Since 1804, dueling had become part of the American practice, with its popularity lasting for around thirty years. However, dueling was not originally from the US. During the Middle Ages, the nobles of Europe used to defend their honor through man-to-man combats. Known as “judicial combat,” the idea was that it was God who would judge and let the rightful man win whenever there was a duel. Up to the heads of the state and the Catholic Church, the authorities tried to ban dueling, given its bloody results, but to no avail. Soon, other countries were doing the practice, too. The next thing we know, many epic duels had already happened. Here are three of them:
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, 1804
Probably the most famous American duel between then-Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr and first and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, father of Alexander Hamilton Jr. The duel resulted from the long-standing tension between the two men, built up over several years. It all started when Hamilton detested Burr in the newspapers, calling him an opportunist and campaigning against him during his attempt to become the governor of New York.
On July 11, 1804, the enemies met at their would-be dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey. It was the exact spot where Hamilton’s son died in a duel while defending his father’s honor in November of 1801.
Some accounts claimed that Hamilton never intended to aim at Burr but instead hoped to fire a symbolic shot into the air to resolve the conflict. Whether it was true or not, we’d never know. But we know Burr shot him in the stomach, which caused his death that very same afternoon.
The public detested and turned against Burr. He was charged with murder for the incident. After being acquitted due to technicalities, he fled to Europe before returning to New York to live a private life.
Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs. Elphinstone
In 18th century London, a match is known as the “Petticoat Duel” took place between two women — Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs. Elphinstone.
The story happened in 1792 when Mrs. Elphinstone paid a social visit to Lady Braddock’s home. Mrs. Elphinstone blurted out that Lady Braddock was so much older than her, roughly some 30 years. Age, at that time, was a highly sensitive subject, and the lady was offended. For that, she demanded that they duel.
Pistols on their hands, the two women met in Hyde Park to settle the issue. They exchanged fires, with Lady Braddock’s hat being the only casualty. After being wounded, Mrs. Elphinstone decided to apologize for what she said instead, even writing a lengthy apology later. The women ceased fire, and peace between the two was restored.
Édouard Manet and Edmond Duranty, 1870
Édouard Manet was a French painter who supported realism and, later on, impressionism. In February 1870, he flew into a fit of rage after reading the critique of his longtime friend Edmond Duranty about two of his previous works. He was so mad that he stormed into Paris’ Café Guerbois’ where Duranty was, slapped his face, and challenged him to a duel.
On February 23, the two met in the forest of Saint-Germain, along with the famous writer Émile Zola attending Manet as his “second.” The two drew out their swords but only struck once, with both blades buckling. Duranty sustained a minor wound which, to Manet, was enough to declare that his honor had been sufficiently defended. Not long, the two were back to becoming BFFs and sharing meals in Café Guerbois.