|Countess of Barry|
Madame du Barry by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1781
|Born||19 August 1743|
|Died||8 December 1793 50) (aged|
|Spouse(s)||Comte Guillaume du Barry|
|Father||possibly Jean Baptiste Gormand de Vaubernier|
|Mother||Anne Bécu de Cantigny|
|Occupation||Maîtresse-en-titre to Louis XV|
Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry (19 August 1743 – 8 December 1793) was the last Maîtresse-en-titre of Louis XV of France and one of the victims of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
The maîtresse-en-titre was the chief mistress of the king of France. It was a semi-official position which came with its own apartments. The title came into use during the reign of Henry IV and continued until the reign of Louis XV.
Louis XV, known as Louis the Beloved, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1 September 1715 until his death in 1774. He succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five. Until he reached maturity on 15 February 1723, the kingdom was ruled by Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, as Regent of France. Cardinal Fleury was his chief minister from 1726 until the Cardinal's death in 1743, at which time the young king took sole control of the kingdom.
The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.
Jeanne Bécu was born at Vaucouleurs, in the present-day Meuse department in Lorraine, France, as the illegitimate daughter of Anne Bécu, a seamstress.Jeanne's father was possibly Jean Jacques Gomard, a friar known as frère Ange.
Vaucouleurs is a commune in the Meuse department of France, located approximately 300 km (190 mi) from Paris.
Meuse is a department in northeast France, named after the River Meuse. Meuse is part of the current region of Grand Est and is surrounded by the French departments of Ardennes, Marne, Haute-Marne, Vosges, Meurthe-et-Moselle, and has a short border with Belgium on the north. Parts of Meuse belong to Parc naturel régional de Lorraine. Front lines in trench warfare during World War I ran varying courses through the department and it hosted an important battle/offensive in 1916 in and around Verdun.
In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government below the national level, between the administrative regions and the commune. Ninety-six departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas departments, which are also classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the last two have no autonomy, and are used for the organisation of police, fire departments, and sometimes, elections.
During her childhood, one of her mother's acquaintances (possibly briefly a lover), Monsieur Billiard-Dumonceaux, and possibly father of Jeanne's half-brother Claude (who died in infancy when only ten months old) took both Anne and three-year-old Jeanne into his care when they traveled from Vaucouleurs to Paris and installed Anne as a cook in his Italian mistress's household. Little Jeanette was well liked by Dumonceaux's mistress Francesca (known in French as Madame or La Frédérique), who pampered her in all luxury. Dumonceaux funded Jeanette's education at the Couvent (convent) de Saint-Aure.
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.
At the age of fifteen, Jeanne left the convent, for she had "come of age". For some reason – possibly due either to La Frédérique's jealousy of the former's beauty or because Dumonceaux's passion for Anne revived – both mother and daughter were thrown out. They then moved into the very small household of Anne's husband, Nicolas Rançon. Jeanne had to find some sort of income to help herself live, and thus traveled the dingy streets of Paris carrying a box full of trinkets for sale. Over time she worked at different occupations; she was first offered a post as assistant to a young hairdresser named Lametz; Jeanne had a brief relationship with him that may have produced a daughter, although it is highly improbable.On the instigation of a Gomard (possibly the brother of her supposed father), Jeanne was then employed as a companion (dame de compagnie) to an elderly widow, Madame de la Garde, but was sent away when her youth and beauty began to meddle in the marital affairs of both la Garde's two sons. Later, Jeanne worked as a milliner's assistant (known as a grisette ) in a haberdashery shop named 'À la Toilette', owned by Madame Labille, and run by her husband. Labille's daughter, the future famed painter Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, became a good friend of Jeanne.
The word grisette has referred to a French working-class woman from the late 17th century and remained in common use through the Belle Époque era, albeit with some modifications to its meaning. It derives from gris, and refers to the cheap grey fabric of the dresses these women originally wore. The 1694 edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française described a grisette as simply "a woman of lowly condition". By the 1835 edition of the dictionary, her status had risen somewhat. She was described as:
a young working woman who is coquettish and flirtatious.
Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, also known as Adélaïde Labille-Guiard des Vertus, was a French miniaturist and portrait painter. She was an advocate for women to receive the same opportunities as men to become great painters. Labille-Guiard was one of the first women to become a member of the Royal Academy and was the first female artist to receive permission to set up a studio for her students at the Louvre.
