On guard! Why France was the dueling capital of Europe


In disgrace

Other historians have calculated that during the reign of Henri IV of France (1589-1610), around 10,000 duels took place in the country, involving 20,000 duelists, of which 4,000 or 5,000 lost their lives. Some “duelists” used the ritual as a cover for the butchery. A certain Chevalier d’Andrieux, for example, killed 72 men until he was tried and executed.

Increasingly, throughout the 17th century, authorities had reason to be concerned about the proliferation of these glasses. The laws against dueling have become more and more strict, despite the attachment that some had for this tradition. Bouteville, for example, was arrested just after his duel with Beuvron, and Cardinal Richelieu had him sentenced to death. King Louis XIV later issued decrees banning dueling in the late 1600s.

Although the practice declined over the years, it persisted until surprisingly late. The last duel in France took place in 1967, when René Ribière challenged a political colleague for insulting him. Filmed for posterity, the combatants armed with swords only agreed to stop after Ribière was twice wounded.


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