Chevalier d’Eon [Charles-Geneviève de Beaumont] Autograph Letter, 1765
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Autograph Letter in the hand of the 18th century French diplomat, spy, and soldier who lived openly as a man and as a woman in France and England at different stages of life, drawing much public interest, and who infiltrated the court of Empress Elizabeth of Russia by presenting as a woman. June 29, 1765. 1 pp. Extract copied in the hand of the Chevalier d'Éon, from an original letter addressed to him from Victor-François, 2nd duc de Broglie (1718–1804), recounting having shown one of the Chevalier's letters to Louis XV, King of France. The Duke had shown the letter to the King as it contained information "relating to your trials with the Ambassador [Claude Louis François Régnier de Guerchy, French ambassador to the United Kingdom]...The satisfaction he has in your conduct and your loyalty has encouraged His Majesty to tell you to continue your work and correspondence."
"In the middle decades of the eighteenth century, Louis XV conducted a secret foreign policy with a network of spies, run for much of its existence until the end by the Comte de Broglie. This network was referred to as the secret du roi by its own members and initiates, and sometimes merely as “the secret.” The secret du roi often went counter to his official policy and was conducted behind the backs of his ministers.... In royal courts, keeping one’s secrets hidden while learning those of potential enemies was essential to survival. Louis XV had taken the advice of his predecessor, Louis XIV, to heart: that a king should always have several sources of information, preferably unknown to one another." (Nicole Bauer, "The Fate of Secrets in a Public Sphere: the Comte de Broglie and the Demise of the Secret du roi," in Journal of The Western Society for French History, Volume 43, 2015)
"The sex of Chevalier d’Eon (or if you want his actual name Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont) was of great interest to people in the eighteenth century. D’Eon claimed that he was born female but had been raised as a boy so that his father could inherit from his in-laws. When he was older, he joined the dragoons and habitually wore a dragoon’s uniform, even though rumors constantly circulated that he was a woman...The rumors exploded further when in 1770 when a betting pool was started on the London Stock Exchange about Chevalier d’Eon’s true sexual identity...After the death of Louis XV in May of 1774, Chevalier d’Eon negotiated his return. He then demanded the French government recognize him as a female. Although Louis XVI complied, he required d’Eon to dress in women’s clothing, and, in 1777, the king provided funds for him to buy a female wardrobe, which d’Eon did...The Chevalier eventually became paralyzed from injuries suffered during a fall and spent the remainder of his years bedridden with a widow named Madame Cole of New Millman Street caring for him. He died in poverty in London at the age of 81 on 21 May 1810 at 10pm .Questions about his sex had continued to circulate while he was alive. So it was not too surprising that after his death there was verification of his sex. When his corpse was laid out in a handsome oak coffin, covered with black cloth, and a black velvet cross on the lid, Madame Cole and others discovered he was man." ("Chevalier d'Éon: The Question of His Sex," Geri Walton, October 5, 2018; www.geriwalton.com)