In "historical" or fantasy movies you often see the two enemy leaders fighting directly in the middle of the battle, mainly to allow for dialogue.

I know that leaders have had their enemies executed after the battle - there are multiple examples of executions by the Mongols. And some may have fought in single combat against each other. But I'm only interested in battlefield combat.

Has anything like this ever happened? I mean, it seems spectacularly unlikely.

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    Does this answer your question? Are there any examples of single combat between kings/generals ending a war? – justCal Mar 12 at 13:23
  • Clovis I king of the Franks did kill Ragnachar king of Cambrai with an axe, but it was after the battle was over and Ragnachar had his hands tied behind his back and was already a prisoner, so i don't know if this counts. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnachar – John Strachan Mar 12 at 14:12
  • @JohnStrachan counts or not, that should be an answer, not a comment. – CGCampbell Mar 12 at 14:40
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    While related, the suggested duplicate differs sufficiently from this that they shouldn't be treated as duplicates to close. The earlier question was about single combat between leaders to avoid a battle (and conclude the war). This question merely requires that one head of state killed another on the battlefield. – Steve Bird Mar 12 at 15:09

Here are some examples, from my answer to:

Are there any examples of single combat between kings & generals?

In 161 BC Sinhalese King Dutugamunu riding his elephant Kandula defeated and killed Tamil King Ellalan or Elara on his elephant Maha Pamata ("big rock").

Simamese King Naresuan killed Burmese Crown Prince Mingyi Swa on elephant back in 1593.

Adolf, Count of Nassau was elected King of the Romans in April 1292. In 1298 the electors declared Adolf deposed and Duke Albert of Austria elected in his place. Adolf and Albert fought at the battle of Gollheim on 2 July 1298 and Albert personally killed Adolf.

At the Battle of Antioch-on-the Meander in 1211 Emperor Theodore Lascaris is said to have personally killed Kaykhusraw I, Sultan of Rum.

Other similar examples can be found at historum.com

  • Thanks very much - I'm surprised there are any, but much happier for knowing that a) it has happened b) it's rare, especially if you aren't on an elephant. – mike1952 Mar 14 at 12:38

Roman history provides us with two more examples, one of which is fictional and the other reasonably trustworthy. Quoting the wikipedia entry on Spolia Opima

The spolia opima ("rich spoils") were the armour, arms, and other effects that an ancient Roman general stripped from the body of an opposing commander slain in single combat.

For the majority of the city's existence, the Romans recognized only three instances when spolia opima were taken. The precedent was imagined in Rome's mythical history, which tells that in 752 BC Romulus defeated and stripped Acron, king of the Caeninenses, following the Rape of the Sabine Women.[...] The third and most historically grounded occurred before the Second Punic War when Marcus Claudius Marcellus (consul 222 BC) stripped the Celtic warrior Viridomarus, a king of the Gaesatae.

So we have Romulus and Marcellus. I skipped the third guy because careful reading and cross-comparison shows he was not consul at the time he achieved his feat and so not (even co-) head of state.

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