A definition of the word duel may be stated thus: "An encounter between two or more individuals with equal numbers on each side that results in combat where both parties are equally armed. The purpose of which is to settle a point of honor between the parties involved. The duel was strictly organized and the rules of the duel agreed upon before the onset of the combat itself."

Duels in France (and also in other countries) were much different than brawls, private battles, jousts or tournaments and took one of two forms: judicial and extra-judicial. It may be said that the judicial duel was the descendant of the trial by combat of the Middle Ages. These types of duels were presided over by a sovereign and were formal affairs held in special locales.

To start a judicial duel it was the responsibility of the injured party to call out the opponent. In the early part of the 1600's the call or challenge was made by throwing a glove, dagger or favor at the feet of the opponent as was done in Medieval times. By the end of the 1600's this practice was abandoned in favor of an oral challenge (in front of witnesses) or by a cartel (a written challenge). After the challenge was given, the Crown would be petitioned for a field. Basically requesting that the dispute be settled by force of arms.

The extra-judicial duel was a private affair and it is this type of duel that most think of when discussing duels in general. The extra-judicial duel was a criminal offense and was held in contempt of the law.

Quoted from The Arte Of Defense