19th Century, Famous Duels

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List of duels

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The following is a list of famous duels.

Ilya Repin‘s picture of the duel from Eugene Onegin




[edit] Historical duels

[edit] American duels

Main article: Burr-Hamilton duel
  • May 30, 1806: Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson; Dickinson was killed, Jackson wounded.
  • August 12, 1817: Thomas Hart Benton (senator) and Charles Lucas (Missouri) on Bloody Island (Mississippi); Attorneys on opposite sides of a court battle – Lucas challenged Benton’s right to vote and Benton accused Lucas of being a “puppy”; Lucas was shot in the throat and Benton shot in the leg; Benton released Lucas from his obligation.
  • September 27, 1817: Benton and Lucas rematch on Bloody Island; Benton challenged Lucas after Lucas said the first fight at 30 feet (9.1 m) was unfair because Benton was a better shot. Benton killed Lucas at nine feet and was unhurt.
  • March 22, 1820: Stephen Decatur and James Barron; Decatur was killed.
  • June 30, 1823 Joshua Barton and Thomas C. Rector on Bloody Island (Mississippi River); Rector was critical of Barton’s brother, Senator David Barton‘s blocking the appointment of Rector’s brother William Rector to General Surveyor position. Barton was killed and Rector unhurt.
  • April 26, 1826 Henry Clay and John Randolph of Roanoke; at Pimmit Run, Virginia; Both unhurt.[1]
  • August 26, 1831: Thomas Biddle and Spencer Darwin Pettis on Bloody Island (Mississippi River); Biddle challenged Pettis for comments about Biddle’s brother who was president of the United States bank. Both died after firing from five feet.
  • September 25, 1832: James Westcott and Thomas Baltzell; Baltzell unhurt, Westcott injured but survived to become a U.S. Senator.[2]
  • February 24, 1838: Kentucky Representative William Jordan Graves killed Maine Representative Jonathan Cilley in a pistol duel. Congress then passed a law making it illegal to issue or accept duel challenge in Washington, DC.[3]
  • September 22, 1842: Future President Abraham Lincoln, at the time an Illinois state legislator, accepted a challenge to a duel by state auditor James Shields. Lincoln apparently had published an inflammatory letter in a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper, the Sangamon Journal, that poked fun at the Illinois State Auditor—Shields. Taking offense, Shields demanded “satisfaction” and the incident escalated with the two parties meeting on a Missouri island called Sunflower Island, near Alton, Illinois, to participate in a duel. Just prior to engaging in combat, the two participants’ seconds intervened and were able to convince the two men to cease hostilities, on the grounds that Lincoln had not written the letters.
  • July 26, 1847: Albert Pike and John Selden Roane; declared a draw, no injuries.
  • June 1, 1853: U.S. Senator William McKendree Gwin and U.S. Congressman J.W. McCorkle, no injuries.
  • August 26, 1856: Benjamin Gratz Brown and Thomas C. Reynolds on Bloody Island (Mississippi River); In what would be called the “Duel of the Governors” Brown was then the abolitionist editor of the St. Louis Democrat and Reynolds a pro-slavery St. Louis district attorney fought with Brown being shot in the leg and limping for the rest of his life while Reynolds was unhurt. Brown would become a Missouri Governor and Reynolds would become a Confederate Governor of Missouri.
  • September 13, 1859: U.S. Senator David C. Broderick and David S. Terry, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California; Broderick was killed.

[edit] Antiquity

[edit] Asian duels

  • During the Three Kingdoms period of China, in 195 [4] warlord Sun Ce encountered an enemy general named Taishi Ci by accident when both of them were scouting the other. The two fought until the arrival of their men compelled them to break off. The result was that Sun Ce seized Taishi Ci’s weapon while Taishi Ci grabbed Sun Ce’s helmet. There was however no record that any one of them was injured in this duel. This is one of the few examples of two generals dueling during a time of war.
  • During the Sengoku period of Japan, a daimyo called Uesugi Kenshin fought against a rival of his named Takeda Shingen. During one of their battles, Uesegi personally led a raiding party against the Takeda camp. Breaking through, Kenshin attacked Shingen, who fought back using his iron war fan. Uesegi was forced to retreat when reinforcements didn’t arrive.
  • In 1593 Siamese King Naresuan slew Burmese Crown Prince Minchit Sra, in a duel on the back of war elephants.
  • On April 14, 1612 the famous Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi dueled his rival Sasaki Kojiro on the island of Funajima. Musashi arrived late and unkempt to the appointed place. Musashi killed Sasaki with a bokken or wooden sword. He fashioned the bokken out of a boat oar on his way to the island. Sasaki’s weapon of choice was the nodachi, a long sword.
  • 1906: In Istanbul, during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, a duel between a young Kurdish aristocrat named Abdulrazzak Bedirkhan and the chief of police of the city Ridvan Pasha occurred. The police chief was killed and subsequently the entire Bedirkhan family was exiled.

[edit] Australian duels

  • 1801: Captain John Macarthur duelled with William Paterson, shooting him in the shoulder. Macarthur was sent back to England to be court Martialled.
  • 1851: Major Sir Thomas Mitchell confronted Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson in Sydney. Mitchell issued the challenge because Donaldson had publicly criticised the cost of the Surveyor General’s Department. Both duellists missed.

