A challenge

From a letter to Sir Thomas Myddleton at Chirk Castle in Denbighshire, from John Wynne, dated 25 Sept 1681:

…I shall give you a true & faithfull account of the message I carryed from you to Sir John Trevor… After that I desired to have private discourse with him he went wth me to a private roome, where I imparted your buisness to him in these very words (i.e.) Sir I am come to you upon a message from Sir Thomas Middleton he is informed by a gentleman that you called his father the sonn of a traytor, he therefore desires you just now to walke out with your sword in your hand to give him satisfaction, to which Sr John Trevor replyed truely Sir I never sayd that his father was the sonn of a traytor, but that he was a person that he much honoured & respected, & more to that purpose… [I] made reply to Sir J.T. in these words, Sir since you disowne ye speaking of ye words for which I am com to question you, I will rather endeavour to make a right understanding between you then promote a quarell…

(A little background: Myddleton and Trevor were not on good terms around this time. At the beginning of 1681, they had fought it out for the county seat in parliamentary elections; there were some serious disturbances (enough to alarm the government in London) and at the end a spot of sharp practice on Trevor’s part to take the seat. At almost the same time (no coincidence, I reckon…) Trevor had involved himself in a long-running dispute about enclosures between Myddleton and his tenants near Chirk, with both direct action in throwing down Myddleton’s fences and a number of subsequent lawsuits and prosecutions. There’s much more about all that in chapter 6 of my thesis, though somehow I missed this particular letter when I was doing my PhD research.)

Another thing in the literature on duels which causes me some doubt is the tendency to assume that once a challenge had been issued, a duel was inevitable, related to a broader assumption that duelling was virtually compulsory amongst upper-class men whenever an insult was given or perceived. (One of the things I like about Peltonen’s work is that it’s showing that the situation was much more contested than that.) Here, despite the intensity of political rivalry and legal disputes between Myddleton and Trevor at the time that this challenge was issued, and whether Trevor had said the words in question or not, he was ready to back down and deflect the challenge. (And I have noted down at least one more example in the NLW archives of a challenge refused, which I’ll be taking a look at soon.)


Earlier posts:

A duel?
Thinking about duels
Duelling and honour

3 thoughts on “A challenge”

  1. I am student studying Furniture Restoration and Conservation. For my one of my final year projects I am restoring a pair of picture frames which housed two members of the Blucke family. The frames and family are also the subject of my dissertation. I have come across the name Sir John Trevor on many occasions in my research. There was a lawsuit Trevor v Blucke that seems to have continued into at least the mid C19th. With £4,020 tied up in the proceedings. It seems as though Sir John was a bit of a bounder.
    I was wondering if the you had come across Mathew Blucke in your research. [Edited by sharon: I’ve deleted a sentence here at Sue’s request.]
    Have read parts of your Thesis – very illuminating, gives me something to aim for with my dissertation.

  2. Please note, dear readers: The comment above has been edited because it included something that offends the B—e’s family’s sensibilities. As it’s something alleged to have happened over 400 years ago, I think the B—e family should bloody well get over themselves.

    And a general reminder: when you comment here, as at any publicly accessible blog, you are publishing your writing. If you put your foot in it, there are no guarantees I’ll save your face by taking it down for you. I don’t make a habit of removing published material from the blog. I’ve written things here myself that I’ve been embarrassed about on further reflection, but I can think of only one occasion where I took the post down as a result (because the demon drink was involved, ahem).

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