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Bathampton

After Dinner Mince

On the night of the 17th November 1778, two men were having dinner at a house in Bathampton. The Viscount du Barry was entertaining one Count Rice.

Rice must have asserted something with which his host did not agree, because du Barry countered that “cela n’est pas vrai” [“that is not true”]. To which Count Rice immediately observed, “you probably do not observe the idea that expression conveys in the language you speak in, and that it admits but of one very disagreeable interpretation.” Upon which du Barry replied, “you may interpret it as you please.” Rice considered this ungentlemanly, but du Barry offered no apology.

The two men then sent for seconds and a surgeon, who accompanied them to Claverton Down. There they waited until dawn, when they took the field, each armed with two pistols and a sword. John Millingen, in The History of Duelling (1841), takes up the story:

“The ground being marked out by the seconds, the Viscount du Barry fired first, and lodged a ball in Count Rice’s thigh, which penetrated as far as the bone. Count Rice fired his pistol, and wounded the Viscount in the breast. He went back two or three steps, then came forward again, and both at the same time presented their pistols to each other. The pistols flashed together in the pan, although only one was discharged. They then threw away their pistols, and took to their swords. When Count Rice had advanced within a few yards of the Viscount, he saw him fall, and heard him cry out, “Je vous demande ma vie” [“I ask from you my life”]. To which Count Rice answered, “Je vous la donne” [“I give it to you”]. But in a few moments the Viscount fell back and expired.”

The body of the Viscount du Barry lies in Bathampton churchyard, and a stone slab on the Down marks where he fell. It was the last legal duel in Britain.

Another account says that the Viscount du Barry did not die on the field, but in The George Inn, the sixteenth century coaching inn to which he was brought from the field of the duel.

A recent sighting (in the late 1990s) of an apparition in the standing by the bar of the George looking very much like the late Viscount du Barry is just one in a long line of sightings of his ghost.

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