After the gross and unjustifiable insults you have offered me both as a soldier and a gentleman, I conclude you must be prepared to give me that satisfaction I am entitled to. I am therefore to request that you will name a place and hour of meeting.’
So runs a typical challenge to a duel from the early 19th century; formal, polite – and potentially fatal. Duelling is deeply imbedded in our collective consciousness, through numerous films and novels; it evokes a golden past, of gentlemen defending their honour (or that of their wives) in the early morning light of a wooded glade; of frockcoats, rapiers and pistols.
From the duel’s roots in medieval chivalric tournaments, to the unforgiving code of honour in which death was preferable to shame, this fascinating history recounts – with the aid of numerous vivid eye-witness accounts – all the drama and sheer terror of the duel.