81st out of 101 books — 37 voters
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Monsieur d'Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade
by Gary Kates
Born in 1728, French aristocrat Charles d'Eon de Beaumont had served his country as a diplomat, soldier, and spy for fifteen years when rumors that he was a woman began to circulate in the courts of Europe. D'Eon denied nothing and was finally compelled by Louis XVI to give up male attire and live as a woman, something d'Eon did without complaint for the next three decades ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 21st 2001 by Johns Hopkins University Press
(first published 1995)
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An incredibly curious figure, d'Eon was a man who was "discovered" to be really a woman who had been raised as a boy and was ordered by the king to return to France to live as a woman, only to be discovered upon his death as an émigré in England years later to have been a man all along. He seems to have gone along willingly with the French royal orders for his own reasons, even having gone so far as to encourage their outcome, and had a marked interest in early feminist theory, collecting early ...more
Amazing account of the 18th century Chevalier who elected at mid-life to live as a woman after a successful espionage career in Russia. mid-career. D'Eon was declared to be legally a woman by Louis XVI in 1776. D'Eon explained that he had been born female but raised as a male by a father desperate for a son. At his death, 35 years later, it was discovered that d'Eon was really a man. This book was thoroughly and meticulously researched. D'Eon's story is truly remarkable.
I felt that the book didn't prove all its points and that it wandered too far away on tangents in some sections, but it's an interesting look at politics and gender roles in Europe of the time. D'Eon's dual life as diplomat and spy even before he officially declared himself a woman is sometimes brainbending to read and most have been stressful to live. I was surprised by what the research shows about how women lived their lives and what some of them wrote about it.