[edit] British and Irish duels

[edit] Canadian duels

  • 1800: John White, 39, Upper Canada’s first lawyer and a founder of the law society, was fatally shot on January 3, 1800 by a government official named John Small, who challenged him to the duel. White was alleged to have gossiped at a Christmas party that Mrs. Small was once the mistress of the Duke of Berkeley in England, who’d tired of her and paid Small to marry her and take her to the colonies.
  • 1817: John Ridout, 18, was shot dead on July 12, 1817 at the corner of what is now Bay St. and Grosvenor St. in Toronto by Samuel Peters Jarvis, 25. The reason for the duel was unclear. On the count of two, the nervous Ridout discharged his pistol early, missing Jarvis by a wide margin. Ridout’s second, James Small (whose father survived the only other duel in York) and Jarvis’ second, Henry John Boulton insisted that Jarvis be allowed to make his shot. Ridout protested loudly and asked for another pistol, but Small and Boulton were adamant that the strict code of duelling must be observed. Jarvis shot and killed Ridout instantly. Jarvis was pardoned by the courts, even though he had shot an unarmed man.
  • 1819: What historians have called “The Most Ferocious Duel” in Canadian history took place on April 11, 1819, at Windmill Point near the Lachine Canal. The opponents were William Caldwell, a doctor at the Montreal General Hospital, and Michael O’Sullivan, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. The dispute arose when Caldwell accused O’Sullivan of lacking courage. The two opponents exchanged fire an unheard-of five times. O’Sullivan was wounded twice in the process, and in the final volley, he took a bullet to the chest and hit the ground. Caldwell’s arm was shattered by a shot; a hole in his collar proved he narrowly missed being shot in the neck. Amazingly, neither participant died during the fight, although both took a long time to recover. O’Sullivan went on to become Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench in Montreal, and when he died in 1839, an autopsy revealed a bullet still lodged against the middle of his spine.
  • 1826: Rudkin versus Philpot a duel fought in Newfoundland at St. John’s who met at West’s Farm near Brine’s Tavern at the foot of Robinson’s Hill, adjacent to Brine’s River to settle their seemingly long standing differences that was further exacerbated by the love of an Irish colleen who lived in a cottage near Quidi Vidi and a game of cards that ended in an argument over the ownership of the pot.
  • 1833: The last fatal duel in Canada was fought in Perth, Ontario on June 13, 1833. Two law students and former friends, John Wilson and Robert Lyon, quarrelled over remarks Lyon made about a local schoolteacher, Elizabeth Hughes. Lyon was killed in the second exchange of shots on a rain-soaked field. Wilson was acquitted of murder, eventually married Miss Hughes, became a Member of Parliament, and later a judge.
  • 1836: Two duelling politicians from Lower Canada were lucky to have sensible seconds. Clément-Charles Sabrevois de Bleury, a member of the Lower Canadian Legislative Assembly, insulted fellow politician Charles-Ovide Perreault. Perreault then struck de Bleury, and a duel was set. Both men were determined to settle the matter with pistols, but their seconds came up with a unique solution. The two foes would clasp hands and de Bleury would say, “I am sorry to have insulted you” while at the same time Perreault would say, “I am sorry to have struck you.” They would then reply in unison, “I accept your apology.” The tactic worked, and the situation was resolved without injury.
  • 1837: William Collis Meredith and James Scott. On Monday, 9 August 1837, at eight o’clock in the evening, Meredith (who had articled under the previously mentioned Clement-Charles Sabrevois de Bleury from 1831 to 1833) and Scott (no stranger to duels) stepped out to face one another on the slopes of Mount Royal, behind Montreal. Earlier that day, following a dispute over legal costs, Meredith had challenged Scott. Meredith chose James M. Blackwood to second him, whilst Scott’s choice was Louis-Fereol Pelletier. The pistols used were Meredith’s which he had bought in London, on a previous trip to England. On the first exchange Scott took a bullet high up in his thigh, and the duel was called to a stop. The bullet lodged itself in Scott’s thigh bone in such a way that it could not be removed by doctors, which caused him great discomfort for the rest of his days. Ironically for Scott, this was exactly where he had shot Sweeney Campbell in a duel when they were students. In the early 1850’s (Scott died in 1852), when both the adversaries had become judges, one of the sights then to see was Meredith helping his brother judge up the steep Court House steps, a result of the lameness in his leg that had remained with Scott since their encounter. Meredith was later knighted and went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec.
  • 1840: Joseph Howe was called out by a member of Nova Scotian high society for his populist writing. When his opponent fired first and missed, Howe fired his shot in the air and won the right to refuse future challenges.
  • 1873: The last duel in what is now Canada occurred in August 1873, in a field near St. John’s, Newfoundland (which was not Canadian territory at the time). The duellists, Mr. Dooley and Mr. Healey, once friends, had fallen in love with the same young lady, and had quarrelled bitterly over her. One challenged the other to a duel, and they quickly arranged a time and place. No one else was present that morning except the two men’s seconds. Dooley and Healey were determined to proceed in the ‘honourable’ way, but as they stood back-to-back with their pistols raised, they must have questioned what they were doing. Nerves gave way to terror as they slowly began pacing away from each other. When they had counted off the standard ten yards, they turned and fired. Dooley hit the ground immediately. Healey, believing he had killed Dooley, was seized with horror. But Dooley had merely fainted; the seconds confessed they had so feared the outcome that they loaded the pistols with blanks. Although this was a serious breach of duelling etiquette, both opponents gratefully agreed that honour had indeed been satisfied.

[edit] French duels

  • 27 December 1386: Last legal judicial duel in France fought between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris over charges of rape Carrouges brought against Le Gris on behalf of his wife. After a lengthy trial and fight, Carrouges killed his opponent, thus “proving” his charges.
  • July 10, 1547: Guy Chabot de Jarnac, in a judicial duel with Francois de Vivonne de la Châtaigneraie, a favourite of the King and one of France’s greatest swordsmen. Jarnac fooled La Châtaigneraie with a feint and hit him with a slash to the hamstrings. His dignity offended, La Châtaigneraie refused medical aid, and died. This both ended the practice of trial by combat in France, and created the myth of “Le Coup de Jarnac” – a legendary strike that supposedly allowed amateurs to defeat masters.
  • 27 April 1578: Duel of the Mignons claims the lives of two favorites of Henry III of France and two favorites of Henry I, Duke of Guise.
  • 1641: Kenelm Digby and a French nobleman named Mont le Ros. Digby, a founding member of the Royal Society, was attending a banquet in France when the Frenchman insulted King Charles I of England and Digby challenged him to a duel. Digby wrote that he “.. run his rapier into the French Lord’s breast until it came out of his throat again”; Mont le Ros fell dead.
  • 1830: French writer Sainte-Beuve and one of the owners of Le Globe newspaper, Paul-François Dubois, fought a duel under a heavy rain. Sainte-Beuve held his umbrella during the duel claiming that he did not mind dying but that he would not get wet.
  • 1832: Évariste Galois and (possibly) Pescheux d’Herbinville; Évariste Galois, the French mathematician, died of his wounds at the age of twenty.
  • 23 February 1870: Édouard Manet and Louis Edmond Duranty; Duranty, an art critic and friend of Manet, had written only the briefest of commentary on two works of art that Manet had entered for exhibition. The frustrated Manet collared Duranty at the Café Guerbois and slapped him. Duranty’s demands for an apology were refused and so the men fought a duel with swords in the forest of Saint-Germain three days later on the 23rd. Émile Zola acted as Manet’s second and Paul Alexis acted for Duranty. After Duranty received a wound above the right breast the seconds stepped in and declared that honour had been satisfied. The men remained friends despite the encounter.
  • 1888: General George Boulanger and Charles Floquet (Prime Minister of the French Republic); the General was wounded in the throat but survived.
  • 5 February 1897: Marcel Proust fought journalist Jean Lorrain, after Lorrain published an excoriating review of Proust’s first book “Pleasures and Days” and hinted that Proust was having an affair with Madeleine Lemaire’s son, Lucien. Proust and Lorrain exchanged shots at 25 paces. Proust fired first, his bullet hitting the ground by Lorrain’s foot. Lorrain’s shot missed, and the seconds agreed that honor had been satisfied.[9]

[edit] Slavonic duels

[edit] Russian duels

[edit] Spanish Duels

  • 1569 Miguel de Cervantes bated but didn’t kill Antonio Sigura.
  • 1611 holy Thursday, Francisco de Quevedo killed a man with his sword for hitting a lady in a church.
  • 12 of March 1870 Duel between Antonio de Orleans, duke of Montparse and Enrique de Borbón Duke of Seville. Both were brothers-in-law of Isabel II. Montparsie killed Enrique de Borbón.
  • February 1904 Vicente Blasco Ibáñez with a policeman. Vicente was hurt.

