The dashing bisexual swordswoman Julie d’Aubigny
Flamboyance was a good way to describe the dashing Frenchwoman Julie d’Aubigny.
It was in her lifestyle, her love life, and her career as a cross-dressing swordswoman, opera singer, and mistress to both men and women rich and powerful.
Her story later gave birth to the legendary character of Madeleine de Maupin as written by the French writer Théophile Gautier.
Gautier loosely based the character of his novel Mademoiselle de Maupin on this fascinating woman.
Julie d’Aubigny: Trained with the sword and cards
Born in 1673 in Paris, France, Julie was the daughter of Gaston d’Aubigny, who worked as a secretary to Louis de Lorraine-Guise, the Count d’Armagnac and the Master of the Horse for King Louis XIV.
As Gaston was in charge of the court pages, his daughter learned how to dance, read, and draw along with the other pages. Because of this, Julie dressed as a boy from a young age.
As his father was an a fencing master and inveterate gambler, Julie also learned how to fence and to card sharp.
Her father likewise had some weird parenting skills. According to some claims, he killed any male lover that she took. However, he also allowed Julie to become the mistress of his boss, the Count d’Armagnac.
The Count did give her away to be married to Sieur de Maupin of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. But this young man was immediately sent away from Paris while she stayed behind.
Julie d’Aubigny: A swashbuckling life on the road
Julie soon found her life boring and ran off with another fencing master by the name of Sérannes. When the latter found himself facing charges for killing a man in an illegal duel, they took off like the proverbial Bonnie and Clyde.
The two earned money on the road by giving exhibitions of their swordsmanship. They also sang in taverns and local fairs. Julie became so good at singing, when they got to Marseille, she joined the opera there.
Eventually, she grew bored with Sérannes and fell in love with a merchant’s daughter. Of course, the parents of the girl were not pleased with this and had her placed in a nunnery.
Julie followed the girl and convinced the convent that she also wanted to become a nun. A month later, she persuaded the girl that they should flee.
She came up with a plan that involved the body of an elderly nun that had died earlier, leaving it on the girl’s bed, and setting the nunnery on fire.
Three months later, the girl went back to the nunnery and Julie was tried and convicted in absentia for kidnapping, arson, and body snatching.
Julie d’Aubigny: More adventures than a TV series
We can go on and on about the interesting stories about Julie’s life. For example, she wounded the young Count Louis-Joseph d’Albert Luynes, son of the Duke of Luynes, in a duel because he insulted her.
After, a friend apologized for him and Julie went to check on him. They first became lovers, and then lifelong friends.
Another time, Julie joined the Paris Opera despite being refused at first. She sang as a soprano and then as a natural contralto. The Marquis de Dangeau said that she had “the most beautiful voice in the world.”
Did we forget to mention that she had a number of different lovers, and was in and out of different bedrooms, both men and women?
There was another time, she attended a matchmaking ball, danced with all of the women there, kissed one woman, and had three young men challenge her to a duel. Of course, she won all three fights.
Finally, she found the love of her life, Madame la Marquise de Florensac, who was regarded as the most beautiful woman in France at the time. They lived together happily until de Florensac died from a fever.
Julie was inconsolable and she retired from opera in 1705. She entered a nunnery somewhere in Provence and died a year later.
(From what we figure, it was probably of a heartbreak.)