• Mon, Jul 30 2012

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

I don’t mean that in the sense that she was a man’s mistress. Everyone during this period seems like they were someone’s mistress at some point. I mean she got passed around for sex and made her living off of it.

That was different.

Also, unlike Madame de Pompadour, she didn’t come from a really charming family where everyone came up with cute nick-names for one another. She was the daughter of a lady’s-maid and a monk called “Brother Angel” who seduced and then abandoned her mother and then… I cannot explain to you how many lovers her mother had when she was a kid.

No, really, I just can’t. I tried to make a chart, and I’m not a chart-maker. I really made an attempt, but it felt like coming into some soap opera you’re unfamiliar with and being mystified, wondering”wait, she slept with him? And also him? And him? And his evil twin brother?”

Madame du Barry’s mother, Anne, was that soap opera character.

Suffice to say, Freud would love this stuff.

Jeanne found another mother figure in the mistress of one of Anne’s lovers (her mother was engaged as a cook at his household), who was known as Madame Frederique. A glamorous Italian courtesan, Frederique allowed young Jeanne to play with her taffeta dresses, perfume bottles and jewels. Jeanne loved dressing up in her outfits as young girl. Frederique also taught her to dance and advised her on how to talk to men.

And then, in a completely unexpected turn of events, Jeanne’s mother married a butler named Nicolas Rancon. Despite being pockmarked and ten years her junior, Nicolas was hesitant to take Anne as a wife – but her lover arranged for Nicolas to be appointed a shopkeeper to the army commissariat in Corsica. In an attempt to make her life seem more wholesome, Jeanne’s mother soon sent Jeanne off to a convent, where she was supposed to be readied for domestic trade.

Jeanne hated it. Especially the fact that she had to hide her pretty golden hair, which had been so admired, under a plain black veil.  She spent nine years there. Fortunately for her, later in life, dancing was taught, though Jeanne was often punished for dancing through the hallways or admiring her reflection in pots (I love this about her).

She left at 15 and immediately ran back to Frederique, and Frederique was not happy. Jeanne had grown up to be beautiful, and you can only imagine that she felt pretty threatened. Frederique sent her away with only enough money to buy herself a new dress.

Jeanne moved into her mother’s attic apartment (Nicolas was away in Corsica) and began to apprentice for a hairdresser. She quickly seduced the hairdresser – or he seduced her, some manner of seducing went on, accounts vary – and they soon moved in together. The hairdresser’s mother, who wanted him to make a better marriage, was enraged. She was convinced Jeanne was ruining him by spending all his money, which she was, but probably not intentionally. She barged in on Jeanne’s mother, accusing her of being a procuress pimping out her daughter, and threatening to send both her and Jeanne to the Hopital (a prison for streetwalkers).

In an attempt to avoid imprisonment, Jeanne’s mother took the hairdresser to court and accused him of corrupting her daughter. Jeanne supposedly looked so beautiful and innocent that the verdict held. The hairdresser was forced to flee to London.

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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.