What Would They Play: Chevaliere D'Eon's EDH Deck

What Would They Play? • September 19, 2023

Welcome to What Would They Play?

I'm Charlie, I'm a storyteller, creative writer, and author; I handle the historical sections of the articles.

And I'm Dan, a Commander player who is obsessed with building thematic decks. I connect the stories to Magic cards to create decks that reflect the vibrant tales of the past.

We take famous or not-so-famous figures from history and make Commander decks based on their lives, philosophies, and histories.

Our articles are meant to be part history lesson, part deckbuilding guide. We believe that decks can be expressions of personal philosophies, so a fun way to learn about historical figures -- and flavorful brews -- would be to speculate about what sort of Commander deck a given person would play, given their times, opinions, and philosophies.

It's like a history class, only using the medium of Magic: the Gathering.

This is meant to be an accessible glimpse at the people in question, not a rigorous or definitive biography; we have sources at the end of the article for that!

Let us begin!

Who Was Charlotte-Geneviève-Louise-Augusta-Andréa-Timothéa d'Éon de Beaumont?

A whole lot of things as it turns out! Chevaliere d'Eon was, at various times:

  • A spymaster
  • Diplomat
  • Soldier for ancien regime France
  • An author
  • Professional swordswoman who participated in tournaments and exhibitions

In short, d'Eon would have appreciated the mixture of martial and literary prowess displayed by Zethi, Arcane Blademaster. D'Eon modeled herself after famous female heroes of the past, and Zethi's abilities lend themselves to a heroic deck theme.

A Quick Note on Sources and Misconceptions

I have had to rely largely on the work of others to bring this necessarily brief biography of d'Eon together, as I neither speak nor read French nor had the time to go through the thousands (!) of pages that d'Eon left behind after her death in 1810. Making matters more difficult, d'Eon put quite a few lies in her autobiography (such as being assigned female rather than male at birth and raised undetected for years) among other things.

Even worser (allow me the grammatical license to use that most ungrammatical word) a number of untruths have cropped up (as cataloged in Zagria Cowan's work) around d'Eon:

  • d'Eon alleged to be a member of the English Hell-Fire Club
  • That she was born female and raised as a boy by her family (manifestly untrue)
  • That she began dressing as a woman as early as their time in Moscow early in her career (this is contested, as d'Eon writes this in her autobiography, but we are unable to prove this with corresponding documents from independent sources).

Note that these are all things she DIDN'T do or were just factually wrong. Cannot overstate that fact that with d'Eon, it is very hard to parse the truth from fiction.

As to sources on d'Eon, I really recommend this particular source by Zargia Cowan. It provides an excellent summary of the legendary d'Eon's life, as well as providing scholarship on how trans people were treated outside of the upper echelons of French and English society in the late 17th century and early 18th century). They have a extensive series of addendums that address everything from what term might be most accurate for d'Eon, to a list of widely held untruths about her (which I borrowed from above).

I also heartily recommend this analysis from Historical Blindness which talks at great length about the limits of historical accuracy and transgender history.

For simplicity and so as not to misgender the dead, all references to d'Eon will use she/her pronouns, regardless of timeframe.

Early Life (1728-1763)

The (future) Chevaliere d'Eon (1728-1810) was born to an aristocratic French family and counted as a son. She had a talent and verve for all things military that would stay with her for her entire life. So naturally, that's where her attention went as she emerged from childhood into the upper-class world of ancien regime France.

D'Eon's early career was that of an ambitious noble. She was part of a top-secret spy-ring (so secret that even major departments of the government didn't know it existed) called the King's Secret that only took orders from the French monarch. She was sent to help solidify the Franco-Russian alliance during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), which--as you may remember from our Marie Vallet/Beast of Gevaudan article--absolutely devastated the French empire and had long-reaching aftereffects. She took part in battles and was wounded outside of Ultrop.

As a leader of soldiers, a Soldier typal theme seems appropriate for d'Eon's deck. After all, many creatures with the heroic ability are Soldiers, including Hero of the Winds, Phalanx Leader, and Battlewise Hoplite. Typal lords like Daru Warchief, Harbin, Vanguard Aviator and Myrel, Shield of Argive (another transgender military leader, though Myrel is nonbinary, not a trans woman) lead d'Eon's Soldiers to victory.

