Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cougar Mountain and a Historical Dueler

  I went on a hike a couple of weeks ago with friends. We went to Cougar Mountain. I saw zero cougars, thankfully! I can just imagine a big version of my cats being quite a vicious threat.

    Yesterday I was listening to an episode of the podcast "Stuff You Should Know" about dueling. It is an interesting subject matter because it seems so bizarre that something like dueling was ever socially acceptable. I can't imagine getting in a tiff with someone and that leading to weapons pointed at each other. But as the podcast mentioned, women rarely dueled and when they did it was more of a amusing spectacle than a serious confrontation. Except for one serious dueling woman named Julie d'Aubigny or La Maupin. She was only mentioned briefly in the podcast, but I wanted to learn more about her. Women from history who go against the gender role expectations are always interesting to me.
    La Maupin was a French woman born in 1670 to a wealthy family.  When she was twenty she became an opera singer. It is my projection that her fiery and dramatic personality did lend well to the opera where she needed to emote the characters intense feelings through song. But her flair for drama also led to fragile relationships with her fellow performers. Some of her fellow performers she did not get along with and disputes erupted between them. With other performers she fell madly in love with. Despite being married, she fell in love with two women, Fanchon Moreau and Marie Le Rochois.
    La Maupin was not restricted to the constraining expectations put on women and also was a professional duelist. Her dueling skills were learned from either her father or from an ex-lover. Many an aristocrat was challenged to a duel by La Maupin.  While dueling, she dressed like a man for ease of movement but people were all very aware that she was a woman.
    She had an affair with an assistant dueling master named Serannes. Together they started a show where they sang and fought duels. Eventually La Maupin grew bored of her dueling lover and instead fell in love with someone else, a young lady. The young lady's parents were not happy about the affair. They sent their daughter a way to the convent, as parents would commonly do in the olden days when their daughters did behavior may cause hints of scandal. But La Maupin was not easily persuaded to back off. She joined the convent herself  and devised a clever and odd escape plan for herself and her lover. La Maupin dug up the corpse of a recently deceased nun. She put the nun in her lovers bed and set it to fire. Then they ran off together, away from the restrictive confines of the convent.  Everyone would assume that the burnt body was that of the young woman's. This way, authority figures could no longer challenger their relationship and no one would be on the search for the missing young woman. But their relationship only lasted three months before the young woman returned to her family. La Maupin lived quite an adventuress life and it sounds like she was a rabble-rouser with an independent streak. I wonder what she would be like if she was born in modern days.

*( I found info about La Maupin from How Stuff Works and Wikipedia.) 

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