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Guide to the Chevalier d'Eon papers, 1778-1779

Summary

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d'Eon de Beaumont, known as Chevalier d'Eon, was a French diplomat, spy, freemason and soldier who fought in the Seven Years' War. Collection comprises a dossier of seven items (approximately 75 pages) compiled by Chevalier d'Eon articulating his wish to forsake his female persona in order to fight in the American Revolutionary War.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11592
Title
Chevalier d'Eon papers
Date
1778-1779
Creator
Eon de Beaumont, Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d' , 1728-1810
Extent
1.0 Linear Feet, 8 items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in French

Collection Overview

Collection comprises a dossier of seven items (approximately 75 pages) compiled by Chevalier d'Eon articulating his wish to forsake his female persona in order to fight in the American Revolutionary War. The seven items are wrapped in a blue paste-paper wrapper. The first item is a collection of 35 commissions and supporting documents from diplomats, military officers and French, Russian or English ministers, testifying to Eon's qualities and his activity in the secret services for 20 years, including the peace mission to the court of Russia (1755-1756); a mission to Vienna carrying the campaign plan of the Russian army and revelation of a secret Russian-Prussian correspondence, along with another mission to Russia (1757); commission as secretary of the French embassy at the court of Russia, after having contributed to the success of four treaties (1757-1759); commission as aide-de-camp of maréchal de Broglie in Germany (1760-1762); secretary of the French Embassy in Great Britain, for the conclusion of peace (1762); resident, then Minister Plenipotentiary in London (1763); refusal of proposals to communicate particulars and papers relative to the peace to the opponents of the court of St. James (1764-1765); followed by a Franco-British plan for the Mexican and Peruvian uprisings against Spain (1766-1768) for the Spanish ambassador in London; against the accusations of venality and corruption by the Court of France by the Princess of Wales and the English ministers (1769-1770); secret correspondence with Louis XV, the Prince de Conti, the Comte de Broglie, all ending in a promise of a life annuity from Louis XV.

The second item is a brief Memoire by d'Eon, dated 20 May 1778, for the Count of Vergennes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in order to obtain payment of his pension, with a copy of 5 supporting documents. The third item is a memorandum describing the Chevalier's affairs in England, as of August 1778, including rents due on a house in Brewer Street/Golden Square, which is scheduled to be demolished. There are further details of d'Eon's state of affairs in France, where the Chevalier blames his feminine state and sedentariness as cause of a very painful rheumatism. D'Eon accordingly begs the King and his ministers to allow him to don men's clothes and fight.

Items four through seven are signed letters. One to M. de Miromesnil, Garde des Sceaux, Versailles 12 February 1779, with a copy of his petition to the King's special adviser, the Comte de Maurepas, of the 8th of February, asking support for the Chevalier's request to serve as a volunteer in the Comte d'Orvilliers' fleet. The other two letters are written to the Comtesse de Maurepas, Versailles 12 February 1779, with a copy of the Chevalier's petition to the comte, 8 February, requesting the comte's protection.

More Biographical / Historical Info

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Chevalier d'Eon papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Chevalier d'Eon papers
Box 1
 

Historical Note

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d'Eon de Beaumont, known as Chevalier d'Eon, was a French diplomat, spy, freemason and soldier who fought in the Seven Years' War. In 1756, he joined the secret network of spies called the Secret du Roi employed by King Louis XV. D'Éon appeared publicly as a man and pursued masculine occupations for 49 years. Then, according to an agreement concluded in 1776 with Louis XV, the Chevalier was required to live as a woman in exchange for a life annuity. D'Eon explained that he had been born female but raised as a male by a father desperate for a son. In August 1777 d'Eon returned to France. Upon presenting himself at Versailles in military uniform, he was promptly ordered to resume female dress. The chevalier's requests to be allowed to don his uniform and to serve in the American Revolutionary War were turned down, and he was refused permission to return to London in 1778 to look after his financial interests after the death of Lord Ferrers. D'Éon settled on his family estates at Tonnerre. After a few months imprisonment at Dijon in 1779 for wearing his uniform in public, he again took up residence at Versailles before being finally allowed to return to England in November 1785. His unpaid landlord in Brewer Street was threatening to sell his library and collections. The Chevalier d'Eon died in England in 1810; and it was discovered that he was really a man.


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Provenance

The Chevalier d'Eon papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2017.

Processing Information

Processed by Alice Poffinberger, January, 2018

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2017-0209