Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period (19th to early 20th centuries) especially among military officers. During the 17th and 18th centuries (and earlier), duels were mostly fought with swords (the rapier, later thesmallsword, and finally the French foil), but beginning in the late 18th century and during the 19th century, duels were more commonly fought using pistols; fencing and pistol duels continued to co-exist throughout the 19th century. Pistol dueling was employed many times in the Colonial United States until it fell out of favor inEastern America in the 18th century. It was retained however in the American Old West for quite some time due to the absence of common law.
The duel was based on a code of honour. Duels were fought not so much to kill the opponent as to gain "satisfaction", that is, to restore one's honour by demonstrating a willingness to risk one's life for it, and as such the tradition of duelling was originally reserved for the male members of nobility; however, in the modern era it extended to those of the upper classes generally. From the early 17th century duels were often illegal in Europe.
List of duels
The following is a list of famous duels.
- 1817: John Ridout, 18, was shot dead on July 12, 1817 at the corner of what is now Bay St. and Grosvenor St. in Toronto by Samuel Peters Jarvis, 25. The reason for the duel was unclear. On the count of two, the nervous Ridout discharged his pistol early, missing Jarvis by a wide margin. Ridout's second, James Small (whose father survived the only other duel in York) and Jarvis' second, Henry John Boulton insisted that Jarvis be allowed to make his shot. Ridout protested loudly and asked for another pistol, but Small and Boulton were adamant that the strict code of duelling must be observed. Jarvis shot and killed Ridout instantly. Jarvis was pardoned by the courts, even though he had shot an unarmed man.
- 1819: What historians have called "The Most Ferocious Duel" in Canadian history took place on April 11, 1819, at Windmill Point near the Lachine Canal. The opponents were William Caldwell, a doctor at the Montreal General Hospital, and Michael O'Sullivan, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. The dispute arose when Caldwell accused O'Sullivan of lacking courage. The two opponents exchanged fire an unheard-of five times. O'Sullivan was wounded twice in the process, and in the final volley, he took a bullet to the chest and hit the ground. Caldwell's arm was shattered by a shot; a hole in his collar proved he narrowly missed being shot in the neck. Amazingly, neither participant died during the fight, although both took a long time to recover. O'Sullivan went on to become Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench in Montreal, and when he died in 1839, an autopsy revealed a bullet still lodged against the middle of his spine.
- 1836: Two duelling politicians from Lower Canada were lucky to have sensible seconds. Clément-Charles Sabrevois de Bleury, a member of the Lower Canadian Legislative Assembly, insulted fellow politician Charles-Ovide Perreault. Perreault then struck de Bleury, and a duel was set. Both men were determined to settle the matter with pistols, but their seconds came up with a unique solution. The two foes would clasp hands and de Bleury would say, "I am sorry to have insulted you" while at the same time Perreault would say, "I am sorry to have struck you." They would then reply in unison, "I accept your apology." The tactic worked, and the situation was resolved without injury.
- 1873: The last duel in what is now Canada occurred in August 1873, in a field near St. John's, Newfoundland (which was not Canadian territory at the time). The duellists, Mr. Dooley and Mr. Healey, once friends, had fallen in love with the same young lady, and had quarrelled bitterly over her. One challenged the other to a duel, and they quickly arranged a time and place. No one else was present that morning except the two men's seconds. Dooley and Healey were determined to proceed in the 'honourable' way, but as they stood back-to-back with their pistols raised, they must have questioned what they were doing. Nerves gave way to terror as they slowly began pacing away from each other. When they had counted off the standard ten yards, they turned and fired. Dooley hit the ground immediately. Healey, believing he had killed Dooley, was seized with horror. But Dooley had merely fainted; the seconds confessed they had so feared the outcome that they loaded the pistols with blanks. Although this was a serious breach of duelling etiquette, both opponents gratefully agreed that honour had indeed been satisfied.
New Zealand duels
- 1847: Colonel William Wakefield and Dr Isaac Featherston (who was his doctor) met in Wellington after Featherston had questioned Wakefield's honesty in a newspaper editorial on the New Zealand Company land policy. Featherston fired and missed, then Wakefield fired into the air - saying that he would not shoot a man with seven daughters.
- ca. 1807: Cavalryman Michael Lunin challenged Prince Alexey Orlov after latter permitted him to do so. Orlov, having harsh shooting skills, missed twice from twelve steps (first shot, however, hit Lunin'sepaulette, and second holed his hat), while Lunin, being a notable marksman, kept stiff upper lip and also missed twice on purpose - shooting upwards in the skies, he then taught the Prince in French language, how to aim and squeeze the trigger properly, laughing at infuriated nobleman during the process. Third shot never happened. Details are still debated.
- In October 2002, four months before the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan suggested U.S. President George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein settle their difference in a duel.He reasoned this would not only serve as an alternative to a war that was certain to damage Iraq's infrastructure, but that it would also reduce the suffering of the Iraqi and American peoples. Ramadan's offer included the possibility that a group of US officials would face off with a group of Iraqi officials of same or similar rank (President v. President, Vice President v. Vice President, etc.). Ramadan proposed that the duel be held in a neutral land, with each party using the same weapons, and with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presiding as the supervisor. On behalf of President Bush, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer declined the offer.
- During the 2004 Republican National Convention, Georgia Senator Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat who supported the reelection of President Bush, angrily retorted to political commentator Chris Matthews that he wished he lived in a time when he could challenge someone to a duel. The satellite connection between the two was bad, and Senator Miller erroneously heard Matthews insult Southern voters.
- In 1808, two Frenchmen are said to have fought in balloons over Paris, each attempting to shoot and puncture the other's balloon; one duellist is said to have been shot down and killed with his second.
- In 1843, two other Frenchmen are said to have fought a duel by means of throwing billiard balls at each other.
- In the 1860s, Otto von Bismarck was reported to have challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel. Virchow, being entitled to choose the weapons, chose two pork sausages, one infected with the roundwormTrichinella; the two would each choose and eat a sausage. Bismarck reportedly declined
A truel is a neologism for a duel among three opponents, in which players can fire at one another in an attempt to eliminate them while surviving themselves.
The earliest known mention of three-person "duels" appears to have been in A. P. Herbert's play "Fat King Melon" (1927). An extensive bibliography has been compiled by D. Marc Kilgour. The word "truel" was introduced in Martin Shubik's 1964 book "Game Theory and Related Approaches to Social Behavior", page 43, and independently in Richard Epstein's 1967 book "Theory of Gambling and Statistical Logic", page 343.
Truels in popular culture
In one of the most famous spaghetti westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the final showdown is played out to be a climactic truel among the three main characters: Blondie ("The Good"), Angel Eyes ("The Bad"), and Tuco ("The Ugly"). The standoff remains a signature piece for director Sergio Leone and one of the best-known scenes in film history.
The climactic ending to the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs has a truel among the characters Mr. White, Nice Guy Eddie, and Joe Cabot in which only one survives.
The short film Truel explores the idea of a three-way duel.