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Women of Modern France By Hugo P. Thieme Characters: 40046

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Royal Mistresses

In the study of the royal mistresses of the eighteenth century, we encounter two in particular,-Mme. de Pompadour and Mme. du Barry,-who, though totally different types of women, both reflect the gradual decline of ideals and morals in the first and last years of the reign of Louis XV. The former dominated the king by means of her intelligence, but the latter swayed the sovereign, already consumed by his sensual excesses, through her peculiarly seductive sensuality.

During the first years of the reign of Louis XV., one of the most influential women was Mme. de Prie, who brought about the marriage of the king to Marie Leczinska, the daughter of the King of Poland, by which man?uvre she made herself Dame de Palais de la Reine. The queen naturally took her and her husband into favor, regarding them as her and her father's benefactors and as entitled to her warmest gratitude. Mme. de Prie succeeded in winning the queen's affection and confidence; however, these were of little value, inasmuch as the queen's influence upon society and morals was not felt, for she led a life of seclusion, shut up in her oratory and constantly on her prie-dieu, and was an object of pity and ridicule.

Mme. de Prie and M. le Duc, having planned to deprive M. Fleury, the minister, of his power,-he had been the king's preceptor,-suddenly had the tables turned against them. Both were exiled, and a new coterie of ladies came into power; the Duchesse d'Alincourt replaced Mme. de Prie, and the king and M. Fleury themselves took up the affairs of state.

M. Fleury, now cardinal, perceiving that a mistress was inevitable, consented to the choice by the dissolute men and women of court of Mme. de Mailly,-or Mlle. de Nesle,-who was supposed to be a disinterested person. The king, who had no love for her, accepted her as he would have accepted anything put before him by the court. The queen was incapable of exerting any beneficial influence upon him; in fact, the more he became alienated from her, the more humble and timid did she appear when in his presence. The reign of Mlle. de Nesle had lasted less than a year, when the beautiful Mme. de La Tournelle, created Duchesse de Chateauroux, replaced her; the latter lived but a short time, being the second mistress of Louis XV. to die within a year. After her death the king raised the beautiful Mme. d'Etioles to the honor of ma?tresse-en-titre; she, as Mme. de Pompadour, was, without doubt, the most prominent, possibly the most intelligent and intellectual, certainly the most powerful, of all French mistresses. It was the first time that a bourgeoise of the financier class had usurped the position of mistress-that honor having belonged exclusively to the nobility.

After the first infidelities of the king, Marie Leczinska's life became more and more austere and secluded; she remained indoors, far from the noise and activity of Versailles, leaving only for charitable purposes or for the theatre. Her mornings were entirely occupied in prayers and moral readings, after which followed a visit to the king, a little painting, the toilette, mass, and dinner. After dinner, she retired to her apartments and passed the time making tapestry, embroidering, and in charity work-no longer the recreation of leisure, but the duty of charity which the poor expected. Her taste for music, the guitar, the clavecin, all amusements in which she delighted before her marriage, were abandoned. Under such circumstances the mistress had full control of everything.

It was prophesied of Mlle. Jeanne Poisson, at the age of nine, that she would become the mistress of Louis XV. (Mme. Lebon, who made this pleasing prediction, was later rewarded with a pension of six hundred livres.) Mlle. Jeanne was the natural daughter of a butcher, but received a good education and, at the age of twenty, was married to Le Normand d'Etioles, farmer of taxes. It was shortly after this that she managed to attract the king's attention, at a hunting party in the forest of Senart. With the assistance of her friends, she was successful in winning the king, and, in April, 1754, at a supper which lasted far into the early morning, reposing in his arms, she virtually became the mistress of Louis XV. The actual accomplishment of this, however, depended upon the disposal of her husband, which was easily arranged by Louis, who ordered Le Normand d'Etioles from Paris, thus securing her from any harm from him. The brothers De Goncourt write thus of her talents:

