The next book in my regency Friendship Series is The Duchess and the Duelist, so I had to read up on dueling. For me, lots of research is involved when it comes to firearms, but I did take fencing in college. Probably should have taken dance, since I’m such a klutz, but I loved the classes. Back then, I was in good physical shape but fencing is a strenuous workout. Doesn’t look like it, but by the time class was over, I was a bit sore and felt I’d burned some calories. I never excelled because I’m neither competitive nor a strategist. Both are required to do well.
Since it’s the regency period, my protagonist is into pistols. By that time, swords were not often the weapon chosen by the challenged, who had the right of choice. The challenged also chose the ground, and the challenger, the distance. Don’t know that I’d like looking down a pistol barrel from five feet away or starting at a predetermined point, advancing, and firing until struck down.
Gentlemen of the aristocracy and nobility were trained for swords and pistols, and to use either (both) hands. The rules were specific, and if not expressly followed, led to legal problems. Dueling was against the law, especially in the military, where one could achieve promotion by skewering a direct superior. But the law never stopped men of a certain station, or profession, from hacking or shooting at each other for slights real or imagined. No man risked his reputation by declining.
Seconds (a good friend or family member) handled the arrangements and might reach an understanding between the parties prior to an actual encounter, or it ended one way or the other on the field, often at dawn.
Duels were not a rarity. Most weren’t heard about unless a death occurred. When this did happen, intentionally or not, the courts were lenient, especially if seconds had made sure all rules were followed. In The Duchess and the Duelist, I wanted a situation out of the ordinary. A lady’s honor—actually the lack of it—is the cause of the duel. Also, the challenge is delivered to the protagonist with a blow, which is strictly out of line. Challenges were verbal for the most part. To physically strike someone usually meant an immediate fistfight, no waiting around for bullets or blades. The blow is part of a plot twist in my story. I like the unusual and unexpected.
The protagonist, Alfred Bates, Viscount Grieves, is an extraordinary marksman—a male version of Annie Oakley—who is also known as Arm-winger Freddy. Instead of beating into a jelly a fellow crude enough to actually strike him, Lord Grieves must suppress his outrage and meet the already dishonorable lout on the dueling field. Yes, there is a nefarious plan afoot.
Dueling rules were gruesomely precise, how to shoot, how many times, distances, to the death or not. Swords were a bit more grisly, such as a simple “pinking” or the nasty bit of slashing and stabbing each other to death, and if not carried out, the second waiting to step in and finish it off. Carrying it a bit too far in our present day point of view, but back then, a man was expected to defend his honor and those he loved.
If you’re interested in reading more, I’ve included a few sites. The Code Duello, established in 1770 in Ireland was the most often followed.