CHEVALIER D‘ÉON DE BEAUMONT
* 5th October 1728 in Tonnerre, today France
† 21st May 1810 in London, today United Kingdom
Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d‘Éon de Beaumont was a French diplomat, soldier, freemason, writer in and fencer. An androgynous appearance and the skills of imitation made the Chevalier an ideal spy. In public, the Chevalier appeared as a man.
In 1756, the Chevalier of King Louis XV. was sent by France as a spy (officially as secretary of the ambassador) to Russia. Since men were not allowed to cross the border into Russia at this time, the Chevalier arrived as Lady Lea de Beaumont to the court of Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia. Her mission was to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. Lea de Beaumont was successful and Russia fought alongside Austria and France in the Seven Years War.
In 1763, the French king sent the Chevalier, who appeared again as a man, as secretary to the ambassador (secretly, however, as a diplomat with negotiating authority) to London. After a dispute with his superiors, d’Éon was called back to France, but refused to leave and remained in exile in London.Despite the fact that d‘Éon usually wore a dragoons uniform, rumors were soon circulating in London that d‘Éon was actually a woman. A bookmaker even offered a bet on the true sex of d‘Éon. D‘Éon was invited to resolve the issue, but declined, saying that an exam would be impolite, whatever the outcome. After a year without progress, the bet was abandoned.
In England d‘Éon temporarily wore women‘s clothes, perhaps to escape deporta-tion. In 1766, she worked again as a spy for the French king. After the death of Louis XV. d‘Éon was allowed to return to France but only on the condition that she would continue to live as a woman. Lea d‘Éon de Beaumont thus returned to France. The Chevaliere d‘Éon claimed to be a female by birth and demanded recognition as such by the government. D‘Eon said she had been raised as a boy, because Louis d‘Éon de Beaumont (her father) could only have received his inheritance from his in-laws if he had a son.
Finally, in 1785, d‘Éon moved to London. She made her living through fencing duels in women‘s clothing and the sale of her valuable library. The surgeon who examined d‘Éon‘s corpse found „perfectly formed male organs in every respect,“ while the body also displayed female features.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the human sexuality researcher Havelock Ellis coined the term Eonism for the so-called „transvestite tendencies“ that the Chevalier d’Eon displayed. The true sex of d`Éon is unknown.