"Marvellous aptitudes, a scholarly and rare education, had given to this young woman all the gifts and virtues that made of a woman what the eighteenth century called a virtuoso, an accomplished model of the seductions of her time. Jeliotte had taught her singing and the clavecin; Guibaudet, dancing; Crébillon had taught her declamation and the art of diction; the friends of Crébillon had formed her young mind to finesse, to delicacies, to lightness of sentiment, and to irony of the esprit of the time. All the talents of grace seemed to be united in her. No woman mounted a horse better; none captured applause more quickly than did she with her voice and instrument; none recalled in a better way the tone of Gaussin or the accent of Clairon; none could tell a story better. And there where others could vie with her in coquetry, she carried off the honors by her genius of toilette, by the graceful turn she gave to a mere rag, by the air she imparted to a mere nothing which ornamented her, by the characteristic signature which her taste gave to everything she wore."

To please and charm, Mme. d'Etioles had a complexion of the most striking whiteness, lips somewhat pale, and eyes of an indescribable color in which were blended and compounded the seduction of black eyes, the seduction of blue eyes. She had magnificent chestnut hair, ravishing teeth, and the most delicious smile which "hollowed her cheeks into two dimples which the engraving of La Jardinière shows; she had a medium-sized and round waist, perfect hands, a play of gestures lively and passionate throughout, and, above all, a physiognomy of a mobility, of a changeableness, of a marvellous animation, wherein the soul of the woman passed ceaselessly, and which, constantly in process of change, showed in turn an impassioned and imperious tenderness, a noble seriousness, or roguish graces."

In September, 1745, she was formally presented to the queen and court as the Marquise de Pompadour, and, in October, was installed at Fontainebleau in the apartments formerly occupied by Mme. de Chateauroux, who had just died. Her position was not an easy one, for all the superb jealousy and hateful scorn which the aristocracy cherished against the power and wealth of the bourgeoisie were turned against her; but the court scandal-mongers and intriguers found their match in Mme. de Pompadour, who showed herself so superior in every respect to the court ladies that the hostilities gradually ceased, but not until the public itself had expended all its efforts against this upstart.

Her first move was to surround herself with friends, the first of whom she wisely sought in the queen. Paying her every possible attention, she persuaded the king to show her more consideration. The Prince de Conti, the Paris brothers, and others of the great financiers of France were added to her circle. After this she began her rule as first minister, in place of the dead Fleury, by giving places and pensions to her favorites. The reign of economy and domestic morality came to an end with the accession of Mme. de Pompadour; in fact, it was soon generally considered that those upon whom she did not shower favors were her enemies. At this time the nobility of France was too corrupt to raise any serious objections to the dispensing of favors by the ma?tresse-en-titre, whether she were of noble birth or not.

As mistress, her duties were many: to manipulate and manage Versailles, please and captivate the king, make allies, win over the highest officials and keep control of them, put her own friends in office, attach to her favor every man of prominence,-princes and ministers,-keep in touch with the court, appease, humor, and win the honor of the courtiers, "attach consciences, recompense capitulations, organize about the mistress an emulation of devotion and servility by means of prodigality of the favors of the king and the money of the state; but what was a more burdensome task,-she must occupy the king, aid and agitate him, fight off constantly, from day to day and hour to hour, ennui."

This terrible ennui, indifference, enervation, this lazy and splenetic humor of the king, she succeeded in distracting, in soothing, and amusing. She understood him perfectly-therein lie the great secret of the favor of Mme. de Pompadour and the great reason of her long domination which only death could end. She had the patience and genius to soothe the many ills of the monarch, possessing an intuitive understanding of his moral temperament, and a complete comprehension of his nervous sensibility; these gifts were a science with her and enabled her to keep alive his taste for and enjoyment of life. Mme. de Pompadour is said to have taken possession of the very existence of Louis XV.

"She appropriates and kills his time, robs him of the monotony of hours, draws him through a thousand pastimes in this eternity of ennui between morning and night, never abandoning him for a minute, not permitting him to fall back upon himself. She takes him away from work, disputes him to the ministers, hides him from the ambassadors. In his face must not be seen a cloud or the slightest trace of care of affairs; to Maurepas, in the act of reading some reports to the king, she says: 'Come now, M. de Maurepas, you turn the king yellow.... Adieu, M. de Maurepas'; and Maurepas gone, she takes the king, she smiles upon the lover, she cheers the man."

