• Mon, Jul 30 2012

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

Madame du Barry, for all she had met with aristocrats, was not well versed in the ways of court life. Moreover, while the king may not have known her history, everyone else seemed to.

I know that this may not really seem problematic – hey, Du Barry was the King’s mistress! She could buy all the fans and feathers she wanted now! – but Madame du Barry really did not ask to come to a place where everyone hated her. Again, they would have hated anyone, because no one would compare to Pompadour, but, given that her background had been one of a shopgirl and prostitute, Madame du Barry just didn’t even have a chance. And they just attacked her relentlessly.

Du Barry’s manners were immediately shown to be brazen and out of place in the court. I mean, she got an African boy to parade around after her dressed up in a turban holding the train of her dress. This would be kind of like if someone moved into the – where is someplace respectable – the White House and did that. Oh, she had the boy wear a pink velvet jacket. Seriously. Add that into that image in your head.

And she wore diamonds, everywhere. Not that diamonds weren’t popular – the Queen wore them on the soles of her shoes – but the Queen wore them on the soles of her shoes. You weren’t supposed to drip with them.

I think, remarkably, du Barry was never remotely ashamed of her upbringing. She was one of those people who can stroll into a black tie party in blue jeans and exclaim “please, I don’t want everyone to apologize for being over-dressed!”

This was not necessarily beneficial at that time.

While Pompadour had been tutored in the intricate, almost symbolic language of the Court, Louis sent no such teachers for Madame du Barry. Thus she can’t really be faulted for not knowing what was an was not appropriate – and it helps to remember that Versailles was a place where even certain words – like “cadeau” instead of “present” – were never spoken because they were seen as belonging to peasants. And it wasn’t like a “rich people say ‘sofa’, poor people say ‘couch’” thing. The word “cadeau” was never spoken. 

Up until du Barry “dressing an African boy up in costume and making him run after you” was probably never considered.

Poor du Barry. She couldn’t even walk right. The “Versailles Walk” perfected by ladies at court required taking tiny little running half steps, so it always appeared as though women were gliding rather than actually stepping. Du Barry was incredibly vain about her foot size and insisted on wearing shoes a size too small so she was often seen stumbling through the halls.

Cinderella’s slippers: they did not fit.

I know Louis was getting old and sick and tired by this point, but I still think it’s a bit unforgivable that he did nothing to help her out.

Well, that’s not quite fair. He did get her married to Jean du Barry’s brother, which gave her an authentic title of Countess, and he designed a coat of arms for her.

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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.