illustration of two fencers in a French Salon, 1820.

Duelling and Fencing

Duelling was a way for ‘gentlemen’ to settle their quarrels. The duel of honour was fought in cold blood between gentlemen, one perhaps seeking ‘satisfaction’ from the other in response to an insult to his ‘good name’.

Swords

At first personal combats were fought with a sword and buckler. the rapier, a longer, narrower pointed sword was introduced after 1500. A new style of sword combat developed which emphasised the use of the point not the blade.

Swords were worn as part of a gentleman’s everyday dress.

Pistols

By around 1780 the pistol displaced the sword in the duel and many gentlemen owned a cased set of specialised duelling pistols. The duellist had to be able to aim and fire quickly and accurately, usually at a distance of not less than 15 metres (50 feet).

Duelling of any form has long been romanticised, however the reality was often, short, bloody, brutal and deadly.

18th century duelling interpretation

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18th century duelling - link to YouTube video


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Did you know?

Female archers

Bhutala Sri Vira Udaya Marthanda Varma the ruler of Travancore, kept a corps of 300 female archers.