In 1747, two years after her installation, she interested the king in a theatre, and inaugurated the famous representations at the Théatre des Petits Appartements; she herself was one of its best actresses, singers, and musicians. All the members of the nobility vied with one another in procuring admission to these performances, as auditors or actors. Her contemporaries say that she was without a rival in acting, for in that art she found opportunity to show her vivacity, her esprit of tone, and her malice of expression, the effect of which was heightened by her voice, graceful figure, and tasteful attire, which became the envy of every court lady.

Almost all rising young artists and men of letters were encouraged or pensioned by Mme. de Pompadour. Her salon would have become one of the most distinguished of the period, as she was, herself, the most remarkably talented and beautiful woman of her time, had not lack of moral principles and an intense love of power led her to seek the gratification of her ambitions in the much envied position of mistress of the king. To assist at her toilette became a favor more eagerly desired than presence at the petit lever of the king. The court became more brilliant, the middle class rose, the prestige of the nobility declined; the last became, in general, but a crowd of cordons bleus, eager to claim the favor of any of her protégés. Every noble house offered a daughter in marriage to her brother, whom she made intendant of public buildings, and who looked with much displeasure upon the actions of his sister.

Mme. de Pompadour made a thorough study of the politics of Europe in relation to the affairs of the nation-a proceeding in which she was aided by her extraordinary intelligence, acute perception of difficulties and conditions, domestic and foreign; by the exercise of these qualities, she put herself in touch with the politics of France, always consulting the best of minds and winning many friends among them. In 1749 she succeeded in ridding herself of her pronounced enemy, Maurepas, minister and confidential adviser of the king, and subsequently began her reign as absolute mistress and governor of France.

Her life then became one of constant labor, which gradually undermined her health. Appreciating the mental indolence of Louis, she would place before him a clear and succinct résumé of all important questions of state affairs, which she, better than any other, knew how to present without wearying him. Realizing that her power depended upon her influence over the king, and that she was surrounded by men and women who were simply waiting for a favorable opportunity to cause her downfall, she was constantly on the defensive. She considered it "the business of her life to make her yoke so easy and pleasant, and from habit so necessary to him, that an effort to shake it off would be an effort that would cause him real pain." Her happiest hours-for she did not love the king-were those spent with her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, in the midst of artists, musicians, and men of letters.

As for the queen, she was in the background, absolutely. "All the prerogatives of a princess of a sovereign house were, at this time, about 1750, conferred by the king upon Mme. de Pompadour, and all the pomp and parade then deemed indispensable to rank so exalted were fully assumed by her." At the opera, she had her loge with the king, her tribune at the chapel of Versailles where she heard mass, her servants were of the nobility, her carriage had the ducal arms, her etiquette was that of Mme. de Montespan, Her father was ennobled to De Marigny, her brother to be Marquis de Vandières. The marriage of her daughter to a son of the king and his former mistress was planned, then with a son of Richelieu, then with others of the nobility; fortunately, the girl died.

Mme. de Pompadour gradually amassed a royal fortune, buying the magnificent estate of Crécy for six hundred and fifty thousand livres; "La Celle," near Versailles, for twenty-six thousand livres; the H?tel d'Evreaux, at Paris, for seventy-five thousand livres-and these were her minor expenses; her paintings, sculpture, china, pottery, etc., cost France over thirty-six million livres. Her imagination in art and inventions was wonderful; she retouched and decorated the chateau in which she was received by the king; she made "Choisy"-the king's property-her own, as it were, by all the embellishments she ordered and the expenditures which her lover lavished upon it at her request. All the luxuries of the life at "Choisy," all the refinements even to the smallest detail, had their origin in her inventions. It was she who planned the fairy chateau with its wonderful furniture, her own invention.

