The Infamous Hungarian Imperial Rules Part 2

Friday, May 30, 2014 0 comments

Dispatch from the Austrian Court

Here is the second part of Jayne Barnard's wonderful post concerning a duel according to the infamous Hungarian Imperial Parasol Duelling Rules, popular in the Astro-Hungarian Empire.
An account of intrigue and death, by parasol duel, in the court of the Empress of Austria Hungary!
Part one is here.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Ed: Warning to those of a sensitive nature that this document contains descriptions of possibly disturbing violence.

The Duel Begins

To begin, it was as punctilious as any meeting of two Prussian Cavalry officers, the ladies’ grave demeanor a stark contrast to the oddity of their apparel. The Doctor took his stance at center, the duelists opposite each other with parasols aslant across their breasts and their leather-cased feet square across the line of the circle. A chime sounded, at which all the assembly fell silent. I turned to my neighbour to whisper a question – what it was, I now forget – and she hushed me with an imperative gesture. The chime repeated. All were still in that vast room, with only a bluebottle buzzing on a window to disturb the silence.

A Hungarian Imperial Rules
Parasol Duellist *

On the third chime, the duelists paced forward to meet before the Doctor, who spoke firmly of their obligation to act with honour and to abide by the Code. He released them, they turned on their heels and retreated to their previous positions on the line. The Doctor retreated still further, a good six feet beyond the line, and raised his arm high. As he brought it down, the chime sounded again and the duelists stepped warily into the circle.

Ah! My fickle mind returns the question: was this to be a timed bout, as exhibitions were, and as I had seen the novices do? But no, my answer must wait upon events, for no word was uttered in all that vast, echoing room, so silent that the slip and pad of the leather-clad feet was clearly audible. The combatants moved around their perimeter, perhaps ten feet apart, parasols shifting in their hands, gliding through rudimentary Twirls or resting a fraction in a Plant. The first minute passed. I expected a chime, and a pause, but neither arrived. The silence, and the circling, continued, with a gradual decrease in the distance between the two. The tension was immense. I confess I would have daubed my brow with my handkerchief had I not feared to disturb the mesmerizing ritual.

By my estimate two and a quarter minutes had passed before the first contact was made. Fraulein F_’s parasol whipped neatly into an incipient Snub by Madame S_H_, leaving a two-inch slit in the fabric. Madame gave no ground, but followed up speedily with an attempted Ankling, which caused Fraulein to hop backward. More circling ensued, but faster, and with feints and parries almost a blur. My breath held for long moments, awaiting a decisive thrust, but still they continued. A Cut down Fraulein’s left sleeve exposed her sturdy forearm, and was returned to Madame’s thigh, leaving several inches of pale skin in view. (The woman has freckles there, Aubrey! What decent woman would expose that part of her anatomy to the sun?). Madame repaid that slash with one that drew blood – the Cut Direct – through the leather and into the skin of Fraulein’s meaty buttock. They fell back, circling.

When they closed again, Fraulein thrust out a truncated Snub.  Madame Twirled into it, body and parasol both, and caught Fraulein a hefty smack on the cheek with the lead collar. Whether she was intent on a Cut Direct down the cheek, I cannot be sure, but by no change in demeanor did she betray either satisfaction or disappointment. Fraulein rubbed a hand over her cheek but briefly, before attacking once more, stabbing downward in a vicious Plant. Madame slid that foot neatly out of the way and, in a lunge that would have done credit to an Oxford fencing don, put the Coup into Fraulein’s upper left arm, to the full depth of the tip. Fraulein stepped unsteadily backward, clapping her right hand to the wound, bright red blood staining her fingers. The Doctor stepped forward.

I was more than ready to see it end there, for Fraulein was bleeding now in two places and her face was flushed, even sweating. This is no sport for ladies, dear fellow, and for a moment I seriously considered withdrawing from the hall. But the wounded Fraulein waved off the Doctor and saluted Madame across the circle, and the duel was on again. It was so fast I did not fully follow the events, a mere flurry of parasols before Fraulein fell to one knee with blood streaming from a second Coup, this to her right thigh. The Doctor rushed forward to examine her, but before he could reach Fraulein, she waved him off again.

