Julie d’Aubigny embodied just about everything that WHS pride week is about. A fearlessly individualistic, gritty by the gallon, incredibly musical (get your tickets to the pride party on Friday, lads) bisexual sword-wielding arsonist of the 17th century… No? That’s not what WHS pride week is about? Shame. Nevertheless, Julie d’Aubigny knew how to have a pretty good time of it.
Her father, Gaston d’Aubigny, was the secretary to the Compte d’Armagnac, a courtier of Louis XIV, which gave Julie the financial wherewithal for an uncommonly thorough education. Combine this with the fact that her father was in charge of training the court pages in dancing, singing and fencing and you have yourself a very accomplished young lady with a skill set pretty fearsome in the eyes of contemporary men (swordplay? And academia? Chilling.) When she was only fourteen, she became d’Armagnac’s “mistress” which at that age is most definitely classified as rape nowadays. About two years later, she was married off to Jean Maupin, whose sole interesting characteristic was being her husband and the derivation of her stage name, La Maupin. He was not exactly riveting company for Julie, and she promptly ran off with her fencing master Henri de Seranne.
Tends to happen to seventeen-year-olds, doesn’t it? Getting bored with the authority figures in their lives, running away on travels to ‘start my life for real’? The only hitch in Julie’s Gap Yah of 1690 TM was that de Seranne did not, in fact, have the property he claimed to own in Marseille. Classic tourist scam. But the pair were completely unfazed and began to perform in fencing and singing competitions to earn money. They were billed as a male and female duo, but Julie, who had been dressing androgynously since her childhood amongst the pages, raised some eyebrows. At one point, a bystander was so belligerent in claiming that Julie was a man that she responded by flashing him. As the couple gained recognition as performers and audience members finally accepting that Julie was, in fact, a woman, they were offered places at the Marseille Academy of Music.
And the two lived happily ever after, singing and stabbing till death do them part… nope. Far too predictable. Julie turned down that opportunity and chose to become a nun because she realized the ungodliness of her life thus far, rejecting the hobbies that made men shudder, like being smart, singing, dancing, and out-dressing them… also nope. She did become a nun, but only in order to pursue her latest love interest, Cecelia Bortigal, who had been sent to a convent by her parents to fend off same-sex suitors. Once she had entered the nunnery, she got out of it pretty quickly. Her great escape entailed placing the dead body of a recently deceased nun in Cecelia’s sleeping quarters, then setting fire to the place to explain their “deaths”. Who hasn’t faked their death at some point, right? After all of that palaver, you’d think the scheme might have worked, but the two women broke it off at some point before Julie was charged with all the crimes involved in the escape. She was on the run from town to town for a while, until d’Armagnac used his royal connections to have her name cleared. That’s right, folks, this man’s one mildly redeeming feature was using his socioeconomic status to undermine the law.
The next chapter of Julie’s life was relatively peaceful: yes, she initiated more than her fair share of illegal duels, some under her own identity and some disguised as a man to combat the suitors of women she pursued, but she didn’t go on the run or anything. Stabbing a decent number of people isn’t that serious at the end of the day. Her life was stable enough that she managed a flourishing career in the little-known, unheard of, provincial Paris Opera, during which she performed for the King and fell in love with Gabriel-Vincent Thervenard -successful! And Fanchon Moreau (a woman) – unsuccessful in the extreme i.e. Julie was rejected and apparently contemplated suicide. It seems that Julie bounced back after a while, initiating another string of affairs and holding her own in 41 operatic roles.
Her final lover, Marie Louise Therese de Senneterre, Marquise de Florensac, whose name is half the word count of this article, would see Julie through her last years of showbiz and zeitgeist. They spent two happy years together before de Senneterre died suddenly, leaving Julie so mournful that she retired and entered, in a bizarre plot twist, into a life of prayer and romantic abstinence. She died a few years later at either 33 or 37- nobody is quite sure.
So go forth, this Pride week, and harness the spunk of Julie d’Aubigny! Love who you can’t help loving! Dress how you want to dress! Cause grievous bodily harm to whomever you like and seriously damage all the property your heart desires! (NB please do not break any rules, legal or school uniform code. But the love who you love one still counts.)