After her stint in the Seven Years' War battlefields, d'Eon was sent as an assistant to the French ambassador to England, still in her (super secret) capacity as part of the King's Secret. She was involved in the treaty that ultimately ended the war, and surveyed England for possible allies and good landing spots in the event of a French invasion. D'Eon refused to be seen in public without her ornate dragoon uniform, the prerogative of the nobility--she retained a love of all things military until her death.

The Not-Invasion of England and Betting d'Eon is a Woman (1764-1770)

However, this change of scenery and task didn't go smoothly. The melodrama and realpoliticking around the plans for a French invasion of England hardly can be imagined. The betrayals, the double bluffs, the triple-double-dog-dares of brinksmanship would require multiple flow charts to explain the whole long saga in its entirety. We will, therefore, content ourself with the major beats (focused on the ones that involve d'Eon personally).When the previous ambassador to England was recalled to France, d'Eon stepped in as interim ambassador and swiftly got into an escalating feud with her nominal replacement (Guerchy) that led to d'Eon claiming that he tried to drug her.

France demanded her extradition; d'Eon refused, appealing to the British public--who rather liked her and refused to hand her over. In 1764, d'Eon published top-secret French diplomatic papers and threatened to publish more unless the Crown paid up (she had been forced to entertain in royal style out of her own pocket). Ultimately the Crown partially relented. Guerchy was recalled.1

D'Eon's period as an intelligence agent is represented in her Commander deck with Curiosity-type effects. The flavor of Auras like Security Bypass and Combat Research is a great match for seeking information in an enemy country, and these spells are handy for triggering heroic abilities. Open into Wonder can trigger several of these at once, as can Launch the Fleet, whose name and art suggest the aborted French invasion of England.

Tensions between d'Eon and the French government were high--the government refused to pay d'Eon what she asked despite meeting some of her demands--and would remain that way for the next ten years.

In 1770, the first rumors come about that d'Eon was secretly a woman first appeared (some sources say this rumor had its origins in Paris, others insist England). Cowan writes that the sources point to d'Eon spreading this rumor herself. It seemed believable enough, even though d'Eon did not present as female in public (and indeed continued to appear in public in her Dragoons uniform)--that after a few years there were serious bets in major gambling establishments over her gender. Major bets meant serious money. Money that could help d'Eon get out of her many and varied debts.2

In a game of Commander, there are a few cards that d'Eon could similarly use to invite speculation. Master of Predicaments, Sphinx Ambassador, and Liar's Pendulum all ask an opponent to make a bet, so to speak, on some secret information known only to their controller. This revealing of information can result in serious advantages for d'Eon.

At various points in her life, d'Eon found herself unable to pay her bills.3 Constant debt hounded d'Eon. Cowan notes that, in general:

"d'Eon had never saved a penny pound or livre despite her pension being generous compared to an average income. When she was in England [the second time] the payments became unreliable--this was part of the financial crisis and government bankruptcy that resulted in the [French] Revolution, which formally ended the payments."

One thing that royalty, throughout history, has never done is pay on time (if ever). Combined with d'Eon's notoriously open-handed and high-living ways meant that she was constantly under a financial sword of Damocles.

So these bets on her gender weren't just casual things--for one thing, d'Eon had to go everywhere with an armed retinue to prevent people from jumping her and stripping her to see what gender she was.4

Finally, ten years after the inciting incident, the French crown relented. They would give d'Eon a generous pension upon her return to France, but her requests for promotion were denied and the final clause of the agreement was that she was to dress in women's clothes and be treated as a woman.5

Return to France, Donning the Dress (1777 onward)

D'Eon ultimately returned to France after the French monarch agreed to pay her a pension. The first time d'Eon was confirmed by multiple sources to dress in women's clothes--a four hour event with Marie Antoinette's own dressers and presented to the court. D'Eon complained bitterly about the intricacies of feminine garb, saying some time later, according to Cowan:

"I find the dress of a woman too complicated for quickly dressing and undressing. Full of inconveniences, unseasonable in winter, inflexible in all times, uniquely made only for vanity, luxury, other vices, and the ruin of husbands."

There is a line of analysis that argues that d'Eon's bookish habits helped her frame her transition, drawing from history and myth of the tradition of the woman who disguises herself as a man to serve in the military for love of country. The chief example would be Joan of Arc--and d'Eon consciously and unconsciously played into that trope to gain social acceptance as an "Amazon".