The Infamous Hungarian Imperial Rules Part 1

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 0 comments

A Dispatch from the Austrian Court

One of the questions I am often asked is for more details about the infamous Hungarian Imperial Parasol Duelling Rules.  They have taken on quite an aura of exotic mystery if only because they are considered barbarous and violent, in contrast to the stately and more elegant forms of the Brandenburg Variations.

Jayne Barnard has written this delightful post to shed some light on these other rules.  Couched in the congenial, yet precise, form of a letter from an English Diplomat in the Imperial Court of Austria to an old friend and compatriot in the Diplomatic Service back in England.

Keep your sightglass full your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Ed: Holographic letter (undated) discovered among the private papers of Sir Aubrey Barrett-Burrows (deceased). The author of this letter, signed only ‘Charles’, is suggested to be the Honourable Charles Burrows, Aubrey’s cousin, who entered the Diplomatic Corps under Aubrey’s aegis and traveled extensively within the Austro-Hungarian Empire on both pleasure and official duties for the last decades of the 19th century. 

Warning to those of a sensitive nature that this document contains descriptions of possibly disturbing violence.

Dear Aubrey,

You were correct in warning me that this Court, so stifled with protocol on the outer shell, has within it arenas of private wildness. Not that the Crown Prince R’s wildness is at all private. The man’s a byword for excesses across the Continent.

The Empress of Austria Hungary
In your ear alone, I dare wonder if he inherited it from his mother. His father’s misbehaviour follows established lines involving the fairer sex, but his mother! The Empress travels extensively, is absent for months at a time from her husband and children, remains obsessed with her beauty, and herself exercises daily to exhaustion to maintain her legendary slimness. A stunner indeed, but cold with it, I believe, despite persistent rumours of her amorous entanglements. Whether there is fire behind the rumour I know not, but it is highly suggestive that a young woman within the Court died abruptly soon after daring to mention before the Archduke’s revered mother the Empress’s predilection for the company of a certain Hungarian count. You will know which count, for you were in Buda-Pest when the Hungarians were brought into the Austrian fold.

You may also remember the Empress spent that entire year on the newly designated royal estates in Hungary, with that nameless count in close attendance. As I have since been informed, the usual gymnasium facilities she required were lacking at that estate, and the weather being often too inclement for her to be out riding and walking sufficient to ease her restlessness, the Empress caused the formerly demure practice of parasol duelling to take on aspects of martial combat, to make it more challenging physically and mentally. This resulted in the Hungarian Imperial Code of Parasol Duel, through exhibitions of which we all in the Diplomatic Corps since your day have sat marvelling at the speed and acrobatic capability of the duellists, or at their indecently form-fitting duelling costumes, as our preference took us.

The real duels, those held over matters of honour and repute, of which you have doubtless heard, are conducted mostly in private, overseen by ‘seconds’ and the requisite Doctor, with a staff of assistants and nurses at hand, for injuries are all but inevitable. This form of parasol duel is indeed much wilder than the drawing-room pacing and posing permitted under HRM in British dominions. Young women make no effort to conceal scarred faces but show them proudly, just as the men do their duelling scars.

I venture to describe to you in some detail the recent, bloody and violent duel overseen by the Empress herself, in the gymnasium built for her in the Hofburg gardens. That a fatal duel between women could take place in the very heart of Vienna without a public outcry is testament to how thoroughly established the Hungarian Imperial Code is amongst the Austrians. Not a month hence, as the Empress exercised with her ladies, throwing heavy leather balls back and forth, leaping over padded hurdles and performing a variety of acrobatic routines that anyone who has seen a duelling exhibition would recognize as rehearsal of movements for those, a most spurious-sounding quarrel was forced on a Lady of the Bedchamber, one Fraulein F_, by a cousin of the Empress, a Madame S_H_, whom you may have encountered on some embassy posting or other. She moves much in court circles around the Continent, although a mere daughter to some minor Bavarian noble house and the widow of an obscure French professor of philosophical botany. She styles herself a professor of applied botany, whatever that may mean, and it has been speculated that she applied some unwholesome botanical decoction to her elderly husband to speed her bereavement.