At that time, her whole life was spent in adding variety to the life of the king and in distracting the ennui which pursued him. In her retreats she affected the simplicity of country life; the gardens contained sheepfolds and were free from the pomp of the conventional French gardens; there were cradles of myrtle and jasmine, rosebushes, rustic hiding places, statues of Cupid, and fields of jonquils filled the air with the most intoxicating perfume. There she amused her sovereign by appearing in various characters and acting the parts-now a royal personage, now a gardener's maid.

However, in spite of all cunning study of the sensuous nature of the king, in spite of this perpetual enchantment of his senses, this favorite was obliged to fight for her power every minute of her existence. If hers were a conquest, it was a laborious one, held only through ceaseless activity; continual brainwork, all the countermoves and man?uvres of the courtesan, were required to keep Mme. de Pompadour seated in this position, which was surrounded by snares and dangers.

To possess the time of the king, occupy his enemies, soothe his fatigue, arouse his wearied body condemned to a milk diet, to preserve her beauty-all these were the least of her tasks. She must be ever watchful, see evil in every smile, danger in every success, divine secret plots, be on guard to resist the court, the royal family, the ministry. For her there was no moment of repose: even during the effusions of love she must act the spy upon the king, and, with presence of mind and calmness, must seek in the deceitful face of the man the secrets of the master.

Every morning witnessed the opening of a new comedy: a gay smile, a tranquil brow, a light song, must ever disguise the mind's preoccupation and all the machinations of her fertile brain. At one time the Comte d'Argenson, desiring to succeed Fleury as minister, almost arrived at supplanting Mme. de Pompadour by young Mme. de Choiseul, who, having charmed the king on one occasion, obtained from him a promise that he would make her his mistress-which would necessitate desertion of Mme. de Pompadour; but, by the natural charms of which age had not robbed her and by bringing all her past experience into play, Mme. de Pompadour once more scored a triumph and remained the actual minister to the king. All this nervous strain was gradually killing her, and, to overcome her physical weakness, her weary senses, her frigid disposition, she resorted to artificial stimulants to keep her blood at the boiling point and enable her to satisfy the phlegmatic king.

Undoubtedly the most disgraceful act of this all-powerful woman was the maintaining of a house of pleasure for the king, to which establishment she allured some of the most beautiful girls of the nobility, as well as of the bourgeoisie. These young women supposed that they were being supported by a wealthy nobleman; their children were given a pension of from three thousand to twelve thousand livres, and the mother received one hundred thousand francs and was sent to the provinces to marry; a father and mother were easily bought for the child. Thus was this clandestine trade carried on by those two-the king satisfying his utter depravity, and Mme. de Pompadour making herself all the more secure against a possible rival.

All this time her active brain was ever planning for higher honors and greater power. She aspired to becoming dame de palais, but as an excommunicated soul, a woman living in flagrant violation of the laws of morality and separated from her husband, she could not receive absolution from the Church, in spite of her intriguing to that effect. She did succeed, however, in influencing the king to make her lady of honor to the queen; therefore, in gorgeous robes, she was ever afterward present at all court functions.

She began to patronize the great men of the day, to make of them her debtors, pension them, lodge them in the Palais d'Etat, secure them from prison, and to place them in the Academy. Voltaire became her favorite, and she made of him an Academician, historiographer of France, ordinary gentleman of the chamber, with permission to sell his charge and to retain the title and privileges. For these favors he thanked her in the following poem:

"Ainsi donc vous réunissez

Tous les arts, tous les go?ts, tous les talents de plaire;

Pompadour vous embellissez

La Cour, le Parnasse et Cythère,

Charme de tous les c?urs, trésor d'un seul mortel,

Qu'un sort si beau soit éternel!"

[Thus you unite all the arts, all the tastes, all the talents, of pleasing; Pompadour, you embellish the court, Parnassus, and Cythera. Charm of all hearts, treasure of one mortal, may a lot so beautiful be eternal!]

Voltaire dedicated his Tancrède to her; in fact, his influence and favor were so great that he was about to receive an invitation to the petits soupers of the king, when the nobility rose up in arms against him, and, as Louis XV. disliked him, the coveted honor was never attained. To Crébillon, who had given her elocution lessons in her early days and who was now in want, she gave a pension of a hundred louis and quarters at the Louvre. Buffon, Montesquieu, Marmontel, and many other men of note were tak

en under her protection.

