A Canadian duel

BlueJo here. A while ago I shared information about a duel that didn't happen — the Paget/Wellesley affair. This time it's about one that happened and was tragically fatal.

Duels were a real part of the historical setting, up into the Regency and sometimes beyond. There were laws against them, and sometimes a principal who killed his opponent was executed for murder. Occasionally seconds were involved in the action, and even without they could be prosecuted. However, most cases slid by the legal system, in part because the duelers were upper class.

Here's a Wikipedia list of notable duels of the early 19th century in Britain which shows the variety of outcomes.

1803: Captain James Macnamara and Colonel Montgomery; over a dispute between their dogs fighting in Hyde Park. Both were wounded, Montgomery mortally. Macnamara was tried for manslaughter at the Old Bailey but was acquitted.
1804: Captain Best fatally wounded Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford. He died three days later.
1804: A duel was fought on Kersal Moor, Salford in July 1804 between Mr. Jones and Mr. Shakspere Philips. Mr. Jones fired at Mr. Philips without effect and Mr. Philips then fired his pistol in the air, upon which the seconds interfered, the two man shook hands, and honour was satisfied.
1807: Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Baronet and James Pauli; both men were wounded.
1808: Major Campbell and Captain Boyd; Major Campbell was tried and executed for killing Captain Boyd.
1809: George Canning and Lord Castlereagh; Canning was slightly wounded.
1815: Daniel O'Connell and Captain John Norcot d'Esterre; d'Esterre was killed.

Of course there was a famous American one.

July 11, 1804: U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton; Hamilton was killed.

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Duels and Divorce in High Places

Jo3rwasmJo here. I became curious about divorce in the Regency, which as we all know was both difficult and expensive and remembered the complicated Wellesley/Paget business, whereupon I stumbled across a duel. The report gives a clear picture of how a duel might go, but first we need the back story. It does become a little complicated!

PagHenry, Lord Paget, shown right, who was married, fell in love with Lady Charlotte Wellesley who was also married.

In fact, she was married to one of Wellington’s brothers,  Henry Wellesley, shown left, which made the whole thing even messier as Paget was a crack cavalry officer but the C-in-C wouldn't use him.

WellShe left her husband to live with Paget, and then her brother, Captain Cadogan, called Paget out, presumably for bringing her into disrepute. Apparently her husband, unlike his brother, wasn't at all warlike. From his portrait he certainly looks peaceable.

Some duels were hasty and/or over trivialities with no intention of great harm, though with pistols one never knew. This one was serious and some observers went to pains to give a clear account of it.

The Duel.


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Georgian and Regency Mayhem, Oh My

Fame-prize-stokes-koBecause I write about spies — some of them women — and because spies have a not-totally-unmerited reputation for violence, I decided to look into acts of violence and mayhem Regency women might have got up to. 

Prior to considering this subject, I hadn't noticed all that many references to women duking it out or poking each other with fencing foils or shooting holes in each other with pistols at dawn in a formalized way. 
I though maybe this was common sense on the women's part.
Researching further, however …

London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, is where perpetrators of Regency violence tended to end up.  Here's some glimpses into the unfortunate and violent side of life in Regency London.

It's 1804.  This is a man visiting a house of what he believes to be extremely hospitable women.  Little does he know …
"I was walking in a street; I do not know the name of it; I was called by the signal ofBeadleampBarrowwomanrowlandson1819 a young lady; she was standing before her door. …  I went into the house with her, and the mistress of the house … said, if I would speak to the young lady, I had better go up stairs.  After I had been up stairs, I came down again, and  … I said to the ladies, if they would give me the change of a one-pound note, I would give them half a pound.
"Mrs. Beard …  gave me a punch in the guts, a push, and a blow on the stomach; then they all fell on me at once, striking and beating me; the tallest woman, Ann Johnson, took me by the coat, and they all took me by the coat, and tore the part, where the pocket-book was, off; with that they all fell upon me … after they had beat me well, I sung out so badly, that they were obliged to open the two doors, and then they shoved me out in the dirt, all four of them." (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Which sounds like a lively time was had by all.

Or this, from a woman walking home in the evening.  "I was coming from Bishopgate-street, I had a gown and umbrella with me; I was tyeing up my shoe at a corner of a street in Bishopsgate-street, there were three women came up to me, one seized me round my neck, another gave me a knock of the head and knocked me down, and the other took my bundle and ran away."  (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Domenicomaggiotto c18And:  "On the evening in question, I had been to Covent Garden Theatre; I was returning in company with Mrs. Hill. In the narrow part of Rathbone-place, I was suddenly without any provocation knocked down by the prisoner Paget, with her fist; she struck me on the face; while I was on the ground, I was severely kicked and bruised; I was stunned by the blow I received on my face; she took the shawl from my shoulders as I lay; I had it round my shoulders very close, and she pulled it to get it away; she did get it away at last."  (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Ah, the good old days when women were nurturing and gentle creatures. 

