The Only Recorded Topless Duel

From the English quarterly, “The Chap” by way of



‘The most intriguing duel fought between women, and the only one that featured bared breasts, was between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg in August 1892 in Verduz, the capital of Liechstenstein. It has gone down in history as the first “emancipated duel” because all parties involved, including the principals and their seconds, were female.

The fight was organised and presided over by the Baroness Lubinska, who had a degree in medicine (a rarity for a woman in those days) and was prepared to minister to any wounds incurred. Before the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven into the wound by the point of a sword. As a precaution, she prudently suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the waist.

Another reason for duelling topless was that this was to a “first blood” duel and not a duel to the death. The lack of upper clothing would make it easier for the seconds to decide when the blood had been drawn and thus call a halt to the fight. No men were to be present, so there was no threat of titillation…..

After a few trifling feints and thrusts, a wild slash from the princess struck the countess on the nose and drew blood. Seeing the injury she had caused, the shocked princess threw both hands up to her cheeks. Just then, the countess lunged and pierced the princess through her right forearm. The sight of the resulting blood caused the respective seconds to faint. The footmen and coachmen, who had been ordered to stand some distance away with their backs toward the action, heard the cries and ran toward the women to render aid. Baroness Lubinska, however, decided the male servants had more salacious motives and attacked them with her umbrella, shouting: “Avert your eyes, you lustful wretches!”…..

Most contemporary accounts of this historic event fail to mention two important things: the winner of the duel (Princess Metternich) and the reason why the women came to arms in the first place – they disagreed over the floral arrangements for an upcoming musical exhibition. Bared breasts, even in the 19th century, were bigger news than anything else.’

Derek Ware

Illustration from wine-loving-vagabond

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