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Mademoiselle de Maupin

Julie d'Aubigny (1673-1707), also known as La Maupin, was a French noblewoman who enjoyed moderate success as an opera singer before dying at a young age. Many decades after her death, tall tales and posthumous gossip led to her becoming something of a folk hero in the popular imagination: a swashbuckling swordswoman who lived a short but tumultuous life at the height of French absolutism. Some of the highlights of her fictitious persona included:

  • Growing up as One of the Boys while learning swordsmanship from her father, who trained pages at Louis XIV's court in Paris.
  • Seducing her dad's boss, the Comte d'Armagnac, at the age of 14, marrying another guy on papernote , then running off with a third paramour (her fencing master, a man named Sérannes) to Marseilles, where she began singing in the operanote .
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  • Starting an affair with a girl, following her to a convent where her parents sent her in response, then placing the body of a dead nun in the girl's bed and setting the entire place on fire to cover their escape.note 
  • Beating the Duke of Luynes' son and two of his flunkies in a Sword Fight over an insult, then sneaking into his room and seducing him after he sent her a letter of apology.
  • Returning to Paris in 1690 to sing in the world-famous Paris Opera, first as a soprano, but eventually switching to her natural Contralto of Danger over the years.note 
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  • Alternatively seducing or beating up (sometimes both) most, if not all, of her fellow actors and actresses in Paris.
  • Kissing a young woman at a Versailles ball in 1695, getting challenged to a duel by three of her suitors at once, defeating all of them, and amusing the King enough to receive another royal pardonnote .
  • Hiding from French justice in Brussels, where she sang at Opéra du Quai au Foin and (naturally) had an affair with Maximilian II Emanuel, Prince-Elector of Bavaria until 1698.note 
  • Becoming the mistress of Marquise de Florensac, whose sudden Death by Childbirth broke La Maupin so much, she retired from the opera in 1705 and died in a convent two years later.
  • Remaining technically married all this time and leaving no known grave behind.

As you may imagine, La Maupin's legend has inspired numerous works of fiction, as well as more than a few D&D-style bards.

Appearances and references to La Maupin in media:

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    Comic Books 
  • In Doctor Who (Titan), d'Aubigny briefly accompanies the Twelfth Doctor in the chapter "Terror of the Cabinet Noir", challenging him to a duel but, surprisingly, not attempting to seduce him — at least, not on "screen"...

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The 1966 Italian film Madamigella di Maupin, directed by Mauro Bolognini and starring Catherine Spaak, is loosely based on the real-life d'Aubigny and on Gautier's novel.
  • The 2004 Made-for-TV Movie Julie, chevalier de Maupin, directed by Charlotte Brandström and starring Sarah Biasini (the daughter of Romy Schneider) re-imagines d'Aubigny's character around her martial and singing talents instead of her sexuality (like Gautier's novel) and plays very fast and loose with actual episodes of her life.

  • Théophile Gautier's romantic novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) is Very Loosely Based on a True Story of d'Aubigny, in which Comte d'Albert and his mistress Rosette both fall for the mysterious androgynous "Théodore de Sérannes", who is actually Madeleine de Maupin. The book was so subversive of the gender ideas at the time, it was actually banned by Media Watchdogs in several countries.
  • Goddess (2014) by Kelly Gardiner is a dramatized retelling of La Maupin's life, framed as a lengthy "confession" to a nameless priest shortly before her death.
  • The swordswoman Corinne D'Aubigny from Knights of the Borrowed Dark is a reference to La Maupin.

    Video Games 
  • Is mentioned to have been an Assassin in Assassin's Creed: Unity, which takes place over 50 years after her death.

    Web Original 

Tropes associated with d'Aubigny:

