Mathilde “Missy” De Morny

Mathilde “Missy” De Morny

Birth
Death 29 Jun 1944 (aged 81)
Burial Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Plot Div 54
Memorial ID 161022961 · View Source
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Mathilde de Morny (26 May 1863 - 29 June 1944) was a French noblewoman, artist and transgender figure. She was also known by the nickname 'Missy' or her pseudonym as an artist, 'Yssim' (an anagram of Missy), 'Max', 'Oncle Max' ('Uncle Max') and 'Monsieur le Marquis'.

She was the fourth and final child of Charles de Morny, Duke of Morny and Sofia Sergeyevna Trubetskaya. Her father was the half-brother of Napoleon III, whilst her mother may have been the illegitimate daughter of Nicholas I of Russia - this made her great-grand-daughter of both Talleyrand and empress Joséphine.

Her extravagant conduct made her a celebrity of the Belle Époque and despite her 1881 marriage to the known homosexual Jacques Godart, sixth and final marquis of Belbeuf – whom she divorced in 1903 – she was open that her sexual preference was for women. Though lesbian love was then fashionable, she was still attacked for this, especially due to her very masculine dress and attitude. At this time a woman wearing trousers could still scandalise even if she had been legally authorised to do so, as in the case of Rosa Bonheur (who sought police permission to wear trousers to make it easier for her to paint in the countryside). Mathilde wore a full three-piece suit (then forbidden to women), wore her hair short, smoked a cigar and underwent a hysterectomy and a mastectomy. She was also active as a sculptor and painter, studying under comte Saint-Cène and the sculptor Édouard-Gustave-Louis Millet de Marcilly.

Thanks to her personality and fortune, Mathilde de Morny became a lover of several women in Paris, including Liane de Pougy and Colette. From summer 1906 onwards she and Colette stayed together in the 'Belle Plage' villa in Le Crotoy, where Collete wrote the les Vrilles de la vigne and la Vagabonde which would be adapted for the screen by Musidora. On 3 January 1907 Mathilde and Colette put on a pantomime entitled Rêve d'Égypte ('Dream of Egypt') at the Moulin Rouge, in which Mathilde caused a scandal by playing an Egyptologist during a simulated lesbian love scene - a kiss between them almost caused a riot and the production was stopped by the prefect of police Louis Lépine. From then on they could no longer live together openly, though the relationship lasted until 1912. Mathilde also inspired the character 'La Chevalière' in Colette's novel Le Pur et l'Impur, described as "in dark masculine attire, belying any notion of gaiety or bravado... High born, she slummed it like a prince."

On 21 June 1910 the couple bought the manor of Rozven at Saint-Coulomb in Brittany (its owner, baron du Crest, refused the sale because Mathilde was dressed as a man and so Colette signed the deed instead) - on the same day the first chamber of the 'tribunal de grande instance' for the Seine departement pronounced Colette's divorce from Henry Gauthier-Villars. When Mathilde and Colette separated a year later, Colette kept the house. At the end of May 1944 Mathilde tried to commit hara-kiri but was prevented. She then committed suicide at 3pm on 29 June 1944 by putting her head in her gas cooker.


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  • Created by: Elisa Rolle
  • Added: 14 Apr 2016
  • Find a Grave Memorial 161022961
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Mathilde “Missy” De Morny (26 May 1863–29 Jun 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 161022961, citing Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Elisa Rolle (contributor 48982101) .