History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

19 August 2011

Duelling Women

I’ve been researching how women through history have settled quarrels, and interestingly, more than one source reports that women rarely dueled. But it doesn’t take much to surfing on the net to check that claim---and apparently, there are certainly plenty of historical records reporting dueling women. Woman fought, like their male counterparts, over lovers, insults (perceived and real), gossip, and ultimately, for their honor. They fought with all kinds of pistols and a variety of swords and knives. There is a long, long list of dueling women in history.
Check this out: http://www.fscclub.com/history/armed4-e.shtml

Here are a couple of the more notable duels between women:

Lady Almeria Braddock and Mrs. Elphinstone >(1792)A certain Mrs. Elphinstone expected no more than a cup of tea when she paid a social call to Lady Almeria Braddock’s London home in 1792. But the visit veered off into decidedly unladylike territory when the hostess, evidently enraged by a casual comment Mrs. Elphinstone made about her age, challenged her guest to a duel in Hyde Park. According to reports, Mrs. Elphinstone fired her pistol first, knocking Lady Braddock’s hat to the ground. The women then took up swords, and Lady Braddock got her revenge by wounding her opponent in the arm. The “Petticoat Duel,” as it came to be known, ended without further incident when Mrs. Elphinstone agreed to write a letter of apology.

Isabella de Carazzi and Diambra de Pettinella (1552)Fabio de Zeresola may have been the most sought-after bachelor in 16th-century Naples. At a time when many duels were fought between men for a disputed lady’s favor, two young women—Isabella de Carazzi and Diambra de Pettinella—competed for Zeresola’s affection in a public swordfight. Although the outcome is unknown, the sensational event kept gossips’ tongues wagging for decades to come. In 1636, the Spanish artist Jose de Riberta immortalized the story in his famous painting “Duelo de Mujeres” (“Duel of Women”).

And lastly, as I read on another blog, there is the account from The Illustrated Police News an 1886 Victorian tabloid which covered duels of all kinds: between men, animals, boys--- but they particularly liked fighting women. The illustrations depicted most of their lady duellists as fashion plate stunners. In this engraving Madame Astie de Valsayre is duelling with an American, Miss Shelby. They disagreed about the relative merits of French and American doctors. The American girl called the Frenchwomen an idiot. As if to give European doctors (at least) a chance to prove their merit, they agreed to meet and fight it out. The site of the duel was significant: on the field of Waterloo. At first glance, one duellist looks to have been run through, but in actuality Miss Shelby was wounded in the arm. At this point, Madame Valsayre accepted her apology, and then subsequently "warmly eulogised the conduct of the fair American", "and holds her up to the admiration and emulation of her sex".”

That said, I can’t think of a single historical romance where the heroine has dueled with a woman. But there must be some out there.

Has anybody read a historical romance that featured a duelling heroine (who fought another woman)?



Blogger Raychill Canuck said...

One of Amanda Quick's early romances (I want to say Seduction) had her heroine meet one of her husband's former lover on the dueling field. They didn't fight and decided to settle for the apology.

Now I want to read it again.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Wonderful post, Kathrynn! I believe there's a duel between Constance and Milady de Winter in THE THREE MUSKETEERS, but I may be thinking of a stage or screen version and not the original novel. I know we used the scene when I played Milady and it was great fun!

10:30 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Raychill, interesting Amanda Quick's characters decide to settle for an apology--from most of the historical accounts I've read about women duelling, I've never seen one where one woman killed the other. They've shot off each others hats, nicked each others corsets with a sword point, and hit branches overhead, but rare to read about a fatal wound. Many seem to have "worked it out over tea and an apology!"

9:20 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Leslie--I read a book that was historical fiction, given to us at the RWA national meeting one year, and it was about a woman sword fighter, of noble class and an heiress. It had the word Sword (By the Sword?") and was very MUSKETEER in theme. Great book. Wonderful heroine, though not a romance. Supposed to be based on a real-life character. Wish I could remember that title...pretty good and I learned a lot about duelling (heroine killed a couple of guys, but didn't duel with a woman that I can remember).

9:24 PM  
Blogger soubriquet said...

Princess Metternich vs Countess Kielmansegg.
Duel. Swords. Topless.

'Nuff said.

8:07 AM  

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