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29 April 2022

Charlotte d'Eon de Beaumont (1728 - 1810) part I: Le Secret du Roi - Russia and then England

Part I: Le Secret du Roi - Russia and then England. 

Part II: Return to France, Return to England

Part III: Addendum A - Legacy, Bibliography

Part IV: Addendum B - Untruths, Comments, What modern label would fit?

To write about Charlotte d’Eon is intrinsically difficult in that so many biographies have been written, and so many untruths have been added, some of them by d’Eon herself.

I am mainly following Gary Kates’ Monsieur d’Eon is a Woman: A Tale of Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade, 1995. as the most reliable biographer of D’Eon. He and Peter Farrer in his paper presented at Gendys 2002 were the first biographers to have used the documents stored at the Brotherton Library in Leeds. Kates looked for but failed to find any evidence that D’Eon dressed as female at all before 1777. The major challenge to this was the paper read by Peter Farrer at the Gendys Conference in 2002. Nobody seems to have commented on Farrer’s adjustments. I have also included some of points from James Lander’s “A tale of Two Hoaxes in Britain and France in 1775”, 2006. Lander uses some of the evidence cited by Farrer but without mentioning him in either text or footnotes.

There is a large Bibliography in Part III: Addendum A.

(For context I have added other trans events and marked them by brackets like this. This is a longer list than the context persons mentioned by Kates.)

>> details missed by Gary Kates but highlighted by Peter Farrer


Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont was born and raised in Tonnerre, Burgundy, about 160 km south east of Paris. His parents, both minor nobility were Louis d'Éon de Beaumont, an attorney and director of the king's dominions, later mayor of Tonnerre and sub-delegate of the intendant of the généralité of Paris, and Françoise de Charanton, daughter of a Commissioner General to the army. Charles d'Eon graduated in civil and canon law in 1749 from Collège Mazarin in Paris, and worked for the government in the fiscal department and published a well-received book on government finance. Thus he was appointed one of the royal censors of books. In 1756 he joined Le Secret du Roi, a secret service that reported to the king, pursuing aims that sometimes were at odds with official French policy,

1756-1763 was the Seven Years’ War, mainly between Britain and France. D’Eon was sent as an assistant to the envoy to the court of Yelizaveta Petrovna Romanova in St Petersburg to renew the alliance between France and Russia. D’Eon returned from Russia in 1761, and became a captain of Dragoons reporting to the same man who commanded him in Le Secret. He fought in the later stages of the Seven Years’ War, at the Battle of Villinghausen in July 1761, a British and allies victory, and was wounded at the action at Ultrop. French colonies in North America were lost to Britain including Quebec.

In 1762 d’Eon was sent to London as assistant to the France’s ambassador, to participate in drafting the peace treaty that ended the Seven Years' War. At the same time his task for Le Secret du Roi was to assemble information for a future French invasion. For this he was received into the Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis which made him a Chevalier. He acted as French Ambassador with the rank of Plenipotentiary July-October 1763 after his ambassador returned to Paris and he waited for the new official Ambassador to arrive. This involved entertaining from his own purse. He expected to be reimbursed but was not. He was also demoted to Secretary when the new Ambassador, Claude-Louis-François Régnier, Comte de Guerchy, finally arrived. A row developed between d’Eon and de Guerchy. D’Eon was ordered back to France but refused. The British government declined a French request to extradite d'Éon. In March 1764 d’Eon published Lettres, mémoires, et négociations particuliéres in 1764 which contained the ambassadorial correspondence – a severe breach of protocol. He claimed in a letter to Louis XV that de Guerchy, had tried to have him drugged. D’Eon held back the secret invasion documents. The British public sided with d’Eon and jeered de Guerchy in public.

Basically d’Eon had three demands: safe passage and royal protection in France; sufficient remuneration to cover his debts and provide future financial independence; and the recognition of his titles, especially that of Plenipotentiary Minister, which would signal acknowledgement of his essential innocence of past accusations. For a decade the ageing Louis XV refused to accept these proposals as such.

