10 Most Bizarre Duels in History

Emperor Maximilian II, the man behind the idea. Bio

Andrew Eberhard and the unknown—and unfortunate—Spaniard

Duels of various scales have been fought throughout history to win the hand of a Helen. Homer’s Iliad, one of earliest pieces of western literature dating back to the 8th century BC, recounts the story of Menelaus of Sparta and his brother Agamemnon of Mycenae, who raised an army and besieged the city of Troy in an costly but successful campaign to win back Menelaus’s faithless wife, Helen of Sparta.

The English journalist Thomas Byerley records a particularly bizarre, albeit less bloody, episode of German history in which another two men contested the love of a beautiful Helen. Among his children, the 16th century German Emperor Maximilian II had a particularly beautiful daughter, Helen Scarfequinn. Helen caught the attention of two men who burned to make her their bride. One was a Spaniard, whose name we don’t know, and the other a German, Andrew Eberhard, the Baron of Talbert.

The problem was that both men were friends with the emperor, and Maximilian didn’t feel he could decide which of them was worthier of her hand in marriage. He suggested, therefore, that they try and settle their dispute amongst themselves through a show of strength and nimbleness. Not wishing to endanger their lives by making them duel, he came up with the extraordinary suggestion that they attempt to wrestle their rival into a large sack. The winner would be allowed to wed his daughter.

For over an hour the two grappled with one another at court in the presence of a packed, and presumably hysterical, crowd. Eventually Eberhard got the upper hand and managed to down his Spanish foe. Stuffing him into the sack, he then lugged it over and dropped it at the feet of his bride-to-be, much to the crowd’s roaring delight. The next day he married Helen (whose views on the whole affair are unfortunately forever lost to history).