The Vicomte de Foix was enraged by the articles, which painted him as a callous, murderous aristocrat in the worst caricature of the tottering ancien rĂ©gime. While the “Lyon Theses” were written under a pseudonym, it was an open secret that the liberal Vicomte de Lara was the author. The Vicomte de Lara had all but abandoned his noble titles to live a life of anti-government agitation (and libertine personal habits) in Paris. But in the absence of an official abdication, he remained a member of the Second Estate.

Thus, the Vicomte de Foix challenged the Vicomte de Lara to a duel which the latter rashly accepted despite the fact that he had no combat experience and would be facing down an experienced soldier and veteran of the American Revolution. In recognition of that fact, the Vicomte de Lara found it impossible to secure a second, as none of his friends wished to chance an encounter with the Vicomte de Foix’s pistol (or to watch his opponent die). When the duel took place, on a sandbar in the icy Seine in December 1788, the Vicomte de Lara arrived alone.

Before the duel could begin, though, a figure approached and took its place as the Vicomte de Lara’s second. The challenger was cold and anxious to be done with the duel, and did not challenge the newcomer. Upon seeing the matched and embossed set of dueling pistols and trying, unsuccessfully, to load one, the Vicomte de Lara broke down in hysterics and refused to participate further, instead lying prostrate on the ground.

His opponent, disgusted, declared his intention to gun down the Vicomte de Lara where he lay and began loading his pistol. He was stopped by the late-arriving second, who finished the Vicomte de Lara’s clumsy loading of his pistol and opened fire as permitted by the dueling rules of the time which allowed seconds to take the place of either duelist.

Their aim was true; the Vicomte de Foix never lived to see the second cast off their cloak to reveal his opponent’s young mistress.