The 5 Most Insane Duels Ever Fought
Forget about all of your fancy "lawsuits" and "mediators." A couple of hundred years ago, the proper method to resolve any dispute was to stand a few feet apart and shoot at each other until somebody died. It was a more civilized time.
But duelers were kind of like extreme sports enthusiasts: They insisted on always taking an already-insane practice to the next level. That's how we wound up with ...
The Hot Air Balloon Duel
An astonishing number of stories that end with somebody going home full of bullets begin with two men, one woman and some kind of compromising position involving genital contact. As far as we know, only one of those stories takes place 2,000 feet above Paris.
The story goes that in 1808, two Frenchmen, Monsieur de Grandpre and Monsieur de Pique, were caught up in a love triangle involving one Mademoiselle Tirevit, who had been secretly sleeping with both of them. The men decided to duel, but for some convoluted reason, they figured it was best to do it in hot air balloons.
We really wish there was some sort of figurative meaning behind that phrase. There is not.
According to the local press at the time, the two men chose hot air balloons because they felt that they possessed higher intellectual properties than normal men. So even though they were trying to murder each other, they also wanted to do it in a way that was somehow insulting to the rest of the population.
So, on May 3, 1808, the duelists entered identical hot air balloons in front of a huge crowd. Each man was allowed a blunderbuss (a primitive shotgun) and a co-pilot to help him operate the balloon. In this case, though, at least one of these wingmen was about to end up like Goose.
Strangely, this incredibly inaccurate image isn't even as stupid as how it really went down.
Once they'd reached a height of about 2,000 feet above Paris, the world's first balloon dogfight commenced. De Pique fired first, but failed somehow to hit his opponent's enormous balloon with a shotgun. De Grandpre was more accurate, and so both de Pique and his co-pilot (who was, at this point, probably regretting every second of de Pique's friendship) plummeted to their deaths.
That's right -- they weren't just trying to shoot at each other's passenger compartments in hopes of hitting the other duelist. They were trying to shoot down the balloons themselves. Which means the co-pilots were signing up to also die if their guy lost. And they didn't even get to fuck Mademoiselle Tirevit first.
Though we have to admit, it's pretty funny picturing that deflating-balloon farting sound while two French guys scream "MEEEERDE!"
The Billiard Ball Duel
A lot of bar fights start over games of pool. They can be sparked by many things -- accusations of hustling, arguments over the rules or maybe mistakenly grabbing a guy's ass while he was lining up a shot because he looked like a girl from behind. Either way, you're going to end up breaking a bar stool over some guy's head while a trucker with deceptively girlish hips beats you with a pool cue.
Cracked PSA: Get 'em checked one a year, people. This is your life we're talking about here.
One such dumb misunderstanding is said to have occurred in 1843 in France, when two men named Melfant and Lenfant decided that an argument over a parlor game couldn't be solved by anything short of mortal combat. Bizarrely, they also decided to do this by pelting each other with billiard balls.
The two men stood 12 paces apart and agreed to stand still while taking turns throwing the balls at each other. They drew straws for the right to throw first, and Melfant won. Allegedly, he announced, "I am going to kill you on the first throw" and then, true to his word, hit Lenfant square on the forehead, killing him instantly. Melfant wasn't able to celebrate his win for very long, however, because he was subsequently arrested and tried for murder. You'd think he would have thought of that earlier.
Kids, that's why you never give the break to a man who brings his own stick.
Yes, we realize we have begun this list with two incredibly ridiculous stories of duels from 1800s France. If you want to call bullshit on these stories, then we have to ask, was Lenfant really killed in some other way, and then Melfant invented the whole "I killed him with a pool ball" story for the papers? That's actually stupider than really doing it.
If these accounts are true, however, then it looks like duels were so common in 19th century France that dudes kept trying to invent new ways to do it, like rich girls trying to make sure their Sweet 16 parties top their friends'.
We're pretty sure French dudes from the 1800s could have used everything in this photograph as a murder weapon.
And of course the biggest question of all: If this is how people used to solve disputes, why in the world did we ever stop them?
The Naked Duel
When British MP Humphrey Howarth and the Earl of Barrymore (both well-known drunks) got into a tipsy disagreement at a bar at the Brighton races in 1806, they did what (apparently) everyone at the time did in that situation -- get their duel on. And so the two men met the following morning at dawn at the dueling ground, only this time, one of them wasn't wearing pants. As his opponent and the crowd looked on in shock, it's said that Howarth stripped naked before taking his place before Barrymore with his pistol raised. (Both of them.)
And gay porn never looked back.
