Madame de Pompadour



Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise (later Duchesse) de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour (December 29, 1721April 15, 1764) was a well known courtesan and the famous mistress of King Louis XV of France.

Early life

Madame de Pompadour was born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson on December 29 1721 in Paris. It is suspected that her biological father was the rich financier Le Normant de Tournehem, who became her legal guardian when her official father Francois Poisson, a steward to the Paris brothers--foremost financiers of the French economy--was forced to leave the country in 1725 after a scandal. He was cleared eight years later and allowed to return to France. Her younger brother was Abel-François Poisson de Vandières (who would later become the Marquis de Marigny). She was intelligent, beautiful, and educated; she also learned to dance, engrave and play the clavichord. She later claimed that at the age of nine, she was taken to a fortune teller by her mother and told that she would someday reign over the heart of a king. Apparently her mother believed the prophecy and accordingly nicknamed her "Reinette". She spent a year in a convent upon the wish of her father to be exposed to the Roman Catholic religion. Then her education at home resumed, and she learned to recite entire plays by heart, absorb knowledge of botany, paint, charm men, and most importantly, effectively run a household. Lacking only strong health, Reinette seemed ready to live up to her name, though her bourgeoise background made it seem unlikely. Unexpectedly, her parents found it hard to make her a good match, probably due to their own notoriety rather than any defect in their near perfect daughter.

At last, she was married in 1741 (at the age of 19) to Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Étiolles, nephew of her guardian, who accepted the match and the large financial incentives that came with it. With him, she had two children, a boy who died the year after his birth in 1741 and Alexandrine-Jeanne (nicknamed "Fanfan"), born August 10, 1744. Contemporary opinion supported by artwork from the time considered Poisson to be quite beautiful, with her small mouth and oval face enlivened by her wit. Her young husband was soon mad about her and she reigned in the fashionable world of Paris. She founded her own salon and the great philosophes soon circled her flame.
Enlarge picture
Mme de Pompadour, pastel by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, shown at the Paris Salon, 1755 (Louvre Museum)


As Reinette became known in society, even the King came to hear of her. Madame Poisson, ever ambitious for the prophecy to succeed, numerous times took Reinette in their carriage to the royal forest in the hope of 'accidentally' encountering the King. At last, Reinette caught the eye of King Louis XV in 1745. A group of courtiers, including her father-in-law, promoted her acquaintance with the monarch, who was still mourning the death of his second official mistress, the Duchesse de Châteauroux. In February 1745, Antoinette was invited to a royal mask ball at Versailles celebrating the marriage of the King's son. At the chosen moment in the Grand Ballroom, eight costumed figures appeared, comically dressed as yew-tree hedges, one of which was the King in disguise. By chance or design, Reinette dressed as Diana, goddess of the Hunt, had found her prey and soon the King removed his headdress and engaged her in courtly conversation. By March, she was a regular visitor and King's mistress, installed at Versailles. He also bought her the estate of Pompadour, a marquisate with title and coat-of-arms. In July, Louis created her a marquise and she was legally separated from her crestfallen husband; on September 14 she was formally presented at court, where she demonstrated her mastery of the highly-mannered court etiquette. She was now 23, a bourgeoise by birth but nonetheless a royal mistress, however, her mother had died too early to see the prophecy come true. Now she commanded the attention of the court. Quickly, alliances, conspiracies, friends, and enemies swirled around her.

Political role

Contrary to popular belief, she never had much direct political influence, but supported the Maréchal de Belle-Isle and endorsed the Duke of Choiseul to the king. However, she did wield considerable power and control behind the scenes, which was highlighted when another of the king's mistresses, Marie-Louise O'Murphy, attempted to replace her around 1754. The younger, less experienced O'Murphy was arranged to be married off to a lesser noble and out of the royal court's inner circle. She had many enemies among the royal courtiers, who felt it a disgrace that the king would thus compromise himself with a commoner. She was very sensitive to the unending libels called poissonnades, a word meaning something like "fish stew", a pun on her family name, Poisson, which means "fish" in French. Only with great reluctance did Louis take punitive action against known enemies such as the Duc du Richelieu.

Her importance was such that she was even approached in 1755 by Wenzel Anton Graf Kaunitz, a prominent Austrian diplomat, asking her to intervene in the negotiations which led to the 1756 Treaty of Versailles. This was the beginning of the so-called Diplomatic Revolution, which temporarily lessened the long antagonism between France and Austria. This alliance eventually brought on the Seven Years' War, with all its disasters, the Battle of Rosbach and the loss of New France (Canada). After the defeat of France at Rosbach in 1757, she is alleged to have comforted the king saying this now famous by-word: "au reste, après nous, le déluge" ("After us, the Deluge"). France emerged from the war diminished and virtually bankrupt.

However, Pompadour persisted in her support of these policies, and, when Cardinal de Bernis failed her, brought Choiseul into office and supported him in all his great plans: the Pacte de Famille, the suppression of the Jesuits, and the peace of Versailles that lost Canada.

Position at court

Madame de Pompadour was an accomplished woman with a good eye for Rococo interiors. She was responsible for the development of the manufactory of Sèvres, which became one of the most famous porcelain manufacturers in Europe and which provided skilled jobs to the region. She had a keen interest in literature. She had known Voltaire before her ascendancy, and the playwright apparently advised her in her courtly role. She also discreetly endorsed Diderot's Encyclopédie project. After the War of the Austrian Succession, when economy was the thing the French state needed most, she drew more and more resources into the lavish court. Her influence over Louis increased markedly through the 1750s, to the point where he allowed her considerable leeway in the determination of policy over a whole range of issues, from military matters to foreign affairs.

