How Emperor Paul I challenged all the rulers of Europe to a duel

For a long time, a duel was a way to sort things out. For this, even special dueling codes were developed, strictly defining the rules for conducting a duel. Many famous people died in duels, just remember the great Russian poets Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin and Mikhail Yuryevich. And the Russian Emperor Pavel the First once challenged all the rulers of Europe at the same time.

The autocrat was outraged by the attacks on Russia from Europe. But declaring war means taking the lives of many subjects. And then Paul the First made an unexpected decision: he declared that the ruler responsible for the fate of his country should not hide behind other people's backs. Accordingly, all controversial issues must be resolved in a personal duel. And he challenged all the rulers who had any claims to Russia or to the emperor himself.

In order for the challenge to receive loud publicity, the German writer August von Kotzebue, who had served in Russia since the time of Paul's mother, Catherine II, was invited to the palace. Von Kotzebue wrote plays for the court theater, knew several European languages ​​well. It was to him that Paul instructed him to compose the text of the challenge to a duel, translate it into different languages ​​and publish it in European newspapers. In this text

Paul stated that Russian and European subjects should not shed their blood because of the quarrel of the rulers. And he invited everyone who has any complaints against him to discuss the place of the fight and the methods of holding it.

An hour later, the message, which contained only twenty lines, was composed. Paul made some changes to it and instructed von Kotzebue to publish this text on the front pages of the most influential European newspapers. The writer received a generous reward for his work, the emperor handed him a snuffbox richly decorated with diamonds.

Soon the unusual message of the Russian emperor was published in the London Gazette, and then in the Lower Rhine Gazette. It is surprising that in Russia itself such publications were carried out with great difficulty. The editors did not want to believe in the authenticity of such information, fearing that this was just someone's cruel joke, and immediate punishment would follow for the publication of such material. Therefore, before publishing such a strange news, one had to seek confirmation from the highest offices.

And Paul, meanwhile, was waiting for an answer from at least one of the "mighty of this world." No one responded to his challenge. True, Paul himself had only two months to live. The challenge to a duel began to be published in early 1801, and on March 12, Emperor Pavel Petrovich was killed in a conspiracy.

Perhaps the genes of the duelist were passed on to Paul from the mother of Catherine II. In her memoirs, she recalled that she first participated in a duel at the age of 15. And her second cousin, Anna Ludwig of Anhaltskaya, challenged her. The girls locked themselves in the bedroom and took up their swords. However, there were no serious consequences, the young participants in the duel were very afraid to injure each other. During the reign of Catherine, female duels were common in Russia, and in some of them the empress took part as a second.