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. Swords were worn as part of a gentleman’s everyday dress. The rapier – a longer, narrower pointed sword – was introduced after 1500. Consequently, a new style of sword combat developed, which emphasised the use of the point not the blade.

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; the reality was often, short, bloody, brutal and deadly.

18th century duelling interpretation

Clicking on the image below will open the YouTube video in fullscreen

18th century duelling - link to YouTube video


To read PDF documents you will need Adobe Reader. Reader
If you do not currently have it installed you can download Adobe Reader for free.

Did you know?

Six Eiffel Towers

During the siege of Sebastopol the British and French armies fired 10,000 tonnes of iron shot, 510,000 round shot, 236,000 howitzer shells and 350,000 mortar shells. That’s a total of about 43,000 tonnes of iron: the equivalent of six Eiffel Towers!