Unusual Duels: Five Strange, Bizarre and Hilarious Fights from History


There have been some strange duels fought throughout the course of history.  Some of them seem outright ridiculous, others downright hilarious.  From dueling dogs, billiard balls, and boys in the buff, here are some of the most bizarre fights found in history.

 

 Man vs Man’s Best Friend

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In France, a very interesting judicial duel was fought in 1400 between a suspected murderer and his accuser, a dog.  When Chevalier Maquer killed Aubrey de Montdidier in the Forest of Bondy, near Paris, he figured he would get off scott-free since the only witness to the crime was Montdidier’s greyhound. After the gruesome deed was done and Maquer burried the body, the dog went back to town to a friend of his master’s and led the friend to the spot, where he whined and scratched the ground. The body was recovered and reburied, and the greyhound moved in with the friend.

Not too long after his former master’s murder, the dog came into contact with Maquer and attacked him viciously; three men reportedly had to pull the greyhound off. The dog was an usually known to be a gentle and amiable sort, but it kept on flying at Maquer whenever it saw him.  This began to draw suspicion from the dog’s new owner and others and eventually it was brought to the king.  His Royal Highness came to the conclusion that the behaviour of the dog was actually an accusation and arranged for the single-combat trial. The fight took place on the Ile de France in Paris.  Maquer was armed with a lance, while the greyhound came to the fight with it’s natural, built-in weapons like it’s teeth. The dog sprang on the man with amazing ferocity and clamped its teeth around his throat and couldn’t be shaken off. Maquer screamed that he’d confess if they’d pull off the dog.  As far as trial by combat was concerned, it was an open and shut case and Maquer was sentenced to hang for his crime.

 

Hot Words & Hot Air Balloons

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Talk about your argument being full of hot air!  Monsieur de Grandpre and Monsieur de Pique chose to fight from balloons over Paris because they believed they had ‘elevated minds’.  Ok, enough with the bad puns (for now).  The two French men had been quarreling over the affections of a famous dancer called Mademoiselle Tirevit, who was mistress to one and lover of the other. So, on the morning of May 3, 1808, a huge crowd gathered to watch as the two parisians climbed into their aircrafts near the Tuileries and began their ascension into the heavens. At about 2,000 feet, when the balloons were about 80 yards apart, de Pique fired the first shot of the duel, but missed his target. De Grandpre aimed his more effectively, though, and De Pique’s balloon collapsed, the basket tipped, and he and his second fell headfirst to their deaths on the rooftops below. De Granpre and his second, however, drifted happily away in the light north-westerly breeze and eventually they both landed safely 32 kilometers (roughly 20 miles) away.

 

The Duel of the Dwarf

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Jeffrey Hudson, a dwarf, entered royal service by emerging from a large pie at a party for Charles I not quite four-and-twenty blackbirds, but it did the trick! Hudson had belonged to the Duke of Buckingham, but Henrietta Maria was so enchanted by the little man that she insisted he join the court. She called him Lord Minimus. Charles made him a captain in the Royal Army, where Hudson became the butt of many jokes.  Though Hudson was indeed a small man, he was a very proud man and eventually one day he had enough of the insults and mockery.

When Charles Crofts, a young officer in the Royal Army went too far and teased the dwarf for coming off worst in a fight with a turkey cock, Hudson threw down his glove and he challenged Crofts to a duel. The soldier originally thought the little man was joking and turned up armed with a water pistol, but Hudson was far from joking and he demanded a real duel with real pistols on horseback. This was a clever move, for Crofts was fat and slow on a horse whereas Hudson was allegedly only 18 inches tall and proved to be a tougher moving target. At the end of the horseback duel, the dwarf escaped all injury while his loud-mouthed opponent was killed with a shot through the heart.

 

 Duel in the Nude

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The British and the Irish have been feuding with each other for centuries, but in 1806 Humphrey Howarth, the MP for Evesham got into a quarrel with the Irish Earl of Barrymore while dining at the Castle Inn after the races in Brighton.  The two men decided to settle their argument by meeting at the race track the next morning.  Both men had a reputation for being rather bold and roguish in their behaviour, but the Irishman was downright shocked when his British opponent took his clothes off and presented himself on the dueling ground armed solely with pistol and underpants.

The seconds and other witnesses burst out laughing, for Howarth was an older man who was fond of food and the drink and had the belly to show for it- though he had a very legitimate reason for stripping down to the buff. Howarth had spent much of his earlier life as an army surgeon for the East India company. He knew full well that gunshot wounds were often infected by the dirty clothing that preceded a bullet into the flesh.  However, his precautionary gesture was not needed because at the end of the duel neither opponent managed to hit the other one, so they went off (fully clothed) and settled their debate without shedding any blood.

 

 One Ballsy Duel

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While playing a game of billiards in the commune of Maisonfort, France in 1843 two men named Lenfant and Melfant got into an argument.  They decided the only way to settle their argument was with a duel- however it only seemed fitting that the weapons of choice be billiard balls.  The two men took their places 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.  Apparently, Melfant had said boldly “I am going to kill you at the first throw.”  Keeping true to his word, Lenfant was struck square in the forhead and was killed instantly.  The victorious Melfant was not able to celebrate his win for he was  subsequently arrested and tried for willful murder, and convicted of manslaughter.  They should have kept their balls on the billiard table.

 

Kimberleigh Roseblade is an active martial artist, instructor, and writer. She is based in Toronto, Canada where she studies and teaches with the Association of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA).
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