The Notorious Opera Duelist of Paris - Julie d'Aubigny

3 minute read

Few women have achieved the notoriety throughout their entire lifetime that Julie d'Aubigny acquired in just two short decades.  Famous for her insatiable sexual appetite and martial prowess, two things that regularly got her into trouble, she would have perished early in life if not for her father’s close contacts with the king.

Young Julie

Teenage Duelist

Julie d'Aubigny was effectively raised as a man, the son of the secretary to Horse Master Louis de Lorraine-Guisea.  Her father’s job was to train the court pages, and she was raised under his tutelage as well.  From him, she learned dueling, horseback riding, dancing, and reading, among other traditionally “manly” skills.  Her choice of men’s clothes reflected her upbringing.

Her dress didn’t stop her from attracting the eye of the Count d'Armagnac, who took her as his mistress when she was only 14 years old.  For some reason, the Count decided to marry her off to Sieur de Maupin, whom she stayed married to for life, though ne’er faithful.  When her husband moved to the South of France, she stayed in Paris (possibly at the Count’s request), and began to engage in antics that would make the ears of the noble class ring.

First, the very same year, she hooked up with an assistant fencing master who had similar proclivities as she.  After he killed a man in a duel (dueling was illegal in Paris by the King’s edict), they had to flee.  Making a living by singing duets and demonstrating their fencing skills, they traveled through the countryside.  Because Julie’s fencing skills were so incredibly, she was occasionally accused of being a man pretending to be a woman.  According to a story, she got so tired of this that, one day, she tore open her blouse in order to prove that she was indeed a woman.

For people whose craving for excitement knows no bounds, loyalty doesn’t factor in very high, so it wasn’t long before she tired of her traveling lover and decided to try her luck with a woman.  Her new choice’s parents were less-than-pleased with her decision and sent the woman away to a nunnery.  Undeterred, Julie managed to enter the same convent by pretending to be an initiate, then arranged their escape by placing the corpse of a recently-deceased nun in her girlfriend’s room, setting it on fire, then fleeing during the chaos.

This affair lasted only 3 months, but it was not without consequences.  For her deed, Julie was charged with arson, kidnapping, body snatching, and failing to show up to court. Possibly because of the inability to comprehend bisexuality at the time (“Why would a woman run off with another woman? Only a man would do so.”), she was charged as a man, so the sentence was severe – death by fire.

Julie d'Aubigny

Opera Singer

During her adventures trouping around the county, she had managed to attract the attention of some opera talent scouts who pushed for her to join the Paris Opera.  She headed toward Paris but first had to first deal with the charges hanging over her head.  Luckily for her, her father was able to contact the King and get the charges cleared.  She joined the Opera, playing some very strong female parts, and her voice attracted renown.

Of course, being Julie d'Aubigny, she couldn’t quite blend in with the other performers.  At one ball, she publically kissed a woman, which attracted the attention of three men who dueled her.  She won every duel.  She had to flee Paris due to the anti-dueling laws, until she was once again able to obtain a royal pardon, with the King rationalizing that the laws only applied to men. Even during all this, she somehow found the time to seduce the then-governor of the Netherlands.

Returning to the Opera, she challenged a man known for bothering female singers, and when he tried to refuse, she mugged him.  Not wanting to admit to the embarrassment, he made up a story that he had been attacked, which she quickly refuted by producing a pocket watch she had taken from him.

True Love And Heartbreak

Julie was fated to die young.  She fell for a mistress Marquise de Florensac, whose death after two years proved too much for the still-young Julie, who had finally found love at long last.  Joining a convent for real this time, she lived there another few years until her death at the young age of 33.

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