Julie d’Aubigny

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Julie d’Aubigny, or – as she called herself – Mademoiselle Maupin (La Maupin for short), was a scoundrel straight out of a swashbuckling tale. Originally a child of the French courtly life, her father trained her from an early age in the usual arts befitting a woman of her standing: dancing, reading, art, and…fencing. She took to the latter so well that soon after marrying she struck out on her own and took up dueling in the streets as a way to make a living, adding singing to the act as an extra draw for the crowds. After numerous escapades she was approached by the Paris Opéra and hired as a contralto, which only shifted her occupation from singing-while-stabbing to stabbing-when-she-wasn’t-singing.

On the rare occasions when d’Aubigny was occupied with neither singing nor stabbing she kept herself busy with love affairs. In one comical incident she took a nun’s initiate vows in order to sneak into a convent and abscond with a woman who had been sent there precisely to remove her from d’Aubigny; in another, she stabbed a nobleman in the shoulder during a duel and then, after visiting him in the hospital, became his lover. She would often dress as a man, but judging by more in-depth writeups there does not seem to be evidence that she did so for any reason other than amusement.

Although her biography was an obscure one for several centuries, in recent years the internet has taken an interest in d’Aubigny’s life. For a lengthy account of d’Aubigny’s escapades, read here; for a more humorous one, try here.

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