Women’s Dueling: History, Rules, and Reasons

In ancient times, women had no right to education, employment, or political participation. However, they could prove their strength and courage in women’s duels. Women’s duels were not just sword or pistol battles, they were a kind of show that attracted the attention of society.

History of women’s duels

The first mention of women’s duels dates back to the 17th century. In those days, women believed that they could thus protect their honor and dignity. In Russia dueling among women was forbidden until 1917, but this did not prevent many ladies from having clandestine duels.

The earliest female duel in history

One of the earliest known duels between women was between two Neapolitan noblewomen, Diambra de Pettinella and Isabella de Carazzi, in 1552. They dueled over the fact that they were in love with the same man. Which of the two ladies emerged victorious from the duel and whether she actually won Fabio’s heart remains unknown.

A duel in lingerie

One of the most famous female duels took place in 1792 in London between Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs. Elphinstone. The reason for the duel was Mrs. Elphinstone’s suggestion that Lady Almeria was much older than she claimed. They met in Hyde Park and first exchanged pistol shots, which resulted in a hole in Lady Almeria’s hat. They then resumed the sword fight, and this time Mrs. Elphinstone was slightly wounded in the arm. Lady Almeria’s honor was satisfied, and they were done with it. Later Mrs. Elphinstone wrote a letter of apology to Lady Almeria.

It’s quite an interesting story, but probably no more than that. The source was an article in Carlton House Magazine, and Lady Almeria Braddock seems to have been a fictional character. There was no real person by that name, and Lady Almeria was most likely based on the actress George Ann Bellamy, who played the character of Almeria in one of her plays and was acquainted with General Edward Braddock. The whole story was probably nothing more than a figment of the imagination of an imaginative writer.

Patriotic Duel

But there are many equally interesting examples of duels conducted by women, the veracity of which is not in doubt. In 1886 a strange quarrel broke out between two female doctors of different nationalities. The ardent French feminist and physician Madame Marie-Rose Asty de Valsire got into a heated argument with a fellow feminist and American physician named Miss Shelby over the relative superiority of French and American women physicians. During the argument, Ms. Shelby called Madame Asty de Valsaire an idiot. Unable to bear the insult, Madame Asty de Valsaire threw down the gauntlet to Miss Shelby.

Madame was a better fencer; she was a passionate supporter of the sport for women and even maintained a fencing school herself. The outcome of the duel was a foregone conclusion, although she generously gave Miss Shelby 15 days to practice. Wounded in the shoulder by Madame, Miss Shelby was forced to admit that French doctors were better than their American counterparts.

Weirdest women’s duel: Women with bare breasts fight over flowers

Perhaps the strangest underwear duel recorded in history was a duel between two Austrian aristocrats in 1892 for a completely unserious reason. The disagreement between Princess Pauline Metternich and Countess Anastasia Kielmansegg arose over the floral design of the Vienna Musical and Theater Exhibition, of which the princess was honorary president and the countess was president of the ladies’ committee. The dispute became so serious that they decided that it could only be settled in a duel.

Accompanied by their seconds and Baroness Lubinska’s experienced physician, the opponents went to Vaduz on the Swiss border to have the duel. Here, on the advice of the Baroness, who had warned them of the consequences of clothing entering the sword wound and making it septic, both ladies stripped to the waist. The only men present were the servants, and they were asked to step back and stand with their backs to what was going on.

But when the two ladies bled into each other – the Duchess cut the Countess’ nose and the Countess stabbed the Duchess in the arm with a sword – the seconds fainted at the spectacle. At the cries of the ladies the servants rushed to their aid, but Baroness Lubinskaya beat them with an umbrella, shouting: “Avert your eyes, you lustful scoundrels.”

Generally accepted rules of women’s duels

Unlike men’s duels, where swords and pistols were used, women’s duels were conducted with umbrellas and fans. This was because women could not have access to weapons. In addition, women’s duels were conducted according to special rules. For example, women had to keep their distance from each other, and they had to use only light blows. However, in reality, not all ladies adhered to such rules and used not harmless fans and umbrellas as weapons, but rather murderous swords and pistols. Although duels were not as common as dueling

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