Monday 8 February 2010

The LGBT History Series (8) - Mlle Raucourt

Françoise Marie Antoinette Saucerotte (1756-1815), also known as Madamoiselle Raucourt, was an incredibly beautiful and talented actress and singer, from an early age in Spain, and in the court of Marie Antoinette in France, which made her famous. What made her infamous were her entirely un-hidden love affairs with women and men, most notably with French opera-soprano Sophie Arnould. The relationship ended badly, and two male friends represented the women in a duel to the death.

Whilst able to live happily as a lesbian in court and theatrical circles, hostile and libellous pamphlets were published against her, claiming she was the head of the 'Sect of Anandryne', a Parisian society of man-hating lesbians which may or may not have even existed. After the French Revolution, Saucerotte became Napoleon's director of imperial theatres in Italy.
When she died, the rector of Saint-Roch church refused to admit her body. A riot erupted among the amassed crowd of fifteen thousand people and the doors to the church were forced to carry Françoise in for her requiem mass, accompanied by an order from the King directing the priest to perform it.

After Saucerotte's funeral, her brother helped to organise a lifetime income for her partner, Henriette Simonnot de Ponty, and she assumed the lease of the couple's house.