Why do Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette dress Chevalier d’Eon in woman’s clothes before exiling him to his ancestral cave? The precedent must have been found in Eon’s early diplomatic career in Saint-Petersburg: there to gain confidence of the Russian Empress the young Frenchman takes part in some transvestite parties. His role-playing in Russia turns out to be a major diplomatic success for which he is awarded the prestigious Order of Saint-Louis and the rank of a captain of the Royal Dragoons.
Are they trying to tell us that Chevalier’s accomplishments are due only to his wearing a skirt? Do they really mean that Eon is only valuable to the crown when disguised as a woman? Or is it simply a way to show that Louis XVI has enough of Eon’s ambiguity in sexual matters and so fixes him where he, Louis, thinks it to be appropriate. In that case, it is a punishment package, the condition without which Eon cannot receive the royal pension.
But then the part Marie-Antoinette plays in this masquerade seems absurd. If it is just a punishment, the queen takes a little too much pleasure in outfitting the “old girl” who is sentenced to wearing a dress for the next thirty years: Altering the old dresses, bringing her own Minister of Fashion, Rose Bertin, into this? Perhaps she carries it a little too far…. Or is the queen completely taken in by Eon’s performance? If you are into Gender Studies or follow the Yellow Rose Manga, the book of Evelyne Lever and Maurice Lever, Heads or Tails: the Life of Chevalier d’Eon, is for you.