[edit] South American Duels

  • 1814: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Colonel Luis Carrera, brother of Chilean revolutionary General José Miguel Carrera, killed Colonel Juan Mackenna in duel. The reason was the sense of honour that the Carreras had, as Mackenna disrespected the family name many times. This was the second time that both duellists met, and the third time that Mackenna was challenged in duel by a Carrera (the first time it was by Luis Carrera himself, while the second time it was by his brother, Juan José Carrera, the oldest of the brothers and noticeable by his strength. Yet Mackenna was able to run away from the duels both times). They duelled at night, in the first round, Mackenna shot at his head, but missed and blew Carrera’s hat away, in the second round, Carrera was able to hit Mackenna in his hand, blowing his thumb away and piercing a hole in his throat, thus killing Mackenna. Carrera was arrested the next day, particularly because Mackenna was part of a secret society called Lautaro Lodge, which had the control of the government at the time.
  • 1952: Chile. Then-senator Salvador Allende and his colleague Raúl Rettig (later president of Chile and head of a commission that investigated human rights violations committed during the 1973–1990 military rule in Chile, respectively), agreed to fire one shot on each other and both failed.[11] At that time duelling was already illegal in Chile.

[edit] Swiss duels

[edit] Proposed duels

  • In the summer of 30 BC Mark Antony challenged Octavian to a duel, after Octavian defeated Antony at the battle of Actium the year before and threatened to take Alexandria. Octavian refused the challenge.
  • In 1943 German field marshal Günther von Kluge challenged general Heinz Guderian to a duel with pistols, after several confrontations during the preparations for the Battle of Kursk. Although Guderian accepted, the duel did not happen because Hitler refused to give his permission.
  • In October 2002, four months before the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan suggested U.S. President George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein settle their difference in a duel.[12] He reasoned this would not only serve as an alternative to a war that was certain to damage Iraq’s infrastructure,[13] but that it would also reduce the suffering of the Iraqi and American peoples. Ramadan’s offer included the possibility that a group of US officials would face off with a group of Iraqi officials of same or similar rank (President v. President, Vice President v. Vice President, etc.). Ramadan proposed that the duel be held in a neutral land, with each party using the same weapons, and with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presiding as the supervisor. On behalf of President Bush, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer declined the offer.
  • During the 2004 Republican National Convention, Georgia Senator Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat who supported the reelection of President Bush, angrily retorted to political commentator Chris Matthews that he wished he lived in a time when he could challenge someone to a duel. The satellite connection between the two was bad, and Senator Miller erroneously heard Matthews insult Southern voters.

[edit] Duels in legend and mythology

Notable examples of single combat in legend and mythology

[edit] Duels in fiction

  • Westley (Dread Pirate Roberts) versus Iñigo Montoya: Inigo loses but survives.
  • Inigo Montoya versus Count Rugen: Inigo avenges his father’s death.
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père; D’Artagnan commits himself to fight three consecutive duels with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis
  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand; Cyrano is famous for his dueling.
  • The Years Between, four-book series by Paul Féval, fils; and M Lassez: – 1928 features the on-going conflict between the fiery Cyrano de Bergerac and D’Artagnan the ageing legend. Three times they fight; various interruptions prevent either Gascon from receiving satisfaction.
  • Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos; Valmont versus Danceny, Valmont allows himself to be killed
  • A Sentimental Education by Flaubert
  • The Duel (also known as The Point of Honor: A Military Tale) by Joseph Conrad; Two officers of Napoleon Bonaparte‘s army fight a number of duels over many years. The story was transferred to the screen by Ridley Scott as The Duellists.
  • The Duel, a philosophic novella by Anton Chekhov
  • War and Peace: Pierre and Dolokhov duel. Leo Tolstoy himself barely escaped duels with fellow writers Ivan Turgenev and Nikolai Nekrasov.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen has an “offstage” duel between Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby over the seduction of Colonel Brandon’s adopted daughter.
  • Fathers and Sons: Kirsanov and Bazarov duel is a culminating point of the novel; Turgenev also wrote a short story called Duellist.
  • Vladimir Nabokov‘s Ada, or Ardour.
  • HMS Surprise by Patrick O’Brian; Stephen Maturin fights and kills Richard Canning over Diana Villers. Based on the Ashton–Allen duel?
  • Mr. Midshipman Hornblower in the Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester; Horatio Hornblower duels Jack Simpson
  • In Ridicule, a French film directed by Patrice Leconte, protagonist Gregoire Ponceludon kills one of King Louis XVI’s officers in a pistol duel.
  • The Highlander series features numerous duels between immortal warriors destined to fight. In the first film, a humorous duel occurs where a very drunk immortal fences with a sober man, is repeatedly run through but keeps getting back up to fight.
  • In Tombstone, Doc Holliday stands in for his friend Wyatt Earp in a duel with Johnny Ringo. This is based on one of several explanations for the unusual circumstances surrounding Ringo’s death.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, The Count of Monte Cristo (Edmond Dantès) plans a duel with Viscount Albert Mondego, de Morcerf. However, no duel is ever fought, and Mondego apologizes. Monte Cristo also almost duels Mondego’s father, the Count Fernand Mondego de Morcerf, but he learns Monte Cristo’s true identity and bows out. There was also a recollection of Noitier de Villefort of him engaging with a duel and killing his opponent. He told the account to Franz d’Epinay, the son of the one Noitier killed. He did this in order to break up the plans of marriage to her granddaughter, Valentine.
  • Libertine, a Baroque-style music video by Mylene Farmer starts with a duel between the singer and a man, ending in the man’s death.
  • The Skulls, a 2000 movie, culminates in a duel between the two main characters, though neither fires on the other and the fight is eventually interrupted by the father of one of the participants.
  • Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald; McKisco vs Barban.
  • Doctor Who, “The Christmas Invasion“: The Doctor duels with the Sycorax Leader in a fight for Planet Earth.
  • Barry Lyndon, the 1975 movie by Stanley Kubrick includes many duels. It begins with a duel in which Barry’s father is mortally shot by an unknown man. Years later Barry duels Captain Quin for Nora. The movie culminates in a duel with Barry’s stepson, Lord Bullingdon. This last duel is not in the original novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray.
  • In the novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, a number of the students at Hogwarts attend a duelling lesson conducted by teachers Gilderoy Lockhart and Severus Snape. It was during a supervised practice duel with Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter‘s nature as a parselmouth was exposed.
  • Dark Shadows: in the 1795 storyline, Barnabas Collins had fought a duel against Jeremiah Collins in a duel after he learned he married his love Josette du Pres thanks to Angelique‘s spell, and the duel caused Jeremiah’s death.
  • In The Devils by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Nikolay Stavrogin duels Gaganov over a family insult. During the duel, Stavrogin intentionally fires into the air, which infuriates Gaganov.
  • In Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet fights a duel with Laertes. The weapons are not supposed to be fatal, but Laertes’ sword is sharp, and the tip is poisoned. Both men are killed.
  • In Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman is forced into fighting a duel after a brief affair with a fellow officer’s lover. Flashman gains a free shot after promising a large sum of money to the pistol loader to give his opponent blanks in his gun, but rather than attempt to kill his opponent, instead delopes and accidentally shoots the top off a bottle thirty yards away, an action that gives him instant fame and the respect of Duke of Wellington. In his next novel Royal Flash Flashman is kidnapped by Otto Von Bismark and is forced to acquire a pair of duelling scars administered by the duelmaster De Gautet. In disgust at having his face sliced like paper Flashman lunges De Gautet and cuts his abdomen.
  • In the Simpsons episode “E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)“, Homer, imitating Zorro, inadvertently challenges a gun-toting Southern colonel to a duel. Initially avoiding the duel by running to the country (and inventing ‘Tomacco’), the eventual duel results in Homer being shot in the arm (subsequently refusing hospitalisation for pie).
  • In the Blackadder the Third episode “Duel and Duality“, the Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie) is challenged to a duel by the Duke of Wellington (Stephen Fry). Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) assumes his place but is saved in the eventual duel (using cannon) by a cigarette case. The Prince, in Blackadder’s clothing, is shot dead by the Duke for insolence with Blackadder assuming the role of Prince (and later King).
  • In Thomas Mann‘s The Magic Mountain, the long-standing personal and philosophical differences between Naptha and Settembrini eventually result in a pistol duel; when Settembrini delopes by shooting into the air, Naphta calls him a coward and shoots himself.
  • In the Metal Gear Solid series there have been a number of duels, most of them between the hero and boss characters. Three memorable ones are; The duel between Solid Snake and Grey Fox, barehanded over a minefield. The duel between Liquid Snake and Solid Snake, barehanded fighting on Metal Gear REX; and the final duel between Old Snake and Liquid Ocelot, on top of Outer Haven.
  • Howard Waldrop‘s Fin de Cyclé culminates in a duel between Alfred Jarry and an antagonistic journalist, riding bicycles atop the Eiffel Tower.