It was Mme. de Pompadour who founded, supported, and encouraged a national china factory; the French owe Sèvres to her, for its artists were complimented and inspired by her inveterate zeal, her persistency, her courage, and were assisted by her money. She brought it into favor, established exhibits, sold and eulogized the ware herself, until it became a favorite. Also, through her management and zeal the Military School was founded.

The disasters of the Seven Years' War are all charged to Mme. de Pompadour. The motive which caused her to decide in favor of an alliance with Austria against Frederick the Great was a personal desire for revenge; the latter monarch had dubbed her "Cotillon IV," and had rather scorned her, refusing to have anything to do with a Mlle. de Poisson, "especially as she is arrogant and lacks the respect due to crowned heads." The flattering propositions of the Austrian ambassador, Kaunitz, who treated with her in person and won her over, did much to set her against Germany, and induced her to influence Louis XV. to accept her view of the situation-a scheme in which she was victorious over all the ministers; the result was the Austrian alliance. The letter of Kaunitz to her, in 1756, will illustrate her position:

"Everything done, Madame, between the two courts, is absolutely due to your zeal and wisdom. I feel it and cannot refuse myself the satisfaction of telling you and of thanking you for having been my guide up to the present time. I must not even keep you ignorant of the fact that their Imperial Majesties give you the full justice due you and have for you all the sentiments you can desire. What has been done must merit, it seems to me, the approbation of the impartial public and of posterity. But what remains to be done is too great and too worthy of you for you to give up the task of contributing and to leave imperfect a work which cannot fail to make you forever dear to your country. I am, therefore, persuaded that you will continue your attention to an object so important. In this case, I look upon success as certain and I already share, in advance, the glory and satisfaction which must come to you, no one being able to be more sincerely and respectfully attached to you than is your very humble and obedient servant, the Count de Kaunitz-Rietberg."

She received her first check when, Damiens having attempted to assassinate the king, the dauphin was regent for eleven days. She was confined to her room and heard nothing from the king, who was in the hands of the clergy. Among the friends who abandoned her was her protégé Machault, the guard of the seals, who conspired with D'Argenson to deprive her of her power and went so far as to order her departure. After the king's recovery, both D'Argenson and Machault were dismissed and Mme. de Pompadour became more powerful than before.

Her influence and usurpation of power bore heavily upon every department of state; she appointed all the ministers, made all nominations, managed the foreign policy and politics, directed the army and even arranged the plans of battle. Absolute mistress of the ministry, she satisfied all demands of the Austrian court, a move which brought her the most flattering letter from Kaunitz, in which he gives her the credit for all the transactions between the two courts.

Despite all her political duties and intrigues, she found time for art and literature. Not one minute of the day was lost in idleness, every moment being occupied with interviews with artists and men of letters, with the furnishers of her numerous chateaux, architects, designers, engineers, to whom she confided her plans for embellishing Paris. Being herself an accomplished artist, she was able to win the respect and attention of these men. Her correspondence was immense and of every nature, political and personal. She was an incessant reader, or rather student, of books on the most serious questions, which furnished her knowledge of terms of state, precedents of history, ancient and modern law; she was familiar with the contents of works on philosophy, the drama, singing, and music, and with novels of all nations; her library was large and well selected.

During the latter years of her life she was considered as the first minister of state or even as regent of the kingdom, rather than as mere mistress. Louis XV. looked to her for the enforcement of the laws and his own orders. She was forced to receive, at any time, foreign ambassadors and ministers; she had to meet in the Cabinet de Travail and give counsel to the generals who were her protégés; the clergy went to her and laid before her their plaints, and through her the financiers arranged their transactions with the state.