Besides this unfortunate tendency for mugging with violence, at least some small portion of the female population indulged in professional fisticuffs.

This match in 1723 was advertised: "There has not been such a battle for these twenty years past, and as these two heroines are as brave and as bold as the ancient Amazons, the spectators may expect abundance of diversion and satisfaction, from these female combatants."

The Morning Chronicle of March 24, 1807 reports:  "There were several fights amongst the lower orders on Sunday morning near Hornsey Wood; but the one which afforded the most diversion, was between two women; the opponents were Betty Dyson, a vender of sprats, and Mary Mahony, a market-woman. These Amazons fought in regular order upwards of forty minutes, until they were both hideously disfigured by hard blows. Betty was once completely blind, but the lancet restored her sight; and Mary was at length obliged to resign to her the palm of victory. The contest was for five guineas."

This to the left is a later prizefight.  Late Nineteenth Century.  The fights in Georgian and Regency rings would be bareknucklPoster Police Gazette C19ed.

When half-dressed females boxing got to be dull, sometimes they fought with swords.  Cesar de Saussure wrote in 1725:

"I witnessed an extraordinary combat, two women being the champions. As soon as they appeared on the stage they made the spectators a profound reverence ; they then saluted each other and engaged in a lively and amusing conversation. They boasted that they had a great amount of courage, strength, and intrepidity. One of them regretted she was not born a man, else she would have made her fortune by her powers; the other declared she beat her husband every morning to keep her hand in, etc. Both these women were very scantily clothed, and wore little bodices and very short petticoats of white linen.

"One of these amazons was a stout Irishwoman, strong and lithe to look at, the other was a small Englishwoman, full of fire and very agile. The first was decked with blue ribbons on the head, waist, and right arm; the second wore red ribbons. Their weapons were a sort of two-handed sword, three or three and a half feet in length; the guard was covered, and the blade was about three inches wide and sharp only about half a foot of it was, but then that part cut like a razor.

"The spectators made numerous bets, and some peers who were there some very large wagers. On either side of the two amazons a man stood by, holding a long staff, ready to separate them should blood flow. After a time the combat became very animated, and was conducted with force and vigour with the broad side of the weapons, for points there were none.

"The Irishwoman presently received a great cut across her forehead, and that put a stop to the first part of the combat. The Englishwoman's backers threw her shillings and half-crowns and applauded her. During this time the wounded woman's forehead was sewn up, this being done on the stage; a plaster was applied to it, and she drank a good big glass of spirits to revive her courage, and the fight began again, each combatant holding a dagger in her left hand to ward off the blows. The Irishwoman was wounded a second time, and her adversary again received coins and plaudits from her admirers.  … The surgeon sewed it up, but she was too badly hurt to fight any more, and it was time, for the combatants were dripping with perspiration, and the Irishwoman also with blood. A few coins were thrown to her to console her, but the victor made a good day's work out of the combat." 

Brawls in brothels, mugging with violence, or public boxing and swordfights would have involved women of the lowest classes.  In Romance, our heroine shoots pistols and fences.  How wild is this idea?  Did women of the respectable classes train and fight for sport, the way their brothers, husbands, and cousins did? 

Seems so.

The Eighteenth Century Duchess of Queensbury, Catherine Hyde, was a notable fencer and trained at Rowlandson angelos fency madame collie of rome feb 8 1816 Angelo's School of Arms in London, the famous fencing studio. The print to the right, from 1816, is Rowlandson showing another woman fencer, Madame Collie of Rome, in white jacket and skirt. 

So training with the foil would not have been outlandish and incredible. In 1815 a traveller to Geneva can say, "Neither is it rare for mothers to have their daughters instructed in fencing till they are ten or twelve years old, for the purpose of giving flexibility to their limbs." (The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3)

Duel-le-bourgeois-gentilhommeThere are a few famous woman-woman duels in the period.  If they seems fairly silly, I suspect most male-male duels were silly too.

In 1792 Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs Elphinstone fought what was referred to in the press as the "petticoat duel".

"A certain Mrs Elphinstone paid a visit to Lady Almeria Braddock and was rude to her hostess.  'You have been a very beautiful woman,' declared Mrs Elphinstone in the somewhat unflattering past tense.  'You have a very good autumnal face even now, but you must acknowledge that the lilies and roses are somewhat faced. Forty years ago, I am told, a young fellow could hardly gaze upon you with impunity.'

