The Infamous Hot Air Balloon Duel

Samuel Reason - April 24th, 2020

It sounds crazy but the French have always had that flair for the dramatic to settle a dispute. There is always a thirst to defend one’s honor it was very regular for murders to be pardoned if it was associated with duels. Louis XIII granted over 8,000 pardons for murders that came out of a duel following a dispute. In 1808 there may have been the craziest duel of them all, it took place way up above Paris, in the skies. But they were not using fighter planes, they were standing in hot air balloons.

The duel involved two gentlemen: Monsieur de Grandpré and Monsieur de Pique. They had both been sleeping with the same woman in secret: Mademoiselle Tirevit who danced at the Paris Opera. And both relationships were kept secret from one another until the men figured it out. So it was decided that the winner of this duel would win the hand of Mademoiselle Tirevit. Or if you would like it written how it was at the time, she would smile upon the survivor.

With the contest taking place over 2,000 feet in the air, with each man firing at their balloon. They were not even aiming at each other, they were shooting at the balloon trying to make the other fall to his death. The story goes that the Frenchmen were too proud for an ordinary duel, they said it had to be spectacular. They believed this airborne showdown would be perfect and cement their place in history. It is one of the first records of a mid-air dogfight taking place.

The idea was that shooting the balloon would cause the gas to escape and thus the victim would fall to the ground. Perhaps if they were lucky it would fall slowly and they would escape death. The duel started above Paris’s Tuileries Gardens, they were both allowed a shotgun and a co-pilot. Kind of crazy that the co-pilot would agree to such a job, but perhaps they were very good friends.

Curious spectators from all around Paris gathered to watch the duel and cheered the men on. The balloons went up to eighty yards and the signal was given to start the duel, with the lines anchoring the balloons cut. De Pique was able to take the first shot with speed, but incredibly, he missed the enormous target. This allowed Grandpre to aim calmly and hit his mark, causing De Pique’s balloon to collapse. As you could expect the result was not pretty with them being dashed to pieces on a housetop.

Next Article
  • The Famous Actress From The 1900s With No Footage

    Valeska Suratt was an American stage and silent film actress who became very popular during the early 1900s. During her career she appeared in over 11 silent films, garnering fans across the whole country. Incredibly despite being so popular, there is no known footage still in existence of her acting. Because in 1937 the infamous...

    Read More
  • Deadliest Plane Attack In Colorado

    The explosion of United Air Lines Flight 629 is the deadliest attack on a commercial airline flight ever to happen over Colorado. One of the first attacks on a flight in the United States, and to this day one of the worst in history. In fact, for the state of Colorado, it is the deadliest...

    Read More
  • The 2003 Slammer Virus That Took The Whole Internet Offline

    An infamous virus that to this day remains a complete mystery wreaked havoc on the world in 2003. Within 10 minutes it infected over 400,000 computers total, and within 40 minutes it doubled its population. Crucially the computer virus infected five of the thirteen root DNS servers, which crippled the world’s internet. In fact, most...

    Read More
  • Byzantine Emperor Justinian II Was Called The Slit Nosed

    Justinian II or as many called him The Slit Nosed, was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian dynasty. This was a dynasty that took place from 685 to 695, and then again from 705 to 711. Justinian II had extremely ambitious plans and was passionate about growing the empire. His aim was to restore...

    Read More
  • Great Depression Started Dance Marathons For Food

    Events that offered the promise of food and money during the Great Depression attracted people like flies. As a result, huge dance marathons would happen where the winners would get food. The problem was everyone was starving with no solution in sight, they were all determined to win. This caused many dancers to suffer from...

    Read More
  • France’s Deadly WWI Red Zone

    The Zone Rouge, or Red Zone as it is known in English, is a quarantine area throughout Northeastern France that the government decided was inhabitable after World War I. Though the area is non-contiguous, it was deemed unfit for life. Originally, the land covered over 1,200 square kilometers. All of it was considered too damaged...

    Read More
  • Sally Ride First American Women In Space

    On June 18, 1983, NASA Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space. She launched with her four crewmates on the Shuttle Challenger, on mission STS-7. The ride had been selected with five other women to be part of NASA’s space program back in 1978. With the advances of the space shuttles...

    Read More