As we mentioned earlier, d'Eon's historical and mythical influences could be thought of as "heroes" and find their place in her deck as creatures featuring the heroic mechanic. Vanguard of Brimaz helps to create a wide board of Soldiers, which Phalanx Leader and Hero of the Pride will pump up. Tethmos High Priest can recover many of these key creatures that have been killed. She also included a few creatures that work similarly to heroic without using the ability word: Illuminator Virtuoso's double strike pairs quite well with Curiosity, after all, and Precursor Golem can turn a targeted cantrip like Leap into a burst of card advantage.

However, d'Eon's desired social acceptance was not swift in coming, if it arrived at all, from the members of the French public. She was mocked roundly in the French press and broadsheets immediately upon her return and after her presentation to the court. While she did get to have some influence and luxuries--netting a meeting with Benjamin Franklin and a visit with the famous itinerant philosopher Voltaire in his final year, being out as a woman in fact and legally marked an end of d'Eon's military and political power.

Being acknowledged as a woman effectively cut most of d'Eon's political and social power down to nearly nothing. She was forbidden freedom of movement, spied on and followed by agents of the crown. She retired to her country estate and pondered her metamorphosis and Christian religion.

Cowan writes:

"From 1779 to 1785 d'Eon spent most of her time at the family home. She was permitted short visits to Paris, but had to obtain permission each time, and sometime a government agent followed her around. Being at Tonnerre gave d'Eon time to consider gender and religion. She considered that living as a woman was not enough, she had to be a Christian woman. She took Joan of Arc as a model. One of her relatives was Christophe de Beamont, the Archbishop of Paris, and she took the opportunity to discuss the central tenets of Christianity with him, and valued his opinions. However despite Beaumont being noted for his struggle against Jansenism, she also regularly read the leading Jansenist newspaper, Nouvelles ecclesiastiques. Although Jansenism was not Protestant, it had been declared heretical by the Catholic Church."

A final return to England, a traveling swordswoman

When the French finally entered America's Revolutionary War on the side of the Americans, d'Eon begged for permission to travel across the Atlantic and join the fray. Her royal minders nixed that. A woman couldn't lead troops, period. She eventually returned to England to stay--though her position was unsteady at times. She continued to spend lavishly, as only someone born to the upper classes could do. The need to keep up appearances meant that thrift--as a tactic really off the table when in the equivalent of millions in debt--was never truly an option for her.

To make ends meet d'Eon had to recourse to giving fencing demonstrations and attending tournaments for extra cash. She had a strong martial streak to her and by all accounts was exceptionally skilled with a blade. This played very much into her portrayal as an Amazon (there are many portraits of her as such), and it seemed to be one of the joys of her life, besides reading and entertaining.


Chevalier D'Éon
Sketch of Chevaliere d'Eon in a fencing match courtesy of Euforia

Combat tricks both trigger heroic abilities and demonstrate d'Eon's skill with a sword. Defiant Strike and Guided Strike help to overcome an enemy creature, while Loran's Escape, Boon of Safety, and Gods Willing suggest more of a defensive parry. She can get multiple heroic triggers with Unbounded Potential, Tandem Tactics, or Phalanx Formation--note that the strive cost can be paid even if the spell is cost for free with Zethi's ability.

When the French Revolution (and the war of the first coalition) began, d'Eon offered to lead a squad of women in full-on battle against the Hapsburgs, as Cowan notes.6

D'Eon was rebuffed yet again. War and armed struggle would remain the official province of men, even under a revolutionary government.

Death and Legacy

Chevaliere d'Eon died after a fall that rendered her bed-ridden for the last four years of her life, finally passing in 1810 in England.7

'Eonism' became a term coined by Havelock Ellis in the 1920s to denote otherwise cis men who wore female clothes and affected their mannerisms (though it is notable that, like many "-isms" named after specific people, according to this definition, d'Eon herself wouldn't have been an eonist--as Cowan points out, a defining feature of d'Eon's life was her asexuality, or lack of sexual attraction to others as we understand it). D'Eon lived through fascinating times--serving the ancien regime of the Bourbons, observing the French and American Revolutions from England and finally dying in the early stages of the Napoleonic wars.  Cowan's work discusses this trans/ace invisibility in history in greater detail, pointing out that d'Eon was far from an oddity--hell, she wasn't even the only trans, upper-class, polyglot, bibliophile with connections to the highest levels of government--in London:

"If we are looking for an 18th century trans person who approximates to our modern concept of transsexual (although of course they had to live it without benefit of external hormones or modern surgery) the best candidate is John de Verdion. I have yet to find a book about D'Eon that even mentions the existence of Verdion although they were in London at the same time 1770-1800."

