Stories from History: La Maupin

Adventuress Extraordinaire: Eat Your Heart out Drizzt

It is difficult to write this as a story; La Maupin stands as a singular character who feels almost like a hero from an entire series of books, movies, and more. Throughout the course of her life, she was a successful swordswoman, adventuress, and opera star. Had she been male, she would have been the epitome of the romantic cavalier of her era. She played up this persona, often dressing and appearing as a man when in public, including causing some interesting mistakes. Further bucking with the traditions of the times, she was known to pursue both men and women. 

Alas, there are relatively few sources that talk about this maverick, so we can only piece together portions of her exceptional life.

She was raised among young men, where she quickly learned the art of fighting with sword, along with the rest of the skills expected of a young page. From this period of her life, she also appears to have learned the art of seducing both men and women. It was not long before she was married off, though this appears to have been little more than to serve as a cover and free her from the obligations of what was expected of young women.

Her method of supporting herself became primarily the sword and the song. There would be regular fencing exhibitions and she would find herself in singing in cafes and bars, perhaps setting the standard for Name of the Wind and fantastical bards centuries before they would be written. It was during this time that she began dressing as a man, both to be able to pass as one, and because of the practicalities of fencing in men’s dress compared to women’s.

When it comes to the opera, she was untrained in music. Despite this, she was hired during her first day in Paris at the age of twenty. She was able to use her adaptability, flair, attention to detail, and force of personality to be successful at this vocation despite what some had described as a relatively plain voice. Other sources, however, describe her as having a beautiful voice, albeit with a lack of sophistication. This eventually brought her to Marseilles.

It was after relocating to Marseilles that she eventually declared herself bored with men in general. Having been paid various attentions by young ladies when she was in the dress of a man, apparently decided that she would return said attentions. This resulted in the first young blonde whom La Maupin’s attentions were paid to being sent to a convent in disgrace by her family. 

In true fantastical fashion, La Maupin addressed this slight by disinterring a nun, placing the corpse in the bed of her beloved, then lighting the room afire so the two of them could escape in the confusion. Despite this demonstration of devotion, it was a mere three months before the woman returned to her family and convent in disgrace, while La Maupin continued to seduce, fight, and sing her way around France.

After this incident, she began to trace her way north towards Paris again. While on her way, she ended up dueling a young man while singing for her supper, the young man having recognized her as a woman despite her dress. In response, she rebuffed hm and, as tempers flared, swords were drawn. La Maupin met the young man and two of his friends in the courtyard, dueled them all, and won. Her conscience nagged at her from this so thorough of a defeat of these men, however, and she soon returned to the man who had accosted her, apologized, and they began a torrid love affair as she nursed him back to health. 

This is but a selection of the adventures that La Maupin found herself undertaking throughout the course of her life that feels more like the stuff of fiction than fact. She was a condemned criminal for much of her life, but approached life in an unapologetic manner that we may all be able to learn from.  


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