Famous Wagers Big Money Bets in History Part 2

About some famous or bizarre big money bets in history including one about the man-woman of France.



Because of his short stature and hairless face, French diplomat Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont (1728-1810) easily passed as a woman. For political reasons, including espionage, King Louis XV decreed that the chevalier dress as a woman, a practice the chevalier initiated in London, where he was on a diplomatic mission for the king. This provided a glorious opportunity for heavy wagers. Was D'Eon male or female? The whole of London joined in on the sex wager. Eventually D'Eon placed an ad in a London newspaper warning gamblers against risking their money. By 1774 bets amounting to over pound 120,000 backing him as a "her" had been made. At last the case came before Lord Mansfield in Hayes v. Jacques. A French doctor, Louis de Goux, testified that D'Eon was a woman. An associate, Monsieur de Morande, claimed he had not only seen D'Eon's bare breast but had also been given "manual proof of her being in truth a woman." Thus D'Eon was legally declared female. But he still refused to be officially examined. With so much money riding on the truth, many bettors were infuriated by this, but none dared approach him since he was a fabulous swordsman and had defeated the finest blades in Europe (while dressed as a woman). In 1810 D'Eon died, and at last the truth was revealed. The postmortem examination disclosed that the body had certain feminine characteristics: "Unusual roundness in the formation of the limbs, breasts remarkably full, arms, hands, and fingers of a stout woman, and female feet and legs." But the surgeon also found "male organs in every respect perfectly formed." At last D'Eon was declared a man. Thousands of pounds were exchanged with that announcement.


The noted English eccentric William Beckford (1760-1844) built an enormous house known as Fonthill Abbey, in which he kept priceless art objects and many treasures. But Beckford was a recluse and allowed very few people into his home. He also built a 12-ft.-high, 7-mi.-long wall around his grounds to ensure his privacy. But a relation of the Victorian painter W. P. Frith accepted a wager that he could not only walk in the gardens but also get inside the house itself. Entering the grounds proved no problem. He happened to be examining some flowers when he was caught by a gardener. He explained his wager, and the sympathetic gardener not only showed him around the flowerbeds but also showed him the inside of the house. Then, revealing himself as Beckford, the "gardener" invited the intrepid intruder to dinner. About midnight, after Beckford had retired and the gambler had settled down in front of the fire, he was roused by a valet who showed him to the door, saving: "Mr. Beckford's compliments. I am to say that since you found your way into Fonthill Abbey without assistance, you may find your way out as best you can--and he hopes you will take care to avoid the bloodhounds that are let loose in the gardens every night." The young man spent the night in abject terror perched in the nearest tree--but he had won his wager.

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