  • The Ace: One of the best sword-arms and most renowned opera stars of her day.
  • Action Girl: Julie was a master fencer and duelist who fought ten known duels, including twice against three men at once, and in another case burnt down a convent as part of a scheme to reunite with a paramour. Most of her antics would not have been out of place for a male hero in the Swashbuckler genre.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: A part of why Julie was Easily Forgiven for her antics was because the King found the entire thing hilarious, and only issued warrants against her to maintain order.
  • Bifauxnen: Add "wearing men's clothing when it was widely considered publicly indecent" to the very long list of taboo acts she committed repeatedly and openly with no consequences suffered whatsoever.
  • Broken Bird: Whatever Marie Louise Thérèse, Marquise de Florensac, did to capture La Maupin's heart, it worked... so well that when she suddenly died, the fabled swashbuckler was utterly and irreparably broken.
  • Contralto of Danger: Julie was known for her simmering contralto voice. In fact, she was the first contralto to sing the lead role in the Paris Opera, and if not the Ur-Example, may at least be the Trope Maker.
  • Cuckold: It should be noted that throughout her wild career Julie was actually married. Some speculation suggests that rather than the convent, she may actually have returned to her husband when she retired. Or that they reconnected before his death, and she retired to the convent afterwards.
  • Cultured Badass: She was a sword-slinging opera singer.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Many adversaries ended up on the receiving end of one at her hands, but the beating she gave Dumesny — both physically and to his ego — must be seen to be believed.note 
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Friendship with benefits, if you happened to be Louis-Joseph d'Albert Luynes. After he apologized after their duel, during which she drove a sword through his shoulder, the two became lifelong best friends and fuck buddies. (Specifically, he sent her a letter apologizing for his rudeness, and complimenting her on how thoroughly she kicked his ass, whereupon she went to his room and...also apologized.)
  • Death by Despair: The most commonly cited cause of Julie's death was her inability to cope with the death of her last lover four years prior.
  • Downer Ending: Julie's life may have been exciting, but it was also tragically short. Her date and cause of death is unclear, but she is believed to have died around 1707 at the age of 33 or 36note . Her place of burial has also gone unrecorded.
  • Driven to Suicide: She attempted to kill herself after being rejected by fellow singer Fanchon Moreau, although the attempt failed.
  • Duel to the Death: Dueling was a part of the day's social interactions, and Julie didn't let her sex stop her. She's known to have fought ten duels, and almost certainly fought more. What's less clear is whether any of her fights were actually fatal. d'Albert Luynes certainly survived his encounter with her, as they became Platonic Life-Partners (and off-and-on lovers) in the aftermath, which endured for the rest of Julie's life. Regardless, dueling was technically illegal in France, (though the laws were laxly enforced) and her dueling caused her all manner of legal issues.
  • Easily Forgiven: Despite committing a few crimes with quite severe punishments (such as torching a convent, after which she was sentenced to death by burning, or getting into a duel after crashing a ball where the King's brother was in residence) she always had someone to intercede on her behalf and get her sentences overturned.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: When she first appeared at the opera she was already quite talented, but was nonetheless a supporting player. However Julie quickly stole the spotlight from her more experienced costars, and established herself as an audience favorite. This eventually led to her becoming the first contralto to play the lead role in a major opera.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Although she did do some outrageous stuff before that, La Maupin's scheme involving grave desecration and wanton arson of a religious institution, all for a couple months with a girl she fancied, was what had really put her on the map as the number one troublemaker of the decade.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Tied in knots. Julie was shamelessly promiscuous and openly bisexual in an era where homosexual relations were quite explicitly verboten, and sexuality in general was kept behind closed doors. To say nothing of being a woman who habitually dressed in men's clothing and was highly skilled with a blade. She only managed to get away with it through a combination of friends in high places and sheer Refuge in Audacity to the point that no one could quite figure out what to do with her.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: La Maupin had absolutely no trouble seducing women, even at the time where such public trysts were socially unacceptable. Her attractiveness to both men and women has often been emphasized by later depictions in fiction, starting with Gautier's novel.
  • Fatal Method Acting: The incident which soured her relationship with Maximilian II Emanuel involved her stabbing herself with an actual dagger during a performance. As with Driven to Suicide above, she survived that attempt.
  • Girly Bruiser: As a star of the Paris Opera Julie wasn't unfamiliar with the high-class fashions of the day.
  • Gold Digger: Many of Julie's lovers were men of status, including her father's boss, Louis de Lorraine-Guise, comte d'Armagnac, and Maximilian II Emanuel, Prince-Elector of Bavaria. She used these connections to her advantage; d'Armagnac married her off to Sieur de Maupin, giving her a bit of respectability, (although as much to get the troublesome Julie out of his hair) and on several occasions interceded on her behalf with the King to have her legal troubles overturned. While Emanuel supported and sheltered her when she was exiled from Paris for dueling.
  • Heartbroken Badass: The death of Marie Louise Thérèse so profoundly affected her that she retired two years afterwards.
  • Hot-Blooded: Julie was noted for having a ferocious temper. In one notable incident Maximilian II tried to buy her off with 40,000 francs to get her to leave Brussels once she became too uncontrollable. In a rage she threw the purse at his messenger (and in some versions of the story physically assaulted him).
