A Transvestite Master Swordsman

Sadly, no matter how much I tried, I was unable to work a transvestite swordsman into The Serpent Prince

The Case of Chevalier d’Eon

In the eighteenth century, one of the most skilled swordsmen in France—and perhaps the world—was a man who habitually dressed as a woman. Or perhaps he/she was a woman who sometimes dressed as a man. No one was quite sure and enormous sums of money were wagered over the true sex of the Chevalier d’Eon.

He was born Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Thimothée d’Eon de Beaumont in 1728 in Tonnere, France. His mother was a noblewoman, his father a lawyer. After his schooling was completed, d’Eon worked for the government and was soon recruited into Le Secret du Roi—a spy organization that worked for King Louis XV himself. In 1755 d’Eon was sent to spy at the court of Empress Elizabeth of Russia—disguised as a woman. Upon his return to France d’Eon was made a captain of the elite Dragoons.

In 1763, d’Eon was sent to London as a representative of the French government. Although he usually dressed as a man—in the uniform of a Dragoon captain—rumors spread that he was in fact a woman. By the early 1770’s bets were being placed as to d’Eon’s true gender. About this time d’Eon became embroiled in political intrigues and was afraid he would be killed should he return to France. Several years were spent in negotiations with the French government until d’Eon finially came to an agreement with King Louis XVI. D’Eon would hand over important documents to the French government and in return he would be awarded a pension . . . and the right to live as a woman. D’Eon returned to France in 1777 and Queen Marie Antoinette herself helped fund his woman’s wardrobe.

By 1785, d’Eon found it expediant to return to England. His fortunes were greatly reduced by this time and he supported himself by participating in demonstration sword fights, always dressed as a woman. For fourteen years before his death he lived with a widowed woman, Mrs. Cole.

When d’Eon died in 1810, his body was examined and it was declared once and for all that d’Eon was neither a woman nor a hermaphrodite (as many had speculated) but a man.