The pedigree of Christopher I von Fircks

An ancestor from the 1600s plus a duel equals a story

As a family historian and writer, I am always keen to discover stories about my ancestors. So when I stumbled upon the story of one of my ancestors fighting a duel, I just had to find out more! It was not the easiest task, as the original story was in German, but with the help of Google translate and a friend, I got the gist of it. The story comes from this book, written by my cousin:

In the early summer of 1600, Christoph I von Fircks (who I believe is my 9x great grandfather) was travelling to Haguenau in Alsace with a Count von Tübingen and a Matthäus Enzlin on behalf of Duke Friedrich von Württemberg. Note: it is not 100% definite that it was Christoph I, but most likely.

On their return journey the Count, who was drunk, apparently insulted the other two who were sleeping at the time. It looks like when Fircks woke up, the Count repeated his insults and Fircks suggested that he defend himself – in other words challenged him to a duel!

The two men jumped out of the carriage and the Count struck Fircks’ hat with his fist. Both of them drew their rapiers.

Enzlin tried to settle the dispute by taking the rapier from the Count and throwing it away. He then attempted to do the same with Fircks’ rapier, but to no avail. As Fircks refused to give up his rapier, the Count picked his up again but, for a second time, was persuaded to give it to Enzlin. The Count then slapped Fircks across the face. Fircks replied by punching the Count and then stabbed him on the left side of the chest.

The Count fainted but, on regaining consciousness, ran to the town hall. In the meantime, Enzlin shouted at Fircks to get away, which he did by unharnessing on of the horses. He headed for Haguenau and then on to Stuttgart.

Now here is where my translation falls down a bit. It looks like Fircks reported to the Duke (perhaps von Württemberg?) and threw himself on the Duke’s mercy, claiming self-defence. At first it seems the Count was recovering, but in the meantime, Enzlin had also given a report to the Duke, which put Fircks in a bad light. Apparently Enzlin was attempting to curry favour with the Count’s relatives. Two days later the Count died. The Duke ordered Fircks’ arrest and the confiscation of his belongings.

Except Fircks had already left and, despite the Count’s relatives making and effort and sparing no expense, no one could find him.

It was rumoured that Fircks was in Kurland, but it looks like the had gone to Poland to his brother-in-law. Despite requesting Duke Wilhelm von Kurland to arrest Fircks, the Duke resisted the request, stating Fircks was an established nobleman of the area, as well as a relative and friend of von Kurland’s councillors and courtiers. In the end the Count’s relatives gave up pursuing Fircks.

It is not easy to empathise with my 9x great grandfather through a contemporary lens. And I am not sure I like the fact that he ran away. But I do know my father would have enjoyed this story and, if he read it, probably had a bit of a chuckle.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Denise Duvall

    Great story! You are so lucky to find out so much about your ancestors. I wish I could discover more about my Polish grandfather’s ancestors, especially his two youngest aunts and their families. Any news yet about the release of a new edition of your grandmother’s work, “Upheaval”?

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you Denise! Perhaps you could find Polish genealogists to assist you? As for Upheaval – I am still pitching it to publishers and agents and keeping my fingers crossed!

  2. Elise McCune

    What little jewels you discover when researching your family history.
    I love this story.

    1. Avatar photo

      Elise – I’m fortunate that my cousin did so much research and put it together for the family. If only I knew fluent German!

  3. Alexander Fircks

    Great story
    Apparently we were often involved in scuffles, often because of drink (according to Bernie Mertens)
    Thanks & love

    1. Avatar photo

      Alexander – I think I believe that! lol

  4. Geneviève

    Dear Alex,
    Our ancestors, like us, had their faults, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. Who knows how we would have acted in the same circumstances ?
    Incidentally, I’m pleased to note that it’s often the “bad boys” who leave their mark on History, like your ancestor and some of mine !
    Your story is quite comforting after all ! Didn’t the 17th-century French writer, Jean de La Bruyère, write that we’re all descended from a king and a hanged man ?

    1. Avatar photo

      Dear Geneviève, very true! I have to remind myself to read these stories in the context of the times. I agree, the “bad boys” do often leave their mark. Maybe some of them were misguided rather than bad???

    2. Geneviève

      Oui, égarés par l’alcool ;-)) !!!
      Souvenons-nous aussi qu’à cette époque, et pas si loin de nous encore, l’eau potable était une denrée rare voire inexistante et qu’il était plus prudent de boire de la bière ou du vin pour échapper aux pires maladies.
      Bon, d’accord, il y avait aussi le lait !
      A bientôt !

  5. Lloyd de Vere Hunt

    Greatly appreciated! This is my 10th grandfather 2 different ways. Nice to see we were proceeded by those who were not at all boring lol. I do DNA and am finding the von Fircks lines very useful!!

    1. Avatar photo

      Definitely non-boring ancestors! Thank you for reading 🙂

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