The most intriguing duel fought between women, and the sole one that featured exposed breasts, took place in August 1892 in Verduz, the capitol of Liechtenstein, between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg. It has gone down in history as the first “emancipated duel” because all parties involved, including the principals and their seconds were female… Before the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven into the wound by the point of a sword. To counter this danger she prudently suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the waist. Certainly, Baroness Lubinska was ahead of her time, taking an even more radical take on the (at the time) widely dismissed theories of British surgeon Joseph Lister, who in 1870 revolutionized surgical procedures with the introduction of antiseptic. 

With the precautions Baroness Lubinska recommended, the topless women duelists were less likely to suffer from an infection; indeed, it was a smart idea to fight semiclad. Given the practicality of the baroness’ suggestion and the “emancipated” nature of the duel, it was agreed that the women would disrobe—after all, there would be no men present to ogle them. For the women, the decision to unbutton the tops of their dresses was not sexual; it was simply a way of preventing a duel of first blood from becoming a duel to the death.


It is humorous that most recounts of this historic event fail to mention two important things: the winner of the duel (Princess Metternich) and the reason why the women came to arms in the first place—they disagreed over the floral arrangements for an upcoming musical exhibition.


The first rule of topless victorian ladies swordfighting club is that topless victorian ladies swordfighting club is not to be mentioned in mixed company.

The second rule is naught but an emphatic repeating of the first.

(via iamafencer)

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