Duels can provide high drama in a romance novel!

By the Regency Era, Englishman switched from swords to pistols, with wealthy noblemen purchasing specially created dueling pistols. In addition, the second became common, where disgruntled parties (known as principals) would select a friend to deliver a challenge in writing, which stated the grievances and demand satisfaction. Once received, the challenged party could refuse the challenge—which would insult the challenger and stir rumors of cowardice)—or accept it.

If accepted, the seconds made the arrangements for the upcoming duel, which involved many rules. Duelers were to adhere to these rules and behave as gentlemen at all times.

Traditionally, duelers met at dawn and the field of honor would be isolated to prevent legal intervention. Seconds determined the dress code, how many shots would be fired, and the distance between duelers. A physician was on hand to attend the wounded. Seconds collected the names of witnesses to the duel—and even determined whether or not to serve refreshments!

Some of the more interesting rules from the Royal Code of Honor included:

  • Duels will not be fought on a Sunday or near a place of worship.
  • No spectacles could be worn unless a Principal usually wore them in public.
  • A Principal could not “wear light colored clothing, ruffles, or military decorations upon which the eye of his antagonist could rest,” as it could affect the outcome of the duel.

Seconds handed cocked pistols to the Principals and each fired a single shot. If no bullets struck either man and the challenger was satisfied, the duel concluded. If a challenger wished, Principals would aim and fire again. No more than three shots were permitted, however, since more than that would be deemed uncivilized behavior.

Occasionally, one (and sometimes both!) Principals would deliberately miss or fire into the air—known as deloping—and both men would retain their lives and honor.

The time leading up to a duel, the duel itself, and the aftermath can lend excitement and conflict in a Regency romance.

Alexa Aston

Where History & Romance Collide
Regency & Medieval Historical Romance
Fun, Flirty Romance
Contemporary Romance

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