As reflected in art from the time, Jeanne was a remarkably attractive blonde woman with thick golden ringlets and almond-shaped blue eyes. Her beauty came to the attention of Jean-Baptiste du Barry, a high-class pimp/procurernicknamed le roué. Du Barry owned a casino, and Jeanne came to his attention in 1763 when she was entertaining in Madame Quisnoy's brothel-casino. She introduced herself as Jeanne Vaubernier. Du Barry installed her in his household and made her his mistress. Giving her the appellation of Mademoiselle Lange, Du Barry helped establish Jeanne's career as a courtesan in the highest circles of Parisian society; this enabled her to take several aristocratic men as brief lovers or clients.
As Mademoiselle Lange, Jeanne immediately became a sensation in Paris, building up a large aristocratic clientele. She had many lovers from the king's ministers to his courtiers.The dashing yet old Maréchal de Richelieu became one of her recurring lovers. Because of this, Jean du Barry saw her as a means of influence over Louis XV, who became aware of her in 1768 while she was on an errand at Versailles. The errand involved the duc de Choiseul, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who found her rather ordinary, in contrast to what most other men thought of her. In any case, Jeanne could not qualify as a maîtresse-en-titre unless she had a title; this was solved by her marriage on 1 September 1768 to du Barry's brother, Comte Guillaume du Barry. The marriage ceremony included a false birth certificate created by Jean du Barry himself, making Jeanne younger by three years and of fictitious noble descent.
The aristocracy is a social class that a particular society considers its highest order. In many states, the aristocracy included the upper class of people (aristocrats) with hereditary rank and titles. In some—such as ancient Greece, Rome, and India—aristocratic status came from belonging to a military caste, although it has also been common, notably in African societies, for aristocrats to belong to priestly dynasties. Aristocratic status can involve feudal or legal privileges. They are usually below only the monarch of a country or nation in its social hierarchy. In modern European societies, the aristocracy has often coincided with the nobility, a specific class that arose in the Middle Ages, but the term "aristocracy" is sometimes also applied to other elites, and is used as a more generic term when describing earlier and non-European societies.
The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. It is located in the department of Yvelines, in the region of Île-de-France, about 20 kilometres southwest of the centre of Paris.
Étienne-François, Marquis de Stainville, 1er Duc de Choiseul was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman. Between 1758 and 1761, and 1766 and 1770, he was Foreign Minister of France and had a strong influence on France's global strategy throughout the period. He is closely associated with France's defeat in the Seven Years War and subsequent efforts to rebuild French prestige.
Jeanne was now installed above the King's quarters in Dominique Guillaume Lebel's former rooms. She lived a lonely life, unable to be seen with the King since no formal presentation had taken place as yet. Very few if any of the nobility at court deigned to become acquainted with her, for none could accept the fact that a woman of the street had the audacity to mingle with those above her station and thrive in trying to become like them. Comte du Barry constantly pestered Jeanne and urged her to speak of presentation with the king. Louis XV, in turn, asked her to find a proper sponsor to be able to have one. Richelieu took responsibility of doing so, and after those women approached asked too high a price to take the role, her official sponsor, Madame de Béarn, was found after having her huge gambling debts paid off.
On the first occasion when the presentation was to take place, de Béarn was panicked by fear and feigned a sprained ankle. On a second occasion, the king was badly hurt when he fell off his horse during a hunt and broke his arm. Finally, Jeanne was presented to the Court at Versailles on 22 April 1769; an occasion which was long-awaited for by the gathering crowds outside the palace gates, and by the gossiping courtiers within the Hall of Mirrors. Jeanne was described as wearing a queenly silvery white gown brocaded with gold, bedecked in jewels sent by the king the night before, and with huge panniers at the sides. The dress had been specifically ordered by Richelieu especially for Jeanne; many courtiers claimed that its like had never been seen before. Her hairdo was also noticeably spectacular, being the cause of her late arrival.
Jeanne first befriended Claire Françoise, better known as 'Chon', brought from Languedoc by her brother Jean du Barry to accompany her then-friendless sister-in-law, being also a means of companionship and tutor in helping Jeanne let go of her peasant past and take a more court-like demeanour. Later on, she also befriended the Maréchale de Mirepoix. Other women of nobility were bribed into forming her entourage.
