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La Chevalière d’Éon was a trans soldier, spy, diplomat, sword expert, and knightess.

Addressing a group at a trans workshop
Kit Heyam delivering an Interactive history game about la Chevalière d’Éon’s life.


As part of Leeds 2023 Hidden Histories pilot project we are exploring different perspectives on our collection.

This has involved working with historian Kit Heyam and artist and researcher Luna Morgana to facilitate a session with the local trans community to re-examine a sword owned by the 18th-century spy and diplomat, la Chevalière d’Éon.

The Chevalière d’Éon’s Sword by Eleanor Wilkinson-Keys provides images and a detailed description of the sword.

During the session, the group created a “zine” inspired by the Chevalière d’Éon Sword, which we’re proud to share with a wider audience.

Download the “zine” – The Amazing Life of la Chevalière d’Éon (pdf, 12 MB)

Ezekiel Foster-Eardley reflects on the group’s visit to the University of Leeds library and the Royal Armouries Museum and offers a unique interpretation of the sword and the legacy of la Chevalière d’Éon through the perspective of a trans person more than 200 years on.

Rob Freeman, Community Engagement Officer,
Royal Armouries

La Chevalière d’Éon: remembering her legacy through a trans lens

By Ezekiel Foster-Eardley

A person dressed in black and wearing make up squats and poses for the camera

I was granted the fantastic opportunity to delve into the history of her fascinating and prestigious life thanks to Luna Morgana, Kit Heyam, and Kit Day in collaboration with Trans Leeds, Non-Binary Leeds, the Royal Armouries Museum, LEEDS 2023, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Chevaliere d’Éon dressed as Minerva, holding a spear and shield, and wearing a plumed helmet with one breast exposed.Chevaliere d'Eon dressed as Minerva, holding a spear and shield, and wearing a plumed helmet with one breast exposed.
Chevalière d’Éon as the Roman goddess Minerva, published by Samuel Hooper, 1773 © The Trustees of the British Museum CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

On April 5th, 2022, I went to the special collections at University of Leeds library with Luna Morgana and Kit Heyam to view a collection of 18th-century letters, documents and articles written by, of, and to la Chevalière d’Éon. Interacting with the physical artefacts and witnessing the research of such an incredible figure in history was phenomenal. Even the minutiae of such artefacts – the crumbling wax seals she had opened herself, the ancient ink in her handwriting, the names of her friends – was surreal; I was in such proximity to someone who not only died 212 years ago but was also a brilliantly prestigious historical figure. The reverence I felt as a person living in the 21st century was even more powerful from the perspective of our shared trans identity.

An 18th century fencing match between a man in red jacket and a woman in black dress and white bonnet, being watched by a crown of men.
The Fencing Match between le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and la Chevalière d’Éon.
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

On May 7th, 2022, I attended the Sword d’Éon tour and “zine” workshop at the Royal Armouries Museum. We were taken on a dedicated tour of objects in the Royal Armouries’ collection relating to the life of la Chevalière d’Éon and trans history, took part in a workshop to create a “zine” detailing the illustrious story of her life and even got to view the sword she gifted to her friend George Keate in 1777.

The day was imbued with compassionate care for the local trans community as we all came together to enjoy fun and fascinating trans history. We were shown a selection of artefacts that represented gender and gender-nonconformity throughout history paired with talks from museum staff outlining the objects’ prominence and symbolism to reflect on, sparking a deep understanding and connection for the attendees who otherwise may have lacked such an engaging and tailored experience during museum tours. Each attendee got to contribute to the “zine” during the workshop in any creative way they felt – another unique and exciting way of encouraging everyone to feel a part of their own history by submitting something of their own creation that represented their individual experience and newfound knowledge.

Two trans people enjoying crafts at a workshop
Participants at the “zine” making workshop 

The very sword owned by la Chevalière and gifted to George Keate was brought down from display for the attendees to view. As each attendee viewed the sword up close, it felt as though this sword was carried by us all, knowing that our stories matter and there is proof of us existing as powerful beings. In art and literature, swords serve as symbols of power, protection, strength, and courage – these things are often denied to us as trans people.

Viewing the sword carried by our brilliant ancestor was a beacon of justice and strength not only in history but something to carry with us as we go on to do great things.

