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.