Madame de Xaintrailles
A lady who was initiated into Freemasonry by a French Lodge that did not have the excuse for this violation of law that we must accord to the Irish one in the case of Miss Saint Leger. Clavel (Histoire Pittoresque, page 34) tells the story, but does not give the date, though it must have been about the close of the eighteenth century. The law of the Grand Orient of France required each Lodge of Adoption to be connected with and placed under the immediate guardianship of a regular Lodge of Freemasons. It was in one of these guardian Lodges that the female initiation which we are about to describe took place.
The Lodge of Freres-Artistes, Brother-Artists, at Paris, over which Brother Cuvelier de Trie presided as Master, was about to give what is called a Fete of Adoption, that is, to open a Lodge for female Freemasonry, and initiate candidates into that Rite.
Previous, however, to the introduction of the female members, the Brethren opened a regular Lodge of Ancient Freemasonry in the First Degree. Among the visitors who waited in the antechamber for admission was a youthful officer in the uniform of a captain of cavalry. His Diploma or Certificate was requested of him by the member deputed for the examination of the visitors, for the purpose of having it inspected by the Lodge. After some little hesitation, he handed the party asking for it a folded paper, which was immediately carried to the Orator of the Lodge, who, on opening it, discovered that it was the Commission of an Aide-de-Camp, which had been granted by the Directory to the wife of General de Xaintrailles, a lady who, like several others of her sex in those troublous times, had donned the masculine attire and gained a military rank at the point of the sword.
When the nature of the supposed Diploma was made known to the Lodge, it may readily be supposed that the surprise was general. But the members were Frenchmen, they were excitable and they were gallant; and consequently, in a sudden and exalted fit of enthusiasm, which as Freemasons we cannot excuse, they unanimously determined to confer the First Degree, not of Adoption, but so far as they could do so, of regular and legitimate Freemasonry, on the brave woman who had so often exhibited every manly virtue, and to whom her country had on more than one occasion committed trusts requiring the greatest discretion and prudence as well as courage.
Madame de Xaintrailles was made acquainted with the resolution of the Lodge, and her acquiescence in its wishes requested. To the offer, she replied, "I have been a man for my country, and I will again be a man for my Brethren." According to the report, she was forthwith introduced and initiated as an Entered Apprentice, and repeatedly afterward assisted the Lodge in its labors in the First Degree. Doubtless the Irish Lodge was, under all the circumstances, excused, if not justified, in the initiation of Miss Saint Leger. But for the reception of Madame de Xaintrailles we look in vain for the slightest shadow of an apology. The outrage on their obligations as Freemasons, by the members of the Parisian Lodge, richly merited the severest punishment, which ought not to have been averted by the plea that the offense was committed in a sudden spirit of enthusiasm and gallantry.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry