Saturday, September 28, 2013

Petticoat Duels

A while ago I wrote a post about fist fighting girls and women boxers during the Victorian era. Read here
Today I'm going to talk about a similar topic - women duellists. While men typically duelled over the love of a woman, women's duels tended to be a way to resolve disputes over honour or gossip. Some women even duelled men who abandoned them.

Duelling women goes back at least as far as Ancient Greece when there were reports of women duelling each other with sticks to settle disputes. Romans also wrote about Gaulish women fighting each other, and men, with both fists and weapons.
During medieval times Vikings would sometimes settle disputes with one on one combat. To even the odds, if a man and a woman were in dispute, they would bury the man up to his waist while the female could move about freely.

Duels became a tool of the upper class during the 17th,18th and 19th century to settle disputes of honour. While this was largely the domain if men, there were ladies who participated in this practice as well. One of the most famous female duellists was Julie D'Aubigny or "Mademoiselle Maupin" (1670-1707). She was an opera singer who was initially taught fencing by her father as a means of self defence. She went on to study (and have affairs) with various fencing masters. She was known for duelling anyone who affronted her, from shop keepers, to young male aristocrats. One man she injured in a duel was the Count de Luynes. He sent apologies to her and the two became lovers after. Her life story is quite extraordinary.

Not all duels ended so well. Often they ended in injury, arrest or even death. One young women abandoned by her lover (I accidentally wrote liver lol) fought a duel with him and let him take the first shot, he shot into the air and then she shot him point blank. Another two ladies fought over a man and were arrested. They later fought again with the agreement the man would be forced to marry the winner.
A famous upper class duel between women, was one between Lady Almeria Braddock, and Ms. Elphinstone at Hyde Park in 1792 over one telling the other she used to be a beauty. Apparently the offended did not like the use of the past tense.

Probably the most famous is the one between Princess Pauline Metternich and Countess Keilmannsegg in Lichtenstein in 1892. The dispute - floral arrangements at an upcoming musical exhibition. What made it famous wasn't the ridiculous reason, but that the women fought topless. No, it wasn't to titilate men, but for health reasons. The seconds at the duel were all women and the male servants were ordered to turn their backs to the combat. Baroness Lubinska, who had a medical degree, observed that many soldiers succumbed to minor injuries as a result of clothing being pushed into wounds, causing them to become septic. She ordered the fighters to go topless for their safety.
When the fight started the princess scratched the other's face with the blade drawing blood, and threw up her hands in horror. The countess took the moment and pierced her through the arm. The seconds apparently fainted and the male servants tried to run over and help. The Baroness though feared they had other motives and hit them with her umbrella shouting "avert your eyes! Avert your eyes! You lustful wretches!"
The princess eventually won, however there is no word in how the flower arrangements came out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. Petticoat Duels sounds like a good band name. We need to revive these female duels. We shan't fight over men, though. We shall fight for booty, but never for the "family jewels"!

  2. The last duel was a fantastic and amusing story :D

  3. That's so cool! Gotta love badass ladies in petticoats with swords and guns.

  4. That would be a great band name! I agree we shall only fight for our honour and not over men.