• Mon, Jul 30 2012

Shelved Dolls: Madame du Barry – Cinder-F*ckin’-Ella

madame jean du barry

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.

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  • Ellen W.

    Can I be “Team NOT Marie Antoinette?” (Yes, I know she was treated very badly and didn’t have an easy life. But you’re the one who decided we had to pick a team!)

    There are things to love about both of them and I want to have Pompadour’s cleverness and taste, but du Barry’s generosity and optimism. Okay, fine, and Marie Antoinette’s poise.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Everyone is allowed to be team not Marie Antoinette. Though honestly, I never really got why Marie Antoinette and du Barry didn’t become friends. Both of them were strangers to the Court’s customs (M.A. was Austrian) hated by the public and known for having kind of vulgar tastes. Especially since the last Queen and Pompadour were buddies! Though I suppose that goes along with disliking people because they show traits we dislike in ourselves.

    • Naomi

      I imagine that if nothing else, Marie Antoinette was very concerned about fitting in at Versailles and being on the court’s good side. It’s like the new girl in school being a twat to fit in with the popular mean girls.

  • Adrienne

    It was hard to pick a team (although I picked Pompadour) as I think I would like both in their own ways! Thanks Jennifer yet again for picking such interesting dolls to profile!

  • Naomi

    You and I feel precisely the same way about both Pompadour and du Barry. We should be friends.

  • Lisa

    Do more research and read the book by Stanley Loomis, which is better description of Madame du Barry. She was perhaps more educated than the ladies at court. The hatred of her was partly due to her up bringing, but mostly due to jealousy… Being the mistress of the king was a very coveted position.

  • Lisa

    Madame du Barry was kind, and a great lover and supporter of the arts. Madame Pompadour, from what, I have read was a B..ch on wheels… Madame du Barry was also a friend of Voltaire. She was an good cook, since her mother worked from time to time as a cook. In the convent she became educated, as I stated earlier.. and refined in manners probably more so than some of the royal women, who hated her. Madame du Barry was also the first to wear assorted gems together, and also one of the first to use the services Rose Bertin , later deemed dress maker to the Queen.

  • Lisa

    Also for the record,du Barry was pretty happy and lived a damn good life, up until Mr.Greive got hold of her and Zamor and others, turned on her.