Remember the scene in Pretty Woman where Viv (Julia Roberts), challenges her roommate to name one hooker who actually ends up with a rich guy, and the roommate replies “Cinder-fuckin’-ella.” She could have also said Madame du Barry, but, spoiler, Madame du Barry‘s story does not lead to a happy ending. Although there is footwear involved!
I balk at the portrayal of Louis XV in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, but the portrayal of no one at court treating Du Barry like a lady, well, that was pretty spot on. For reference, because it’s terrible to talk about movies people haven’t seen, go seven minutes in here, du Barry is the lady in red:
This. This is pretty spot on.
While the court loved Madame de Pompadour to the extent that, when Louis started seeing younger women towards they end of their 20 year long relationship, everyone took Madame Pompadour’s side (against the king of France!) the Court hated du Barry.
That was because, while Madame Pompadour spent her time counseling the King on political matters (she was jokingly referred to as “the pretty prime minister“) and supporting artists and writers of the period, Madame du Barry spent her time literally sitting in the King’s lap at state dinners and tonguing his ear and doing… under the table stuff. You know. Stuff. Suffice to say, she was also known to be a very heavy drinker.
The court basically responded as though the King had gone from dating Meryl Streep to Courtney Stodden.
And I have no doubt that if I’d been there I’d have responded exactly the same way. Sometimes – this is a bit embarrassing – I like to imagine that Madame Pompadour and I are friends. I think we’d talk about our thoughts on Candide, and architecture, and just… things. How obese Voltaire was getting, probably. Do you do that with any historical figures? I’m not saying we’d actually be friends, because Pompadour is kind of great at everything, but I think, in any age, she’s the kind of woman whose friendship it would be wonderful to have.
And in spite of that – in spite of the fact that Madame de Pompadour has my unparallelled admiration – Madame du Barry has my heart. I love her, vulgar, jewel studded hot mess that she is.