Notwithstanding all this influence and power, the record of her last years is a sorrowful one. More than ever queen, she was no longer loved by the king, who went to Passy to continue his liaison with a young girl, the daughter of a lawyer. When Louis XV. as much as recognized a son by this woman, Mme. de Pompadour became deeply concerned; but the king was too much a slave to her domination to replace her, so she retained favor and confidence; the following letter shows that she enjoyed little else:

"The more I advance in years, my dear brother, the more philosophical are my reflections. I am quite sure that you will think the same. Except the happiness of being with the king, who assuredly consoles me in everything, the rest is only a tissue of wickedness, of platitudes, of all the miseries to which poor human beings are liable. A fine matter for reflection (especially for anyone born as meditative as I)!..." Later on, she wrote: "Everywhere where there are human beings, my dear brother, you will find falseness and all the vices of which they are capable. To live alone would be too tiresome, thus we must endure them with their defects and appear not to see them."

She realized that the king kept her only out of charity and for fear of taking up any energetic resolution. Her greatest disappointment was the utter failure of her political plans and aspirations, which came to naught by the Treaty of Paris. There was absolutely no glory left for her, and chagrin gradually consumed her. Her health had been delicate from youth; consumption was fast making inroads and undermining her constitution, and the numerous miscarriages of her early years as mistress contributed to her physical ruin. For years she had kept herself up by artificial means, and had hidden her loss of flesh and fading beauty by all sorts of dress contrivances, rouges, and powders. She died in 1764, at the age of forty-two.

Writers differ as to the true nature of Mme. de Pompadour, some saying that she was bereft of all feeling, a callous, hard-hearted monster; others maintain that she was tender-hearted and sympathetic. However, the majority agree as to her possession of many of the essential qualifications of an able minister of state, as well as great aptitude for carrying on diplomatic negotiations.

She was the greatest patroness of art that France ever possessed, giving to it the best hours of her leisure; it was her pastime, her consolation, her extravagance, and her ruin. All eminent artists of the eighteenth century were her clients. Artists were nourished, so to speak, by her favors. It may truthfully be said that the eighteenth-century art is a Pompadour product, if not a creation. The whole century was a sort of great relic of the favorite. Fashions and modes were slaves to her caprice, every new creation being dependent upon her approbation for its survival-the carriage, the cheminée, sofa, bed, chair, fan, and even the étui and toothpick, were fashioned after her ideas. "She is the godmother and queen of the rococo." Such a eulogy, given by the De Goncourt brothers, is not shared by all critics. Guizot wrote: "As frivolous as she was deeply depraved and base-minded in her calculating easiness of virtue, she had more ambition than comported with her mental calibre or her force of character; she had taken it into her head to govern, by turns promoting and overthrowing the ministers, herself proffering advice to the king, sometimes to good purpose, but still more often with a levity as fatal as her obstinacy."

In The Old Régime, Lady Jackson has given an unprejudiced estimate of her: "She was the most accomplished and talented woman of her time; distinguished, above all others, for her enlightened patronage of science and of the arts, also for the encouragement she gave to the development of improvements in various manufactures which had stood still or were on the decline until favored by her; a fresh impulse was given to progress, and a perfection attained which has never been surpassed and, in fact, rarely equalled. Les Gobelins, the carpets of the Savonnerie, the porcelaine de Sèvres, were all, at her request, declared Manufactures Royales. Some of the finest specimens of the products of Sèvres, in ornamental groups of figures, were modelled and painted by Mme. de Pompadour, as presents to the queen.... The name of Pompadour is, indeed, intimately associated with a whole school of art of the Louis Quinze period-art so inimitable in its grace and elegance that it has stood the test of time and remains unsurpassed. Artists and poets and men of science vied with each other in admiration of her talents and taste. And it was not mere flattery, but simply the praise due to an enlightened patroness and a distinguished artist."

If we consider the morals of high society, we shall scarcely find one woman of rank who could cast a stone at Madame de Pompadour. While admitting her moral shortcomings, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that she showed an exceptional ability in maintaining, for twenty years, her influence over such a man as Louis XV. Such was the power of this woman, the daughter of a tradesman, mistress, king in all save title. She was, however, less powerful than her successor,-that successor who was less clever and less ambitious, who "never made the least scrupulous blush at the lowness of her origin and the irregularity of her life,"-Mme. du Barry.

