France // Burgundy //

Chevalier d’Éon: the cross-dressing diplomat

Tonnerre’s quirkiest claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of the great eighteenth-century cross-dresser, Chevalier d’Éon. Born in the Hôtel d’Uzès in 1728, still the most magnificent structure in Tonnerre, d’Éon went about his important diplomatic missions for King Louis XV dressed in women’s clothes. He fell out with the king, however, and, when he was in exile in London, wore a (male) dragoon’s uniform – yet still bookmakers took bets on his sex. When Louis XVI ascended to the throne he allowed him to return to France – but exiled in Tonnerre – and also recognized his claim to be a woman and to dress as such. After the Revolution Chevalier d’Éon slowly slid into debt, and died penniless in London in 1810. An autopsy determined that he was undoubtedly a man.