She has the favour of the Empress, that much is certain, for her egregious insult to the talkative young Fraulein was both overheard and approved by that sovereign, leaving the younger woman no face-saving way to avoid a duel. I, with a few other men from various embassies who had been invited to converse with the Empress in the intervals of her exercise, was invited to stay or leave as I saw fit, but warned that I must on no account make a disruption to the proceedings if remaining.

You may well imagine I stayed, for this private glimpse under the skirts (as it were) of the stiff Austrian court was not to be lightly bypassed.

My fellows departed, having, they said (but quietly), no stomach for watching women pretend to defend their honour, that quality being, in their minds, reserved only for the male sex. Had they stayed to see the duellists replace their ankle-length divided skirts with leg-hugging leather trousers – well, not to say I saw them do so, either, but they each departed to a separate anteroom with their seconds and returned so garbed – had they stayed, the unabashed display of nether limbs might have entranced or horrified them, such never being seen in England or indeed most European courts. Their hair, tight-braided and pinned to their heads for their earlier exertions, was further confined in heavy hairnets, well secured, that did naught to advance the beauty of either the Fraulein’s brown tresses or Madame’s deep burgundy locks.

Parasol Duelling... in Prussia?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 0 comments

A continental view...

Here is another faux historical piece about Parasol Duelling.

Written by the talented Stewart MacPhee of Calgary, it is a very interesting look at one of the many continental styles of Parasol Duelling that could have existed at the time of Queen Victoria.

Keep your sightglass full, your fire box trimmed and your water iced.
Ed: This evening, continuing the fascinating discussions on Parasol Duelling, I am happy to post a paper from a more European and Continental perspective.

This paper, by a Dr. Johann Portsmouth Adler, appears to have been written shortly after the time that the Brandenburg Variations were formalized by Her Majesty. It discusses the version of Parasol Duelling as practiced in Prussia at that time. The contrasts with the Queen's Rules are intriguing.

I am hoping to get more information on the specific provenance of this paper, but even without the details of its source there is much here that warrants close study.

Walzer der Schmetterlinge
(Waltz of the butterflies)

A treatise on the noble art of parasol dueling in the Germanic territories.
By Dr. Johann Portsmouth Adler

                With the rise in popularity of Parasol Dueling in England and her far flung empire ,thanks in no small part to the royal assent given by her royal majesty Queen Victoria, I feel compelled to sit and pen this account of Parasol Dueling in my families homeland of the Germanic principalities.

                There is no small amount of debate among scholars as to where the sport originally came from on the European continent.  These debates (heated at times I am told) have raged since the formation of some of the earliest dueling schools in the capitols of the major powers.  In the case of Germany I have uncovered evidence both confirming and contradicting the claims that Deutschland was the birthplace of the sport. 

                What I can confirm undoubtedly is that in the beginning it was the families of the Military aristocracy that saw to the spread and refinement of what today is called the Prussian style.  In those early days it was the wives and daughters that took to the sport with a relish.  While the men would engage in lengthy debates over military strategy and points of honor the women would have their own spirited discussions over the various points of the growing sport, weighing the pros and cons of a figure with the same fervor that a general would while forming strategy for an upcoming battle.

                Owing to their connections to the military it was soon that a highly formalized and some could even say regimented style started to emerge.  Where the sons of Military families were sent to one of the Military academies it was not unheard of for daughters of the same families to go to one of the quickly growing Dueling schools. 

                As each nation and in some cases each city developed their own style it quickly became apparent that the Germanic schools prided themselves on the efficiency and execution of each of the figures.  As one visiting dignitary to Berlin noted in a letter to his family "The way that they go about their training  you would think you were looking at a group of infantry practicing rifle drill. They are all formed in a tight well dressed group, at the head is the mistress, at her command the entire group presents the chosen figure.  again and again they repeat it.  Pausing after every one while the Mistress walks up and down the assembled ranks correcting girls on the proper display and posture of the chosen figure."

