Mademoiselle Maupin – The opera singer who beat men in duels as a swordswoman. Oh, and she rescued her lesbian lover from a convent

Tijana Radeska
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Mademoiselle Maupin

Julie D’Aubigny, or known as Mademoiselle Maupin or La Maupin, was a 17th-century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who killed or wounded at least ten men in life-or-death duels, as well as performing nightly shows on the biggest and most highly-respected opera stage in the world.

Her life was a whirlwind of duels, seduction, graverobbing, and convent-burning so intense that she had to be pardoned by the king of France twice!

"Mademoiselle Maupin de l'Opéra". Anonymous print, ca. 1700. Wikipedia/Public Domain

“Mademoiselle Maupin de l’Opéra.”
Anonymous print, ca. 1700. Wikipedia/Public Domain

Julie d’Aubigny was born in 1673 to Gaston d’Aubigny, a secretary to Louis de Lorraine-Guise, Comte d’Armagnac, the Master of the Horse for King Louis XIV. Her father trained the court pages, and so his daughter learned dancing, reading, drawing, and fencing alongside the pages, and dressed as a boy from an early age.

By the age of fourteen, she became a mistress of the Count d’Armagnac who had her married to Sieur de Maupin of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Soon after the wedding, her husband received an administrative position in the south of France, but she stayed in Paris.

Around 1687, Madame de Maupin became involved with an assistant fencing master named Sérannes. When Lieutenant-General of Police Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie tried to apprehend Sérannes for killing a man in an illegal duel, the pair fled the city to Marseille.

On the road south, Madame de Maupin and Sérannes made a living by giving fencing exhibitions and singing in taverns and at local fairs. While traveling and performing in these impromptu shows, Maupin dressed in male clothing but did not conceal her gender. On arrival in Marseille, she joined the opera company run by Pierre Gaultier, singing under her maiden name.

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