>> Quietly d’Eon had been living at an alternate address, In his journal he wrote: "Given to the widow Madame Turner with whom I lived in 1764 and 1765 under the name of Madame Duval in Lambeth, Westminster and who is badly off since the death of her husband, £5-5-0."

Du Guerchy was recalled to France, and in July 1766 Louis XV, who continued to use d’Eon as a secret agent, instituted an annual pension (paid intermittently) of 12,000 livres. But he refused a demand for over 100,000 livres to clear d'Éon's extensive debts.

D’Eon became a Freemason in 1768, being admitted to the French Lodge, No. 376, on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of England, known as La loge de l'Immortalit, at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand, London.

Despite the fact that d’Eon wore his dragoon uniform every day, by 1770 a rumour developed, at first in Paris that he was a woman.  Horace Walpole was one of the first in London to receive the gossip. The rumours were mostly of the form that another person says so. After a couple of months London newspapers were reporting as fact that d’Eon was female. By the first Thursday in March 1771 significant sums were being wagered on his sex in the City. At a time when a labourer might make 20 pence a day or £20 a year, bets for as much £500 were laid, and often with life insurance policies as collateral. On Saturday 23 March d’Eon himself went to the taverns around the stock exchange and found the banker who had arranged the first bet. D’Eon challenged him to a duel, and also anyone who had laid such a bet. None accepted. D’Eon had to consider his safety, as no bets would be paid without confirmation, thugs might attack and strip him.

(John de Verdion, an immigrant from Leipzig where he was annoyed by rumours that he had previously been a woman, arrived in London in 1770. He taught German to William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland and later Prime Minister, and to Edward Gibbon, the historian. He taught English to the Prussian ambassador. Verdion was well known at book auctions, and on occasions would buy an entire coach load of books.)

D'Éon then wrote a book on public administration, Les loisirs du Chevalier d'Éon, which was published in thirteen volumes in Amsterdam in 1774.

>> D’Eon’s accounts for 1773-5 include payments to a Mrs Lautem, landlady and friend, for purchases of female items, in particular stays (the precursor of corsets).

When Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774, the dramatist Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (the author of Le Barbier de Séville who would later write Le Mariage de Figaro) was sent to negotiate. Beaumarchais was also investigating for the French government Britain’s increasing difficulties with some of its American colonies.

D’Eon’s position was that he must be granted a pension, his debts paid off, and a farewell audience with the English King to confirm his Plenipotentiary status. The first two were now negotiable. Beaumarchais’ ploy was to obtain official statements that d’Eon was a woman, and even better to present her in public in female attire - in that a woman could not possibly be a Plenipotentiary. However d’Eon never varied in public from his Dragoon uniform.

>> In November 1775 d’Eon took delivery of various silk and lace items.

Also in that November, d’Eon and Beaumarchais had finally come to an agreement and signed a ‘Transaction’. The sums offered were acceptable to d’Eon and he accepted that a woman could not be Plenipotentiary.

Shortly afterwards d’Eon found out that Beaumarchais and his assistant Charles Morande had placed huge bets that d’Eon was a woman. He responded by cutting off negotiations with them. In August he challenged Morande to a duel, but Morande refused to fight a woman. That Beaumarchais was spreading rumours in Paris that he and d’Eon were soon to wed, did not help either.

The London press ran various stories assuming that d’Eon was really female, having been born so, and sent to Russia as a woman. These were supposedly based on secret correspondence with Louis XV. They were probably using stories supplied by Beaumarchais and Morande. The image of d’Eon changed from being an exile from despotic France to that of being a French spy.

By summer 1777, some gamblers had had money tied up in bets about d’Eon’s sex for as much as six years, and began filing suits demanding payment. On 2 July such a case was heard by Chief Justice Mansfield at the Court of King’s Bench. The first witness was surgeon and male midwife , La Goux who claimed to have treated d’Eon for a female disorder some years earlier. The second witness was Morande who actually claimed to have been in bed with d’Eon. The defence merely objected that courts were no place to discuss woman’s private parts. Another witness was a French physician who did not speak English, and Morande kindly translated. The jury, after two minutes gave a verdict for the plaintiff. This served as a legal declaration that d’Eon was a woman, and those who had bet that she was a man, paid up.