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

For other uses, see Duel (disambiguation).

As practised from the 11th to 20th centuries in Western societies, a duel is an engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with their combat doctrines. In the modern application, the term is applied to aerial warfare between fighter pilots. A battle between two warships is also referred to as a duel or a naval duel, especially in the Age of Sail when such encounters were more common.

The Romantic depiction of mediaeval duels was based on either a pretext of defence of honour, usually accompanied by a trusted representative (who might themselves fight, often in contravention of the duelling conventions), or as a matter of challenge of the champion which developed out of the desire of one party (the challenger) to redress a perceived insult to his sovereign’s honour. The goal of the honourable duel was often not so much to kill the opponent as to gain “satisfaction”, that is, to restore one’s honour by demonstrating a willingness to risk one’s life for it.

Duels may be distinguished from trials by combat, in that duels were not used to determine guilt or innocence, nor were they official procedures. Indeed, from the early 17th century duels were often illegal in Europe, though in most societies where duelling was socially accepted, participants in a fair duel were not prosecuted, or if they were, were not convicted.[1] Only gentlemen were considered to have honour, and duels were reserved for social equals. Commoners might duel one another occasionally[2], but if a gentleman’s honour were offended by a person of lower class, he would not duel him, but would beat him with a cane, riding crop, a whip or have his servants do so. Formal duelling is now virtually never practised.




[edit] Rules

Sabre duel of German students, around 1900, painting by Georg Mühlberg (1863–1925)

Duels could be fought with some sort of sword or, from the 18th century on, with pistols.[3] For this end special sets of duelling pistols were crafted for the wealthiest of noblemen.

The traditional situation that led to a duel often went something like this; after the offence, whether real or imagined, one party would demand satisfaction from the offender,[4] signalling this demand with an inescapably insulting gesture, such as throwing his glove before him, hence the phrase “throwing down the gauntlet“. This originates from medieval times, when a knight was knighted. The knight-to-be would receive the accolade of three light blows on the shoulder with a sword and, in some cases, a ritual slap in the face, said to be the last affronts he could accept without redress.[5] Therefore, any one being slapped with a glove was considered—like a knight—obligated to accept the challenge or be dishonoured. Contrary to popular belief, hitting one in the face with a glove was not a challenge, but could be done after the glove had been thrown down as a response to the one issuing the challenge. Each party would name a trusted representative (a second) who would, between them, determine a suitable “field of honour.” It was also the duty of each party’s second to check that the weapons were equal and that the duel was fair. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, it was normal practice for the seconds as well as the principals to fight each other. Later the seconds’ role became more specific, to make sure the rules were followed and to try to achieve reconciliation,[6] but as late as 1777 the Irish code still allowed the seconds an option to exchange shots.

The chief criteria for choosing the field of honour were isolation, to avoid discovery and interruption by the authorities, and jurisdictional ambiguity, also to avoid legal consequences. Islands in rivers dividing two jurisdictions were popular duelling sites; the cliffs below Weehawken on the Hudson River where the Hamilton-Burr duel occurred were a popular field of honour for New York duellists because of the uncertainty whether New York or New Jersey jurisdiction applied. Duels traditionally took place at dawn, when the poor light would make the participants less likely to be seen. For some time before the mid-18th century, swordsmen duelling at dawn so often carried lanterns to see each other that fencing manuals integrated them into their lessons, using the lantern to parry blows and blind the opponent.[7] The manuals sometimes show the combatants carrying the lantern in the left hand wrapped behind the back, which is still one of the traditional positions for the off hand in modern fencing.[8]

At the choice of the offended party, the duel could be

  • to first blood, in which case the duel would be ended as soon as one man was wounded, even if the wound were minor:
  • until one man was so severely wounded as to be physically unable to continue the duel;
  • to the death, in which case there would be no satisfaction until the other party was mortally wounded;
  • or, in the case of pistol duels, each party would fire one shot. If neither man was hit and if the challenger stated that he was satisfied, the duel would be declared over. A pistol duel could continue until one man was wounded or killed, but to have more than three exchanges of fire was considered barbaric and, if no hits were achieved, somewhat ridiculous.

A fictional pistol duel between Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky

Under the latter conditions, one or both parties could intentionally miss in order to fulfill the conditions of the duel, without loss of either life or honour. However, to do so, “to delope“, could imply that your opponent was not worth shooting. This practice occurred despite being expressly banned by the Code Duello of 1777. Rule 13 stated: “No dumb shooting or firing in the air is admissible in any case… children’s play must be dishonourable on one side or the other, and is accordingly prohibited.” Practices varied, however, and many pistol duels were to first blood or death. The offended party could stop the duel at any time if he deemed his honour satisfied. In some duels there were seconds (stand-ins) who, if the primary dueller were not able to finish the duel, would then take his place. This was usually done in duels with swords, where one’s expertise was sometimes limited. The second would also act as a witness.

For a pistol duel, the parties would be placed back to back with loaded weapons in hand and walk a set number of paces, turn to face the opponent, and shoot. Typically, the graver the insult, the fewer the paces agreed upon. Alternatively, a pre-agreed length of ground would be measured out by the seconds and marked, often with swords stuck in the ground (referred to as “points”). At a given signal, often the dropping of a handkerchief, the principals could advance and fire at will. This latter system reduced the possibility of cheating, as neither principal had to trust the other not to turn too soon. Another system involved alternate shots being taken—the challenged firing first.

Many historical duels were prevented by the difficulty of arranging the “methodus pugnandi”. In the instance of Dr. Richard Brocklesby, the number of paces could not be agreed upon; and in the affair between Mark Akenside and Ballow, one had determined never to fight in the morning, and the other that he would never fight in the afternoon. John Wilkes, who did not stand upon ceremony in these little affairs, when asked by Lord Talbot how many times they were to fire, replied, “just as often as your Lordship pleases; I have brought a bag of bullets and a flask of gunpowder.”

[edit] History

Further information: History of fencing and European dueling sword

Physical confrontations related to insults and social standing surely pre-date Homo sapiens, but the formal concept of a duel, in Western society, developed out of the mediaeval judicial duel and older pre-Christian practices such as the Viking Age Holmganga. Judicial duels were deprecated by the Lateran Council of 1215. However, in 1459 (MS Thott 290 2) Hans Talhoffer reported that in spite of Church disapproval, there were nevertheless seven capital crimes that were still commonly accepted as resolvable by means of a judicial duel. Most societies did not condemn duelling, and the victor of a duel was regarded not as a murderer but as a hero; in fact, his social status often increased. During the early Renaissance, duelling established the status of a respectable gentleman, and was an accepted manner to resolve disputes. Duelling in such societies was seen as an alternative to less regulated conflict.

