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


25 Responses to “The First Duel Fought in Hot Air Balloons – Paris, 1808”

Geraldine EvansJanuary 22nd, 2013 at 11:38 pm

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.

Robert SCHENDELJanuary 23rd, 2013 at 4:02 am

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 FlynnJanuary 23rd, 2013 at 8:31 pm

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 :{)

BNAFebruary 4th, 2013 at 11:31 am

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

BNAFebruary 11th, 2013 at 9:38 am

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

Ulrich ElkmannFebruary 26th, 2013 at 10:41 am

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.

BNAFebruary 27th, 2013 at 10:15 am

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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The British Newspaper ArchiveJune 22nd, 2013 at 11:39 pm

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

M. L'infiableOctober 13th, 2013 at 4:30 am

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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