You may not have heard the name ‘Julie d’Aubigny’, but you’ll almost certainly remember her exploits once you’ve read about them. d’Aubigny was a 17th-century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master.
She killed or wounded at least 10 men in life-or-death duels (that’s how you shit on the patriarchy), performed on some of the most revered opera stages in the world, and entered a convent so she could have sex with a nun in the convent.
How’s that for a repertoire?
The not-so-humble beginnings of Julie d’Aubigny
d’Aubigny was born in 1673 to Gaston d’Aubigny (peak Disney villain naming, right there) and Louis de Lorraine-Guise, the Master of the Horse for King Louis XIV.
Dear old Louis de Lorraine-Guise trained the court pages, so by proxy d’Aubigny learned dancing, reading, drawing, and fencing alongside the other (male) pages.
At 14, d’Aubigny became the Count d’Armagnac’s mistress (we use mistress in a historical context here, as d’Aubigny was a young teenager so: ew). The Count married d’Aubigny off to Sieur de Maupin of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a commune in north-central France – and that’s where the fun begins.
In the same year (1687), d’Aubigny started an affair with a fencing master called Sérannes. (Yes, this is all very hetero so far.) Séranne killed a dude in an illegal duel, and he fled with d’Aubigny to Marseille. The pair made a living by giving fencing exhibitions and singing in impromptu shows – all while d’Aubigny dressed in male clothing. Not so revolutionary now, but quite the sight in 1687 in France.
In Marseille, d’Aubigny joined an opera company run by Pierre Gaultier.
And now it gets fun
After some time, d’Aubigny cheated on Sérannes with a young woman – who was promptly locked away in a convent in Avignon. d’Aubigny, undeterred by parental interference, entered the convent, STOLE THE BODY OF A DEAD NUN, placed it in her lover’s bed, set the room on fire, and escaped.
Three months later, the young woman returned to her family and d’Aubigny was charged in absentia (as a male because women couldn’t do such things) with kidnapping, body snatching, arson, and appearing at court. She was sentence to death by fire.
To avoid a fiery pit, d’Aubigny took her leave to Paris. Along her travels, d’Aubigny was insulted by a young noble man, the son of the Duke of Luynes, and they dueled. d’Aubigny stabbed him in the shoulder and she later went to visit him, where they became lovers and eventual lifelong friends.
d’Aubigny hit the road again, meeting Gabriel-Vincent Thénenard, a noted signer, and they began an affair. In the Marais, d’Aubigny contacted her old pal Count d’Armagnac for help (remember him from two hundred words ago?) and he persuaded the king to pardon d’Aubigny so she could sing with the Opéra.
Reader, we’re not sure how much sense that makes as a decision but again: it was late 17th century France. Times were different.
d’Aubigny then began a celebrated career, travelling with the Opéra. Due to her beautiful voice, acting skills, and androgynous appearance (translation: she was super hot and charming), d’Aubigny was popular with the audience – but often in trouble with her colleagues. In one instance, she beat up Louis Gaulard Dumesny for pestering women troupe members – which: deserved.
In true d’Aubigny form, she fell in and out with lovers, falling particularly hard for Fanchon Moreau, a singer who was already a mistress of the Grand Dauphin, the eldest son and heir to the King of France. When she was rejected, d’Aubigny took it hard and tried to commit suicide.
However, it wasn’t until 1695 that d’Aubigny’s opera career was interrupted.
Stop, thy name is patriarchy
Paris, 1965. A high society ball. d’Aubigny flirts with all the hot women, but steals a kiss from a young woman at the ball. Paris’ high society is disgusted and d’Aubigny refuses to back down, fielding dueling challenges from three different noblemen.
She tells them she’ll meet them all outside, fights them at once, and beats them all.
And back to the past tense.
Dueling is illegal in France so d’Aubigny has to flee to Brussels.
If you read Wikipedia’s account of d’Aubigny’s time in Brussels, it’s fairly boring – but d’Aubigny was so very extra she made another affair with a rich dude seem interesting.
While in Brussels, d’Aubigny began an affair with the Elector of Bavaria. However, on-stage, she stabbed herself with a real dagger (so, so extra) so the Elector bolted, offering her 40,000 francs to leave him alone. She threw the coins at the feet of his emissary and stormed off to Madrid.
In 1697, d’Aubigny returned to the Paris Opéra. For several years, all was quiet: the most trouble d’Aubigny got into was beating up her landlord, which was unequivocally tame by her standards.
The final years of d’Aubginy’s career were spent with the Madame la Marquise de Florensac. Long before ‘bury your gays’ became a thing on TV, life decided to curse the Madame and d’Aubigny with the Madame’s untimely death around 1705.
Madame la Marquise was described as “the most beautiful woman in France” – so much so, she had to flee to Brussels too in her earlier life because the pesky Dauphin was obsessed with her. We’re sure their time spent separately in Brussels as fugitives was a point of interest for our intrepid pair.
The Madame and d’Aubigny were said to have lived in perfect harmony for two years, before a fever took our late-stage love interest from the mortal coil.
Distraught, d’Aubigny entered a convent where she died at the age of 33. She has no known grave.
So there you have it: d’Aubigny was a criminal, a fugitive, and a badass. In celebration of her status in queerdom, we’ve made her an Instagram slate because this is the internet and why not? And yes, we took the liberty of casting Evelyne Brochu as the Madame, for reasons.