THE ROYAL HOT AIR BALLOON DUEL

The royal hot air balloon duel

Throughout the history of all nations, people have participated in weird and strange fights to settle disputes. They spend much time conspiring against each other. And they waste too much energy plotting the manner in which to conduct such spars.

The brave heart

Until recently, those with a romantic ideal of honor have chosen to settle matters of disrespect with destructive duels. Their penchant for the theatrical gives them a laser sharp focus to carry out the heroic deeds. A sense of daring possesses such people right at the nick of time making everything completely oblivious.

There are abundant stories of an adventurer crossing seven seas to beat his or her challenger. Poets chronicle the saga of a jilted lover taking offense at the advances to a beloved by a rival. And an egotistic person feeling slighted at an accusation, or throwing off a perception of inferiority or weakness, has chosen the duel to remedy the problem. Sanity and common sense give way to death or a glory attitude. Perhaps their psyche becomes firmly conditioned. And they believe that they can achieve satisfaction only through the prospect of the destruction of one’s enemy or oneself.

Method of duel

In the days of kings and queens, acts of bravery and courage were a norm rather than an exception. Both in ancient and modern antiquity, the record of the duel has followed a relatively rigid formula. The choice of an iconic or secluded venue and the preferred weapons would take a prominent position in such accounts. In literature, this would be a vast expanse of an isolated clearing, with a mist shrouding the scene. There are many accounts of numerous prominent figures participating in such spectacle of pistols at dawn.

Interestingly, people like the weird ones with a dramatic flair that gets told and retold until the story becomes unbelievable as to turn to myths and legends. Chroniclers wax lyrics about the heroism, whereas poets create poems about the romanticism of it. Although people are sensible enough to disbelieve the mythologies, they enjoy the surrealism. Perhaps a detachment from the real world gives them a much-needed respite from the daily life.

In the sky

None is stranger and more surreal than the duel in two hot air balloons that occurred in Paris in 1808 between two men. The British public woke up to the news of a daring contest of a different kind between two young men. The media, as usual, had a field day and created a frenzy around the event, which people talked about for a very long time. The journalists and newspapers described the dispute as a very novel kind of duel that was unheard of up until then.

Two men who were well known to the general French public at that time quarreled over a woman named Mademoiselle Tirevit. The duel was between two daring men, one Monsieur de Grandpre, and his rival Monsieur Le Pique. The event happened in 1808, at a time when hot air balloon was extremely popular among the French elite, and so, the men decided to take the duel to the air.

Fight using balloons

The center of the argument was around Mademoiselle Tirevit, a young dancer who was working at the Paris Opera. Monsieur le Pique and Monsieur de Grandpre were each having a relationship with Mademoiselle Tirevit, the same woman, in 1808. The pair discovered that they shared a close mutual acquaintance with this woman, which was not acceptable to them. So, being macho men with massive egos, they resolved to settle the private matter with a public duel.

Being high standing men in the country, they felt that it was beneath them to engage in conventional combat. So, they happily conceived the idea of taking it to the skies in grand style for all and sundry to see. The unusual weapons that they chose to settle the affair with a duel were hot air balloons knowing sufficiently well that it would make a public debacle out of it. They decided to have a clash using blunderbusses while flying in opposing balloons, 80 yards apart.

A Frenchman’s death

The protagonists arranged to construct two identical balloons. They would then attempt to shoot each other after reaching a certain height. They ascended into the air and while soaring the skies stopped at 900 yards above the ground. At that exhilarating elevation, the adrenalin kicked in, and they then started shooting at each other. One of the hot air balloons was hit and quickly fell before crashing into the rooftops, killing the dueler. Le Pique’s balloon swirled to the ground, killing Le Pique on impact. This pitiful defeat put a closure to the dispute through the sacrifice of the life of one of the men. Sadly, the two intrepid Frenchmen competed against each other to death over one woman.

Ego over death

The fact that no one knows is that hot air balloons are not only used for Kenya wildlife safaris but also as weapons of a duel to settle disputes. However, the critical difference to note is that when using it for safaris, hot air balloons are the safest mode of transportation but when used in battles, it can end up taking people’s lives. As in the case of the two Frenchmen who fought themselves to death, very often, such feud between two people are the result of colossal ego clashes more than anything else.

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