History’s Strangest Duel Was Fought in Blimps

May 21, 2022 0 comments

They say that every action arises from either love or hate. Imagine then, what a creative catastrophe would unfold if a man was inspired by both. That’s probably what happened in the France of 1808, when two men ended up fighting the strangest duels of all times to come. In a story wrought with infatuation and betrayal, a love triangle ascended into a hot air balloon duel that probably became one of the first airborne fights in history.

The city was Paris, in all its pomp and gait. A lovely woman named Mademoiselle Tirevit enjoyed her fame as a dancer for the Paris Opera. As the social jargon of the times suggested, she was kept by Monsieur de Grandpré; but on the sidelines she began to see a gentleman named Le Pique.

When Grandpré found out about the affair, it was obvious that the matter had to be settled in favour of one man or the other. But these were not ordinary men, therefore their confrontation could not be ordinary either. Abandoning the conservative path of roulettes and arm punches, the men settled on a hot air balloon duel. The winner of the fight would get Mademoiselle Tirevit’s hand. People were intrigued, but not amazed. Duels were fairly common in 19th century France, and each day a new ordeal faced the men of the country.

And so it happened that on 3 May 1808, the two men met on a field next to the Tuileries, two gas balloons waiting for them. Both contestants carried in a blunderbuss each, which they would use to shoot their opponent’s balloon. They also had a second in command each, who would willingly die with his leader in the event of a loss. The men got into their balloons with a large crowd waving and watching. The chords were cut at about 9 o’ clock, and the ascent into air began. A true account from Northampton Mercury in England relates that the two balloons kept within 80 yards of each other as the moderate wind continued to sway them a mile up in the sky.

Le Pique was the first one to fire, and to miss. Grandpré responded with a shot that pierced the blimp. Soon Le Pique and his second were smashing into a terrace on humble ground, losing the battle, the lady and their lives. Grandpré was elated at winning the ostensible and hardly violent fight, and showed it off well by steering his balloon higher up in the sky. He may have landed back down sometime later, but the man remained on cloud nine as he took back his good lady home, having stretched history’s threshold for the bizarre forever.

References
# The Vintage News
# The British News Archive

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