Sadly, no matter how much I tried, I was unable to work
a transvestite swordsman into The Serpent Prince . . .
A Tranvestite Master Swordsman: the Case of Chevalier d'Eon
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
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.
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.