• Mon, Jul 30 2012

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

 And all of the vitriol aimed towards her low-breeding and ineptitude in the ways of court life would have been easy to dismiss except, as with Madame de Pompadour, Jeanne had to be presented at Court. In order to do that, she needed an aristocratic lady to sponsor her, and there was not a single woman who was willing to volunteer. The King was eventually able to enlist someone, but she balked before the presentation. He was then able to enlist someone else – she balked too. It took three tries to get Madame du Barry actually presented at Court with the King backing her.

And the mockery only intensified.

People began to joke that the only way for Louis XV to salvage his reputation would be to marry the Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria – one of Maria Theresa’s daughters who was known for being especially intelligent and witty, though smallpox had ruined her looks.

Startlingly obscene verses were composed about du Barry – including one novelette called “Vie de Bourbonaisse” which details, well, it probably actually details a lot of stuff that actually happened. Choiseul, who disapproved of Madame du Barry violently thought that he could turn Louis’s daughters to his side and perhaps have Madame du Barry removed from court, but the verses being circulated were too vulgar to share with them. So he enlisted a group of court gentlemen to compose less obscene poems which could be sent on to the Princesses. One runs:

Lisette, you adorn
The world where you reign
Though the Duchesses show scorn
And the Princesses complain
We know Venus was born
On the foam of a main

Incidentally, I’d share the more obscene poems with you, but no biography seems willing to share them with me.

And, while she did ultimately have Coiseul exiled, other humiliations continued. A common complaint at court about Jeanne was that she had no sense of humor – and Madame Pompadour was famously funny – but I do think it’s pretty hard to be witty when everyone is laughing at you.

The Comte de Lauraguais performed one practical joke which Madame du Barry wrote that she found especially wounding, as she had considered him a friend. He took a woman to Versailles who he introduced as the Countess de Tonneau. Over the day, it became clear to everyone that the “Countess de Tonneau” was a prostitute from one of the most celebrated brothels in Paris. When it became clear, the Comte said he thought they were in fashion, now.

WHY WAS EVERYONE SO MEAN TO HER? She just wanted a little African page to wear a turban, and hold her parasol. There’s nothing wrong with that. Except a lot of things, but you know, it’s fine. IT’S FINE, JEANNE. YOU’RE FREE TO BE YOU.

What We're Reading:
Share This Post:
  • 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.