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(March 3, 1756 - January 15, 1815) France




Stage name of Françoise Marie Antoinette Josèphe Saucerotte, born at Nancy, the daughter of an actor, who took her to Spain, where she played in tragedy at the age of twelve. Judged at her day an incredibly beautiful woman, and the most notorious lesbian of her day, she at first acted in the province and in Spain. Her talent, beauty and enchanting voice won her countless admirers. Her fame as a lesbian was almost as great as her renown as a performer.

She had her first great success at the Comédie Française in 1772, and she was soon leading the high life in Paris with a series of lovers, both male and female, including the opera singer Sophie Arnould. Then went on a tour in Russia. Back to France she was put in prison as a Royalist during the Reign of Terror. Freed in 1795, she renewed her success and settled down with Henriette Simonnot-Ponty, whom she had met in prison.

While Raucourt was able to live openly as a lesbian in the theatrical and court circles of her day, she also experienced hostility and jealousy. Libelous pamphlets claimed that she participated in female orgies.

In 1776 she suddenly disappeared. Part of the ensuing three years she was in prison for debt, but some of the time she spent in the capitals of northern Europe, followed everywhere by scandal. Under protection of the queen she reappeared at the Theatre Francais in 1779, and renewed her success in Paris.

During the French Revolution, which erupted in 1789, Raucourt remained faithful to her royal patrons. She moved in counter-revolutionary circles, but it is unclear how active a role she took in their political intrigues. Along with a number of other members of the Comédie-Française, Raucourt was imprisoned in 1793 for lack of loyalty to the principles of the Revolution - which was considered a crime against the Republic - and on suspicion of being in correspondence with Royalists abroad. In the wake of the coup d'état of 9 Thermidor (July 27) 1794, however, the actors were released.

While in prison Raucourt met and fell in love with Henriette Simonnot de Ponty, with whom she would spend the rest of her life. Under the new regime, the Directory (1795-1799), Raucourt was named director of the Théâtre Louvois.

She shared one of her lovers, Marguérite Weymer ("Mademoiselle Georges"), with Emperor Napoleon I. Raucourt and her long-time companion, Jeanne-Francoise-Marie Souck, were once prosecuted on charges of bad conduct. The publicity destroyed her career as an actress. Over the next twenty years she gradually regained her popularity. Napoleon gave her a pension, and in 1806 she was commissioned to organize and direct a company that was to tour Italy, where, especially in Milan, she was enthusiastically received. She returned to Paris a few months before her death.

When she died in Paris, she was to cause yeat one final scandal. When the curé of Saint-Roch refused her church burial (not because she was a lesbian, but because she was an actress), a large mob broke down the doors of the church and triumphantly bore in her coffin, and were only restrained from further violence by the arrival of a royal order by Louis XVIII to provide her with a Christian burial in Père Lachaise cemetery, in Paris.


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