Dueling – It Begins

Like I said a few entries ago, I've been reading this fantastic book on dueling called Gentlemen's Blood (by one of my all-time favorite authors, the late Barbara Holland. If you want a good read, check out her most noted work, They Went Whistling). Gentlemen's Blood has provided me with some fantastic stories, so I'll be discussing dueling for at least a few days.

In early 19th-century France, “M. de Grandpree and M. le Pique quarreled over an actress . . . Because, they said, they had “elevated minds,” they agreed to fight an elevated duel . . . they rose up in a pair of hot-air balloons, each with a second and a supply of blunderbusses, since pistols wouldn’t have been up to the job . . . when they’d risen to about twenty-five hundred feet, M. le Pique fired and missed. M. de Grandpree fired back, apparently not at his opponent but at the more obvious target, his balloon. It dropped like a stone and smashed the duelist and his second to pieces on the housetops” (83-4).

According to the book, M. de Grandpree flew off into the sunset, landed twenty miles away, and (presumably) escaped the law. That's the funny thing–dueling was, by this point, largely illegal, though almost everyone turned a blind eye. I'm not sure how lenient they'd be with someone who not only killed his opponent by foul play, but also killed the second. I'm sure this gentlemen was called a colorful assortment of things (like "poltroon", which is my new favorite fightin' word) for shooting that balloon, but in all honesty, I probably would have done the same thing.

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