According to one scholar, “In France during the reign of Henry IV (1589–1610), more than 4,000 French aristocrats were killed in duels in an eighteen-year period…During the reign of Louis XIII (1610–1643)…in a twenty-year period 8,000 pardons were issued for murders associated with duels…In the United States thousands of Southerners died protecting what they believed to be their honor.”[9]

The first published code duello, or “code of duelling”, appeared in Renaissance Italy; however, it had many antecedents, ranging back to old Germanic law. The first formalised national code was France‘s, during the Renaissance. In 1777, Ireland developed a code duello, which was indeed the most influential in American duelling culture.

Prominent duels

Main article: List of famous duels

To decline a challenge was often equated to defeat by forfeiture, and sometimes regarded as dishonourable. Prominent and famous individuals were especially at risk of being challenged.

The Russian poet Alexander Pushkin prophetically described a number of duels in his works, notably Onegin’s duel with Lensky in Eugene Onegin. The poet was mortally wounded in a controversial duel with Georges d’Anthès, a French officer rumoured to be his wife’s lover. D’Anthès, who was accused of cheating in this duel, married Pushkin’s sister-in-law and went on to become French minister and senator.

In 1598 the English playwright Ben Jonson fought a duel, mortally wounding an actor by the name of Gabriel Spencer. In 1798 HRH The Duke of York, well known as “The Grand Old Duke of York“, duelled with Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Lennox and was grazed by a bullet along his hairline. In 1840 the 7th Earl of Cardigan, officer in charge of the now infamous Charge of the Light Brigade, fought a duel with a British Army officer by the name of Captain Tuckett. Tuckett was wounded in the engagement, though not fatally.

Four Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom have engaged in duels (although only Pitt and Wellington held the office at the time of their duels):

In 1864, American writer Mark Twain—then editor of the New York Sunday Mercury—narrowly avoided fighting a duel with a rival newspaper editor, apparently through the quick thinking of his second, who exaggerated Twain’s prowess with a pistol.[10][11][12]

The most notorious American duel was the Burr-Hamilton duel, in which notable Federalist Alexander Hamilton was fatally wounded by his political rival, the sitting Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr. Another American politician, Andrew Jackson, later to serve as a General Officer in the U.S. Army and to become the seventh U.S. president, fought two duels, though some legends claim he fought many more. On May 30, 1806, he killed prominent duellist Charles Dickinson, suffering himself from a chest wound which caused him a lifetime of pain. Jackson also reportedly engaged in a bloodless duel with a lawyer and in 1803 came very near duelling with John Sevier; In 1813 Jackson engaged in a frontier brawl, which does not count as a duel, with Senator Thomas Hart Benton.

On 30 May 1832, French mathematician Évariste Galois was mortally wounded in a duel at the age of twenty, the day after he had written his seminal mathematical results.

The last fatal duel in Canada, in 1833, saw Robert Lyon challenge John Wilson to a pistol duel after a quarrel over remarks made about a local school-teacher—whom Wilson ended up marrying after Lyon was killed in the duel. The last fatal duel in England took place on Priest Hill, between Englefield Green and Old Windsor, on 19 October 1852, between two French refugees, Cournet and Barthelemy, the former being killed. [13]Unusual duels

In 1808, two Frenchmen are said to have fought in balloons over Paris, each attempting to shoot and puncture the other’s balloon; one duelist is said to have been shot down and killed with his second.[14]

Thirty-five years later (1843), two men are said to have fought a duel by means of throwing billiard balls at each other.[14]

Some participants in a duel, given the choice of weapons, are said to have deliberately chosen ridiculous weapons such as howitzers, sledgehammers, or forkfuls of pig dung, in order to show their disdain for duelling.[14]

Isaac Asimov relates a joke in his Treasury of Humor (1971) that claims that Otto von Bismarck challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel. As the challenged party had the choice of weapons, Virchow chose two sausages, one of which had been inoculated with cholera. Bismarck is said to have called off the duel at once.[15]

Single combat

The Jan. 1593 single combat, using war elephants, between Siamese King Naresuan and the Burmese crown prince Crown Prince Minchit Sra – still celebrated in Thai history (statue in Samut Prakan Province, Thailand).

Single combat is a duel between two single warriors which takes place in the context of a battle between two armies, with the two often considered the champions of their respective sides. Typically, it takes place in the no-man’s-land between the opposing armies, with other warriors watching and themselves refraining from fighting until one of the two single combatants has won.

Single combats are attested at numerous periods and places, in both myth and the depiction of actual war. A famous early example is the single combat between David and Goliath in the Bible. Duels between individual warriors are depicted in the Iliad, including those between Menelaus and Paris and later between Achilles and Hector. Single combat is mentioned quite frequently in the history of Ancient Rome: the Horatii‘s defeat of the Alba Longan Curiatii in the 7th century BC is reported by Livy to have settled a war in Rome’s favor and subjected Alba Longa to Rome; Marcus Claudius Marcellus took the spolia opima from Viridomarus, king of the Gaesatae, at the Battle of Clastidium (222 BC); and Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives from Deldo, king of the Bastarnae (29 BC).

Depictions of single combat also appear in the Hindu epics of the Mahābhārata and the Ramayana. Single combats are often preludes to battles in the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms and are featured prominently throughout the epic.

In The Cattle Raid of Cooley, a famous episode of Irish Mythology, all warriors of Ulster but Cúchulainn are affected by a curse and unable to fight the invading army of Queen Maeb – leaving Cúchulainn to fight a whole series of single combats by himself until they recover.

Many battles depicted in the mediaeval Chanson de Roland consist of a series of single combats, as are battles depicted in various tales of the Arabian Nights. Guy of Warwick, the legendary English Romance hero, is depicted as defeating in single combat the Viking giant Colbrand; the story is set in the time of Athelstan of England, but actually reflects the society of the late Middle Ages.

An important episode in Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s legendary History of the Kings of Britain (ca. 1136) is the single combat between prince Nennius of Britain and Julius Caesar.

Single combat was also a prelude to battles in pre-Islamic Arabia and early Islamic battles. For example, at the Battle of Badr, one of the most important in the early history of Islam, was opened by three champions of the Islamic side (Ali, Ubaydah, and Hamzah) stepping forward, engaging and defeating three of the then-Pagan Meccans, although Ubaydah was mortally wounded.[16] This result of the three single combats was considered to have substantially contributed to the Muslim victory in the overall battle which followed. Duels were also part of other battles at the time of Muhammad, such as the battle of Uhud, battle of the Trench and the battle of Khaybar.

Single combats were a major characteristic in the traditional Samurai fighting of medieval Japan, and the samurai despised the mass fighting style of the Mongols who invaded their country and saw it as inferior (see Mongol invasions of Japan#Significance).

The 1380 Battle of Kulikovo, a key event in the wars between the TartaroMongols and the Russians, was allegedly opened by a single combat of two champions: the Russian Alexander Peresvet, and the Golden Horde‘s Temir-murza (also Chelubey or Cheli-bey). The champions killed each other in the first run, though according to Russian legend, Peresvet did not fall from the saddle, while Temir-murza fell.

