A Duel with a Phantom Cavalier (1615)

[Page Image] Histoire prodigieuse du fantôme cavalier solliciteur

Histoire prodigieuse du fantôme cavalier solliciteur

Here’s an interesting little piece titled “The Strange Story of the Solicitous Phantom Cavalier who Fought a Duel on 27 January 1615 near Paris[1]Original title : Histoire prodigieuse du fantôme cavalier solliciteur, qui s’est battu en duel le 27 janvier 1615, près Paris (PDF). It fits firmly in attempts in Europe to ban duelling which, despite the heavy-hitters, both organisations and individual, engaged in the struggle failed to achieve this end until well into the Enlightenment.

The movement against duelling began with the Lateran Council of 1215 which banned private duels of honour but maintained scope for judicial or court-sponsored duels to continue. The next major push to ban duelling was at the end of the sixteenth and spanning into the first few decades of the seventeenth century. Notably, Queen Elizabeth I of England and Henry IV of France tried to stamp out the practice and several noble duellists were executed on the orders of these monarchs for fighting duels. Previous kings of both countries tried as well with little success.

Most polemics against duelling discuss topics such as intergenerational feuds, breaking the king’s (or queen’s) peace, the thinning out of the ranks of the already dwindling nobility, or the breaking of the sixth commandment against murder. This document takes a slightly different tack. Duelling is caused by demons who, playing on the vanity of those people who enjoy training with weapons, convince them to fight with them in order to kill them and take their unrepentant souls to Hell.

There’s a couple of elements of this tale I particularly enjoy:

  • the demon on human guise is an unstoppable fencer who dispatches his opponents quickly and with little difficulty;
  • the idea that, much like D’Artagnan, it is not unusual for a man to be committed to multiple duels in an afternoon;
  • that the location of the fight mentioned in the tale can be easily located (with varying degrees of accuracy given the centuries).

Enjoy.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Original title : Histoire prodigieuse du fantôme cavalier solliciteur, qui s’est battu en duel le 27 janvier 1615, près Paris