Julie d’Aubigny was quite possibly the closest the world will ever get to a real-life Wonder Woman. Nicknamed Mademoiselle Maupin or La Maupin, Julie was a bisexual swordswoman and opera singer in the seventeenth century. Among other wild shenanigans, La Maupin once took the Holy Orders so she could sneak into a convent and gain “biblical knowledge” of a nun. Buckle in readers, because this is the stuff of legend.
Born in the early 1670s to a rich family, La Maupin did not have the typical upbringing of French women during the time. Her father was the Grand Squire of France and trained his young daughter in the same way he trained the king’s squires. She learned how to read, ride a horse, drink, gamble and fight and dressed as a boy from an early age.
In a vain attempt at domestication, she was married off to Sieur de Maupin which went as well as one might expect. Julie ran away and started training with a fencing master named Serannes. While journeying to Marseilles where she joined Pierre Gaultier’s opera company, La Maupin held sword exhibitions to practice her skills and earn money. She would challenge the crowd to fight, they would laugh and mock the crazy woman with a sword and La Maupin would inevitably emerge victorious.
She was involved with a number of young women, one whose parents put her in a convent when they found out. La Maupin followed her lover, infiltrating the convent in the guise of postulant. The two placed a dead nun’s body (unrelated) in her bed as a dummy and set the room on fire to escape. La Maupin was sentenced to death in absentia as a man because the courts could not believe a woman was capable of such behavior.
Unsurprisingly, the swordswoman was involved in numerous brawls; she once fought a duel with a young man who insulted her so she stabbed him through the shoulder. She later found that he was the son of a duke and the two became lovers and lifelong friends. In response to misogynistic comments by a fellow opera singer, she demanded a fight. When he refused she beat him with a cane and stole his watch. She once kissed a young woman at a society ball and was challenged to a duel by three different noblemen. She invited them outside and beat all three simultaneously. La Maupin retired from opera in 1705 and died tragically in her late 30s.
The daring Mademoiselle Maupinwas extremely popular with audiences then and now. Her life inspired a number of books, biographies, movies, plays and even a ballet. In this way, the “genuine holy terror of France” lives to fight another day.
Caroline Fritz is a third-year student majoring in English with minors in French and linguistics. She can be reached at CF853302@wcupa.edu.