In personal combat fought on the backs of war elephants in a war between Burma and Siam, Siamese King Naresuan slew Burmese Crown Prince Minchit Sra in 1593.

Captain John Smith of Jamestown, in his earlier career as a mercenary in Eastern Europe, is reputed to have defeated, killed and beheaded Turkish commanders in three single combats, for which he was knighted by the Transylvanian Prince Sigismund Báthory and given a horse and coat of Arms showing three Turks’ heads.[17].

Dramtist Ben Jonson, in conversations with the poet William Drummond, recounted that when serving in the Low Countries as a volunteer with the regiments of Francis Vere, he had defeated an opponent in single combat “in view of borth armies” and stripped him of his weapons.[18]

Single combats are especially common during battles fought between mounted aristocratic warriors (or earlier, driving chariots), a type of warfare allowing considerable freedom of manoeuvre and initiative to individual warriors. Single combat is less feasible where battles are fought by bodies of infantry whose success depends upon keeping an exact formation, such as the ancient phalanx and maniple and in later times the various formations of pikemen.

Duelling in particular regions

Germany, Austria, Switzerland

Historically a form of non-lethal duelling called Mensur was a tradition among students in these countries, and still exists as Academic fencing. This form of duelling is all about honour, therefore it is non-competitive.

“a traditional way of training and educating character and personality … there is neither winner nor loser … the goal being less to avoid injury than to endure it stoically”


In the Ionian Islands in the 19th century, there was a practice of formalised fighting between men over points of honour.

Knives were the weapons used in such fights. They would begin with an exchange of sexually-related insults in a public place such as a tavern, and the men would fight with the intention of slashing the other’s face, rather than killing. As soon as blood was drawn onlookers would intervene to separate the men. The winner would often spit on his opponent and dip his neckerchief in the blood of the loser, or wipe the blood off his knife with it.

The winner would generally make no attempt to avoid arrest and would receive a light penalty, such as a short jail sentence and/or a small fine.[19]


In the South Indian state of Kerala, duelling between warriors was used to settle conflicts between local rulers. The practice ended in the early 1800s following the outlaw of Kalaripayattu by British Colonialists. The prime martial caste of Kerala, Nairs, and some prominent Ezhava families made up the Chekavars (which literally means “those who are prepared to die” in the local Malayalam language). Some prominent warriors who took part in Ankam (duel) were Thacholi Othenan, Unniarcha, Aromal Chekavar, whose legends are described in the Vadukkan Pattukal (Northern Ballads). The Mamankam Festival held by the Zamorin ruler in the kingdom of modern day Calicut, was a ritual which glorified the martial traditions of warrior families in the Malabar. The ritual ended after the Zamorin was overthrown.


In 1777, at the Summer assizes in the town of Clonmel, County Tipperary, a code of practice was drawn up for the regulation of duels. It was agreed by delegates from Tipperary, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon, and intended for general adoption throughout Ireland. A copy of the code, known generally as ‘The thirty-six commandments’, was to be kept in a gentleman’s pistol case for reference should a dispute arise regarding procedure.[20] An amended version known as ‘The Irish Code of Honor’, and consisting of twenty-five rules, was adopted in some parts of the United States. The first article of the code stated:

Rule 1.–The first offence requires the apology, although the retort may have been more offensive than the insult.–Example: A. tells B. he is impertinent, &C.; B. retorts, that he lies; yet A. must make the first apology, because he gave the first offence, and then, (after one fire,) B. may explain away the retort by subsequent apology.[21]

The 19th century statesman, Daniel O’Connell, took part in a duel in 1815. Following the death of his opponent, John D’Esterre, O’Connell repented and from that time wore a white glove on his right hand when attending Mass as a public symbol of his regret.[22]

In 1862, in an article entitled Dead (and gone) Shots, Charles Dickens recalled the rules and myths of Irish duelling in his periodical All the Year Round.[23]


In Poland duels have been known since the Middle Ages. Polish duel rules were formed, based on Italian, French and German codes. The best known Polish code was written as late as in 1919 by Władysław Boziewicz. In those times duels were already forbidden in Poland, but the “Polish Honorary Code” was quite widely in use. Punishments for participation in duels were rather mild (up to a year imprisonment if the result was death or grievous bodily harm).[1]


Duelling is widely known to have existed for centuries in the Philippine Islands. In the Visayan islands, the offended party would first “hagit” or challenge the offender. The offender would have the choice whether to accept or decline the challenge. In the past, choice of weapons was not limited. But most often, bolos, rattan canes, and knives were the preferred weapons. Rules may be agreed upon. Duels were either first-blood, submission, or to the last man standing (last man still alive). Duels to death were known as “huego-todo” (without bounds).

Widely publicised duels are common in Filipino martial arts circles. One of those very controversial and publicised duels was between Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete and Venancio “Ansiong” Bacon. It was rumoured that Cacoy won in this match by executing an illegal manoeuvre, but this rumour has not been proven to this day. Another match was between Cacoy and a man identified only by his name “Domingo” in the mountain barangay of Balamban in 1948, which was also very controversial. Some claimed that this event was just a hoax.[citation needed]


This section may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone or spelling. You can assist by editing it. (March 2010)

Pre-history of Duelling in Russia

Prince Mstislav defeats Rededya. By Nicholas Roerich (1943)

European tradition of duelling and the word Duel itself came to Russia in XVII century by European adventurers on Russian service and quickly became such popular, that Emperor Peter the First was forced to forbade the duelling in 1715 under the threat of hanging the duellists, because it became a serious problem which could cause a lot of casualties among the commanding ranks. However, even such strict measures did not slow the spread of duelling. Before duelling arrived in Russia, there was another tradition of single combat in Slavonic countries, with bare hands or with cold-steel weaponry such as swords, cudgels, maces. The point was to choke the rival, break his neck or spine, or neutralize him in another way in bare hands combat, or to kill him by slashing with sword, beating with cudgel or mace. Such procedure, historically called bash na bash (old Russian expression, means one-on-one) was a traditional way to avoid a bloodshed of internecine war. It means that leaders of both Druzhina or other armed groups, comes towards the centre of the battlefield and negotiating, or send a messenger to deal with one another, to come forward a two most skilful fighters, or leaders themselves in a combat (usually, mortal), after which, the winner takes the army, the lands and towns with their communities, the wives, children and households of the loosing one. It means that for ordinary warriors, peasants and citizens was no matter who’s in charge. In case when the conflict was arising between slavians and other non-Slavonic ethnical groups, such as Pechenegs, which had no intends to rule in slavonic lands, but either to rape and sack them, there was another kind of agreement: If Slav wins, they get out for good and never coming back, if Nomad wins – they do what they want, and take everything what they want.

Alexander Peresvet fights Chelubey. By Victor Vasnetsov(1914)

First documented fight was described by Nestor the Chronicler in the Primary Chronicle, and it was exactly as mentioned above, with Kievian strongman against Pecheneg’s one. The most notable is a fight between Tmutarakan‘ Prince Mstislav the Brave and Kasogs Prince Rededya in 1022, where Mstislav has defeated him in fair bare hands combat, laid Kasogs under tribute and built a Church, took Rededya’s wife and two sons, baptised them in Christianity and then married his daughter off to Rededya’s son by the tradition of those times. This episode is also described in the Primary Chronicle. Notable fact, that being killed, Rededya received a honour, and his offspring given a wide posterity and were considered as noble Russian family.