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Julie's life-long frielationship with d'Albert Luyens effectively began when she drove her sword clear through his shoulder. As one does. A number of other opponents were also on the receiving end of this (though weren't fortunate enough for the Relationship Upgrade afterwards, Luyens is presumably the only opponent lucky enough to pay her back and (ahem) impale her in return).
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Her modus operandi for courtship usually consisted of two steps. One: challenge some poor sap (or more than one sap) to a duel and thrash them thoroughly. Two: hop into bed with the most attractive boy or girl who was standing nearby, often the person whose honor she'd just fought a duel over. Rinse and repeat. On more than occasion, the most attractive person standing nearby happened to be the person she'd just fought a duel against.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: While most of her duels occurred wearing men's clothes, that nonetheless would have included the finest fashions of the day (particularly the duel that resulted from crashing a ball held by King Louis' brother and kissing a girl that her opponents had their eyes on).
  • Ladykiller in Love: Marquise de Florensac must've been something special. Her death simply broke Julie... and if the rest of this page has taught you anything, it's that breaking Julie D'Aubigny seemed outright impossible before that.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery: The parents of Julie's first female lover tried to hide their daughter from scandal and Julie's further advances in a convent... which backfired rather spectacularly.
  • Loophole Abuse: Another part of why Julie managed to get out of trouble for her escapades. After dueling three men at a palace ball attended by the King's brother, Louis (who got a big laugh out of the entire thing) eventually decided that the ban on dueling didn't apply to women, effectively pardoning her.
  • The Lost Lenore: The Marquise de Florensac. Her death impacted her so profoundly she retired from her wild public life and retreated to a convent where she died not long after.
  • Master Swordsman: Julie was a masterful swordswoman, and fought numerous duels in her lifetime. At least two were fought against three opponents at once, and she was victorious both times.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: One of Julie's claims to fame is fighting on the short end of two three-vs-one duels. And winning both:
    • The first put her afoul of d'Albert Luyens when he crudely came on to her while she was singing one night at an inn. She found him and both his comrades, stabbing Luyens through the shoulder. When he sent her a formal apology later, she slipped into his room, seduced him, and began a life-long friendship afterwards.
    • The second came at a ball hosted by Louis' brother. Julie crashed the party, singled out the (other) most beautiful woman in the room to dance, and incited a scandal when she kissed her in full view of the others. The three men who also had eyes on the woman — and whom Julie beat to the punch — challenged her then and there. She thrashed all three, then fled Paris to escape punishment for dueling.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Noble-born fugitive swordswoman-duelist alcoholic crossdressing opera singer actress with friends in high places, and was openly, flamboyantly bisexual to boot in a time where homosexuality was outright illegal in many places. Many of the things she did could easily have gotten her arrested all on their own, the combination of all of them at once meant that she was able to basically escape ever being punished for them.
  • Nun Too Holy: When a paramour's parents shipped her off to a convent to avoid the scandal of their daughter having a homosexual relationship, Julie did what any sensible woman would do in her situation: She joined the convent herself to continue the relationship. Julie ended her stint in the church by digging up a recently-deceased nun, placing the body in her bed, lighting the place on fire, and absconding with her lover.
  • One of the Boys: Julie was likely a Daddy's Girl who basically grew up among the young pages whom her father trained in fencing, and while she did learn all the girly stuff like dancing and singing as a kid, too, she could duel with the best of them by the time she ran away from home.
  • Outfit-Rip Sex Check: She was once accused of being a man, on the basis that no woman could be as skilled at swordfighting as her. She responded by pulling her shirt open and telling the audience to judge for themselves.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Julie was the one doing the overshadowing. While the Paris Opera was loaded with talent, d'Aubigny quickly became the one people came to see.
  • Oxymoronic Being: Julie's public image is full of self-contradictions, which is perhaps best exemplified by her popular moniker "Mademoiselle de Maupin", since the title "Mademoiselle" (Fr. "Miss") was only used for unmarried women at the time, yet "Maupin" was the surname of Julie's husband. The moniker seems to have originated from Gautier's eponymous novel, whose character based on her was unmarried, but the fact that it (rather than "Madame de Maupin") had also stuck to the real-life Julie is perhaps indicative how she managed to remain simultaneously married (de jure) and single (de facto) for most of her life.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Not entirely, as they were off-and-on lovers, but her relationship with d'Albert Luynes effectively amounted to this. They cared very much for one another, and Luynes may have genuinely loved her, but Julie never saw him as more than a friend and occasional fling.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Julie was a notable beauty with fair skin and either black or very dark auburn hair.
  • Really Gets Around: Throughout her lifetime Julie left a trail of broken hearts and discarded lovers — men and women alike — by the bucketful in her wake.
  • Rebellious Spirit: While d'Aubigny took care to never explicitly challenge the social dogmas of her time and place (particularly, the gender roles) in word, she did so in action throughout her entire life.