Mme. du Barry was the natural daughter of Anne Béqus, who was supported by M. Dumonceau, a rich banker at Paris. The child was put into a convent, and, after passing through different phases of life, she was finally placed in a house of pleasure, where she captivated the Comte du Barry, at whose harem she became the favorite. The count, who had once before tried to supply the king with a mistress, now planned for his favorite. The king ordered the brother of Du Barry, Guillaume, to hasten to Paris to marry a lady of the king's choice. The girl's name had been changed officially and by the clergy, and a dowry had been given her. Thus was it possible for the king, after she had become the Comtesse du Barry, to take her as a mistress. Her husband was sent back to Toulouse, where he was stationed, while his wife was lodged at Versailles, within easy access of the king's own chamber.

After much intriguing and diplomacy on the part of her friends, especially Richelieu, she was to be presented at court. The scene is well described by the De Goncourt brothers, and affords a truthful picture of court manners and customs of the latter part of the reign of Louis XV.:

"The great day had arrived-Paris was rushing to Versailles. The presentation was to take place in the evening, after worship. The hour was approaching. Richelieu, filling his charge as first gentleman, was with the king, Choiseul was on the other side. Both were waiting, counting the moments and watching the king. The latter, ill at ease, restless, agitated, looked every minute at his watch. He paced up and down, uttered indistinct words, was vexed at the noise at the gates and the avenues, the reason of which he inquired of Choiseul. 'Sire, the people-informed that to-day Mme. du Barry is to have the honor of being presented to Your Majesty-have come from all parts to witness her entrée, not being able to witness the reception Your Majesty will give her.' The time has long since passed-Mme. du Barry does not appear. Choiseul (her enemy) and his friends radiate joy; Richelieu, in a corner of the room, feels assurance failing him. The king goes to the window, looks into the night-nothing. Finally, he decides, he opens his mouth to countermand the presentation. 'Sire, Mme. du Barry!' cries Richelieu, who had just recognized the carriage and the livery of the favorite; 'she will enter if you give the order.' Just then, Mme. du Barry enters behind the Comtesse de Béarn, bedecked with the hundred thousand francs' worth of diamonds the king had sent her, coifed in that superb headdress whose long scaffolding had almost made her miss the hour of presentation, dressed in one of those triumphant robes which the women of the eighteenth century called 'robes of combat,' armed in that toilette in which the eyes of a blind woman (Mme. du Deffand) see the destiny of Europe and the fate of ministers; and it is an apparition so beaming, so dazzling, that, in the first moments of surprise, the greatest enemies of the favorite cannot escape the charm of the woman, and renounce calumniating her beauty."

According to reports, her beauty must have been of the ideal type of the time. All the portraits and images that Mme. du Barry has left of herself, in marble, engraving, or on canvas, show a mignonne perfection of body and face. Her hair was long, silky, of an ashen blonde, and was dressed like the hair of a child; her brows and lashes were brown, her nose small and finely cut. "It was a complexion which the century compared to a roseleaf fallen into milk. It was a neck which was like the neck of an antique statue...." In her were victorious youth, life, and a sort of the divinity of a Hébé; about her hovered that charm of intoxication, which made Voltaire cry out before one of her portraits: L'original était fait pour les dieux! [The original was made for the gods!]

In her lofty position, Mme. du Barry sought to overcome the objections of the titled class, to quell jealousies and petty quarrels; she did not usurp any power and always endeavored not to trouble or embarrass anyone. After some time, she succeeded in winning the favor of some of the ladies, and, when her influence was fairly well established, she began to plan the overthrow of her enemy, De Choiseul, minister of Louis XV. She became the favorite of artists and musicians, and all Europe began to talk and write about this woman whom art had immortalized on canvas and who was then controlling the destinies of France. She succeeded, under the apprenticeship of her lover, the Duc d'Aiguillon, who was the outspoken enemy of De Choiseul, in accomplishing the fall of the minister and the fortune of her friend. This success required but a short time for its culmination, for in 1770 he was deprived of his office and was exiled to Chantilly.