                It is said that some of the Mistress's of these schools would have custom made pace sticks made for them so that they could exactly measure the distance between a duelist and her parasol in any given figure.  This can even be seen in use today in some of the older Germanic schools.

                Of course their chosen course did have its drawbacks and while they were quickly becoming masters of the compulsory figures in the arts of the flirtation trials they were lacking, instruction in these arts was mainly left to the individual duelist to develop and expand upon at their discretion.  There did exist one school in Dresden where the arts of Flirtation were highly practiced and it is said that their "Ankling" methods were on par with some to the great Parisian schools at the time.  But overall they were in the minority when compared to the other schools.

                With the rise of the Brandenburg variations and the strict rules regarding contact the title of Doctor is usually purely an honorific given to the appointed adjutant of a duel.  In the early cases of German competitions  however this was not the case.  While there was a mandated distance decided upon it was still within striking distance of their opponent.  Usually it was only one marching pace away from your opponent and it was a rare case where the doctor was not needed after a match to treat a bruise, cut or broken bone in severe cases.  There exist multiple cases of renowned duelists who would bear these marks with pride after a competition.  One remarkable case details a young noble women who after a particularly brutal match was left with a small scar on her jaw line, instead of trying to hide it she wore it with pride, eagerly regaling the tale of how she obtained it to other young duelists.

                One disturbing trend that did arise was the use of weighted parasol tips.  The thinking at the time was that a well placed "accidental" strike to your opponents wrist would numb it enough that they would be unable to complete their figures in time thus giving the duelist an advantage.  While this did indeed numb the wrist if contact was made it resulted in more than one case of severe fracturing of a young woman's wrist.  More than one promising dueling career was cut short due to this method of thinking and the use was quickly banned though it was not unheard of for the occasional duelist to risk forfeiture and  expulsion from the competition with the use of a weighted tip in the hopes of gaining an advantage over a particularly skilled opponent.

                When comparing the Brandenburg variation figures to those developed by the Prussian style it is easy to see similarities between the two.  It is even joked about in some circles that the Brandenburg variation is just a British twist on the Prussian style.  One figure that is unique to the Prussian style though and hardly seen outside of German competitions is the "Ehre Nehmer" or Honor Taker.  This move is used when one wishes to show their utter contempt for their opponent or in cases where the duelist knows they will not win in a final show of defiance.  For this move the duelist places their parasol over their shoulder as if going to perform a twirl but then with a flourish of their skirt turns their back on their opponent, forfeiting the round but taking any honor that the opponent might have gained in a straight forward match.  One famous example of this was when a German duelist performed this maneuver on a Parisian duelist in an international competition that had soundly defeated the entire German team previously.  The French woman was so incensed by this that she launched herself at the German and both parties had to be physically removed from the venue for fear that a real duel might break out if they remained.

                The main Prussian style as it had evolved before the rise of the Brandenburg variation was indeed a very similar style.  Both had a core set of 3 figures, the Plant (Pflanzen), The Twirl (Drehen) and the Snub (Abfuhr).  While there did exist some secondary figures it was these three (Plus the above mentioned Ehre Nehmer) that were at the core of the style and the officially recognized moves used at German competitions.  Where they styles start to differ is in the separation of the duelists, in the Prussian style it is one standard marching step before the turn to face your opponent.  In case of disagreement on the length of the pace to be taken it is not unusual for a pace stick to be brought out and one full pace exactly measured to ensure that there is no further argument.

                On the matter of contact between duelists it was perfectly sanctioned in Prussian style duels for contact to happen in a match with extra points awarded on occasion if a duelist actually managed to disarm their opponent of their parasol.  But points could also be deducted or the match forfeited if an outright attack was made on the opponent in an attempt to disarm them or ruin their parasol in such a manner that they could not continue the match.  Any contact that did occur in later era matches had to be either accidental or a part of a sanctioned figure.  One example of this would be if when going from a snub to a twirl the duelists parasol made contact with their opponents person or parasol.

                Another exception can be found in the recent rise of "street dueling" that is quickly becoming an accepted part of modern competitions.  In the Germanic territories while this new method and style is quickly being picked up by the middle and lower classes the upper classes and schools have been slow to accept this new form of the classical duel and while it is starting to be studied in some schools for the time being it is still mainly up to the individual duelist as to whether or not they pursue learning on this matter. 