D’Eon had not attended the trial, did not confirm his sex, and decided to return to France. It was also that most of his debts had been paid off and his library of 6,000+ volumes was not now at risk of being subject to liens. D’Eon was politically rehabilitated and now perceived as an agent of the French king. In addition, without ever being seen in female attire, d’Eon had managed to convince everyone, including close associates, that he was in fact a born female who had been raised as male.

>> D’Eon left for Paris Wednesday 13 August 1777. In her journal for that day, d’Eon wrote: "a cette feuille commence le journal de Mademoiselle D'Eon." (At this leaf begins the journal of Mlle d'Eon) and also “j'ai répris mes habits de femme” (I have resumed my women's clothes]. Inserted in different ink are the words, "under the constraint of the threatening orders of the court" . D’Eon was still dressed in the very male costume of a Dragoon.

Chief Justice Mansfield continued to hear suits based on insurance policies regarding d’Eon’s sex. Morande repeated the same testimony. However Mansfield had had enough. He let it be known to the defence that he would welcome a motion to arrest the judgement of the court. This was done and the issue was whether such insurance policies were permissible under English law. After hearing argument, Mansfield ruled that they were not and thereby rendered all wagers on d’Eon’s sex unenforceable.

It is not known whether Beaumarchais and Morande had been able to claim their winnings on their bets.

(Also in July 1777, a trans man known to us only as Ann Marrow was convicted at Guildhall for wearing men's clothes and marrying three women. He was ordered to stand pillory and serve six month's in jail. He did not go down well with the crowd and from the objects that they threw, he was blinded.)

17 April 2022

Elsa B (1888? - ?) government clerk, Gutheil patient

Emil Gutheil (1889-1959) was born in Czerlany close to Lviv, which was originally in Poland, but then part of Austria-Hungary and now is in the Ukraine. He was educated at the University of Vienna. He became a neuro-psychiatrist at the university Psychiatric Clinic, and was mentored by psycho-analyst Wilhelm Stekel (1868-1940), who is credited with coining the term ‘paraphilia”.

In the early 1920s a trans man then 34-years old, whom Gutheil refers to only as ‘Elsa B’ came to Gutheil. He states: 

“Case 70. Introductory remarks: This patient agreed to an analysis under one condition: that under no circumstances should we destroy her particular sexual strivings. She was only desirous of enlisting our aid in gaining permission from the police to wear men’s clothing.”

B was a government clerk and also played the violin. Despite being there only to get support in obtaining a Transvestitenschein, a legal permit to ‘cross-dress’, he did attend 33 sessions with Gutheil, during which the psycho-analyst continued to refer to him as ‘she’ and as a ‘woman’. B’s father had died when the child was two, and B had been rejected by his mother, who had wanted a boy, and raised by his grandparents. His mother's second husband repeatedly told B that he was ugly. B had dressed as male since teenage, and urinated standing up. His hair was short in a male style. Religious scruples inhibited him from having sex with women (what others would regard as ‘homosexuality') and personal taste from having sex with men. He found wearing men’s clothing to be erotically arousing, even to the point of orgasm. When wearing male attire “a great oppression leaves me and instead of feelings of inferiority, I feel free and easy”. B saw himself as the father of a family. 

With the outbreak of war in 1914, B was suspected of being a Serbian spy and severely beaten on the street. That was the first time that he begged the police for a Transvestitenschein so that he could legally wear male clothing. He was held for six days, at first examined by a police surgeon, and then by a psychiatrist. But he was not given a Transvestitenschein.

Gutheil’s paper on B was included as Chapter XVI of Stekel’s book on fetishism. The two psycho-analysts criticised Hirschfeld for overlooking latent homosexuality as an important factor in transvestism, although as Bullough points out they take every denial of homosexuality as an admission. This despite Gutheil’s final twist that 

"the transvestitism is an anchorage of the patient’s heterosexuality, the difference being that instead of the forbidden incestuous object she has fixed upon a symbol : the clothing. … the chief cause of the flight being an active castration complex expressed in a manifestly sadistic phantasy”.