Along with this tradition there was another one significant, when such combat was the opening in general battle. Most famous was the duel between Russian monk St. Alexander Peresvet (Canonized by Russian Orthodox Church) and Tatar champion Chelubey in the beginning of the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. As legend says, they clashed in mounted duel and both were killed, after spearing each other with lances.

[edit] Duelling

Despite an official ban from the 17th through the 19th centuries, under penalty of death for both duellists, duelling was a significant military tradition in the Russian Empire with detailed unwritten duelling code—which was eventually written down by V.Durasov and released in print in 1908[24]. This code forbade duels between people of different ranks (Table of Ranks). For instance, an infantry captain could not challenge a major, but could easily pick on a Titular Counsellor. On the other hand, a higher ranked person could not stoop to challenge lower ranks, so it was up to his subordinates or servants to take revenge on their master’s behalf.

Duelling was also common amongst prominent Russian writers, poets, and politicians. Famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin Pushkin fought 29 duels, challenging many prominent figures: writer Ivan Turgenev, count Fyodor Tolstoy, prince Nikolay Repnin and others,[25] before being killed in a duel with Georges d’Anthès, a notable French adventurer, in 1837. His poetic successor Mikhail Lermontov was killed four years later, by fellow Army officer Nikolay Martynov.

The duelling tradition died out slowly from the mid-19th century.

The formal duel was an exclusive privilege of the nobility, but common people had the various forms of “Kulachniy boy” fist fighting.


In the subordinated state of Ukraine, a part of Rzecz Pospolita, duelling rights varied widely depending on the nobles’ pro-Polish or anti-Polish stance. Native Ukrainian landlords stood in a lesser position in comparison with their Polish-descended neighbours. And even among the Ukrainian natives there was a wide gap in their rights and opportunities, depending on their partiality to Poland. For example, the prominent Ukrainian politician and military leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky was humiliated by his pro-Polish neighbour Daniel Czapliński, who seized Khmelnytsky’s patrimony, killing one of his sons with a whip and raping his wife. After Khmelnytsky returned his place and discovered what had happened, he fought Czapliński in a sabre duel, but was stunned from behind and thrown into a dungeon. Later, because Czapliński was higher ranked and far more privileged than he, Bohdan appealed legally to Kazimir, the king of Rzecz Pospolita, but king answered only: “You have your sabre” (see “The Uprising“).

Zaporizhian Sich

Duels between Ukrainian Cossacks were a kind of ordeal for persons suspected of treason. Duels were otherwise unheard of, because all Cossacks were considered brothers, and a duel would be considered fratricidal.

Opposition to duelling

The Roman Catholic Church and many political leaders, like King James VI & I of Scotland and England, usually denounced duelling throughout Europe‘s history, though some authorities tacitly allowed it, believing it to relieve long-standing familial and social tensions.

United Kingdom

Even though some of the most famous duels in British history took place in the early 19th century, as referred to above, by the mid 19th century duelling was widely frowned on, and largely ceased to occur.


King Louis XIII of France outlawed duelling in 1626, and duels remained illegal in France ever afterwards. At least one noble was beheaded for fighting a duel during Louis’s reign, and his successor Louis XIV intensified efforts to wipe out the duel. Despite these efforts, duelling continued. French officers fought 10,000 duels, leading to over 400 deaths, between 1685 and 1716.[26]


Duelling is illegal in Canada, pursuant to s. 71 of the Criminal Code which states:[27]

Every one who:
(a) challenges or attempts by any means to provoke another person to fight a duel,
(b) attempts to provoke a person to challenge another person to fight a duel, or
(c) accepts a challenge to fight a duel,
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

United States


Duelling is associated in the United States with the notion of a Southern culture of honor and most states with constitutional provisions relating to it are found in the region where the culture is relevant.

Duelling began to fall out of favor in America in the 18th century, and the death of former United States Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton by duelling did not help its declining popularity. Benjamin Franklin denounced the practice as uselessly violent, and George Washington encouraged his officers to refuse challenges during the American Revolutionary War because he believed that the death by duelling of officers would have threatened the success of the war effort.

By the end of the 19th century, legalised dueling was almost extinct in most of the world. As shown below, some U.S. states do not have any statute or constitutional provision prohibiting duelling, though the party causing injury in a duel may be prosecuted under the applicable laws relating to bodily harm or manslaughter.

State constitutional provisions and military laws prohibiting dueling

Several states have very high-level bans laid against duelling, with stiff penalties for violation. Several United States state constitutions ban the practice, the most common penalty being disenfranchisement and/or disqualification from all offices. As well, Article 114 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes duelling by a member of the armed forces a military crime.

  • Constitution of Alabama (Article IV, Section 86):
    • “The Legislature shall pass such penal laws as it may deem expedient to suppress the evil practice of duelling.”
  • Constitution of Arkansas (Article XIX, Section 2)
    • “No person who may hereafter fight a duel, assist in the same as second, or send, accept, or knowingly carry a challenge therefore, shall hold any office in the State, for a period of ten years; and may be otherwise punished as the law may prescribe.”
  • Constitution of Florida of 1838, Article 6, Section 5:
    • “No person shall be capable of holding, or of being elected to any post of honor, profit, trust, or emolument, civil or military, legislative, executive, or judicial, under the government of this State, who shall hereafter fight a duel, or send, or accept a challenge to fight a duel, the probable issue of which may be the death of the challenger, or challenged, or who shall be a second to either party, or who shall in any manner aid, or assist in such duel, or shall be knowingly the bearer of such challenge, or acceptance, whether the same occur, or be committed in or out of the State.”
  • Constitution of Iowa (Article I, Section 5) (repealed):
    • “Any citizen of this State who may hereafter be engaged, either directly, or indirectly, in a duel, either as principal, or accessory before the fact, shall forever be disqualified from holding any office under the Constitution and laws of this State.” (This section was repealed by Constitutional Amendment 43 in 1992.)
  • Constitution of Kentucky (Section 228 and 239):
    • “Members of the General Assembly and all officers, before they enter upon the execution of the duties of their respective offices, and all members of the bar, before they enter upon the practice of their profession, shall take the following oath or affirmation: I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of …. according to law; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”
    • “Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, either directly or indirectly, give, accept or knowingly carry a challenge to any person or persons to fight in single combat, with a citizen of this State, with a deadly weapon, either in or out of the State, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this Commonwealth; and if said acts, or any of them, be committed within this State, the person or persons so committing them shall be further punished in such manner as the General Assembly may prescribe by law.”
  • Constitution of Mississippi (Article 3, Section 19):
    • “Human life shall not be imperiled by the practice of dueling; and any citizen of this state who shall hereafter fight a duel, or assist in the same as second, or send, accept, or knowingly carry a challenge therefor, whether such an act be done in the state, or out of it, or who shall go out of the state to fight a duel, or to assist in the same as second, or to send, accept, or carry a challenge, shall be disqualified from holding any office under this Constitution, and shall be disenfranchised.”
  • Constitution of Oregon (Article II, Section 9)
    • “Every person who shall give, or accept a challenge to fight a duel, or who shall knowingly carry to another person such challenge, or who shall agree to go out of the State to fight a duel, shall be ineligible to any office of trust, or profit.”
  • Constitution of South Carolina (Article XVII, Section 1B)
    • “After the adoption of this Constitution any person who shall fight a duel or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of holding any office of honor or trust in this State, and shall be otherwise punished as the law shall prescribe.”
  • Constitution of Tennessee (Article IX, Section 3):
    • “Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this state, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.”
  • Constitution of West Virginia (Article IV, Section 10)
    • “Any citizen of this state, who shall, after the adoption of this constitution, either in or out of the state, fight a duel with deadly weapons, or send or accept a challenge so to do, or who shall act as a second or knowingly aid or assist in such duel, shall, ever thereafter, be incapable of holding any office of honor, trust or profit in this state.”
  • Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 114):
    • “Any person subject to this chapter who fights or promotes, or is concerned in or connives at fighting a duel, or who, having knowledge of a challenge sent or about to be sent, fails to report the facts promptly to the proper authority, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

