Sunday, 10 June 2012


While in earlier times duels were fought with swords, by the Regency pistols were most commonly used. Duels had developed from mediaeval challenges, and became a respectable way for gentlemen to resolve disputes. They would happen after an offense when, whether real or imagined, one party would demand satisfaction from the offender. This was signalled with an insulting gesture, such as throwing down a glove or the striking of the cheek – the origin of the phrase throwing down the gauntlet (again a mediaeval allusion to suits of armour). Each party would name a trusted representative (a second) who would, between them, determine a suitable "field of honour".
In 1777 in the town of Clonmel, County Tipperary a code of practice was drawn up for the regulation of duels.
The Code Duello, known generally as "The twenty-six commandments", was to be kept in a gentleman's pistol case for reference should a dispute arise regarding procedure. The authorities were generally opposed to duelling but were rarely active in suppressing it, and turned a blind eye to injuries and deaths caused on the field of honour. While the reasons for the disappearance of the duel are many, they include the emergence of a new middle class in the Victorian era which was hostile to the "honour" culture, which was seen as un-Christian.
Four British Prime Ministers engaged in duels: the Earl of Shelburne (1780), William Pitt the Younger (1798), George Canning (1809) and the Duke of Wellington (1829).

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