The story is that Howarth had actually been an army surgeon prior to taking up politics and drinking full time. He thus knew that a lot of gunshot fatalities at the time were not, in fact, due to the bullet itself, but from infection after the fact. Specifically, due to the musket ball pushing sweaty/filthy pieces of clothing into the wound. These pieces of material would fester, eventually causing infection and death.
For a brief time, nudity was the most effective body armor known to man.
So, by dueling in his birthday suit, Howarth was dramatically increasing his chances of surviving to see his next drink, as well as demonstrating what massive cojones he had.
It wound up working even better than he thought -- Barrymore allegedly decided that he didn't want to be forever remembered as "that dude who shot the naked guy" and backed down. Both men declared the matter settled. We're guessing that everyone was happy to let it go if it meant they didn't have to look at Howarth's old-man scrotum any more.
"I'll just be on my way then."
The Duel in the Back of a Cab
In France, during the Restoration, there was a lot of tension between officers in Napoleon's army and the better paid Royal Guard. This led to a lot of schoolyard-level bickering between officers in the respective camps. One of the more bizarre episodes, according to legend, took place between a colonel named Barbier-Dufai and a royal guard named Raoul, which apparently escalated after the former insulted the latter's cockade (we're disappointed to learn that this is a kind of hat badge, and not at all what we first thought).
Knowing that definition also makes this painting tell a completely different story.
The two decided to go at it with swords right there in the streets of Paris, but after easily disarming Raoul four times, Barbier-Dufai figured he might as well be fighting a toddler and tried to brainstorm some way they could brutalize each other in a more evenly matched arena. That's when a coach pulled up and a really stupid plan was hatched.
The two men decided to get into the back of the coach with their left arms tied together and fight each other with daggers, stabbing at each other in a space about the size of an airplane bathroom until one of them stopped moving, for reasons they really should have both been embarrassed about. Raoul must have really liked that cockade.
"WHAT?! Oh, it's go-time now!"
After the carriage had done two laps, the screaming had stopped and the driver was probably left with a memory he couldn't scrub out of his mind for the rest of his life. We'll spare you the details and just reveal that Barbier-Dufai won, because this isn't Hollywood and reality doesn't favor the underdog.
"You're still paying for two, buddy."
The 19-Year Duel
The story of the longest duel ever fought is shrouded in enough legend that we really don't know how much of it is bullshit, but it's real enough that it became the basis of Joseph Conrad's story The Duel, which in turn was made into a movie by Ridley Scott.
The legend goes that Francois Fournier-Sarloveze was a captain in the French army at the turn of the 19th century, and he appears to have loved dueling more than just about any other activity. Known for being "bawdy" and "quarrelsome," which was basically a polite way of saying he was an aggressive douchebag, Fournier was such a menace that one Captain Pierre Dupont allegedly had to confront him about it. So Fournier apologized and chilled out, right?
Well, he certainly looks like a humble enough guy.
No, of course not. He challenged Dupont to a duel. But neither of them could have known at the time that this was the beginning of an epic, lifelong mega-duel. They were basically Batman and the Joker, destined to do this forever.
Also like Batman, Dupont refused to use guns. So the two nemeses battled with swords. During their first encounter, Fournier stabbed Dupont in the shoulder, and the latter was unable to continue. Dupont demanded a rematch, and this time it was Fournier who was injured. Not content with a draw, they fought again, but this time they were both injured. At this point, you'd think they would have a good laugh about it and go to the pub. Instead, they agreed to keep dueling until this was finished ... which, as the story goes, would take about 19 years.
"For every part of you that is douchebag, I have an equal amount of 'Go fuck yourself.'"
By 1813, Dupont had grown tired of living like a Highlander and wanted to marry. His fiancee, understandably, wasn't keen on settling down with someone who had to engage in mortal combat once or twice a year and made it clear that the only person she wanted him to be constantly plunging his sword into was her. So Dupont made the sensible decision and called it off. And by that we mean he organized one final duel, this time with guns, which he had always previously refused on the grounds that Fournier was a much better marksman.
But he had an ace up his sleeve. By hanging his jacket on a stick, Dupont was able to trick Fournier into emptying both his pistols on the decoy. With his guns empty, Fournier was at his lifelong rivals' mercy. But Dupont refrained from killing him on the condition that they end this bullshit forever.
"Also, you have to call yourself a pussy. In nine languages."
Yes, it only took two decades for one of them to come to his senses. And it was a bold move, since we're assuming a failure to continue dueling meant both men were immediately and forever scorned by 19th century French society.
For more ridiculous uncivilty, check out 6 Historic Acts of Revenge That Put 'Kill Bill' to Shame and 7 Legendary Acts of Petty Revenge.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what happens when Seanbaby and Brockway meet in the oil ring.
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