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October 22: The Duel

October 22, 2014
13667922_1Jules Rosenberg, described by the Paris Figaro as “one of the lights of the Hungarian Bar,” killed Count Etienne de Battyani in a duel on this date in 1883. The duel was fought over the affections of young Mlle. Ilona de Schosberger, “the daughter of a rich manufacturer.” She had spent the past year courting with Rosenberg, but Baron Bornemisza, described as “a poor Hungarian nobleman” who served as tax collector, had married Mlle. Schosberger’s elder sister and then “did everything in his power to break the relations that his new family kept up with the plebian Rosenberg.” Ilona and Jules secretly married, however, and were preparing for a public wedding when Rosenberg was “warned that the Baron repeated everywhere that ‘he would never have a Jew lawyer for a brother-in-law.’ Singular disgust,” the Figaro writer continued, “on the part of a man who had accepted as father-in-law a Jewish millionaire!” Nevertheless, Ilona was virtually kidnapped off to Paris and baptized at Notre Dame. Her marriage was nullified, and then she was married off to Comte de Battyani, a member of the Hungarian Chamber of Lords. Rosenberg challenged the count to a duel with pistols and shot him dead. Rosenberg was sentenced to nine months in prison, which was shortened to three by royal clemency. Ilona, in the interim, was married off by her father to Baron Victor Offerman. According to Kevin MacAleer’s Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siecle Germany, while Jews were “banished from the major dueling societies, Jews formed their own fraternities, and on the eve of World War I, in an undoubted attempt to obliterate the ‘coffee house Jew’ stereotype, they had carved out a ferocious reputation as duelists.” “Cher Ami: My kindred are as powerful as they are wealthy. Fear everything. They wish to separate me from you, and I know that they will try to make you break off by force of intrigue... I know that I shall be disinherited if I persist in loving you, but I am happy in sacrificing riches to your love.” —Ilona de Schosberger to Jules Rosenberg