The First Duel Fought in Hot Air Balloons – Paris, 1808

Posted on August 24th, 2012 by The British Newspaper Archive

Monsieurs Granpree and Le Pique fight for the hand of Mademoiselle Tirevit in the skies above Paris

We love stumbling across quirky stories in the Archive!

More often than not, we find these stories while looking for something else – our eyes always seem happy to read weird and wonderful tales in adjacent columns.

This strange story reports on the first duel to be fought in hot air gas [Ed: Thanks to all that provided feedback. Correction made!] balloons, in Paris, in 1808.

The Archive contains 100s of newspaper reports on all types of duels – but, so far, this is the strangest one we’ve seen.

However, we’re also thinking that maybe in France in 1808, this was not seen as strange behaviour at all?…

newspaper report report on the first duel fought in hot air balloons

Northampton Mercury – Saturday 23 July 1808


  • Matt Sparks

    They would have been gas balloons not hot-air balloons

  • Geraldine Evans

    What pointless deaths. But what a hoot! And I thought it was us Brits who were supposed to be the eccentric ones…

    Must sign up for your site. Hope you have more stuff that’s equally barmy.

    • BNA

      Hi Geraldine, yes, the Archive contains tens of 1000s of stories that are equally barmy. Truly, all human life is here. Regards, Grant.

  • shpleen

    I am going to have a clam battle to the death in hot air balloons

  • Robert SCHENDEL

    Fun story. I am a US balloon pilot with nearly 40 years of experience flying modern hot air balloons. I am going to take issue with your headline above. This event almost certainly occurred in GAS balloons, not hot air. in the early 1800s nearly all sport balloons relied on hydrogen or some other gas to provide lift. Yes, the very earliest balloon flights were in hot air balloons but within months after those first flights gas supplanted hot air as a much more practical lighter than air lift source. Hot air did not come back into fashion until the 1950s and 60s when modern lightweight synthetic fabrics and propane heaters made our current hot air balloons possible.

  • Niall Flynn

    That is how I want to go. When I read it first I thought they were both in the same balloon but and actual balloon skirmish, I bet they had massive mustaches :{)

    • BNA

      Ha! Yes, it’s certainly a dramatic way to go – one of the most creative we’ve heard. Regards, Grant.

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  • Marc Arsenault

    I wonder if the victor actually landed some 21 miles away or if that seven leagues was a bit of poetic license.

    • BNA

      Hi Marc, yes, we wondered about that, too – we think the writer perhaps gilded the lily a wee bit on this one. Regards, Grant.

  • Ulrich Elkmann

    Sorry, folk, to spoil a good story – but looking into l’affaire in French – “la mort dans l’air – duelle sur les toits de Paris” etc., comes up with a total blank about the incident or the names of the folk involved. Zilch. Nada. The French journals would not have missed such a salacious story, even 200 years ago, nor the littérateurs like Stendhal, Balzac. Dumas would have turned it into a rousing swashbuckler. It does not feature in ANY history of ballooning…Seems that British journalists liked to invent good stories even back then. Or, as they say in English: Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

    • BNA

      Hi Ulrich, thanks for the post. Oh, it’d be sad if it were just a work of fiction – perhaps another story with further information about this strange tale will turn up eventually…

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    • BNA

      Hi There, we’re glad you liked the post about the duel in the balloons. Regards, Grant.

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  • Liam Hogan

    The date of this duel was the 22nd June 1808 according to Chambers Book of Days (1869)

    • The British Newspaper Archive

      Oh, we didn’t know the exact date of the duel – thanks for posting this info, Liam.

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  • M. L’infiable

    Something about the names (Mr. First Prize and Mr. (fit of) Pique fight for the honour of Ms. Shoot-Fast) makes me skeptical of this story.

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