Welcome to "History Is Rad," where we recount historical events and figures that were probably never taught to you in school, even though they totally should have been (because they're rad). Today, we will tell you about the life of Julie D'Aubigny, otherwise known as "La Maupin" or "the most badass swordfighting bisexual gender queer professional opera singer rogue who ever lived."
The Tale of Julie D'Aubigny:
The Swashbuckling Bisexual Genderqueer Opera Singer Your History Teacher Never Taught You About
Julie D'Aubigny was born into the court of King Louis XIV of France in 1673. Unlike other young women in such positions, Julie learned fencing, reading, and drawing - thanks in part to her father's occupation had him training the other court pages.
And most unlike other girls of her age and situation, she was known to often dress as a boy.
Her reputation as a wild spirit truly began when - while in the midst of an affair with a fencing master - she fled Paris with her lover after he had killed a man in an illegal duel.
They made their way on the road by singing at local pubs and taverns (D'Aubigny had a legendarily beautiful singing voice) and by giving fencing showcases for locals - during which D'Aubigny would frequently dress as a man, although not attempt to conceal her gender. At one stop, a man accused D'Aubigny of actually being a man, as he felt no woman could be so talented at fencing. D'Aubigny responded by removing her blouse, which settled that.
What truly cemented Julie D'Aubigny as a next-level historical rogue was her affair with a young woman whose name has been lost over time. Upon discovery of the affair, her parents sent her away to a convent...and D'Aubigny followed, introducing herself as a traveler looking to join as a nun.
She and her lover plotted an escape that would allow them freedom from the woman's family - D'Aubigny stole the body of an elderly nun who had died in the night, placed it in her lover's bed, and set the entire room ablaze to give the appearance her lover had died.
The deception was discovered, however - and D'Aubigny was tried in absentia and sentenced to death...by fire.
She and her lover went on their separate ways eventually - and D'Aubigny one day found herself accidentally bumping into a nobleman, who immediately challenged her to a duel (not realizing she was a woman). They dueled, and D'Aubigny won, driving her blade through his shoulder.
Instead of seeking vengeance, the nobleman apologized - and she nursed him back to health, after which they became lovers.
After getting a pardon from the King (to deal with that whole "death by fire" situation), D'Aubigny was able to pursue a career at the famous Paris Opera - where she sang for years, and became a favorite of audiences and critics alike thanks to her singing talents and acting prowess. She starred in every one of the Opera's major productions from 1690 - 1694, and became known simply as "La Maupin" (after her first - long-since-abandoned - husband).
Of course, she was still the same firebrand as before - and after kissing a young woman at a soiree while dressed as a man, three noblemen challenged her to separate duels. She told all of them to meet her outside - where she proceeded to duel them all simultaneously AND WON. Why does famous duel-loser Alexander Hamilton get a musical and bisexual genderqueer nun-conning opera star fencing legend La Maupin doesn't?!
Anyways, duels had been made illegal in Paris, so La Maupin was forced to flee to Brussels (where she took up with the Elector of Bavaria, stabbed herself on-stage with an actual dagger, and threw away 40,000 francs out of spite, etc. Just your usual La Maupin stuff.)
Her last relationship was an intense affair with the Madame la Marquise de Florensac - until de Florensac died of a sudden fever a few years into their relationship. La Maupin could not deal with the death of de Florensac, and retired from the opera in 1705.
And while the precise details of her last days are anecdotal, she supposedly took refuge in - of all places - a convent, where she soon passed away at the age of 33.
And if you want to see more art from Andy Kluthe, check this out.