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.