21 October 2015:

The Last Fatal Duel in England


The murder of Captain James Alexander Seton of the 11th Hussars in Gosport in 1854 was possibly the result of the last fatal duel ever recorded in England.

Lieutenant Henry Hawkey (Royal Marines) challenged Seton to a duel after Seton made advances on his wife.

Duelling was illegal, however Hawkey was not deterred. His wife had repeatedly rejected the advances of Seton who repeatedly visited her at home after he and his wife befriended the couple. Hawkey confronted Seton in a private room at a dance, calling him a scoundrel and challenging him to the duel. He then kicked Seton in the backside in public, at which point he agreed to duel.

Both men appointed seconds and Hawkey acquired pistols on High Street in Portsmouth. On the same day, they took the ferry to Browndown, Gosport, and on the shingle beach they took their weapons and walked fifteen yards apart. Seton was the first to fire, but his shot went wide. Hawkey's weapon misfired. Seton then fired and missed again. Hawkey then shot almost immediately and Seton was hit in the stomach.

Hawkey and the other men tried to stop the flow of blood from Seton's wound while a doctor was sent for. Hawkey and his second, Lt. Pym then quickly went into hiding. 

Seton began to make a recovery, but a week later, doctors performed an operation on him which failed and he died. To the end, Seton claimed his innocence.

Lt. Pym surrendered first and went on trial at Winchester. The law at the time stated that anyone present at a duel could be found guilty of murder, but to everyone’s surprise the jury found him not guilty. Hawkey, spurred on by the verdict, surrendered and was charged with murder. The defence argued that Seton had died of complications following his operation, and not the gunshot wound. The judge refuted this in his summing up, but the jury found Hawkey not guilty. The decision was greeted with cheers from naval officers.

See a dramatisation of the event, produced by BBC South