could settle it was by picking up swords. The two women entered the dual under the watchful eye of Baroness Lubinska. She, being medically trained seeing warfare firsthand, suggested that the two women fight naked to the waist so that any dirty clothing wasn’t being pushed to any wounds, that would cause infection. Which sounds to me, like one of the best pick-up lines I’ve ever heard. The two women agreed, stripped and started fencing. The Princess drew first blood with a wound nicking the Countess’s nose. She was surprised by her accuracy and did not see the next attack coming and suffered a piercing stab to her forearm. The two duelists then seeing each other injured decided to end the dispute, not liking the new sensation of sword wounds.
The argument died, but the story never did. Word traveled fast that the two women had dueled topless. Paintings and stories of women fighting bare-chested from that day spread across the country. Sophisticated women who could turn into combatants at the drop of a hat. Handling their business like Worldstar, in the streets of today.
5. The Duel That lasted Decade’s
One of the most iconic duels in history, it became the basis for a story, that was later turned into a movie by Ridley Scott. So buckle up.
Francois Fournier-Sarloveze was the captain of the French army at the turn of the 19th century and appears to of loved dueling more than oxygen. He was so well known for his attitude which often led to duels, that eventually boy scout, Captain Pierre Dupont had to step in and try to get him to calm the hell down. Francois instead of listening to Pierre’s advice immediately challenged him to a duel on the spot (of course). Which led to the most epic show off of our times. Much like a Batman and Joker standoff, Dupont refused to use guns. So the two lifetime rivals battled it out with swords. During their first skirmish, Fournier stabbed Dupont in the shoulder and was unable to continue, but demanded a rematch. Later that month Dupont injured Fournier in their next bout, who then demanded a rematch in return, for a future duel. This continued every month because no man wanted to declare the other one his better. This lasted for 19 years….
By 1893, Dupont had grown tired of living like a Highlander and wanted to marry. Like all wives though she wanted a husband that was very much alive. She demanded that he never duel again. You know like the only sane person in this story. Dupont knowing that he had to settle his obsession challenged Fournier to a duel with guns for one last time. Fournier accepted, surprised that Dupont had wanted to. One of the agreements was never to use guns because Fournier was a much better and well-accomplished marksman.
Dupont had a plan, however. During the duel, he had stashed a decoy of his jacket hanging from a tree that got Fournier drooling for a quick victory. Fournier thinking he had his quarry cornered, emptied both his pistols into the jacket and now was out of bullets. Dupont marched forward knowing Fournier had no way to defend himself. At his mercy, Dupont spared his arch nemesis’s life, to Fournier’s surprise. On the one condition that they live the rest of their days separate and never duel again. The hero now triumphant went and married the girl of his dreams. Once and for all proving that Batman will always win and does not kill with guns. We can only assume that there’s a lift out Fournier’s life in exile in Arkham Asylum.