Further, while d'Eon is well remembered (relatively) this is more a function of the historical biases towards people who were upperclass and literate. Trans, ace, queer, and nonbinary people have always been part of history, but their stories in Western history are only rarely told or alluded to.

Chevaliere d'Eon's full Commander deck is below!

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  1. He was jeered by the British public, something that no doubt delighted d'Eon. She did indeed savor grudges, Cowan notes: "D'Eon's hatred for Beaumarchais [another member of the French aristocracy] was such that she started gathering material for a four-volume biography of him. However she eventually lost interest, and it was never completed." When you are prepared to write a four volume biography of someone just to prove how much they suck you might be Chevaliere d'Eon.
  2. From Cowan: "Despite the fact that d'Eon wore [her] dragoon uniform every day, by 1770 a rumour developed, at first in Paris, that [she] was a woman. Horace Walpole was one of the first in London to receive the gossip. The rumours were mostly of the form that another person says so. After a couple of months London newspapers were reporting as fact that d'Eon was female. By the first Thursday in March 1771 significant sums were being wagered on [her] sex in the City. At a time when a labourer might make 20 pence a day or £20 a year, bets for as much £500 were laid, and often with life insurance policies as collateral. On Saturday 23 March d'Eon [herself] went to the taverns around the stock exchange and found the banker who had arranged the first bet. D'Eon challenged him to a duel, and also anyone who had laid such a bet. None accepted. D'Eon had to consider [her] safety, as no bets would be paid without confirmation, thugs might attack and strip [her]."
  3. She found herself in the unenviable position of being in a debtors prison in England later in life.
  4. There is no reason to believe that the question of d'Eon's gender was done in a cynical manner--Cowan notes that in 1793, four years before she first publicly appeared in woman's clothes, she placed an order for feminine clothes with a friend.
  5. From Cowan, on how the outstanding wagers on her gender had worked out:

    "By summer 1777, some gamblers had had money tied up in bets about d'Eon's sex for as much as six years, and began filing suits demanding payment. On 2 July such a case was heard by Chief Justice Mansfield at the Court of King's Bench. The first witness was surgeon and male midwife, La Goux who claimed to have treated d'Eon for a female disorder some years earlier. The second witness was Morande who actually claimed to have been in bed with d'Eon. The defence merely objected that courts were no place to discuss woman's private parts. Another witness was a French physician who did not speak English, and Morande kindly translated. The jury, after two minutes gave a verdict for the plaintiff. This served as a legal declaration that d'Eon was a woman, and those who had bet that she was a man, paid up.

    "D'Eon had not attended the trial, did not confirm [her] sex, and decided to return to France. It was also that most of [her] debts had been paid off and [her] library of 6,000+ volumes was not now at risk of being subject to liens. D'Eon was politically rehabilitated and now perceived as an agent of the French king. In addition, without ever being seen in female attire, d'Eon had - despite earlier opposition - now managed to convince everyone, including close associates, that [she] was in fact a born female who had been raised as male."

  6. It cannot be said enough that the role of peasants and women has been repeatedly airbrushed out of revolutionary history, especially the French Revolution. To name but one example of how much influence women had on the early revolution, it is quite doubtful the revolution would have occurred in the way it did if not for the women of Paris arming themselves and marching on the royal palace demanding bread--as Kropotkin notes in chapter 20 of The Great French Revolution, to name but one place.
  7. It is especially worth noting one of the unkindest cuts to d'Eon came post-mortem. Sketches were made--and widely distributed--of her anatomy after her death with the most sensational headlines.

What Would They Play? is a collaboration between author Charlie Allison and game designer Dan Sibley. The series is part history lesson, part deck-building journal and aims to bring historical figures back to life through the lens of Magic: The Gathering. You can find Dan on Twitter at @VedalkenSamurai and Charlie on the web at www.charlie-allison.com and https://blog.pmpress.org/authors-artists-comrades/charlie-allison/.