  • Red Baron: D'Aubigny is often referred as simply "La Maupin", which is a shortened form of "Madame de Maupin", i.e. "Maupin's wife", — ironic, given how she doesn't seem to have ever seen her husband after the wedding.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Her entire life essentially revolved around it. One way she was able to get away with so much is in part because no one really knew what to actually do with her.
  • The Rock Star: Opera singers were pretty much the rock stars of their day, and Julie was no exception. Some of her antics wouldn't be all that out of place among the excesses of the rock scene in the 70s and 80s.
  • Samus Is a Girl: As discussed under Sweet Polly Oliver, it's unclear whether Julie's cross-dressing was done to disguise her sex or to call attention to it. However at least one version of her first meeting with d'Albert Luyens suggests that it wasn't until after their duel that she revealed she was a woman.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A big part of how Julie got away with many of her escapades was simply having friends or lovers of status who could smooth over the consequences. d'Armagnac interceded on her behalf with the King to overturn her conviction over the convent affair, and Louis himself found her antics entertaining enough to pardon her on his own volition after the duel at the palace ball.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Although Julie was personally pardoned by the King for her part in a duel at a palace ball (he found the whole affair hilarious and also decided that the ban on dueling didn't extend to women), she nonetheless took advantage of the opportunity to slip out of Paris until the uproar died down.note  Julie being Julie, this still meant making a spectacle of herself and overstaying her welcome elsewhere.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: The opera scene was pretty much the 17th Century equivalent; Partying, drinking, and promiscuity were rampant among the men and women of the opera companies, and Julie's wild escapades fit right in.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: While she was singing at a bar once, an audience member who was either the dumbest or the cleverest man who ever lived suggested that she prove she was really a woman. She responded by flashing the entire tavern.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Julie's life has been the subject of so much myth, legend, and rumor, it's not entirely clear how much actually happened, and how much was the product of embellishment over time. In fact, her given name may not have even been Julia or Julie at all, her date of birth is unclear (generally accepted as 1673, but possibly as early as 1670), and though the most common story is that she retired to a convent where she later died around 1707, even this isn't entirely certain (at least some tellings have her return to her husband by 1705).
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Julie was a tempestuous, hot-headed, and passionate woman, and it is reported that more than a few of her relationships involved squabbles that became quite heated. Her relationship with d'Albert Luyens even began when she ran him through during a duel.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Julie arrived at the Paris Opera singing in supporting roles. It wasn't long before she overshadowed everyone in the company, and it's no accident she was the first contralto to sing the lead in a major opera in a part written for her.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Julie attempted suicide after her affections were rejected by Fanchon Moreau, although she survived.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Maybe, as it's unclear today what Julie's actual intent of dressing in men's fashion was. Some modern interpretations posit that she dressed in men's fashion to disguise her sex, particularly citing the convent incident, for which she was condemned as Monsieur de Maupin. She also obscured her sex and identity when confronting Dumesny, and was recorded as Monsier de Maupin in some other cases. However other evidence suggests that while Julie dressed in men's fashion, she made no effort to disguise the fact she was a woman at all, and in fact even used her style of dress to call attention to her gender. In one famous incident, a man listening to her sing in a tavern drunkenly expressed doubt as to whether she was actually a woman. She promptly ripped open her doublet to prove it and challenged her audience to decide for themselves. And while she attended the ball which led to her second 3-on-1 duel in men's fashion, everyone in attendance knew her as the woman d'Aubigny, and was personally recognized as such by the King in the aftermath. This suggests the fact she was a woman who dressed in men's fashion was known. At the very least, she may have done both; taking advantage of fashion to conceal her identity when it suited her purposes, but also using it to flout her sex the rest of the time.
  • Taking the Veil: In one of her most legendary escapades she pulled this as a ruse to gain access to a lover when her parents sent the girl to a convent to keep them apart. She later joined a convent after retiring following the death of the Marquise de Florensac, and it's believed that this is where she eventually died.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Julie's career started by singing in taverns and inns while traveling with her lover and fencing master, Sérannes, where she would sing to the patrons, while he would give demonstrations of swordplay.note  This would become a regular fixture of her career for the rest of her life when she wasn't working with one of the formal opera companies.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: It may be stretching the definition of "wholesome," but Julie made a routine habit of dressing in men's clothing. As discussed under Sweet Polly Oliver above, rather than concealing her sex, she may have done it to call attention to it.
  • Wild Child: She began as this — seducing her father's boss at the tender age of fourteen — and didn't look back.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman:
    • Marquise de Florensac, Julie's final love, was considered the most beautiful woman in France at the time.
    • Julie herself was no slouch, and was known as a striking beauty who attracted no shortage of lovers.

Alternative Title(s): La Maupin