Mention duels and most people will instantly be able to picture two men facing off against each other in a battle of honor with either pistols or swords. Although seldom heard of these days, not so long ago they were relatively common place. They were used as a means to settle disputes of honor. Even though they remained illegal, many notable people have either been challenged, challenged or even died from a duel. Button Gwinnet, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence died from wounds sustained during a duel. Even Abraham Lincoln was challenged to a duel. So it might come as a surprise for many to learn that there’s a position called the Queen’s Champion, and the the purpose of the role is to fight for her in duels.
Duels have a history that dates back millenia. The name for duel originates from Latin “duellum” (war between two). It entered the English language around the 17th century. For the majority of history it has been unregulated and utterly lawless. It wasn’t until the sixth century that King Gundebald of Burgundy decided that differences between two people could be settled through trial by combat. These duels were strictly a judicial practice carried out in front of a magistrate and in public. Duels of honor remained a private and illegal practice. The last known fatal duel occurred in Istanbul in 1906, and the last known official one was in France in 1967 between two delegates at the French National Assembly.
Although they seem to be a relic of the past, the odd challenge still crops up occasionally. As recently as 2003 a a Peruvian legislator challenged his nations vice-president to a duel. Though they’re rare and illegal, the Queen of England has an official champion that is kept on standby. This champion of the Queen is kept ready to challenge anyone who disputes her sovereignty.
The current title holder of the official position of Queen’s Champion is Lieutenant-Colonel John Lindley Marmion Dymoke.