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D'eon, Chevalier

Born October 5, 1728, at Tonnerre in Burgundy, and christened Charles Genevieve Louise Auguste Andr Timothe Don De Beaumont. Led most singular career. After living nearly forty years an active life as a man the Chevalier voluntarily testified in an English Court that he had been masquerading during this entire period and that he was actually a woman. After his death this testimony was found to be untrue. The Chevalier was born of parents who stood high among the nobility. His baptismal certificate asserts that the above names were those given the child in regular and usual form. The family name was Deon but King Louis XV in 1757 addressed a communication to the Chevalier as D'Eon.

D'Elon studied law and literature in Paris at the College Mazarin. Admitted an advocate after securing the License in Canon and Civil Law. A brilliant student, he was made a Censor Royal of works on history and letters. Even at this early age he published a book on Historical Finance. D'Eon took up fencing and it was said only five could hold their own against him in all Europe. The French King honored D`Eon with a commission in a cavalry regiment about 175 when the Chevalier rode from Vienna to Paris with important dispatches to the King in thirty-six hours less time than it took the special Austrian couriers and this notwithstanding the misfortune to break his leg while on the road. His Physical endurance proved rugged and masculine. Louis XV, who sent Chevalier Douglas and his young secretary, D'Eon after his twenty-sixth year, to Russia as confidential envoys to protect Louis' interests there as a keen rivalry existed between France and England for the support of Russia. So ably did D'Eon serve that he was openly made Secretary to the Embassy and privately admitted to the inner circle of the Secret Service. This he gave up in 1760, when he left Russia. Probably he used his effeminate appearance in secret service work which enabled him to assume the disguise of a woman. Many stories were told of his experiences although the Chevalier's personal conduct was not Subject to reproach. He left Russia in 1760 to join his regiment in the Seven Years War. D'Eon was wounded in head and thigh at Ultrop and rendered distinguished Service. The Treaty of 1763 ended the Seven Years War and was largely negotiated by D' Eon who went to England. The French ambassador soon returned to France and D'Eon was first appointed Charg d'Affaires and later Minister Plenipotentiary. When he returned to France England entrusted to him its official ratification to the Court of Versailles. King Louis XV gave him the Royal and Military order of Saint Louis. and his proper title became the Chevalier D'Eon. He was superseded in the Embassy by an enemy, Count de Guerchy. The Chevalier refused to turn over some secret papers said to include charges of corruption against the Ministers who had concluded the Treaty and plans for the invasion of England. D'Eon retained the papers, but the death of Louis XV, 1774, put an end to the invasion of England and the documents lost their value. During this period of intrigue the Chevalier never lost the confidence of Louis XV although from the time the difficulty commenced in 1763 the question was constantly propagated as to the true sex of D'Eon. A pamphlet in the interests of De Guerchy was the first to print scurrilous statements reflecting upon D'Eon. Eliot Hodgkin, Richmond, Surrey, possessed the original manuscripts of D'Eon's account of his current expenditures from day to day. Several items clearly appear indicating his acceptance into the Masonic Fraternity and his receiving the first Three Degrees. Although the question of his sex had already begun to be discussed, he was admitted to the French Lodge, No. 376, on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of England, known as La loge de l'Immortalit, formed June 16, and formally constituted September 8, in 1766, at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand, London. Probably Worshipful Master M. de Vignoles presided at D'Eon's initiation and the first entry showing disbursement of funds on Freemasonry is dated May 18, 1768. In January, 1769, an item appears covering four shillings seven pence paid at time of receiving the Third Degree. Although this Lodge did not register in the Grand Lodge Books any members after 1767 and therefore the Chevalier's name does not appear on the records of the Grand Lodge, Brother Henry Sadler located in the old archives of Grand Lodge a document which supplies authoritative evidence that Chevalier D'Eon served as Junior Warden of this Lodge between 1769 and 1770. The number of the Lodge, originally 376, was about this same time changed to 303, and the records of the Grand Lodge show it was erased from the books in 1775 due to "not having contributed," etc. D'Eon, an exile from France then resided in England and was fortunate to have a sincere friend in Earl Ferrers, in 1762 to 1763 Grand Master of the Moderns in England, who offered shelter to the Chevalier which he gratefully accepted as he was subject to annoyance due to the notoriety given the question of his sex and the danger of kidnaping by persons financially interested. Betting on the question of the Chevalier's sex came to such a stage that a scheme of Insurance on the sex of M. Le Chevalier, or Mlle. La Chevaliere, D'Eon, resulted in the policies being taken up to the amount of 120,000 pounds. It was a practice, in the endeavor to put a legal aspect on certain forms of gambling, for the speculators to issue a sort of Insurance Policy covering certain mooted questions. Until 1845 the English courts held wagers as contracts and the winner of a bet could enforce payment through a Court of Law. So much money became involved about D'Eon and 80 many lawsuits were imminent that it was decided to bring the case to trial. In 1777, therefore, one of the insurance brokers presented two witnesses, one a doctor named Le Goux, and the other a journalist, M. de Morande, who swore that of their own personal knowledge D'Eon was a woman. Had the English Court, presided over by Lord Mansfield, been familiar with the history of these two witnesses, it would no doubt have returned a different verdict. The verdict by the jury was that the unfortunate Chevalier was a woman and, surprisingly, just at this time D'Eon himself, who had been negotiating through Beaumarchais for the restoration of the secret papers, made an official declaration to the French Ministers that he actually was a woman. He had also been negotiating with France for a pension and Louis XVI, then King, agreed to increase the pension and permit the return to France of the Chevalier only on the condition that "she resume the garments of her sex" and never appear in any part of the kingdom except in garments befitting a female. D'Eon, for some reason no one has been able to explain satisfactorily, accepted the condition without argument and thenceforward became La Chevaliere D'Eon. The two contending Grand Lodges in England at that time. known as the Ancient and the Moderns, made much of this issue. The Ancient claimed that here was an evidence of modern laxity which permitted the admittance into the Masonic Order of a person not fulfilling all the physical requirements of the Old Charges and the controversy subjected the Fraternity to no little criticism and satire. The Chevalier, after accepting the condition that he discard male attire, never again attempted to enter a Masonic Lodge although, during the period from 1769 to 1774 at which time he spent twelve to fifteen hours a day at his desk and produced scores of Lettres, Piecs Justificatives, Memoires pour seruir, Documents Authentiques, and a thirteen-volume book entitled Les Loisirs do Chevalier de Beaumont, he also wrote a rough draft of an essay attempting to compare the merits of the Society of Freemasons and the Society of Friends. This manuscript is included in the collection owned by J. Eliot Hodgkin, from which the following is quoted: Freemasonry and Quakerism. What I say here about Masonry is not meant to win the Gold or Silver Medal, advertised in the London Courier Franais, No........of ....... , but only to win, in my heart, a prize graven on the Masonic Compass and Triangles each point of which, like the Trinity, rests on Truth Virtue, and Benevolence, common foundations of Equality and Justice between Brothers by birth and by Christianity, as between Brethren by Mason, enlightened by the Sun of Truth, inasmuch as this is the Truth held by the primitive Christians of Jerusalem and Antioch. But since the Greek, Latin, Gallican, and Anglican Churches have organized themselves into formidable bodies, they deride, individually and collectively, the sombre Society of good Quakers, who are good only at whining, sniveling, and having no poor among them while the Freemasons have established themselves in Worshipful Lodges, in order to laugh, drink, sing at their ease, and display benevolence towards their Brethren and Fellows dispersed over the Earth, without (infringing) the Laws of Moses or of the Paschal (Covenant). They spread sunshine, God's consolation, and true happiness m the heart of all human beings capable of appreciating simple Virtue. The happiness of man kind and the well-being of the Material World are to be found in Nature, Reason, Truth, Justice, and Simplicity, and not in huge books compiled by Philosophy and Divinity. All the State-craft of Machiavelli is only fit to drag man to . . . to the cells at Bedlam- or to lead him to Montfaucon, to Tyburn, or to the underground Pantheodemonium of the Lower Empire of Pluto. Lord Chancellor Bacon, who, of all England, was the Doctor most stuffed with Greek, Latin and Law, was right when he said "Honesty best Policy." These two words em body all that is good. I hold the religion of the Quakers very beautiful, because it is so simple.

