Etching of the Chevalier d’Eon by an unknown author and is in the public domain due to its age.
I went to open a bottle of wine last night and saw something that surprised me. The wine that I opened (A white Burgundy) was named for a podcast subject.
For those of you have haven’t watched my video podcasts about wine history, the October 28th subject was the Chevalier d’Eon. D’Eon, born Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont in 1728 and was a French diplomat, soldier and spy. Working for Louis XV (Yes, Kevin Neuman, Louis XIV is dead) he managed to become meet and impress the Empress Elizabeth of Russia by disguising himself as a woman, Lea de Beaumont. Later he became a diplomat to the English where he ingratiated himself with the British aristocracy by supplying them with the fruits of his vineyards back in France. Unfortunately the French government eventually sent a permanent Ambassador who humiliated the Chevalier by demoting his to secretary. D’Eon had dirt on the king and the ambassador tried to poison the Chevalier to protect his liege. Eventually the crown paid the Chevalier off and offered him a generous pension. D’Eon wisely went into retirement in London.
Engraving of the Chevalier d’Eon by J.B. Bradel from the Mémoire of French Heroines Joan of Arc, Jeanne hachelle, &c. &c. &c, 1779 and is in the public domain due to its age.
Eventually, the Chevalier became homesick and negotiated his return to France by claiming to have been born a woman. Since he had managed to pass so easily as a woman in the Russian court, even becoming a maid of honour to the Empress, this was believed readily enough. In fact, the British had odds on it at the stock exchange. Since, it would keep D’Eon from being imprisoned in the Bastille and allow the king to ignore the rants of a ‘hysterical’ woman (telling the Louis XV’s secrets), it was a win-win all around. Louis XVI insisted that if the Chevalier returned to France then he must dress as a woman and even sent additional funds to supply an appropriate wardrobe. So after living the first 49 years of his life as a man, the Chevalier d’Eon spent the remaining 33 year of her life as a woman.
Photo of the Bourgogne Tonnerre, Chevalier D’Eon, 2011 by Gretchen Neuman
Long story to go with a bottle of wine, eh?
Well, that happens with wine.
At least this wine.
As I mentioned before, this was a white burgundy from Tonnerre, which happens to be the town that the Chevalier d’Eon was born. Located in Lower Burgundy which is in fact the north, it is about 7 miles from Chablis another town that primarily produces white wine. It was produced by Domaine Dampt et fils in Collan, France. As I drank the wine, I realized that this was to same type used to butter up English lords so that the nation’s secrets could make their way to France. Is the wine worth treason? Well, I guess that is a matter of individual taste. The wine was crisp and minerally with a lemony bite. Perfect and refreshing.
As we finished the wine, I realized it was the first wine that I had ever had that honored a member of the LGBTQ community. Not that was such a term in the Chevalier’s day. So, watch the video… Here
and enjoy the wine named for such an interesting character in history.