MadELEINE

Born in Versailles in 1670, Madeleine de Maupin was raised by her strict father in rather manly style. At age 14, she ran away from an arranged marriage with her fencing master, to Marseille. On the road south, they made a living by singing in taverns and giving fencing exhibitions dressed in men's clothing. When accused during one of these performances, of not being a real woman, she stopped the fight to bare her chest to a captivated audience. Later, at only 17, she began a forbidden affair with a young woman named Charlotte. When Charlotte's family locked her away in a convent, Madeleine disguised herself as a nun and covered the tracks of their escape by starting a fire. Charged with kidnapping and arson, she was condemned to be burned alive after failing to appear before a tribunal. Her father's employer, the Comte d’Armagnac, persuaded King Louis XIV not only to grant her a pardon, but to allow her to sing with the Paris Opéra. She died at the age of 38.