The sword is on permanent display in the Presentation Arms case, on the 5th floor of the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Take the gold lift.

a group of trans people in a room gather around a sword in display case, one person stares intently.
A participant getting up close to the la Chevalière d’Éon sword

To explore our history and stories of important figures sharing our trans identities is such a powerful and important experience for the trans community. We are deserving of acknowledgement and empowerment for our history, to know that we have always existed, lived exuberant lives, and have made important contributions to society. This is something that should be brought to the attention of wider society, and the tour and workshop proved that our history deserves its place in the cultural firmament.

Heritage Fund
Non-Binary Leeds
TransLeeds Logo
University of Leeds
sword with gilt hilt and guard

Sword of George Keate Esq. given to him in 1777 by his old friend the Chevalière d’Éon. Object no: IX.2034A

Physical description

This sword has a gilt copper-alloy boat-shell hilt. The pommel is ovoid with a long tang button and moulded stand. The knuckle bow and straight quillons are of lozenge section and flare at the terminals, the rear quillon retaining its lozenge shape and the fore quillon, extending from the lower edge of the knuckle guard, emerges in square section. The top of the knuckle guard is screwed to the side of the pommel. The boat-shell hilt has a heart-shaped stool, which is plain on the inside with an embossed central section, and a shell-shaped motif at the rear. There is a large groove at the tapered front end of the hilt, through which the fore quillon passes. The underside of the hilt is decorated with pierced scale work. The grip is wooden and wrapped in silver wire. The sword retains a blade leather washer.

The straight blade is double edged and tapers to a spear point. At the forte is a wide, shallow, central fuller. Approximately 160 mm from the hilt the fuller is replaced by a wide flat plane with bevelled edges. The blade is engraved with the maker’s mark and two different decorative motifs on each side. It is also inlaid on the outside with an inscription in gold.

Two views of the sword's gilt hilt showing pierced decoration on the outside and smooth on the inside

Stool has decorative piercing on the outside but is smooth on the inside. Inscriptions are seen on both sides of the blade.





Gilt inlaid inscription

Original: ‘Donne par la Chevalïere d’Eon à son ancïen Ami Geo: Keate Esquïre. 1777’
Translation: Given by the knightess of Eon to her old friend George Keate Esquire. 1777

Detail of sword blade with inscription "Donne par la Chevalïere d'Eon à son ancïen Ami Geo: Keate Esquïre. 1777"

Inscription translates as “Given by the knightess of Eon to her old friend George Keate Esquire. 1777”





Purchased from an individual in 1980.




The blade maker, Lourenco Carvalho, was active as a lance and sword maker in Lisbon in the 1640s. This sword may have been constructed in its current form in 1777, corresponding to the inscription. The hilt appears to be a Norman type 113 hilt, in use from around 1720, and similar to the British 1796 Heavy Cavalry Officer’s Dress sword of the late 18th and early 19th century. The presentation sword has the addition of decorative shell piercings under the hilt, similar to other surviving examples made by English cutlers Bland, and Bland and Foster. However, these other examples are later than 1777, for example, see object number RCIN 61379 currently in the Royal Collection, dated 1780-87.

The sword was presented by the Chevalière d’Éon to George Keate, most likely the writer and poet (1729 – 1797), and friend of Voltaire.

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810), also known as the Chevalier d’Éon, and as the Chevalière d’Éon, was a French soldier, diplomat, and spy. D’Éon worked for both Louis XV and Louis XVI, serving in Russia and joining Louis XV’s, private league of diplomats known as the ‘secret du roi’. D’Éon was awarded the Order of Saint Louis, and the title ‘Chevalier’, in 1763.

D’Éon visited London as part of the French embassy and published secret correspondence which revealed corruption within the French government. D’Éon eventually settled in London, living openly as a woman, and establishing a highly successful career in fencing.


Addressing a group at a trans workshop
Kit Heyam delivering an Interactive history game about la Chevalière d’Éon’s life.

Hidden Histories

As part of Leeds 2023 Hidden Histories pilot project, we worked with historian Kit Heyam, and artist and researcher Luna Morgana to facilitate a session with the local trans community to review the Chevalière d’Éon Sword through a different lens.

Read Hidden Histories: reviewing ‘The Chevalière d’Éon Sword’ with our trans community and discover more about the session with the group from Trans Leeds and Non-Binary Leeds and the “zine” that they created inspired by the Chevalière d’Éon Sword.