Charles Geneviève Louise Auguste André Timothée|
Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont
(October 5, 1728 - May 21, 1810) France<
Diplomat and cross-dresser
Diplomat, writer, spy, and Freemason, a member of the elite Dragoons and one of the best swordsmen France, whose true gender was a source of speculation and provoked public bets in the late 18th century. Generally it was believed that d'Eon was born female, but he had started to dress as a man in his childhood, and changed back from "a bad boy into a good girl" when his secret was revealed decades later. After his death it turned out that he was a man who had dressed as a woman. D'Eon is often called the patron saint of transvestites.
Eon de Beaumont was born in Tonnere, into a family of lawyers. His father, Louis d'Eon de Beaumont, was an attorney and Sub-Delegate of the Paris Intendancy; his mother, lady Françoise de Chavanson, was a noblewoman from an old and wealthy family. Little is known of d'Eon's childhood and his book of memoirs, La Vie Militaire, politique, et privée de Mademoiselle d'Eon (1779), written by his friend La Fortelle, is not very reliable.
D'Eon learned to read at a very young age, and at school he excelled in languages and won awards for memorization. After graduating from College Mazarin in Paris in 1749 he worked as the secretary of Monsieur de Sauvigny, administrator of the fiscal department of Paris. There he completed his first book on French government finance. He then worked as a royal censor, spending his time with books. In 1756 d'Eon joined the "King's Secret", a network of spies, who worked more for the King himself than the Foreign Ministry.
To create contacts between Russian and France, Louis XV sent d'Eon in 1756 on a secret mission to Russia to meet Empress Elizabeth I. On the journey d'Eon served as a secretary of the Chevalier Douglas, but disguising himself as a woman, he could in secret start negotiations with Elizabeth. His journey was successful. By 1757 Russia and France had reestablished diplomatic relations.
London gossip of the 1770s would have it that the Chevalier had assumed the disguise of a woman as a member of the French Embassy and Secret Service in Russia from 1757 to 1760. This was unfounded. Later exiled during a period of French court intrigue, heavy betting in London regarding the question of his sex prompted a court case for which, in July 1777, the Court of King's Bench recorded its verdict that the Chevalier had been masquerading and he was actually a women. After his death this was found to be untrue.
He was permitted to return to France and receive a pension with the condition that "she resume the garments of her sex" and never appear in any part of the kingdom except in garments befitting a female. The Chevalier, after accepting this condition, never again attempted to enter a masonic lodge. Havelock Ellis used the name "eonism" to denote transvestitism.