This might not seem as exciting as the poison-filled upbringing at court. Unsurprisingly, though, considering all the poison,Â Louis XV loved that she was bourgeois. All of Louis XV’s favorite mistresses (like Madame Maintenon and the later Madame du Barry) were common born, and, certainly, the fact that Madame Pompadour wasn’t an aristocrat allowed Louis a freedom in his interactions with her that the pomp and ceremony of the court of Versailles would never permit.
While we’re often apt to think of romances in the past as being very high on drama and feuding families and all sorts of operatic excitement, well, people living in the past are not aware they are living in the past. They think they are living in the present. For their whole lives, they think that. And so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Louis XV’s and Madame Pompadour’s relationship was successful for the same reason I think most relationships are successful – they essentially liked doing the same stuff.
Like adopting monkeys. While Louis did love to hunt, both he and Madame Pompadour were animal lovers, who soon formed a menagerie comprised of cats, dogs, and monkeys.
Pompadour also introduced Louis to a number of new authors – like her friend, Voltaire – though at one point Louis complained that she could not keep doing this, because, at the rate she was going, he was going to meet every author in the world. It’s possible he was right. At her death, Madame Pompadour’s library was found to contain 3,525 books and she was known to recite passages from memory in conversation. Louis told his friends that she often acted out comic scenes for him, and that she was very funny. She was known, among the rest of the court, to have a good sense of humor, though she did not act out scenes for them.
She did, however, perform in theatrical productions, often playing male roles (they had better lines). After one performance in Le Prince de Noisy , where Pompadour played the Prince, Loui XV ran onstage and hugged her, exclaiming “she is the most delicious woman in France.”
Madame Pompadour also began hosting little dinner parties for Louis and his friends. They were so informal that Louis supposedly helped her with the preparations, and served all the guests coffee himself. This all sounds like the kind of normal, good natured thing that husbands in a 1950s sitcom would do, but you have to remember that this was a court where aristocrats grew out their fingernails to obscene lengths in order to indicate that they were of such exalted social status that they would never need to pick things up with their hands.
When Louis realized that everyone in Pompadour’s family had nicknames for one another – Pompadour was Reinette, her brother was referred to as Frerot (“little bro” or “kiddo”) – he soon adopted nicknames for his own daughters (“Locque” for Adelaide and “coche” for Victoire, which mean “rag” and “coach” respectively. I’m not sure Louis quite understood how nicknames worked, but I’m sure he put a lot of thought into those.)