Stekel’s book title was (in translation) Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex, and his idea was to systematize the structure of all paraphilias as a single entity under the model of fetishism. He was in reaction to Magnus Hirschfeld’s biologically oriented model of sexual intermediaries. However B’s transgender orientation does not fit the model.

They conclude: 

“Despite its striking inner resemblance with fetishism, we cannot consider transvestitism as a form of genuine fetishism. It is a special form of a compulsion neurosis in which the patient’s desire for the genital of the other sex is displaced to the clothing.

The transvestite satisfies himself with the appearance of belonging to the opposite sex; he makes use of the clothing in order to possess some rudiment of reality in the fictitious transformation which he has accomplished. Whereas the fetishist reconstructs an infantile scene and becomes a child again in order to experience something definite, the transvestite projects his wish into the future and anticipates the great miracle, the miracle of his sexual metamorphosis.

Fetishism is thus retrospective and transvestitism prospective in purpose.”

We are not told if B was granted his Transvestitenschein.

Havelock Ellis, in the 1928 edition of his Eonism, included a four page summary of Gutheil’s chapter. He regarded B as “female Eonist”.

In 1937, Los Angeles psycho-analyst Ralph Greenson was in Vienna to be analysed by Wilhelm Stekel. However 12 March 1938 saw the Anschluß Österreichs, the Nazi takeover of Austria. Stekel and his wife immediately fled via Switzerland to England where he killed himself in June 1940 for medical reasons. Greenson returned to Los Angeles. Gutheil had emigrated to the US in 1937 where he founded the Association for the Advancement of Psychotherapy and the American Journal of Psychotherapy.

We do not know what happened to B in the Third Reich.

  • Emil Gutheil. “XVI. Analyse eines Falles von Transvestitismus,” in Wilhelm Stekel. Der Fetischismus, vol. 7, Störungen des Trieb- und Affektlebens. Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1923: 534-570. Translated by S Parker: “Analysis of a Case of Transvestism” inSexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex. John Lane The Bodley Head Ltd, 1930: 281-318.
  • Havelock Ellis. “Eonism” In Eonism and Other Supplementary Studies, Random House, 1928: 17-23.
  • Vern L. Bullough & Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. University of Pennsylvania Press 1993: 214-6.
  • Clare L Taylor. Women, Writing, and Fetishism 1890-1950: Female Cross-Gendering.Clarendon Press, 2003: 90-3.
  • Patricia Gherovici. Transgender Psychoanalysis: A Lacanian Perspective on Sexual Difference. Routledge, 2017: 48-54.
  • Katie Sutton. Sex between Body and Mind: Psychoanalysis and Sexology in the German-speaking World, 1890s–1930s.University of Michigan Press, 2019: 186-7, -191.

Despite the cisplaining, the misogyny of Stekel and Gutheil, it is a shame that this case is not better known. The real-life persons behind Sigmund Freud’s case studies have been identified and we know what happened to them afterwards. With B we do not know.

It is heartening that B does not want to be ‘cured’. He is and wants to be a man, but male hormones will not be available until the late 1930s.

He is also quite open about finding male attire to be erotic. It is a misfortune of sexology and psycho-analysis that it came to be dogma that a) women are not fetishistic, b) cross-dressing by women was pragmatic, not transvestic - that they did so to get a better job and/or to marry a woman, not as an end in itself. This of course did erase many female assigned persons from discourse and from history, but not from reality.

As it happened, we had to wait for Louis Sullivan in the 1980s and Pat Califia in the 1990s to explain that, for some trans men, male clothing is erotic.

13 April 2022

Sex Change in 1958 England (part 2)

 Continued from Part 1

Now some lessor known trans persons.

Nural Huda

On the 16 May, The Civil & Military Gazette reported that Nurjahan Bibi of a small village in Bihar, north of Calcutta, a housewife who had been married for more than three years reported that she felt pain in her spinal cord for four or five days and and then all her feminine features disappeared.  This was confirmed by two doctors.  The husband quickly disappeared.  Bibi became Nural Huda and was looking for work as a man.

