Alexandra (David) David-Néel

Louise Eugénie Alexandrine Marie (David) David-Néel (1868 - 1969)

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Louise Eugénie Alexandrine Marie (Alexandra) David-Néel formerly David
Born in Saint-Mandé, Seine, Francemap
Ancestors ancestors
Wife of — married in Tunis, Tunisiemap
[children unknown]
Died in Digne, Basses-Alpes, Francemap
Profile last modified | Created 3 Mar 2018
This page has been accessed 158 times.

Categories: Women's History | Ecrivains français | Centenarians | Explorers | Saint-Mandé, Val-de-Marne | Digne-les-Bains, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

Alexandra (David) David-Néel est Français ou d'origine Française.
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Alexandra David-Néel was a French explorer, author, opera singer, and early French convert to Buddhism. She is believed to be the first woman of European background to visit Lhasa, Tibet.


Biographies of Alexandra David-Néel have often discussed her ancestry, but many of them seem to repeat unproven assertions regarding her background. One such biography described her as having a Huguenot father who was the nephew of Jacques-Louis David, while also stating that her mother's family was one of means and that her ethnic background was Dutch, Norwegian, and Siberian.[1] It is quite possible that these claims were made by David-Néel herself. Regardless of source, they are worth examining more critically.

A review of the documentary evidence paints a portrait that is quite different than what is often proclaimed. First, there is no reason to believe her father, whose family hailed from eastern France, had any close ancestral tie to the famed painter, a native of Paris. Further, while her father may have been a committed Protestant, it isn't clear that his religious beliefs came from ancestral ties. In fact, one of his grandparents was known to have been born in Corsica, a region not known for having a strong Protestant presence.

Claims about her mother's privileged background are also quite confusing. It is known that her birth mother, Alexandrine Borgmans, was born to a single mother in Brussels in 1832. If she had been given up for adoption to a wealthy family, it doesn't seem to have been formalized, for her birth mother was present at her daughter's marriage in Leuven in 1853.

Early Life

Named Louise Eugénie Alexandrine Marie David at birth, she was born on 24 October 1868 in Saint-Mandé, an inner-ring suburb of Paris. She was the daughter of Louis Pierre David and Alexandrine Borghmans. Her parents are both listed as being without profession at the time of her birth.[2] She had a younger brother, Jules Louis Alexandre Marie, who was born four years later.


She married Philippe François Néel on 4 August 1904 in Tunis.[2]

Later Years and Death

She died on 8 September 1969 in Digne.[2]


  1. Middleton, Ruth. Alexandra David-Neel: Portrait of an Adventurer. Shambhala, 1989.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 acte de naissance: Archives départementales du Val-de-Marne: Saint-Mandé, Naissances, 1866-1870, Cote 1MI 2594, acte 77, vue 78, consulté le 1er novembre 2018

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No known carriers of Alexandra's ancestors' mitochondrial DNA have taken an mtDNA test and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

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Images: 1
Portrett av Alexandra David-Neels
Portrett av Alexandra David-Neels

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