You may think duels are a thing of medieval times, but they were happening much closer to our times than you think. In fact, the last duel in France happened in 1967. It was even caught on tape and the video is posted on YouTube. But why are the comments full of disappointment?

Duels used to be a common way of resolving the matter of honour. If someone offended you back in 18th century challenging him to a duel was sort of an obvious solution. However, there were always many rules how you can fight, who is going to be declared the winner and so on. In 19th century most of countries in Europe outlawed duelling and people who still fought for honour were prosecuted. However, in France this tradition survived much longer.

Gaston Defferre was a socialist French polititian. He had many enemies and was quick to speak, so no one really was surprised when in 1967 at the French parliament he insulted his colleague René Ribière. However, even in France at this time Ribière’s reaction was kind of unusual – he challenged Defferre to a duel.

Now you would think that Defferre could’ve just laughed to Ribière’s face and declined the challenge. However, even at that time in France duels were considered a serious method to defend one’s honour. Although a bit old-fashioned to say the least. So Defferre had to agree and he did.

Duel until death was out of the question anyway, as that was not legal or necessary. Opponents fought with epees until one of them had some visible blood. And, of course, it was Ribière – he lost the duel and did not defend his honour. But both of them survived relatively unwounded. Duel was not a thing in France anymore.

In Uruguay it was, however. The last duel there happened in 1971 when  Danilo Sena and Enrique Erro agreed to shoot at each other with pistols. Both missed, but duel was over. Uruguay outlawed duels at the same year.

Pistol duel with wax bullets in 1908 Summer Olympics in London

Sword fighting and fencing became a sport. Although in Germany, where duellers were prosecuted heavily, academic fencing was illegal after WWII. Only in 1951 it was recognized a sport. People tried making pistol fighting a sport too. They used real pistols, but wax bullets and some heavy armour for protection. It was an associated sport in  1908 Summer Olympics in London, but not much more after.

People are still trying to challenge each other to a duel, but nothing happens. Maybe it is good we have more civilized ways of sorting our problems out. But people in YouTube comments are unhappy seeing duel between Defferre and Ribière – it looks much less dramatic than those epic scenes from historic movies.


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