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3 of the Craziest Duels in History

June 23, 2015

Why duel with a sword when you can use a hot air balloon?

The Balloon Duel

The year: 1808. The rivals: Monsieur de Grandpre and Monsieur de Pique, two French gentlemen vying for the affections of Mademoiselle Tirevit, who had been dating both men at the same time. When the two found out they weren’t Tirevit’s one and only, they agreed to a duel…in a pair of gas-filled balloons over Paris. Why? Because they considered themselves extremely sophisticated and wanted to engage in battle in a refined fashion. They each hopped into their balloon baskets (with their copilots) and when they reached 2,700 feet, they took turns shooting at each other with a blunderbuss. De Grandpre managed to hit his opponent’s balloon, sending him and his copilot to their deaths. Whether or not Tirevit stuck around to continue her relationship with the victor remains a mystery. A newspaper article from 1808 about the duel can be found here.

Hot Air Balloon Duel

The Billiard Duel

Disagreements in drinking establishments are nothing new but two French guys named Melfant and Lenfant took an argument to an unusually extreme level one night in the autumn of 1843. After getting into a tiff over a game of pool in a Paris bar, they decided to duel with billiard balls. The stood 12 paces apart and drew straws to determine who got to throw first. Melfant won and proclaimed, “I am going to kill you on the first throw.” Indeed—his first throw hit Lenfant on the head and he died instantly. Melfant was later tried for murder and convicted for manslaughter.

The Flower Duel

When Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg of Liechtenstein couldn’t agree on how to set up a floral arrangement at the 1892 Vienna Exhibition, each went in search of a sword. In the duel that ensued, both of them were injured and the princess reportedly received a cut on her nose. Perhaps realizing how completely ridiculous it is to kill someone over a few flowers, they threw their swords down and went looking for a doctor. After getting themselves patched up, they were friends once more.

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November 25, 2015 8:07 pm

Like a lot of geniuses, J S Bach was a hot-head. He got into a duel one day and was saved only when the point of his opponent’s sword got stuck in one of the big wooden buttons on Bach’s coat–saved by a button.

And let’s not forget Tycho Brahe, who lost the tip of his nose in a duel over a fine point of astronomy and had it replaced with a gold prosthetic.

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