A Duel Run Amok, 1610

Excerpt from Lorenzo Sabine’s Notes on Duels and Duelling, Crosby and Nichols, 1855, pp. 75-78:

“Bruce was enamored of the Lady Clementina, Sackville’s sister; that, while Bruce was at Lord Dorset’s house on a visit to his love, Sackville came home in a high state of intoxication and excitement, and, having grossly insulted Bruce, finally struck him in the face, in the presence of Lady Clementina; that Bruce, for her sake, preserved a calm demeanor, and, though the words and the blow wounded his spirit to its depths, and turned his love for Sackville to gall and bitterness, yet had the affray been kept private, as he hoped it would, he would not, probably, have called him to an account; that, most unfortunately, the occurrence obtained publicity; and that Bruce was compelled, at length, to resolve upon calling Sackville out, because of the loss of the esteem of persons of his own rank, and of gentlemen generally…subsequently, Sackville gave Bruce another blow, and thus rendered a duel unavoidable; and that the meeting was appointed on the continent, in consequence of the king’s knowledge of the first quarrel, and the determination which he had expressed to visit any transgression of the laws by either, with his severest displeasure.”

Here follows the correspondence between Bruce and Sackville The Military Mentor, Volume 1, Richard Phillips, 1809, pp. 285-287):

To Sir Edward Sackville.

“I that am in France, hear how much you attribute to yourself this time, that I have given the world leave to ring your praises. If you call to memory where I gave you my hand last, I told you I reserved the heart for a truer reconciliation. Now be that noble gentleman my love once spoke you, and come and do him right that could recite the trials you owe your birth and country, were I not confident your honour gives you the same courage to do me right, that it did to do me wrong.

“Be master of your weapons and time: the place wheresoever, I will wait upon you. By doing this you shall shorten revenge, and clear the idle opinion the world hath of both our worths.

“Edward Bruce”

2. To the Baron of Kinloss.

“As it shall always be far from me to seek a quarrel, so will I always be ready to meet with any that desire to make trial of my valour by so fair a course as you require: a witness whereof yourself shall be, who within a month shall receive a strict account of time, place, and weapon, where you shall find me ready disposed to give you honourable satisfaction, by him that shall conduct you thither. In the mean time, be as secret of the appointment as it seems you are desirous of it.

“Edwd. Sackville.”

3. To the Baron of Kinloss.

“I am ready at Tergoso, a town in Zealand, to give you the satisfaction your sword can render you, accompanied with a worthy gentleman, my second, in degree a knight; and for your coming I will not limit you a peremptory day; but desire you to make a definite and speedy repair for your own honour, and fear of prevention, until which time you shall find me there.

Tergoso, Aug.
“Edw. Sackville.”

4. To Sir Edward Sackville.

“I have received your Letter by your man, and acknowledge you have dealt nobly with me; and now I come with all possible haste to meet you.

“Edw. Bruce.”

Following is the account of the combat taken from Sabine, written by Sackville in a letter to a friend, dated at Louvain, Sept. 8, 1613:

“We met at Tergosa, in Zealand, it being the place allotted for rendezvous; he being accompanied with one Mr. Crawford, a Scotch gentleman, for his second, a surgeon, and a man. There having rendered himself, I addressed my second, Sir John Heidon, to let him understand that now all following should be done by consent, as concerning the terms whereon we should fight, as also the place. To our seconds we gave power for their appointments, who agreed we should go to Antwerp, from thence to Bergen-op-Zoom, where in the midway but a village divides the States’ territories from the Archduke’s. And there was the destined stage, to the end that, having ended, he that could might presently exempt himself from the justice of the country, by retiring into the dominion not offended. It was further concluded, that, in case any should fall or slip, that then the combat should cease, and he whose ill fortune had subjected him was to acknowledge his life to have been in the other’s hands. But in case one party’s sword should break, because that could only chance by hazard, it was agreed that the other should take no advantage, but either then be made friends, or else upon even terms go to it again. Thus these conclusions being each of them related to his party, was by us both approved, and assented to. Accordingly we embarked for Antwerp. And by reason, as I conceive, he could not handsomely, without danger of discovery, had not paired the sword I sent him to Paris; bringing one of the same length, but twice as broad; my second excepted against it, and advised me to match my own, and send him the choice, which I obeyed; it being, you know, the privilege of the challenged to select his weapon. At the delivery of the swords, which was performed by Sir John Heidon, it pleased the Lord Bruce to choose-my own, and then, past expectation, he told him that a little of my blood would not serve his turn; and, therefore, he was now resolved to have me alone, because he knew (for I will use his own words) ‘that so worthy a gentleman, and my friend, could not endure to stand by and see him do that which he must to satisfy himself and his honor.’ Therefore Sir John Heidon replied, that such intentions were bloody and butcherly, far unfitting so noble a personage, who should desire to bleed for reputation, not for life; withal adding, he thought himself injured, being come thus far, now to be prohibited from executing those honorable offices he came for. The Lord, for answer, only reiterated his former resolutions; whereupon, Sir John, leaving him the sword he had elected, delivered me the other, with his determinations. The which, not for matter but manner, so moved me, as though to my remembrance I had not for a long while eaten more liberally than at dinner, and therefore unfit for such an action (seeing the surgeons hold a wound upon a full stomach more dangerous than otherwise), I requested my second to certify him I would presently decide the difference, and therefore he should presently meet me on horseback, only waited on by our surgeons, they being unarmed. Together we rode, but one before the other some twelve score paces, for about some two English miles; and then passion, having so weak an enemy to assail as my discretion, easily became the victor, and, using his power, made me obedient to his commands. I being verily mad with anger that the Lord Bruce should thirst after my life with a kind of assuredness, seeing I had come so far and needlessly to give him leave to regain his lost reputation, I bade him alight, which with willingness he quickly granted, and there in a meadow, ankle-deep in water at the least, bidding farewell to our doublets, in our shirts began to charge each other; having afore commanded our surgeons to withdraw themselves a pretty distance from us, conjuring them besides, as they respected our favors, or their own safeties, not to stir, but suffer us to execute our pleasure; we being fully resolved (God forgive us!) to despatch each other by what means we could. I made a thrust at my enemy, but was short, and, in drawing back my arm, I received a great wound thereon, which I interpreted as a reward for my short shooting; but in my revenge I pressed into him, though I then missed him also, and received a wound in my right pap, which passed level through my body, and almost to my back. And there we wrestled for the two greatest and dearest prizes we could ever expect trial for, — honor and life. In which struggling, my hand having but an ordinary glove upon it, lost one of her servants, though the meanest. But at last breathless, yet keeping our hold, there passed on both sides propositions of quitting each other’s swords. But when amity was dead, confidence could not live, and who should quit first was the question, which on neither part either would perform; and restriving again afresh, with a kick and a wrench I freed my long captive weapon, which incontinently levying at his throat, being master still of his, I demanded if he would ask his life, or yield his sword, both which, though in that imminent danger, he bravely denied to do. Myself being wounded, and feeling loss of blood, having three conduits running on me, which began to make me faint, and he courageously persisting not to accede to either of my propositions, through remembrance of his former bloody desire, and feeling of my present estate, I struck at his heart, but, with his avoiding, missed my aim, yet passed through the body, and, drawing out my sword, repassed it again through another place, when he cried, ‘Oh ! I am slain !’ seconding his speech with all the force he had to cast me. But being too weak, after I had defended his assault, I easily became master of him, laying him on his back. When being upon him, I redemanded if he would request his life; but it seemed he prized it not at so dear a rate to be beholden for it, bravely replying, ‘He scorned it.’ Which answer of his was so noble and worthy, as I protest I could not find in my heart to offer him any more violence, only keeping him down until at length his surgeon, afar off, cried, ‘He would immediately die if his wounds were not stopped.’ Whereupon I asked if he desired his surgeon should come, which he accepted of; and so, being drawn away, I never offered to take his sword, accounting it inhuman to rob a dead man, for so I held him to be. This thus ended, I retired to my surgeon, in whose arms, after I had remained awhile, for want of blood, I lost my sight, and withal, as I then thought, my life also. But strong water and his diligence quickly recovered me; when I escaped a great danger; for my Lord’s surgeon, when nobody dreamt of it, came full at me with his Lord’s sword; and had not mine with my sword interposed himself, I had been slain by those base hands; although my Lord Bruce, weltering in his blood, and past all expectation of life, conformable to all his former carriage, which was undoubtedly noble, cried out, ‘Rascal, hold thy hand!’ So may I prosper, as I have dealt sincerely with you in this relation.”

Regarding the aftermath of the duel, Sabine further states that “Bruce [had taken] leave of his mother, and of the Lady Clementina, feeling that he should never see them more; that, in consequence of his fall, life to both was ever a mere blank; that the latter wore mourning and lived single for the rest of her days, while the former caused the heart of her son to be embalmed, and placed in a silver case, and kept it always before her upon her table; and that, after the decease of the Lady Bruce, the silver case was deposited in the family vault, where it remained undisturbed till the year 1808, when it was removed for a short time, during some repairs upon the tomb.” (Sabine, pp. 76-68)