The original transvestite

The Belfast Telegraph – Ian Herbert

She came as a ?lady? to the Russian Imperial court, betrayed a French king and was the talk of every coffee house in 18th-century England. But it wasn?t until she died that the greatest scandal of Chevalier d?Eon?s life was revealed.

In 1763 an ambitious French diplomat who answered to the name Chevalier d?Eon arrived on British shores with the same ambitions as any other: fast promotion and a steady supply of burgundy. But the fate that awaited him would lead him to become one of London?s most extraordinary citizens: a man who for nearly half a century fooled the world into thinking he was a woman. Such was the feverish debate about d?Eon?s gender in the 1780s that a betting pool ran at the London Stock Exchange on whether he was a man or a woman, with the latest odds posted in all the best coffee houses. Only after d?Eon died in a shabby London bedsit, aged 81, did a postmortem reveal all. A doctor, accompanied by 12 witnesses, found ?the male organs in every respect perfectly formed?.