Women's duels: deceit and cruelty

Previously, women's duels were not less common. The first mentions of them belong to the XVI century, and contrary to well-established notions of duels, they did not occur in France at all. In 1552, in Naples, Isabella de Carazzi and Diambra de Pettinella did not divide one young man. The duel was held in the presence of the Marquis de Vast. There were no casualties, but for a long time this story didn’t give the Neapolitans any peace - yet men usually fought for the woman’s attention, and not vice versa. The case was so impressive that in the XVII century, the artist José de Ribera painted her picture "Women's Duel". Another incident occurred in Milan on May 27, 1571. Two noble ladies came to the convent of St. Benedict and asked for a room for joint prayer. Soon the nuns fled to the noise and saw two women wounded by daggers and bleeding. Both duel women died.


José de Ribera, "Women's Duel", 1636

In the XVII century, a duel took place, which was documented by the future Cardinal Richelieu himself, because he became the “apple of discord”. Marquis de Nesl and Countess de Polignac met in the Bois de Boulogne Forest. They fought with swords, and the case was described in his notes by the “red cardinal” himself. But it would be too boring if women fought only because of men. For example in the UK once the ladies did not share the outfit. In 1612, at a ball at the Count of Sussex, Lady Rockford saw one of the worst nightmares of any woman in reality — a lady in exactly the same outfit. Yes, he went to the opponent more. When the count invited Lady Esther Reilly to the minuet “villain”, this was the last straw. Since Lady Rockford did not possess a sword, poison was selected as a weapon. The ladies arrived at an inn 20 miles from London and booked a room. The decision was quite elegant - there was wine in two glasses, but one of them was poisoned. It could have ended in tragedy, if not for the fact that the poison that had been stored for a long time lost its properties. And Lady Esther escaped with only the strongest indigestion.

In general, the choice of weapons of women distinguished ingenuity. Some preferred to use their nails, others - daggers, and still others - swords, while striking only the face. One such duel led to the fact that both women were forced to hide their faces under thick veils until the end of their lives. And one of the duel women was the Frenchwoman Julie d'Aubigny, known as Mademoiselle Maupin. Some say that her father taught fencing, others that her lover, who was a fencing teacher. She was able to stand up for herself, walked in a man's suit and was a figurant of many love affairs. However, on occasion, she clutched at the sword - she had at least ten dead or mortally wounded men. At the same time Mopen was a famous opera diva and shone on the stage of the Paris Grand Opera. But many knew that jokes with her were bad.

Female duels could be topless

Even during a duel with swords, the ladies discovered cunning and deceit, lubricating the tips of the weapon with poison or with a special compound, which, upon contact with the skin, caused a burning pain. In addition, their battles were distinguished by cruelty - women fought to the death or until the opponent received a severe wound. The fight could be topless. It is not known who was the first to suggest a duel, but it was believed that the dress held down the movement, and even with minor cuts from clothes, a dangerous infection could get into the wound.

Russia also did not stand aside. For example, in the Pskov Judicial Charter, such a record for 1397 is kept: “If two women are obliged by a court sentence to get together in a duel, then none of them can put a hired fighter in their place”. However, the heyday of female duels in Russia was the period of the reign of Catherine II. And it is not surprising, because the future Russian empress herself, at the age of 15, fought with swords with her second cousin. The girls got off lightly - everything turned out fine. However, Catherine did not object to this method of clarifying the relationship, although she insisted on fighting only “until the first blood”. In 1765, 20 female duels were held, in eight of which the empress herself was a second.


Mikhail Yurko, "Women's duel." The plot is based on the history of the duel Polesova and Zavarova.

Gradually, the duels moved to the salons. So in the salon of Mrs. Vosroukhova in 1823, 17 female fights happened. “Russian ladies like to sort things out with each other using weapons. Their duels do not carry any grace that can be observed in the French women, but only a blind rage, aimed at the destruction of a rival, ”wrote the Marquis de Mortenay. However, duels were not the prerogative of the metropolitan nobility only. In 1829, two landowners in the Oryol province fought in the birch grove with the swords of their husbands. Olga Zavarova and Ekaterina Polesova were neighbors and constantly quarreled. As a duel, they called for maids and their daughters. The duel ended tragically: Zavarova received a serious head injury, Polesova was wounded in the stomach. Both died. Five years later, in the same forest, their daughters fought. One of the girls survived and wrote down this story in her diary. Today, duels are banned in most countries, and this method of sorting out relationships is rarely used by anyone. The only place where you can legally challenge an opponent to a duel is Paraguay. But only if both participants are registered blood donors.

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