In the afternoon of December 11th, 1773, two men who barely knew each other arrived, somewhat earlier than the agreed upon hour, at the place chosen to settle a score. It was a spot near the Serpentine of the great public park on the western edge of London, between the Borough of Westminster and the village of Kensington. The duelers commenced their exchange before the seconds for Temple arrived. Whately had elected to have none, so eager were they, or at least so eager was the challenger, to assuage his anger. And the other man, the one who had insulted the challenger by publicly accusing him of theft, was also impulsive in accepting the challenge of the duel for the same day it was issued. And it was a rainy day, at least by the time the two men met.
The challenger was a man named John Temple, formerly a mid-level customs officer in New England. His adversary was a London banker named William Whately. Temple apparently had some familiarity with weapons, and he brought along both a pair of pistols for the duelers and two swords. Whether by lot or by whim, the engagement started with a single round of pistol shots, both of them missing their mark.
From all appearances, it was a clumsy, almost comical affair. Whately had not handled a sword before at all. Although he was overweight and not particularly fit, the banker tried to overcome these deficiencies with sheer vigor of effort. He thrashed the air with wide strokes while struggling to keep his footing in the rain sodden ground. The pair slipped, stumbled and