Female duels – bloody and sophisticated
Duel is considered to be the domain of men. But there were duels between women too. To tell the truth their duels were much more bloody and sophisticated.
The most legendary female duel is considered a duel between Marquise de Nesle and Duchesse de Polignac in autumn 1624. They fought because of Duke of Richelieu (who later became Cardinal). The duel took part in the Bois de Boulogne. Duchesse hurt her opponent’s ear and won the duel. This fight was not something special, but thanks to Richelieu, who wrote about it in his notes, the duel left mark in history.
The first reliable information about female duels dates back to the XVI century. The peak of fashion for ladies’ duel was in the middle of the XVII century.
In France, Italy, England and Germany women crossed swords or used guns almost on any occasion. The same dress, lovers, sidelong glance could be a reason for the fight. 8 of 10 duels between women were fatal. Women’s duels, in fact, had no rules.
The oldest document about the ladies’ duel can be considered a record in the Milanese convent chronicles. On May 27, 1571 two noble senoritas arrived there and locked themselves in a room for prayer. The ladies were found by the frightened nuns. The duel was a success – the rivals killed each other.
In June 1744, fifteen-year-old German princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg was summoned to a duel by her second cousin, Princess Anne Ludwiga von Anhalt. Fortunately, they didn’t kill each other and later Sophie became great Russian ruler – Catherine II. In 1765, there were 20 duels in Russia and the Russian queen presented at 8 of them. By the way, in spite of the propaganda of the armed fights between women, Catherine was against deaths. Her motto was: “Before the first blood!”
In 1770, the Princess Catherine Dashkova visited Countess Pushkina, the wife of the Russian ambassador, in London. There she had a quarrel with one Duchess. As a result Dashkova was wounded in the shoulder.
In Germany women fought half-naked, and in France they were completely naked. Was that elegant? I’m not sure.
In June 1829 in Orel province there was a fight between Olga Petrovna Zavarova and Yekaterina Polesova. They had conflicts for several years. In the end, their tensions resulted in a major quarrel that led to a duel. Their 14-year-old daughters presented at the duel. Olga Petrovna received a severe wound in the head, and Yekaterina in the stomach. The first woman died on the spot, while her rival a day later.
Five years later their daughters had a fight. Anna Polesova was killed and Alexandra Zavarova wrote the story in her diary.
Friendship of famous French writer George Sand with the great composer Liszt led her to cruel fight. Marie d’Agoult, mistress of the composer, was very jealous and summoned Sand to a duel, choosing sharp nails as a weapon. Rivals met in Liszt’s house. It was a draw but George Sand decided to give way to temperamental Marie.