Little is known for certain about her life; her tumultuous career and flamboyant lifestyle were the subject of gossip, rumor, and colourful stories in her own time, and inspired numerous fictional and semi-fictional portrayals afterwards.
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, who trained the court pages, took care of her education teaching her academic subjects of the type given to boys but also trained her in fencing in which she gained competence from the age of 12, competing successfully against men.
In 1687, the Count d’Armagnac had her married to Sieur de Maupin of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and she became Madame de Maupin (or simply “La Maupin” per French custom). Soon after the wedding, her husband received an administrative position in the south of France, but the Count kept her in Paris for his own purposes.
Also around 1687, d’Aubigny became involved with an assistant fencing master named Séranne. 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, d’Aubigny and Sérannes made a living by giving fencing exhibitions and singing in taverns and at local fairs. While travelling and performing in these impromptu shows, La Maupin dressed in men’s clothing but did not conceal her sex.
On arrival in Marseille, she joined the opera company run by Gaultier de Marseilles [fr] (1642-1696), singing under her maiden name.
“Julie d’Aubigny.” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_d%27Aubigny. Accessed 31 July 2022.
BBC You’re Dead to Me Podcast:
It was at this time that she had her first lesbian affair. The family of the young woman with whom she had fallen in love with, sent the young woman away to a convent in Avignon to avoid contact with La Maupin. Julie followed the young lady and joined the convent so they could resume their relationship.
The two then escaped the convent by placing the corpse of a recently deceased nun in Julie’s paramour’s bed, and setting the room on fire.
The scheme was to prevent a search for the young woman by the authorities, as the couple hoped that the deceased nun’s body would pass for the young woman herself. The plot was discovered, and the Parliament of Aix-en-Provence sentenced La Maupin in absentia— under the male title “Sieur”— to death by fire.
La Maupin’s audacious behavior offstage led to her own scandals, eventually curtailing her professional career in Paris while at its ascent.
Dressed as a man at a court ball, she kissed a woman whose attentions three noblemen were seeking. The three nobles challenged La Maupin to a fight, and she defeated all three in fencing duels.
Since Louis had outlawed dueling, she now had to flee the city, again pursued by the lawWestby, Alan. “Julie d’Aubigny: La Maupin and Early French Opera.” Los Angeles Public Library, 28 June 2017, http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/julie-daubigny-la-maupin-and-early-french-opera
“In 1703 she fell in love with Madame la Marquise de Florensac, the “most beautiful woman in France” (Saint-Simon 1897) – so beautiful that she too had had to flee to Brussels for several years because the Dauphin was obsessed with her. La Florensac was also one of the most famous, wealthy and well-connected women in France. The two women lived, according to one account, in perfect harmony for two years, until de Florensac died of a fever.”
Gardiner, Kelly. “The Real Life of Julie d’Aubigny.” Kelly Gardiner, kellygardiner.com/fiction/books/goddess/the-real-life-of-julie-daubigny. Accessed 31 July 2022.