Jeanne quickly accustomed herself to living in luxury (to which she had already been introduced whilst living with Dumonceaux). Louis XV had also given her a young Bantu slave, Zamor, whom she dressed in elegant clothing to show him off. According to Stanley Loomis’ biography ‘Du Barry’, Jeanne’s everyday routine began at 9am, when Zamor would bring her morning cup of chocolate. Later she would be dressed in a fine gown of choice and dressed in her jewellery. Accordingly, either hairdresser Nokelle for special occasions, or Berline for everyday styles, would come to do her hair in powders and curls. She would then receive friends, dressmakers, jewellers and artists showing off their new stock hoping she would be interested in buying something of their offers. She was indeed extravagant, but her good nature was not spoiled. When the old Comte and Comtesse de Lousene were forcibly evicted from their château due to heavy debts, they were sentenced to beheading because the Comtesse had shot dead a bailiff and a police officer while resisting.To their great fortune, they were good friends with Madame de Béarn, who told Jeanne of their situation. Though warned by Richelieu of her possible failure, she asked the king to pardon them, refusing to rise from her kneeling posture if he did not accept her request. Louis XV was astounded and his heart thawed, saying, "Madame, I am delighted that the first favour you should ask of me should be an act of mercy!" A second similar act happened when Jeanne was visited by a certain Monsieur Mandeville who asked pardon in the name of a young girl condemned to the gallows convicted of infanticide for giving birth to a still-born and not informing the authorities. Jeanne wrote a letter to the Chancellor of France, who granted the pardon.
Jeanne was a tremendous triumph. She now wore extravagant gowns of great proportions both in creation and cost, exhausting the treasury all the more.With diamonds covering her delicate neck and ears, she was now the king's maîtresse déclarée. Due to her new position at Court, she made both friends and enemies. Her most bitter rival was the Duchesse de Gramont, Choiseul's sister, who had in vain tried her best to acquire the place of the late Marquise de Pompadour, and according to Diane Adélaïde de Mailly, Béatrix de Gramont would have disdained the comtesse no matter what. She had, since the beginning, plotted with her brother for the removal of Jeanne, even going to the extent of slandering her name as well as the king’s on gutter pamphlets.
In time Jeanne became acquainted with the Duc d’ Aiguillon, nephew of Richelieu, who sided with her against the opposing Duc de Choiseul. As Jeanne’s power in court grew stronger, Choiseul began feeling his was waning, and against the king’s wishes after the terrible Seven Years' War incident, he decided France was capable of war again and sided with the Spanish against the British for possession of the Falkland Islands. When this plot came to light to the du Barry clan, the mistress exposed all to the king and, on Christmas Eve of 1771, Choiseul was dismissed of his ministerial role and from court, ordered by his majesty to exile to his Chanteloup property along with his wife and sister.
Jeanne’s golden age had finally truly arrived. She was rid of Choiseul and Grammont, comte Jean du Barry was dealt with and her family had the benefits they deserved as relations to the mistress. Her mother, Anne, was now Marquise de Montrabé, residing in a luxurious apartment in the Couvent (convent) de Sainte-Elisabeth. While Jeanne was part of the faction that brought down the duc de Choiseul,she was unlike her late predecessor, Madame de Pompadour, in that she had little interest in politics, preferring rather to pass her time ordering new ravishing gowns and all sorts of complementary jewellery. However, the king went so far as to let her participate in state councils. A note in a modern edition of the Souvenirs of Mme. Campan recalls an anecdote: the king said to the duc de Noailles, that with Madame du Barry he had discovered new pleasures; "Sire" – answered the duke – "that's because your Majesty has never been in a brothel." While Jeanne was known for her good nature and support of artists, she grew increasingly unpopular because of the king's financial extravagance towards her. She was forever in debt despite her huge monthly income from the king – at one point three hundred thousand livres.
Her relationship with Marie Antoinette, who was married to the Dauphin of France (the future Louis XVI), was contentious. The first meeting of the two was during a family supper at the Château of La Muette on 15 May 1770, a day before the great wedding. Jeanne had only been official mistress a little over a year, and many thought she would not be included in the list of guests for the occasion. It ended up being otherwise, to the disgust of most of those present. Marie Antoinette noticed Jeanne, who stood out from the rest of the crowd with her attractive extravagant appearance and a high talkative voice. The Comtesse de Noailles informed Marie Antoinette that the role of that woman was to give pleasure to the king, and the innocent 14-year-old archduchess added that she would thus be her rival at such a role. The Comte de Provence soon after divulged the true nature of such pleasure, causing instant hatred in Antoinette towards Du Barry for such immorality. This rivalry kept on for quite some time, especially since also the dauphine supported Choiseul as the proponent of the alliance with Austria. Marie Antoinette defied court protocol by refusing to speak to Madame du Barry, owing not only to her disapproval of the latter's background, but also after hearing from the Comte de Provence of Du Barry's amused reaction to a story told by the Prince de Rohan during one of her dinner parties, in which Marie Antoinette's mother, Maria Theresa, was slandered, adding therefore yet another foe to her list.Madame du Barry furiously complained to the king, who in turn complained to the Austrian ambassador Mercy, who in turn did his best in convincing Marie Antoinette to ease her ways. Eventually, during a ball on New Year's Day 1772, Marie Antoinette spoke indirectly to Du Barry by tossing in her direction the words "There are many people at Versailles today," giving her the option to take or leave.
