Alternate Outcomes: Jose Rizal's Deadly Duel with Antonio Luna

We all know about Jose Rizal being the ladies' man but not everyone know's about his near brush with death with his dalliance with a beautiful French mademoiselle named Nellie Boustead. So what about it? What landed him in hot water?


We all know about Jose Rizal being the ladies' man but not everyone knows about his near brush with death with his dalliance with a beautiful French mademoiselle named Nellie Boustead. So what about it? What landed him in hot water?

Well, it started in Biarritz in 1891 when Rizal stayed in the winter residence of British trader Eduardo Boustead at the Villa Eliada in the French Riviera. It was there he was introduced to the daughters Adelina and Nellie at the studio of Juan Luna.

At that time, Rizal has already known the heartbreaking news that his Leonor Rivera married British engineer Henry Kipping back home so he is now back in the dating market by then. Well if you're in a foreign country and heartbroken, what do you think you'll do? There is a beautiful woman you see every day and no one seems to have noticed her. So he entertained the idea of dating someone once again.

He sets his eyes on Nellie. After all, she's not only a beautiful rose in the garden - Nellie is also highly educated, athletic, cheerful, and morally upright. Rizal intimated to his friends and good old pal Ferdinand Blumentritt about his affection for Nellie and his plans of marrying her. One of his compatriots Tomas Arejola approved Rizal's plans, "if Mademoiselle Boustead suits you, court her, and marry her, and we are here to applaud such a good act."


Historically, Antonio Luna became Nellie Boustead's fiancee and it seems Rizal is on the way to Antonio marrying Nellie. It has been known that Nellie had long been infatuated with Rizal, she reciprocated his affection and they officially became an item. That could be the reason that pushed Luna to the edge.

In a party held by Filipinos, a drunk Luna made unsavory remarks against Nellie. The gentleman that he is, Rizal challenged Luna into a duel. However, Luna apologized to Rizal, thus averting a duel between the compatriots.

We all know that the Lunas have anger and temper issues that would ultimately catch up with them later in life: Juan killed his wife and mother-in-law in a jealous rage while Antonio was bludgeoned to death by his soldiers during the Filipino-American War after he slapped a soldier accused of cowardice.

In our historical timeline, Luna apologized to Rizal and averted a duel between the compatriots. Although the marriage between the two never happened, Rizal enjoyed his stay in Biarritz and he eventually finished the last part of his second novel.

So here's the point of divergence, what if the duel between Jose Rizal and Antonio Luna really took place?


First, we have to know how would they have done it. As educated gentlemen, they would have agreed on what type of a duel they would choose. Most duels in Europe would have been done through fencing but there was a growing preference for a pistol duel in those times as well. Both men were accomplished at both sports. In fact, they regularly fence against each other!

If it were a fencing duel, Rizal might have an edge against Luna. But later in Luna's life, he had established a fencing school back in Manila named Sala de Armas so it goes to show that he had a preference for that too. However, he will probably unleash his A-game knowing Rizal's knowledge in other martial arts.

There is a trend in pistol duels in the Victorian era and should they have chosen it, Rizal may have been no match against his opponent. Antonio Luna had military tactics training in Spain and is known to be a sharpshooter.

We can envision a pistol duel between Jose Rizal and Antonio Luna at the tennis court of the Boustead residence. In the high noon sun, the two protagonists would have been position at the opposite corner. There may have been witnesses to this event and even with Nellie's protestations, the men's honor is at stake.

The men count down from ten to one as they walk opposite at each other. "Diez...nueve...ocho...siete,,,seis...cinco...cuatro...tres...dos...uno...,fuego!" and the pistol shot breaks the silence and innocence in the air with birds flying away from the scene. Blood was spilled and Luna struggles to walk to his side as he clutches his shoulder wounded from the pistol shot while the opposite corner shows Rizal on the ground bleeding profusely with a shot straight to his heart. Nellie would have been seen crying to his side as she tries to keep him alive.

Rizal died in Nellie's arms on March 15, 1891.

What would have been the consequence of an early Rizal death?

If he died five years earlier than he should then there could have been different history for all of us. First, he would have never finished and eventually publish his novel "El Filibusterismo." Without that second novel, it would severely affect the independence movement. We all know that his novels had a profound effect on Philippine society in terms of views about national identity, the Catholic faith, and its influence on Filipino attitudes on colonial corruption, abuse, and discrimination. The independence movement would have been hampered as well without that unifying ideology.

Although Spain is bound to lose its colonies, they would have held the Philippines a little bit longer and would have successfully quashed any revolution in the islands.

Second, the propagandist-thinking Filipino expatriates in Europe would lose a leading figure that stands for greater Philippine autonomy under Spain. More militant groups would have opened up for exiled Filipinos in Hong Kong and Japan.

Third, Antonio Luna would have seen a greater role for himself and would have supported an armed movement against Spain. He may have returned home and collaborated with Katipunan supremo Andres Bonifacio. He would exert his influence on Bonifacio's group and eventually come into conflict with his Caviteño nemesis Emilio Aguinaldo.


The rift between the two would have been bloody but Luna's military training would have prevailed. Battle after battle, Luna would have routed Aguinaldo's army and eventually become the ultimate leader of the fledgling republic. With Aguinaldo hanged, Luna assumes total control and unify all rebel forces under his command.

Fourth, a Filipino-Spanish War under Luna's leadership would have been different and the United States would have never been dragged into the war.

Fifth, a weakened Spanish hold in the Philippines would mean an embattled territory wracked by rebellions and widespread lawlessness. Foreign powers in the region would likely intervene particularly Germany and Japan.

What are your thoughts on an early Rizal death scenario?

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Alternate Outcomes: Jose Rizal's Deadly Duel with Antonio Luna
Alternate Outcomes: Jose Rizal's Deadly Duel with Antonio Luna
We all know about Jose Rizal being the ladies' man but not everyone know's about his near brush with death with his dalliance with a beautiful French mademoiselle named Nellie Boustead. So what about it? What landed him in hot water?
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