Julie D'Aubigny: 17th Century French Professional Fencer and Opera Singer
Introduction to D'Aubigny
Julie D'Aubigny (also known as "La Maupin") was a 17th century rebellious fencer and opera singer. D'Aubigny did everything but follow the rules, and is an inspiring woman found in French history. She is believed to be born around 1673, as the exact date is unknown due to the lack of records. D'Aubigny was raised by her father, Gaston D'Aubigny, whom was a secretary to noble Count d'Armagnac. Gaston spent his time training Louis XIV's court pages, and decided to train Julie alongside the other boys. She learned how to read and write, as well as fence with the other boys her age.
Julie began dressing as a boy and became one of the best at handling a sword. She frequently beat the other boys in duels and was frankly quite remarkable. D'Armagnac was frustrated with Julie's masculine and wild ways, and decided to intervene. At the ripe age of 14, Julie became mistress to d'Armagnac, and he forced her to marry a man by the name of Sieur de Maupin. D'Armagnac hoped that pushing her into marriage would cause her to settle down, but the complete opposite occurred. Directly after the marriage, Maupin obtained a high-paying job in Southern France. He quickly left, and D'Aubigny remained in Paris.
The Beginning of a New Life
Julie left home and began wandering Paris. She came across another fencer named Séranne, whom she moved with to the city of Marseille. The duo began performing duels in front of crowds and sang wherever they could, such as at bars and taverns. In one incident, a man was in such awe that D'Aubigny was so skillful and did not believe that she was a woman. In order to prove herself, she removed her blouse in front of the entire crowd. Acts like these caused her to be the talk of the town and popular amongst townspeople.
Julie's formal singing career began at Marseille Opéra, where she continued to wear men's clothing. She did not remain there long, as she soon grew bored of Séranne and fell in love with a local young woman. The young woman's father was completely against the affair, and did everything in his power to split the couple. Unfortunately, the young girl was sent to a convent in Avignon, but that did not stop Julie whatsoever. She travelled all the way to Avignon to find her lover. She was able to enter the facility as a postulant.
Julie finally reached her lover and remained hidden for a short while until an elderly nun passed away in the convent. Julie immediately decided that the death of this nun would be the key to escaping. She retrieved the corpse and placed it in her lover's cell, and set fire to the building. The two fled the scene and were on the run for three months until the girl returned to her family. Unfortunately for D'Aubigny, her actions had large consequences, and she was responsible for kidnapping, body snatching, arson, and failing to appear in court. The punishment was death.
Luckily for D'Aubigny, her father's boss came to the rescue (surprisingly), and convinced Louis XIV to let her go free. Julie continued her masculine identity and decided to return to Paris. On her travels, she encountered Louis-Joseph d'Albert Luynes, whom insulted her. They participated in a duel, and D'Aubigny drove her blade directly into his shoulder. The following day, she returned to him to help aid him, and the two had a short affair. They ended up remaining very close friends, but Julie could not stay forever. She wanted to return to Paris and the opera.
The Return to Paris / Final Years on the Stage
In 1690, The Paris Opera took D'Aubigny in. At first the theater was very cautious in hiring her, as they heard about her previous skirmishes. Once they heard her voice though, they hired her immediately. She was immensely popular amongst the public, and she appeared in major productions from 1960 - 1964, all at the age of 17. Her relationships with her fellow performers were not the best, but the public absolutely honored her. This is where she earned the name, La Maupin.
Julie faced an obstacle in 1695 at a society ball. At this party she was courting a young woman. In the middle of a dance she kissed her, which caused a large disruption. Three men then challenged D'Aubigny to a duel, where she defeated all three of them. In some accounts it is believed that she even killed all three of the men. Due to the strict laws for dueling in Paris, D'Aubigny left to avoid punishment.
D'Aubigny had a few more flings, including the Elector of Bavaria. She travelled across the countryside and performed in multiple different operas, and created a large buzz wherever she went. Julie had undeniable talent, and everywhere she went people recognized it. In 1703, D'Aubigny fell in love with Madame la Marquise de Florensac, who was known for her extreme beauty. In this relationship, Julie began to finally wind down, and was extremely committed to this woman. They remained together for an entire two years until de Florensac died of a fever. Julie was devastated by the death of her lover, and retired from the opera in 1705.
After 1705, the records of D'Aubigny get hazy. She is believed to have joined a convent, but the location is unknown as many people claim different areas. In 1707, Julie sadly died with an unknown cause at the young age of 33.
D'Aubigny is an extremely influential figure and went against the flow. She proved that even though she was a woman that she was just as powerful as her male opponents. She also endured the hatred of being a bisexual woman in the 17th century, but managed to live her life to the fullest and was able to love whomever she wanted.
Have you ever heard of Julie D'Aubigny before this article?
I learned about Julie D'Aubigny through Wikipedia and various blogs I came across.