Roy Williams

The Birmingham Daily Post, 15 March, tells us of  divorce case with a different outcome from that of the Dollings.  In this case the adulterous wife also charged her husband who wanted to be a woman with cruelty and this time was granted a decree nisi on that basis.   The husband's female name is not reported. 

Jean Sabots

On the 4 June, The Daily Herald told of another divorce case where a trans woman, a 44-year-old father of five, having obtained a decree nisi against the wife on grounds of adultery, applied to the Labour Exchange for an employment card in her female name, so that she can afford to resume taking female hormones.  

Sebastian Companys

The Sunday People, 12 October, told us of Sebastian Companys, born in Spain, served in the French Foreign Legion and working as strip-tease girl in Auxerre, Burgundy.  She has had some surgery, but obstinate doctors refuse the necessary certifications.  

Trans girl in Gateshead-on-Tyne

The town council was helping a seven-year old to transition.

Sex Change in 1958 England (part 1)

 There were more stories of trans persons in the press in 1958 than one might suppose.   The word 'transsexual' was not yet in use, and they were generally referred to as 'sex changes'.

Roberta Betty Cowell

Britain’s most famous sex change was in the news twice

20 June in The Daily Herald

and then 13 October in the Civil & Military Gazette

Micheal Dillon

was featured in the Sunday Express 11 May, but surprisingly not in its competitors, although the story went on to attract world-wide interest.

Jonathan Furguson

He completed transition and was upped to the male pay scale.  This in the Daily Herald, 13 January.

Victoria Dolling


Divorce trial established that transition is not cruelty to one's spouse.  Manchester Evening News, 22 May.

Donald Purcell


Donald had been in the press in 1938 when he transitioned with surgery at Charing Cross Hospital.  In 1958 he died age 44.  This is the Manchester Evening News 27 January.

More in Part 2.

08 April 2022

Victoria Dolling (192? - ?) meat porter, British Railways clerk

Victor Dolling, who worked at Smithfield meat market as a porter, and Constance, both of Walworth, London, were married in 1950, and they had a child a year later. Shortly afterwards, Victor increasingly felt female, and twice, in 1952 and 1954, consulted psychiatrists at Guy’s Hospital. The endocrinologist Dr Peter Bishop prescribed female hormones. Dolling quit the job at Smithfield to live full time as female, found work as a clerk at British Railways, and left Mrs Dolling in 1957.

In May 1958 Constance Dolling applied for a divorce decree on the ground of cruelty. Her husband signed a court document as Victoria Dolling, and did not contest the suit. However the judge dismissed the suit saying 

“But it is utterly impossible to say that his consent to be treated this way for what is a mental illness is cruelty on his part. He cannot help it any more than any other illness.” 

He also pointed out that if Mrs Dolling waited until May 1960, she could apply for divorce on the ground of desertion. She appealed, but the appeal was dismissed.

Kenneth Robinson, Member of Parliament for St Pancras North (and Minister of Health 1964-8), asked the Attorney General, Reginald Manningham-Buller (noted for his 1959 unsuccessful prosecution of D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover), if his attention had been drawn to the legal difficulties arising in Dolling v. Dolling, and if the law of divorce could be amended to enable marriages to be dissolved when either spouse changes sex. The Attorney General gave a written reply: 

"I am not aware of any legal difficulties. The Court of Appeal held on the particular facts of this case that the conduct of the respondent did not amount to cruelty. I do not think that there is any need to amend the law by seeking to specify what acts constitute cruelty for the purposes of the law of divorce or by making express provision for the type of case mentioned in the question."

Victoria Dolling’s subsequent life is unrecorded.

  • “Man Wanted to Become a Woman”. Manchester Evening News, 22 May 1958.
  • “When a husband wants to be a woman”. Daily Mirror,23 May 1958,
  • “Sex Changes and Divorce: Question by M.P.”. Birmingham Post, 26 November 1958.
  • Richard Collier. Masculinity, Law and the Family. Taylor & Francis, 2002:115.
  • Zoë Playdon. The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes: And the Unwritten History of the Trans Experience. Scribner, 2022: 92-3.