Wednesday, May 20, 2015

That Time A Princess Dueled A Countess Over A Floral Arrangement....Topless

From io9:
When we think of historical duels, we may tend to imagine two men handsomely dressed wielding pistols or swords over some offense to one party’s honor. One particular duel, however, presents a very different picture of honor battles. Not only was it between two women; it was between two women fighting topless.

Atlas Obscura has been running a series of short videos about unusual duels, and the first video in the series offers a brief account of an 1892 duel between two Viennese noblewomen, Princess Pauline von Metternich and Countess Anastasia Kielmannsegg.

The rivalry between “Princess Paulina” and the Countess Kielmannsegg was apparently so well known that it was documented in the Vienna society pages of the British women’s magazine The Lady’s Realm. In one issue, the magazine reported, “The Countess Anastasia, who is Russian by birth, is very ambitious, and has a great talent for arranging entertainments of all kinds, and during the mourning of the Princess Paulina she has come more to the front than ever and has been most indefatigable. She is young enough to be the daughter of her rival in good works, and, like her, is possessed of an untiring energy.”

In the summer of 1892, Princess Pauline was the Honorary President of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition and Countess Kielmannsegg was the President of the Ladies’ Committe of the Exhibition, and the two clashed over some of the arrangements for the Exhibition. (Several sources claim it had something to do with the floral arrangements.) Heated words were exchanged, and the two women agreed to settle their differences with a duel.

Robert Baldick, in his book The Duel: A History of Duelling, explains that women sometimes had male champions fight on their behalf in duels. However, in late 19th century Europe, there was a movement toward encouraging “new women” to fight for themselves. (He cites the example of Séverine, a female journalist who had a colleague fight for her in a duel to defend an article she had written. She was censured by the Paris League for the Emancipation of Women.) Gisèle d’Estoc (who herself supposedly dueled with another woman, actress Emma Rouër, and inspired Emile Bayard’s lithograph “Une Affaire d’Honneur” [NSFW]) said that a woman who employed a male champion was committing a “deed of inferiority.”...MORE incl. video.