Charles-Genevieve Louis-Auguste-Andre-Timothee Éon de Beaumont, cross-dressing French secret agent. 1728 - 1810
"The most famous transvestite in history" - The Illustrated Book of Sexual Records
Born to a noble family in France-Tonnerre on 5th October 1728, Charles chevalier d'Éon de Beaumont led a normal childhood as respects upbringing and education for one born into privilege, with one small exception. His mother, for her own amusement, would frequently dress him in his sister's clothes to match his effeminate looks. His slight frame and delicate looks meant that he could pass for female with little difficulty.
Having completed his education at the Parisian College Mazarin, he was engaged as the secretary to the administrator of the fiscal department of Paris, M. de Sauvigny. Being close to the Court, he once had a bet with some friends that he could convince Madame Pompadour (mistress of Louis XV) that he was a woman. He won his bet, but created an opportunity for advancement and personal gain.
The King was amazed at his deception, and offered him the opportunity to go to Russia to negotiate with the Empress Elisabeth, who had banned men from her court. de Beaumont accepted this, his first of many missions for the throne, penetrating The Empress' court in 1755, and becoming her lover on her discovery that he was a man. The success of his mission guaranteed him a new career.
A Player of games
A captain in the Dragoons, a skilled swordsman and a Freemason, de Beaumont's talents made him a valuable player in the game of espionage, diplomacy and politics. In 1762, he was sent to London to ratify the Treaty of Paris, and was decorated with the Cross of St. Louis on his return in 1763.
So successful was he at playing a woman that rumours began at Versailles that he was an hermaphrodite. These rumours were to reach London, where he had returned, and he elected to remain there despite orders to return. An alleged affair with George III's Queen, Sophia-Charlotte and the ensuing cover-up, involved Louis, who convinced King George that de Beaumont was a woman. (Some say that the discovery of the truth led the King to madness.)
Unfortunately (or fortunately) he was ordered to return to France in drag, and to relinquish his Dragoon uniform. He remained a cross-dresser for the rest of his life, even fighting duels in drag. He even met an old lover from Russia, Nadejda, who had had a son by him. They married and lived together, with the outward appearance of two close, dear friends.
His love of games was not confined to politics and cloak-and-dagger work. He was also renowned as a chess-player, beating the esteemed Philidor.
He died in London on 21st May 1810, and such was the controversy surrounding his true gender that an autopsy was performed. It confirmed him to be a man, settling once and for all the rumours which had followed him most of his life. His other legacy remains the word eonism, used to describe gender-crossing.