State and territorial laws prohibiting dueling

20 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have some statute(s) (including constitutional provisions) specifically prohibiting dueling. The remaining 30 states either have no such statute or constitutional provision, or limit their dueling prohibition to members of their state national guard. This does not necessarily mean, however, that dueling is legal in any state, as assault and murder laws can apply. The following is a list of each state’s or territory’s status with respect to laws prohibiting dueling:

  • Alabama – See Constitution above
  • AlaskaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • ArizonaNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[28]
  • Arkansas – See Constitution above; specifically prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[28]
  • CaliforniaNo statutory dueling prohibition – California Penal Code Sections 225 through 232, repealed in 1994
  • Colorado – C.R.S. 18-13-104
  • ConnecticutNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[29]
  • DelawareNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • Florida – See Constitution above
  • District of Columbia – D.C. Code 22-1302
  • GeorgiaNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[30]
  • HawaiiNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[31]
  • Idaho – Idaho Code 19-303
  • IllinoisNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • IndianaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • IowaNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[32]
  • KansasNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[33]
  • Kentucky – K.R.S. 437.030
  • LouisianaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • MaineNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • MarylandNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • Massachusetts – G.L.Mass. ch. 265, sections 3–4
  • Michigan – M.C.L.S. 750.171–750.173a; M.C.L.S. 750.319 and 750.320
  • MinnesotaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • Mississippi – Miss. Code Ann. Title 97, Chapter 39
  • MissouriNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[34]
  • MontanaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • NebraskaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • Nevada – Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. 200.430 through 200.450
  • New HampshireNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • New JerseyNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • New Mexico – N.M. Stat. Ann. 30-20-11
  • New YorkDueling in New York is prohibited by Penal Law section 35.15(1)(c) which provides that the permitted use of physical force in defense of a person does not apply to “the product of combat by agreement”; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[35]
  • North CarolinaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • North Dakota – N.D. Cent. Code 29-03-02
  • OhioNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[36]
  • Oklahoma – 21 Okl. St., Chapter 22
  • Oregon – See Constitution above; also specifically prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[37]
  • PennsylvaniaNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[38]
  • Puerto Rico – 33 L.P.R.A. 4035
  • Rhode Island – R.I. Gen. Laws, Title 11, Chapter 12
  • South Carolina – See Constitution above; 16 S.C. Code Ann., Chapter 3, Article 5
  • South DakotaNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • Tennessee – See Constitution above
  • TexasNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • Utah – Utah Code Ann. 76-5-104 (homicide includes dueling and other “consensual altercations”)
  • VermontNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • VirginiaNo speciffic statutory dueling prohibition, To stop dueling, Virginia’s Anti-Dueling Act, passed in 1810, created civil and criminal penalties for the most usual causes of dueling. It is still on the books. Virginia Code §8.01-45 creates a Civil Action for insulting words. Virginia Code §18.2-416 makes it a crime to use abusive language to another under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach of the peace. Virginia Code §18.2-417 makes certain slander and libel a crime. see 1 VA. CODE REV. § 8 (1819), quoted in Chaffin v. Lynch, 1 S.E. 803, 806 (Va. 1887).
  • WashingtonNo statutory dueling prohibition for civilians; prohibited for personnel of the state national guard[39]
  • West Virginia – See Constitution above; W.Va. Code 61-2-18 through 61-2-25
  • WisconsinNo statutory dueling prohibition
  • WyomingNo statutory dueling prohibition

[edit] Anti-dueling pamphlets

1804 Anti-dueling sermon by an acquaintance of Alexander Hamilton

Opening text of 1804 sermon

Anti-Dueling Association of New York pamphlet, Remedy, 1809

Resolutions, Anti-Dueling Association of N.Y., from Remedy pamphlet, 1809

Address to the electorate, from Remedy pamphlet

[edit] France

The last duel in France took place in 1967 when Gaston Deferre insulted René Ribière at the French parliament and was subsequentially challenged to a duel fought with swords. René Ribière lost the duel, Deferre’s sword having twice shed Ribière’s blood. René Ribière was only slightly injured.[40]Latin America

In much of South America duels were common during the 20th century [2], although generally illegal.

  • In Mexico, April 2009, 31 year-old Joseph Berrelleza and 18 year-old Eduardo Jesús Argüelles Rábago fought a duel in the state of Sinaloa. The duellists were 5 metres apart from each other and each used his own gun. Both were seriously wounded in the encounter.[41]
  • In Peru there were several high-profile duels by politicians in the early part of the twentieth century including one in 1957 involving Fernando Belaúnde Terry—who went on to become President.
  • Uruguay decriminalised duelling in 1920, and in that year José Batlle y Ordóñez, a former President of Uruguay, killed Washington Beltran, editor of the newspaper El País, in a formal duel fought with pistols. In 1990 another editor was challenged to a duel by an assistant police chief [3]. Although approved by the government the duel did not take place—and in 1992 Uruguay repealed the 1920 law.
  • In 2002 Peruvian independent congressman, Eittel Ramos, challenged Peruvian Vice President, David Waisman to a duel with pistols, saying the vice president had insulted him. Waisman declined.[4]
  • 1952: Chile. Senator Salvador Allende (later president of Chile) was challenged to a duel by his colleague Raúl Rettig (later head of a commission that investigated human rights violations committed during the 1973–1990 military rule in Chile). Both men agreed to fire one shot at each other. Both deliberately missed.[42] At that time, duelling was already illegal in Chile.


  • In May 2005, twelve youths aged between fifteen and seventeen were arrested in Japan and charged with violating a duelling law that came into effect in 1889. Six other youths were also arrested on the same charges in March.[citation needed]

Cinematic duels

In the world of cinema, duelling has provided themes for such motion pictures as Stanley Kubrick‘s 1975 Barry Lyndon (an adaptation of a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray from 1844) and Ridley Scott‘s 1977 The Duellists, which adapted Joseph Conrad‘s 1908 short story The Duel, [5] [http://www.isidore-of-seville.com/dueling/4. The 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp shows two main characters becoming friends after fighting a duel, the preparations for which are shown in great detail. Perhaps most notable of all however, is the career of Max Ophuls, who employs duels to resolve passionate conflicts in a number of his films. In 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun the duel between Bond and Scaramanga is refereed by Nick-Nack, who tells both contestants that this is a duel to the death; no wounding is allowed and, if necessary, Nick Nack will administer the coup-de-grace.