The Last Duel Took Place in France in 1967, and It’s Caught on Film

Anoth­er man insults your hon­or, leav­ing you no choice but to chal­lenge him to a high­ly for­mal­ized fight to the death: in the 21st cen­tu­ry, the very idea strikes us as almost incom­pre­hen­si­bly of the past. And duel­ing is indeed dead, at least in all the lands that his­tor­i­cal­ly had the most enthu­si­asm for it, but it has­n’t been dead for as long as we might assume. The last record­ed duel per­formed not with pis­tols but swords (specif­i­cal­ly épées, the largest type of swords used in fenc­ing) took place in France in 1967 — the year of the Sat­urn V and the Boe­ing 737, the Detroit riots and the Six-Day War, Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band and the Sum­mer of Love.

The duelists were Mar­seilles may­or Gas­ton Def­ferre and anoth­er politi­cian names Rene Ribière. “After a clash in the Nation­al Assem­bly, Def­ferre yelled ‘Taisez-vous, abru­ti!’ at Ribiere and refused to apol­o­gize,” writes pro­fes­sion­al stage-and-screen fight coor­di­na­tor Jared Kir­by. “Ribière chal­lenged and Def­ferre accept­ed. The duel took place with épées in a pri­vate res­i­dence in Neuil­ly-sur-Seine, and it was offi­ci­at­ed by Jean de Lip­kowski­in.”

Height­en­ing the dra­ma, Ribière was to be mar­ried the fol­low­ing day, though he could expect to live to see his own wed­ding, Def­ferre hav­ing vowed not to kill him but “wound him in such a way as to spoil his wed­ding night very con­sid­er­ably.”

You can see the sub­se­quent action of this rel­a­tive­ly mod­ern-day duel in the news­reel footage at the top of the post. Def­ferre did indeed land a cou­ple of touch­es on Ribière, both in the arm. Ribière, the younger man by twelve years, seems to have tak­en the event even more seri­ous­ly than Def­ferre: he insist­ed not only on using sharp­er épées than the ones Def­ferre orig­i­nal­ly offered, but on con­tin­u­ing the duel after Def­ferre first struck him. Lip­kowski­in put an end to the com­bat after the sec­ond time, and both Def­ferre and Ribière went on to live full lives, the for­mer into the 1980s and the lat­ter into the 1990s. Just how con­sid­er­able an effect Ribière’s duel­ing injuries had on his wed­ding night, how­ev­er, his­to­ry has not record­ed.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch a Wit­ty, Grit­ty, Hard­boiled Retelling of the Famous Aaron Burr-Alexan­der Hamil­ton Duel

Drunk His­to­ry: An Intox­i­cat­ed Look at the Famous Alexan­der Hamil­ton – Aaron Burr Duel

A Demon­stra­tion of Per­fect Samu­rai Swords­man­ship

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (11)
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  • Armando Gascón says:

    Still years lat­er, in 1971, in Uruguay two retired gen­er­als and politi­cians fought a duel, by pis­tols.
    Gal. Liber Sereg­ni (left) and Gal. Juan Pedro Ribas (right) shot at each oth­er in front of many oth­er Army offi­cers and wit­ness­es.
    Ribas missed, Sereg­ni shot in the air.

    In 1970 Sen­a­tor Manuel Flo­res Mora fought two duels, against San­guinet­ti (lat­er Pres­i­dent) and against Jorge Batlle, lat­er Pres­i­dent also.

    The most famous duel hap­pened in 1919, the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic José Batlle y Ordóñez and the leader of the opo­si­tion and jour­nal­ist, Wash­ing­ton Bel­trán Bar­bat fought it out, Batlle, a crack shot and dan­ger­ous sword fight­er killed Bel­trán with a shot in the heart.

    Duels have now been out­lawed, we live in deca­dent times, after all bet­ter that two polit­i­cal lead­ers fight for what they believe in the field of hon­our that the peo­ple suf­fer a rev­o­lu­tion, right now in Venezuela if Maduro and Guaidó sort­ed things out with a duel, it will be a good, humane solu­tion.

  • steph says:

    specif­i­caly “épée” ? That is just the trans­la­tion of the gen­er­al word sword. Not spe­cif­ic at all.

  • Wistiu says:

    What? No it isn’t. An Epee is “Specif­i­cal­ly ” designed for duel­ing.

  • Jack Jackson says:

    Check up on that…The épée is one of the three weapons of mod­ern fenc­ing. Thrust only weapon with a tri­an­gu­lar, there­fore some­what stiffer, blade. Any part on the entire body is valid.

