Meet Julie d’Aubigny, The Cross-Dressing, Opera Singing Swordsman Of The Seventeenth Century

julie d'aubigny la maupin painting
Twitter / @jasonporath
Twitter / @jasonporath

Julie d’Aubigny, also known as La Maupin, was a seventeenth-century bisexual Fresh opera singer who also wounded or killed at least ten men in duels, all while performing nightly shows dressed as a man. Her life became one of the most jarring and intriguing stories in the history of women.

D’Aubigny was born in 1670 to a wealthy family, where she grew up learning horseback riding, dancing, singing, drawing, and of course, fencing. At age sixteen, she had an affair with her father’s boss who, to keep his honor, arranged her marriage to Monsoir Maupin. Maupin spent most of his time in the U.S., allowing D’Aubigny to use her marital status to travel and work independently.

Around 1687, D’Aubigny moved to Marseille where she teamed up with a fencing master named Sérannes. The two would perform shows where they demonstrated their swordsmanship while singing insulting songs about people. Around this time, La Maupin began cross-dressing for her performances.

Eventually, D’Aubigny became involved with a young woman. The woman’s parents placed her in a nunnery during their affair. D’Aubigny entered the convent disguised as a man, stole the body of a dead nun, put it in her lover’s bed, and then set the room on fire so the two of them could escape. Their affair only lasted three months until La Maupin (as a man) was charged with arson, kidnapping, and body snatching.

To avoid death by fire, D’Aubigny fled to Paris. There, she was insulted by a young nobleman, prompting a duel. During the fight, she drove her blade through his shoulder. The next day, she checked in on his health and discovered that he was Louis-Joseph d’Albert Luynes, son of the Duke of Luynes. The two became lovers and later lifelong friends.

After Count d’Albert returned to the military, La Maupin moved on to Rouen. She persuaded the Count to discontinue the death by fire sentence hanging over her head. Count d’Albert petitioned King Louis XIV, who removed the penalty and allowed her to perform in the Paris Opera.

Starting in 1690, D’Aubigny sang at the Paris Opera under the name Mademoiselle de Maupin and became quite popular. During her career, she famously fought in many duels. She defeated singer Louis Gaulard Dumesny after he pestered women members in the troupe. She also beat her former lover, singer Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard, in a public duel of wits.

In 1695, D’Aubigny attended a ball, where she publicly kissed a young woman. Unfortunately, the young woman had three mean courting her, who all challenged D’Aubigny to a duel. She beat all three of them. While this duel gave her public praise, it ended her current career, as duels were outlawed in Paris.

D’Aubigny fled once again to Versailles, where she performed in several operas. Her final years of singing were scarred by the death of her lover at the time, Marie Louise Therese de Senneterre. She retired in 1705 and spent her remaining years in a convent, where she died at age 33. She has no known grave.