In the Aubrey Maturin series of novels, there are at least two scenes where the protagonists are challenged to a duel:

  1. Post-Captain - Aubrey and Maturin about Aubrey's reputation with the Admiralty
  2. HMS Surprise - Stephen challenges another lover of Diana Villers to a duel

Now these novels are set in the period of English History [1800-1815] and are generally regarded to be meticulously researched historical fiction.

It seems to me that challenging another man to a duel (apart from being illegal), is no longer a part of English culture.

My question is: When did challenging to a duel cease to be a practice in English culture?

  • 2
    It did? In that case I'd better go put my duelling gloves away and find some other way of avenging my honour... – Pharap Mar 19 '15 at 15:45
  • There's a chapter on this in the excellent "Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds" - it was condemned in the 1600s by the Pope, made widely illegal, but took a very long time to stamp out. – pjc50 Mar 19 '15 at 16:54
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    I France the last duel to be held was in 1967 between two members of the National Assembly: Gaston Defferre, who won and René Ribière. I know it is not an answer to the question, and I would have prefered to put this in the comments but I need reputation points to do it. – user11740 Mar 19 '15 at 20:56
  • I seem to remember a very similar question about the decline of duelling. Anyone know what I'm thinking of? – Duncan Mar 19 '15 at 22:40
  • @Duncan I vaguely remember it too, though IIRC it wasn't restricted to England. – o0'. Mar 20 '15 at 10:37

During the 1830s and 1840s.

In the twenties dueling was still common. From 1815 to 1830 Castlereagh, Canning, and Wellington were responsible in turn for the government of England, and they all fought duels. In the thirties dueling died out under the pressure of public opinion, and in 1844 the amended articles of war stated that any officer who fought a duel would be cashiered.

- Thomson, David, and P. A. Williams. England in the Nineteenth Century, 1815-1914. Vol. 8. Penguin books, 1950.

The practice went into sharp decline and went virtually extinct after the mid 1840s or so. The last recorded fatal duel seemed to have happened in 1852, between two Frenchmen.

  • 3
    Wow - well referenced answer - right on the question. – hawkeye Mar 19 '15 at 11:50
  • Just after Jackson's death too... – Zibbobz Mar 19 '15 at 15:41
  • 5
    Although hang around a bar and you'll still see guys fighting over a women. :) – JamesRyan Mar 19 '15 at 16:03
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    This was a surprise for me, because in mainland Europe duels ceased to be a practice only around WW1. – vsz Mar 19 '15 at 20:25
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    @Avery That's a sporting duel with swords where the loser is very unlikely to be killed. – TheMathemagician Nov 24 '17 at 12:38

In 1964 two Magdalen undergrads, Adam Poynter and Rory Donellan, fought a duel after Mr Donellan described a Lady Margaret girl whom Mr Poynter admired as "thick" and Mr Poynter slapped Mr Donellan with a glove. Honour was satisfied when Mr Poynter sustained a cut in his wrist and the gentlemen went back to Mr Donellan's room for a whisky.


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