Encyclopedia Womannica

Explorers & Contenders: Julie D'Aubigny

Episode Summary

Julie D'Aubigny (1673-1707) was a famous and flamboyant fencer and opera singer. Her life story includes romance, duels, body-snatching and more.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, Grace Lynch, and Maddy Foley. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit. Theme music by Andi Kristins. 

This episode of Encyclopedia Womannica is sponsored by BetterHelp. We're all trying to figure out how to best support our mental health during these uncertain times. Visit betterhelp.com/WOMANNICA to join the over 700,000 people talking charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. Special offer for Encyclopedia Womannica listeners: Get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/WOMANNICA.

Follow Wonder Media Network:

Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan. And this is Encyclopedia Womannica.

Today we’re talking about a flamboyant, unique character who made waves wherever she went. She was quick to give an impressive singing performance, fall madly in love, and draw her sword and fight! Let’s talk about Julie d’Aubigny. 

Julie d’Aubigny was born in France in 1673. Her father was the secretary of King Louis XIV’s Master of the Horse, the Count d'Armagnac, putting Julie in close proximity to nobles. Her father trained the court pages, so Julie learned alongside them how to dance, read, draw, and fence. She dressed in boy’s clothing from a young age.

At the age of 14, the Count d'Armagnac first took Julie as his mistress, then had her married to Sieur de Maupin, another member of King Louis’ court. This granted Julie the title “Madame de Maupin” or simply “La Maupin.”

That same year, Julie started an affair with an assistant fencing master. She fled south to Marseille with him before  he killed a man in an illegal duel, and was forced to flee from the law. On the way to Marseille, Julie started what would become a life of performance. She and her partner made money by singing and giving fencing exhibitions. All the while, she continued to dress like a man.

In Marseille, Julie started singing for the opera. She soon fell in love with a young woman, but the girl’s parents sent her away to a convent. Julie followed her love interest into the convent by pretending she wanted to become a nun. To help her new lover escape, Julie stole the body of a dead nun, put it in her lover’s bed, and set the room on fire! In the chaos, the pair slipped away and carried on a 3-month affair.

As a result of that ordeal, Julie was charged with kidnapping, body snatching, arson, and failing to appear before the tribunal. She was  sentenced to death by fire. But Julie’s noble connections came in handy. She eventually contacted the Count d'Armagnac who pulled some strings and got her pardoned by the king.

Julie’s hijinks were far from over. She became fast friends with Count Louis-Joseph d'Albert Luynes, the son of a duke, after stabbing him in the shoulder during a duel. Though the two parted ways soon after meeting, they remained friends and co-conspirators for life.

Julie started singing in the Paris opera in 1690. She quickly became a popular act thanks to her impressive voice, acting ability, and unique androgynous clothing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Julie cultivated some contentious relationships with her fellow actors. She fell in love with a singer who was already the mistress of another man, she battled a baritone in a legendary duel of wits, and she physically beat up a male singer for pestering women.

In 1695, Julie kissed a woman at a ball, leading three separate noblemen to challenge her to a duel. Julie defeated them all. She was then forced to lay low for a while, disrupting her singing career. r. 

When she returned to the opera, Julie performed in some major roles that were created specifically for her range. In 1705, she performed at the Paris opera for the last time before taking  refuge in a convent. Historians believe Julie passed away in 1707, at the age of 33.

In 1835, the writer Théophile Gautier wrote the story Mademoiselle de Maupin based on Julie D’Aubigny’s life. In the book, D’Albert and his mistress both fall in love with a mysterious androgynous character who turns out to be Mademoiselle de Maupin -- or Julie. The book’s radical celebration of love regardless of gender made waves at the time, and was later banned by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. 

Join us tomorrow to learn the story of another intrepid explorer or contender! 

Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator.

Talk to you tomorrow!