  • Bobby says:

    Oh no, dear Steph !
    It is not at all what you are think­ing…
    It’s not a trans­la­tion
    An epee is a type of sword 🗡
    It is very long and is used in fenc­ing 🤺 match­es.
    The foil, the saber, and the epee are the three blades used in mod­ern fenc­ing.
    The epee requires the most patience. It helps to be tall and lean to be an epee fencer.
    Saber is just slash and burn !
    The foil is the most tech­ni­cal but light­ning fast if you ever watch a match… it’s real­ly hard to fol­low the action unless you know the rules and there are MANY !

  • mike power says:

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, you are utter­ly mis­tak­en.

  • mike power says:

    NB: My reply was meant for steph

  • Joanne L. Pelletier says:

    Hi! ‚new’s of his­to­ry to remem­ber! “my, birth­day is January,18th 1971.

  • Sam Signorelli says:

    Some mis­con­cep­tions here in the com­ments.

    1) The word “epee” IS actu­al­ly French for “sword.” The term was not applied to the sport ver­sion of the weapon until the 1880s. Plug “epee” into an online trans­la­tor and trans­late it from French to English…you’ll see.

    2) Epees as described in the arti­cle WERE, in fact, devel­oped for duel­ing, as they allowed for hon­or to be sat­is­fied with a great­ly reduced fatal­i­ty rate. As with the oth­er 2 sport weapons, the mod­ern epee game was devel­oped as a sport­ing ver­sion of a weapon devel­oped for actu­al com­bat.

    3) The gents duel­ing are not using epees in the mod­ern sense.…the bell guards are much too small, since the pur­pose is to pro­tect the hand (they’re typ­i­cal­ly 13.5 cm wide). What I see in the video are foils…rectangular blade in cross sec­tion, much small­er (9cm) bell guard, and lighter than an epee.

    In a sense, the arti­cle is cor­rect in say­ing they’re using epees if the mean a sword in a gen­er­al sense…it would be just as accu­rate lin­guis­ti­cal­ly if they’d used a sabre, katana, pata, schlager, or any oth­er long-blad­ed weapon. It’s rel­a­tive to MODERN usage of the word that the term is wrong, as “epee” now refers to a spe­cif­ic weapon in sport fenc­ing.

  • Walter G Green says:

    These clear­ly are epees, old ones, but epees nonethe­less. The blades of the weapons removed from the sword bag are not rec­tan­gu­lar. You can clear­ly see at around 22 sec­onds that the dis­tinc­tive epee fuller is present. I say these are old epees, because the guard is small­er, the blade is cen­ter mount­ed (which gen­er­al­ly dis­ap­peared after World War II in favor of eccen­tric mount­ing), and the pom­mels are more ornate than in epees of the peri­od after World War II. Guard size, until weapons were stan­dard­ized by the mate­r­i­al rules of the FIE, was always vari­able depend­ing on the mak­er of the weapon or the armor­er who assem­bled them. Even today the require­ment is only that the guard must be able to pass through a cylin­der 13.5 cm in diam­e­ter and 15 cm in length. There actu­al­ly are two epees when we go back to the emer­gence of the weapon as a sport­ing weapon the 1880s — the epee of the ter­rain (the duel­ing ground) or the epee of com­bat — both terms were used for the duel­ing sword, and the epee of the salle, the sport weapon or prac­tice weapon for the duel. In actu­al­i­ty the weapons were iden­ti­cal, the dif­fer­ence being that the nail head was either not formed or was filed off by an armor­er to cre­ate the duel­ing sword.

  • David Martineau says:

    10:37 PM Cen­tral. Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 4th, 2022. Wow! Who could pos­si­bly believe that duels were tak­ing place in my lifetime(I was born in mid-July 1965). What is even more fan­tas­tic is that this entire affair was FILMED!!! Like, the Gen­darmerie did­n’t whip ’round to Mon­sieur de Lip­kowskin­n’s place to con­duct some seri­ous grilling, or even to try and col­lar the two par­ties more direct­ly involved in the mat­ter? I recall see­ing a clan­des­tine­ly-tak­en pho­to of a duel involv­ing a South Amer­i­can politician(not Sanguenet­ti of Uruguay, I’m cer­tain, but some­one else. Peru’s Belaun­de Terry(I could be wrong). Any­way, quite the sto­ry I just saw. The news­reel was­n’t too shab­by, either. Thanks loads for it all, you guys. Bye.

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