Mme. du Barry was never an implacable enemy; she was too kind-hearted for that; thus, when her friend D'Aiguillon insisted on depriving De Choiseul of his fortune, she managed to procure for the latter a pension of sixty-thousand livres and one million écus in cash, in spite of the opposition of D'Aiguillon. After the fall of that minister all the princes of the blood were glad to pay her homage. She became almost as powerful as Mme. de Pompadour, but her influence was not directed in the same channels.

Her life was a mere senseless dream of femme galante, a luxurious revel, a constant whirl of pleasures, and extravagance in jewelry, silks, gems, etc. A service in silver was no longer rich enough-she had one in solid gold. To house all her gems of art, rare objects, furniture, she caused to be constructed a temple of art, "Luciennes," one of the most sumptuous, exquisite structures ever fitted out. The money for this was supplied by the contr?leur général, the Abbé Ferray, whose politics, science, duty, and aim in life consisted in never allowing Mme. du Barry to lack money. All discipline, morality, in fact everything, degenerated.

She had no rancor or desire for vengeance; she never humiliated those whom she could destroy; she always punished by silence, yet never won eternal silence by letters patent; generous to a fault, giving and permitting everything about her to be taken, she opened her purse to all who were kind to her and to all who happened in some way to please her. Keeping the heart of Louis XV. was no easy matter, as the case of Mme. de Pompadour clearly showed. The majority of his friends and her enemies endeavored to force a new mistress upon the king; surrounded on all sides by candidates for her coveted position, Mme. du Barry managed to hold her own. When the king was prostrated by smallpox, he sent her away on the last day.

The reign of Mme. du Barry was not one of tyranny, nor was it a domination in the strict sense of that word; for she was a nonentity politically, without ideas or plans. "Study the favor of Mme. du Barry: nothing that emanates from her belongs to her; she possesses neither an idea nor an enemy; she controls all the historical events of her time, without desiring them, without comprehending them.... She serves friendships and individuals, without knowing how to serve a cause or a system or a party, and she is protected by the providential course of things, without having to worry about an effort, intrigues, or gratitude."

Her power and influence cannot be compared with those of her predecessor, Mme. de Pompadour. Modes were followed, but never invented by her. "With her taste for the pleasures of a grisette, her patronage falls from the opera to the couplet, from paintings and statuaries to bronzes and sculptures in wood; her clientèle are no longer artists, philosophers, poets-they are the gods of lower domains, mimics, buffoons, dancers, comedians." She was the lowest and most common type of woman ever influential in France.

After the death of the king, she was ordered to leave Versailles and live with her aunt. Later on, she was permitted to reside within ten leagues of Paris; all her former friends and admirers then returned, and she continued to live the life of old, buying everything for which she had a fancy and living in the most sumptuous style, never worrying about the payment of her debts. After a few years she was entirely forgotten, living at Luciennes with but a few intimate friends and her lover, the Duc de Brissac.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, she was living at Luciennes in great luxury on the fortune left her by the duke. Probably she would have escaped the guillotine had she not been so possessed with the idea of retaining her wealth. Four trips to England were undertaken by her, and on her return she found her estates usurped by a man named Grieve, who, anxious to obtain possession of her riches, finally succeeded in procuring her arrest while her enemies were in power. From Sainte-Pélagie they took her to the Conciergerie, to the room which Marie Antoinette had occupied.

Accused of being the instrument of Pitt, of being an accomplice in the foreign war, of the insurrection in La Vendée, of the disorders in the south, the jury, out one hour, brought in a verdict of guilty, fixing the punishment at death within twenty-four hours, on the Place de la République. Upon hearing her sentence, she broke down completely and confessed everything she had hidden in the garden at Luciennes. On her way to the scaffold, she was a most pitiable sight to behold-the only prominent French woman, victim of the Revolution, to die a coward. The last words of this once famous and popular mistress were: "Life, life, leave me my life! I will give all my wealth to the nation. Another minute, hangman! A moi! A moi!" and the heavy iron cut short her pitiful screams, thus ending the life of the last royal mistress.

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