Ed: This is all that remains of Dr Adler's paper one wonders what else he may have discussed, alas no other pages have been preserved.


Saturday, May 10, 2014 0 comments

A true gem.

From the creator of  "Just Glue Some Gears On It and Call It Steampunk" the unofficial Steampunk Anthem.


Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Tea Duelling Biscuit Test

Friday, May 9, 2014 0 comments

Report from the Max's workbench

To: Vice Admiral Sir Rogers Wainscote OBE
Chief Training and Exercise Office

Re: Analysis of Tea Duelling Biscuits,
and estimation of availability in remote areas of the Empire

As requested by their Lordships in furtherance of the training requirements of Her Majesty's Airship Crews to insure their ability to do just honour to Her Majesty when called upon to represent Her Majesty's vessels in competitions, or in matters of honour when satisfaction is requested by use of the Honourable Tea Duel (HTD).
Having found the supply of suitable biscuits for use in the HTD in the remote areas of the Empire to be limited, if not unavailable entirely.
As requested in their Lordships written orders of January 6 last, I have undertaken a comparative analysis of the merits and behaviour of common biscuits likely to be found in most areas of the Empire.
A brief summary of the results is here included for your information.

I trust that this meets with your approval.
I remain as always your servant.
Lt Cdr(E) Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe

Test Procedure
My ship undergoing a refit at Her Majesty's London Airdockyard the testing program was carried out in the "Kitchen" amply supplied with a kettle, cooker and fresh water.

Each biscuit was tested multiple times as if a HTD was in progress. The behaviour of the biscuit held as per a successful dunk was observed. To mimic competition conditions the dunked biscuit was held a slight angle and the time at which cohesion was lost was observed.

Comparison was made to the standard Peek Freans "Nice" biscuit used in London, also known as a "Nickie"

All tested biscuits were also produced by Peak Freans and I am reliably informed that it would only be in the very extremely remote areas that none of thes would be available.

The biscuits are ranked according to the behaviour after the Dunk from best to worst.

1) LifeStyle Bran Crunch
2) Digestive
3) An unknown biscuit found in PF assorted Tea collections. The biscuit has blueberry pieces in it so it is technically not allowed but it does behave close enough to the standard Nickie to be used if nothing else is available.

Shortbread and arrowroot like biscuits are totally unsuitable as they are dunk proof!

In Print!


Hard copy!

Audra Balion, the admin of the "City of Bridges Steampunk Society" Facebook group in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, sent me this photo of a hard copy of my Parasol Duelling rules.

Audra produced this beautiful little 7 page pamphlet to help her teach a workshop on Parasol Duelling in Saskatoon this weekend.

She even did the illustrations of the figures!

Wonderful to see and good luck with your workshop Audra!

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Parasol Duelling in Action at CCEE 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014 0 comments

Parasol Duelling in action!

Parasol Duelling continues to gather more interest across the country and around the world!

The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this year asked us to do three Parasol Duelling Demos.
We ended up doing two, an outside demo on the Friday and an indoor Panel/Demo on Saturday afternoon.
Inclement weather prevented us from doing another outside demo after the indoor one that afternoon.
Both received a lot of attention from the crowd of  97,000 attendees!

Special thanks to the lovely duelists:
Sarafina Kain, Monica Willard, Josanna Justine, Cali Kyhn and Raven Hawthorne.

The indoor demo was unfortunately in a fairly small room, maybe 100 people, and the Expo had to turn away as many again.

Since the Expo I have heard that the Steampunk Worlds Fair will be having a Parasol Duelling workshop this year and there will be several Parasol Duelling demos in various groups as well.

Plans are afoot for a formal competition in Calgary this year too!

UPDATE: The first World Championships of Parasol Duelling was held on September 13, 2014 at Beakerhead in Calgary!

You can see a report from the World Championships here.

If you are on Facebook keep up with the latest news through:
Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies 

Follow all the Parasol Duelling posts here by clicking on the Parasol Duelling label.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

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