"Lady Almeria, not surprisingly, was furious and demanded satisfaction in Hyde Park in central London.  They began with pistols at ten yards, Mrs Elphinsonte putting a bullet through Lady Almeria's hat.  They then set to with swords, and Mrs Elphinstone was lightly injured.  Lady Almeria declared herself satisfied, Mrs Elphinsonte agreed, and both women curtsied to each other before departing the field."  (James Landale The Last Duel)

Here's another one.  Aristocrats behaving badly, as it were. 
In France, in 1721, the Comtesse de Polignac and the Marquise de Nesle, both lovers of the Duc de Richelieu, indulged in a most undignified scrap in the gardens at Versailles. 
"Lady de Nesle, losing all control of herself, had sprung like a tigress upon her rival, and attempted to tear a diamond necklace from the Countess's neck. Failing in this, however, she snatched the blush roses from their nest in the snowy bosom, and flung them in the face of her rival. …  In a moment jewels and flowers and ribbons and laces strewed the floor, and there is no telling to what extent the extraordinary exhibition would have gone had not thDame de qualite1778e enraged amazons been separated by the Marquis de Malbuisson and Mademoiselle Nathalie de Condacet.

"Out of this grew the duel, the Countess of Polignac being the challenging party. The ladies met at six  in the morning, in July, 1721, and fired one shot at each other without effect. Their seconds (the Marquis de Malbuisson and the Comte de Penthievre for Polignac and M. de Remusac and Vicomte D'Allagne for de Nesle) then rushed in to prevent further hostilities; the fair demons, however, would not be appeased, but called for a change of pistols, and again blazed away—this second time with satisfactory effect, for the Marchioness fell dangerously wounded by a bullet in her left side, while the Countess was just quietly touched in an ear." (The Field of Honor, Benjamin Truman)

Whenever I hear, 'history is dull', I always wonder what these folks have been reading. 

So, what's your most memorable fighting moment — as spectator or participant? 

A duel

Cbkpirate Hi, Jo here, talking about duels. The best I could do as a CBK image is a pirate.

My novel, A Scandalous Countess, will be out next February and I'm doing the final work on it. As sometimes happens, I'm rewriting a small section and I wanted to mention the inquest into the death of Georgia Maybury's husband. So I went looking for an inquest on a duel.

A great site for things like this is the London Lives site, which is wonderful collection of documents about the ordinary lives of Londoners from the 16th to the 19th century. I recommend a browse, but only if you have time to spare!

Here I found an inquest from 1764, only one year before my book, about a duel, but an odd one. I'm pasting it without editing other than to insert paragraph breaks for easier reading. I've put in some observations in red.


An Inquisition taken on View of the Body of Evan Jones lying Dead in the said Parish Liberty and County.

James Frith of May Fair (Son of James Frith Chandler ) on his Oath saith that he was taking a walk in Hyde Park in the Parish of St. George Hanover Square within the Liberty of Westmr. on Sunday last in the Afternoon between two and three O'Clock.

(Interesting time for a duel!)
Says that he heard a Noise which he took to be the report of a Pistol, and on looking round Deponent saw a Man drop down on his rightside and immediately after turned upon his Back on the Ground in the Wilderness in Hyde Park (at this point a large part of Hyde park was untamed countryside) aforesaid, at about twenty or thirty yards distance from Deponent.

Says that there was another Man standing at about twelve or fourteen yards distance from the Man that fell down at the time he dropt, Says that he immediately went to the Person thay lay on the Ground, and the other Man ran by Deponent, having three Pistols and two Swords in his Hands (This is a really odd image. Talk about being armed to the teeth!), and said that he was going for a Surgeon.

Says that another Person (whose Name Deponent knows not) came to Deced about the same time as he did, says that they lifted up the Deced on his Backside and the Deced then did spit much Blood. Says that he asked if he was Wounded (er, duh!), to which Deced replied that he was Wounded under the right Arm, but tha there had been no foul Play shown.

(Wounded under the right arm would presumably be because he was standing sideways, arm raised, prepared to fire.)

Deponent says that he believes the Wound was reced by a Bullet discharged from a Pistol by the other Man that want away, (whose Name Deponent knows not) but says that Deced did not mention his Name.

Deponent says that he afterwards found three Pistols and two Swords in a hollow tree in Hyde Park about one hundred and fifty yards distance from that Place, Says that the Person that came to the Deced first with him, took up another Pistol that lay on the Ground near the Deced, Says that two Gentleman come up to the Deced soon after and Deced desired one of them to send for Mr. Hawkins a Surgeon , says that the Gentleman immediately went.

Says that another Person brought a Post Chaise (which Deponent had seen before in Hyde Park ) into the
Wilderness and the Deced was put into it, and carried to St. George's Hospital near Hyde Park Corner , Says that he assisted the Deced into the House when he observed the Deced's Shirt to be very Bloody, Says that Deced was put into Bed, and Depont.left him there and went away, Deponent says that he saw no Person near the Deced when he fell, but the Man that ran away with the Swords & Pistols as above.

