My previous post talked about ridiculous and creative duels-by-poisonous-animals. Today let's talk about some man-made ways to die. While nature is less obviously involved, this is still a pretty good demonstration of natural selection at work. I found these stories on a recent episode of QI XL (Series L, episode "Lethal").
Death By Sausage
Otto von Bismark was once challeneged to a duel by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow because Virchow disagreed with Bismark's armaments programme [immediate side-note: how much better would modern politics be if you could challenge a politician to a duel over something you disliked? Actually, no, that sounds like a terrible idea.]
Because Virchow was a pathologist, he knew some really deadly, messed-up science shit. For example, he was the first man to isolate Trichinella spiralis, the pathogen behind pork that had gone bad. Virchow's choice of weapons was therefore sausage. Or maybe science. Or maybe stupidity. He said he would take two sausages and inject one with Trichinella spiralis. Bismark would then have to pick one of the sausages to eat, potentially poisoning him fatally.
Bismark did not accept the challenge.
Death By Billiard Ball
In 1843, two gentlemen, Monsieur Lenfant and Monsieur Melfant, played a game of billiards. It went badly and ended in a duel, as so many drunken billiard games do. They decided to have a duel by throwing billiard balls at each other. Melfant got to throw first, and told Lenfant, "I am going to kill you at the first throw." Melfant threw the billiard ball, hit Lenfant on the forehead, and killed him. Just as he said he would do. He was then arrested and convicted of manslaughter.
They also talked about the famous hot air balloon duel on QI, but we've already covered that ages ago on this blog, so I'm going to reblog some other duels I found on StrangeHistory's blog here. These are duels not fought with stupid weapons, but rather for stupid reasons.
Death Over Flower Arrangements
"Liechtenstein, 1892, mid August. Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg had an argument about flower arrangements at the Vienna Exhibition. The result was a rare petticoat scrap, in Liechtenstein, to avoid legal problems. Both parties were injured in the sword fight that followed, the Princess on her nose. They then ‘embraced, kissed and made friends’ in the words of a contemporary report, before being tended to by a Polish woman doctor; both seconds were women too, interestingly."
Death Because of a Dog
"Britain 1840 8 April . Captain Fleetwood’s dog jumped into the Serpentine river and then came out and shook itself over the dresses of two ladies. A Mr Brocksopp intervened angrily and… a duel was arranged on Wimbledon Common between the two men. Both missed with pistols. (Things didn’t always end so well with dogs, a duel in 1803 over a fight between two dogs ended, instead, in a death.)"
I just picture Mr. Brocksopp going, "HOW DARE YOUR DOG BE A DOG AND DO DOG THINGS? This has offended me mortally. I am calling you out, sir!"
Death Because of a Waltz
"France, 1816. Admiral de la Susse felt that an obese German at the ball at Faubourg St. Honoré was ‘waltzing against him’ [WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?]. The parties met subsequently at the Bois de Boulogne. The Admiral shot the German in the heart but once the German dropped it was found the Teuton had unchivalrously put on a heavy cuirass. The Admiral proceeded to give the recumbent German a good kicking."
Death Because of Greek Spelling
"Britain, 1721 early July. Two young Irish men, Richard Grantham and Norton Fitzgerald, fought in London. They had previously been great friends and had spent the day before the fight, in company, going to bathe together at Chelsea, but had, then, argued over the spelling of a Greek word. Fitzgerald died of his wounds after a brief sword fight: Grantham too was badly injured. Note that one news report from the time claims the argument was over a ‘philosophical question’."
I'm sure there were some great deathbed words: "I . . . told you . . . that word had an epsilon in it . . . Your blood . . . has proved . . . me right . . . It's like a dictionary . . . but blood." *death rattle*