First Duel in a Hot Air Balloon | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


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

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?…

Duel in hot air balloon
Duel in hot air balloon | Northampton Mercury | 23 July 1808



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

  • They would have been gas balloons not hot-air balloons

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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 :{)

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

  • 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.

    • 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…

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

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

  • 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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