Richard Morris of the Navy Office Gentleman on his Oath saith that he has known the Deced several Years, that Deced sent for Deponent on Sunday Night last to come to him, says that he went to Deced who was in St. Georges Hospital on Monday Morning last, says that he found the Deced in Bed, very Bloody, Says that Deced was Sensible and that he informed Deponent that he had reced a Wound from Lieutenant Span in a Duel Says that Deced told him that there had been an old Quarrel between him and Lieutenant Span when they were on Board the Richmond Man of War, and that he (the Deced) had given the said Lieutenant Span some hard Words which occasioned this Duel.

Says that he asked Deced if he had any Second to which Deced replied that he had not, but that Lieutenant Span had one, and said that he (the Deced) had a Post Chaire ready to carry him off if he had killed the said Lieutenant Span, Deponent says that he asked Deced where he would have gone to which Deced Answered he could not tell, Deponent says that Deced was of a Quarrel some Disposition, and Deced informed Deponent that he has fought a Duel at Nova Scotia with a Lieutenant belonging to the Richmond Man of War, on Board of which Ship Deced had been Surgeon


William Walker House Surgeon at St. George's Hospital on his Oath saith that about three O'Clock in the Afternoon on Sunday last the Deced was brought in a Post Chaise to said Hospital, Says that he observed the Deced was Wounded under the right Arm, Says that he immediately sent for Mr. Hawkins one of the Surgeons belonging to said Hospital, says that Mr. Hawkins soon after came there and Examined the Deced's Wound and laid it open, Says that Mr. Hawkins declared that one or more of the Deced's Ribs were broke
and took out several pieces of Bones, Says that proper care we taken of the Deced in said Hospital, says that Deced grew worse, and that  Deced died in said Hospital on Monday Night last about Eleven O Clock,
Deponent says that he believes the Wound was reced by a Bullet entering in there, and is of Opinion that the Wound was the Occasion of the Death of the Deced.

W W.

The jury concluded "And so the Jurors aforesaid upon their Oath aforesaid do say, that the said Lieutenant Span him the said Evan Jones in manner and form aforesaid , feloniously did Kill and Slay, against the Peace of our said Lord the King his Crown and Dignity."

Richard Morris then prosecuted Span for the death. At this time, nearly all criminal cases needed to be brought by individuals.

As part of the evidence, a note was produced from Evans to Span "calling him out." The actual note can be seen here.

Feb. 4. 1764

I shall expect that you will meet me tomorrow, at any horn (hour) that you shall
appoint, with a brace of Pistols, either in Hyde Park , Green wick , or
mentioning two other places which I cannot recollect.

Directed to
Mr. Span

So Evans called him out, and specified weapons, so we aren't quite in the duelling code that came in later. I couldn't find anything at all about the trial, so I suspect it didn't happen. Duellists could be liable to prosecution, as could the seconds, but it rarely happened unless murderous intent could be proved. A quick search failed to find any criminal prosecution for a dueling death, though I've come across them.

In this case, Evans was the aggressor and he'd also had a chaise stand by in case he killed Span, so he'd had murderous intent. Also, he died. He also absolved Span of misdoing. "Deced replied that he was Wounded under the right Arm, but tha there had been no foul Play shown."There probably wouldn't have been much point in pursuing a case against Span.

A famous duel was fought in 1712  Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton where both died. Hamilton mortally wounded Mohun, but was then killed by one of Mohun's seconds. Even wilder times.  

There's an account of a duel on the lovely Number One London site.

It has this picture, which migh be a little similar to Evans and Span. Duel12

I did turn up a little extra  on Span in "Some Selected Reports from Berrow's Worcester Journal, Thursday, February 16th, 1764"

Yesterday died, in St.George's Hospital, Mr. Evan Jones, late Surgeon of the Richmond Man of War, who was wounded on Sunday last in a Duel in Hyde Park, with Lieutenant Span of the Marines, who also received a Wound in each Thigh, though not dangerously.

From that I deduce that Evans had fired twice — remember they were to have a brace of pistols. The swords would have been in case they wanted to continue with blades after firing both. Duels at this time could me pretty wild.

I'm not sure if at this time they would have fired pistols simultaneously, or taken turns, going first by the toss of a coin. This wasn't quite as alarming as it seems as pistols were very unreliable then. Also, according to the evidence, Span was "about twelve or fourteen yards distance from the Man that fell down" which is a fair distance with an old pistol.

But one way or another, Evans shot Span twice, and Span only made one pistol ball count, but fatally. I'b just speculating, but Span may have tried to avoid killing Evans, but having been injured in both legs, and with the possibility of sword play, decided to take serious aim. Interesting that Span could run away, though!

I love these little windows into the past, and they set up all kinds of speculation in my mind, not to mention story ideas!

What do you think of duels in romance novels? Do you see the participants as brave, even heroic, or stupid?

Can you think of any memorable duels in romances, ones that really served a story purpose?