August 6, 1777, D'Eon for the first time in London appeared dressed as a woman and exactly a week later he donned his uniform as Captain of Dragoons for convenience in traveling, the last time he appeared in London in the garb of a man. He went to France immediately, was presented to Marie Antoinette, and took up residence with his mother in Tonnerre. It is said that he retired for a time to the Convent of Les Filles de Ste Marie and actually resided at La Maison des demoiselles de Saint Cyr. However, he tendered his services to the French Fleet when the American Revolution broke out, which offer the French Government hastily declined. He returned to England in November, 1785, to settle come financial affairs and resided there until his death, never discarding his feminine garb. The French Revolution stopped his pension and it is said that he received a small pension in England from George III but he was in straitened circumstances and maintained himself by his skill in fencing, but was compelled to sell his jewels, then his library, and other possessions. He died May 21, 1810, in seclusion and penury. After his death an autopsy was made by a celebrated surgeon, Thomas Copeland, who gave a professional certificate stating without question that the deceased had been of the male sex. This fact was confirmed by Pre Elise, a surgeon of renown who had belonged to the Fathers of Charity at Grenoble but left France when his confreres emigrated and at the death of the Chevalier attended the Duke of Queensberry. In later years Pre Elise became King's Surgeon to Louis XVIII. The Earl of Yarborough, Sir Sidney Smith and a number of friends inspected the body, and the question as to the sex of the Chevalier D'Eon was finally settled. Several authors have discussed this remarkable personage, as Andrew Lang, Historical Mysteries, and the encyclopedias devote space to him; but the most satisfactory account for Freemasons is a paper by Brother W. J. Chetwode Crawley transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, volume xvi, 1903, pages 229-59).

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