Enlarge picture
Her memorial portrait finished in 1764 after her death, but begun from the life, by her favorite portraitist, François-Hubert Drouais


Pompadour was a woman of verve and intelligence. She planned buildings like the Place de la Concorde and the Petit Trianon with her brother, the Marquis de Marigny. She employed the stylish marchands-merciers, trendsetting shopkeepers who turned Chinese vases into ewers with gilt-bronze Rococo handles and mounted writing tables with the new Sèvres porcelain plaques. Numerous other artisans, sculptors and portrait painters were employed, among them the court artist Jean-Marc Nattier, in the 1750s Francois Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Francois-Hubert Drouais (illustration, right).

Pompadour suffered two miscarriages in 1746 and 1749, and she is said to have arranged lesser mistresses for the King's pleasure to replace herself. Although they did not sleep together after 1750, Louis XV remained devoted to her until her death in 1764 at the age of 42. Even her enemies admired her courage during the final painful weeks. Voltaire wrote: "I am very sad at the death of Madame de Pompadour. I was indebted to her and I mourn her out of gratitude. It seems absurd that while an ancient penpusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty'. Yet, at the time of her death, many enemies were greatly relieved and she was publicly blamed for the Seven Years' War. Looking at the rain during the leaving of his mistress' coffin from Versailles, the King reportedly said: "La Marquise n'aura pas beau temps pour son voyage." ("The marquise won't have good weather for her journey.").

In popular culture

See also

References

1. ^ Holmes, Richard (2002). Redcoat (paperback), London: HarperCollins, p. 43. ISBN 0-00-653152-0.HarperCollins&rft.place=London&rft.pages=p.%2043"> 
2. ^ Adams, Cecil. "Were champagne glasses modeled on the breasts of Madame de Pompadour?", Straight Dope, 1985-09-27. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
3. ^ Pixley, Andrew (2006-11-06, cover date). "Episode 4: The Girl in the Fireplace". Doctor Who Magazine — Series Two Companion (Special Edition 14): pp. 44–50. 

External links

Commune of
Arnac-Pompadour


Location
Longitude 1° 22’ 55’’ E
Latitude 45° 23’ 50’’ N

Administration
Country  France

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A courtesan in mid-16th century usage referred to a mistress, especially one associated with wealthy, powerful, or upper-class men who provided luxuries and status in exchange for her companionship.
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mistress is a man's long term female sexual partner and companion who is not married to him. The relationship is generally stable and at least semi-permanent; however, the couple do not live together openly. Also, the relationship is usually but not always secret.
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Louis XV
King of France and Navarre

Louis XV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1730)
Reign 1 September 1715 – 10 May 1774
Coronation 25 October 1722, Reims
Full name Known as The Beloved
Titles
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Ville de Paris

City flag City coat of arms

Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur
(Latin: "Tossed by the waves, she does not sink")

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, as seen from the esplanade du Trocadéro.
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Financier (IPA: /ˌfi nãn ˈsjei/) is a term for a person who handles large sums of money, usually involving money lending, financing projects, large-scale investing, or large-scale money
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Charles François Paul Le Normant de Tournehem (1684–1751) was a French financier, a fermier-général, or tax-farmer.

He is best known for his connection with Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (1721–1764), future marquise de Pompadour.
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legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests
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worldwide view.


A scandal is a widely publicized incident involving allegations of wrong-doing, disgrace, or moral outrage. A scandal may be based on reality, or the product of false allegations, or a mixture of both.
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Abel-François Poisson de Vandières, marquis de Marigny and marquis de Menars, often referred to simply as the Marquis de Marigny (1727, Paris - May 1781, Paris) was a French nobleman who served as the director general of the King's Buildings.
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clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition.
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Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Étiolles (8 May 1717 - 18 March 1799) is best known as being the husband of Madame de Pompadour or Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the illustrious mistress of King Louis XV of France.
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Alexandrine-Jeanne d'Étiolles, also called Alexandrine Le Normant d'Étoilles, was born on August 10, 1744, during the "Scenes of Metz." She was the daughter of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's celebrated mistress.
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Louis XV
King of France and Navarre

Louis XV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1730)
Reign 1 September 1715 – 10 May 1774
Coronation 25 October 1722, Reims
Full name Known as The Beloved
Titles
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8th century - 9th century - 10th century
850s  860s  870s  - 880s -  890s  900s  910s
885 886 887 - 888 - 889 890 891

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Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle, duchesse de Châteauroux (October 5, 1717 – December 8, 1744) was a mistress of Louis XV of France, and the youngest of four sisters who served as courtesans in the royal court of France.
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State Party  France
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, vi
Reference 83
Region Europe and North America

Inscription History
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
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Commune of
Arnac-Pompadour


Location
Longitude 1° 22’ 55’’ E
Latitude 45° 23’ 50’’ N

Administration
Country  France

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marquise is a French noblewoman ranking above a countess and below a duchess, and is usually the wife of a marquis. The British equivalent is a marchioness.

One of the most famous marquises in French history is the marquise de Pompadour.
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  • 786 - Harun al-Rashid becomes the Abbasid caliph upon the death of his brother al-Hadi.

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Étienne-François, duc de Choiseul (June 28, 1719 — May 8, 1785) was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman.

He was the eldest son of François Joseph de Choiseul, marquis de Stainville (1700—1770), and bore in early life the title of comte de Stainville.
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