In 1772, the infatuated Louis XV requested that Parisian jewellers Boehmer and Bassenge create an elaborate and spectacular jeweled necklace for du Barry, one that would surpass all known others in grandeur, at an estimated cost of two million livres.The necklace, still not completed nor paid for when Louis XV died, would eventually trigger a scandal involving Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, in which Queen Marie Antoinette would be wrongly accused of bribing the Cardinal de Rohan, Archbishop of Strasbourg, Alsace, to purchase it for her, accusations which would figure prominently in the onset of the French Revolution.
In time, the king started to show his age by constantly thinking of death and repentance, and began missing appointments in Jeanne's boudoir.During a stay at the Petit Trianon with her, Louis XV felt the first symptoms of smallpox. He was brought back to the palace at night and put to bed, where his three daughters and Madame du Barry stayed beside him. On 4 May 1774, the king suggested to Madame du Barry that she leave Versailles, both to protect her from infection and so that he could prepare for confession and last rites. She was relieved of her duties by Doctor Lemonnier and immediately retired to Aiguillon’s estate near Rueil, as were his wishes. Following the death of Louis XV and his grandson's ascension to the throne, Marie Antoinette had her husband exile Jeanne to the Abbey du Pont-aux-Dames near Meaux-en-Brie. At first she was not met warmly by the nuns, who knew that in their midst they had the thirty-one-year-old former royal mistress, but soon enough they grew accustomed to her timid ways and opened up to her, most of all the Abbess Madame de la Roche-Fontenelle.
After a year at the convent, Jeanne was granted permission to visit the surrounding countryside on the condition she returned by sundown. A month later, she was given permission to leave the abbey but not to venture closer than ten miles towards Versailles, thus cancelling her idea of going to her beloved Château de Louveciennes. She then managed to purchase property belonging to the family of the wife of Madame de la Garde's younger son, who she knew from her teen-age years. Two years later, she moved to Louveciennes.In the following years, she had a liaison with Louis Hercule Timoléon de Cossé-Brissac. She later also fell in love with Henry Seymour (of Redland), whom she met when he moved with his family to the neighbourhood of the Château. In time, Seymour became fed up with his secret love affair and sent a painting to Madame du Barry with the words 'leave me alone' written in English at the bottom, which the painter Lemoyne copied in 1796. The duc de Brissac proved the more faithful in this ménage-a-trois, having kept Madame du Barry in his heart even though he knew of her affair with Seymour. During the French Revolution, Brissac was captured while visiting Paris, and was slaughtered by a mob. Late one night, Jeanne heard the sound of a small drunken crowd approaching the château, and into the opened window where she looked out someone threw a blood-stained cloth. To Jeanne's horror, it contained Brissac's head, at which sight she fainted.
Du Barry's Bantu slave Zamor, along with another member of du Barry's domestic staff, had joined the Jacobin club. He became a follower of the revolutionary George Grieve and then an office-bearer in the Committee of Public Safety. Du Barry found out about this and questioned Zamor about his connections with Grieve. Upon realizing the depth of his involvement, she gave him three days’ notice to quit her service. This Zamor did without hesitation, and promptly proceeded to denounce his mistress to the Committee.
Based largely on Zamor's testimony, Madame du Barry was suspected of financially assisting émigrés who had fled the French Revolution. The denunciation by Zamor happened in 1792, and Madame du Barry was finally arrested in 1793. In 1792, when the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris accused her of treason and condemned her to death, she vainly attempted to save herself by revealing the hiding places of the gems she had hidden.During the ensuing trial, Zamor gave Chittagong as his birthplace, suggesting that perhaps he had some Bengali or Burmese blood in him, though this is purely speculative. His testimony sent the Comtesse to the guillotine, along with many others.
On 8 December 1793, Madame du Barry was beheaded by the guillotine on the Place de la Révolution (now the Place de la Concorde ). On the way to the guillotine, she collapsed in the tumbrel and cried "You are going to hurt me! Why?!" Terrified, she screamed for mercy and begged the watching crowd for help. Her last words to the executioner were: «De grâce, monsieur le bourreau, encore un petit moment!» - "One more moment, Mr. Executioner, I beg you!" She was buried in the Madeleine Cemetery, like many other executed during the Terror—including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Although her French estate went to the Tribunal de Paris, the jewels she had smuggled out of France to England were sold by auction at Christie's in London in 1795. Colonel Johann Keglevich, the brother of Major General Stephan Bernhard Keglevich, took part in the Battle of Mainz in 1795 with Hessian mercenaries who were financed by the British Empire with the money from this sale.
Many dishes are named after du Barry. All dishes "du Barry" have a creamy white sauce, and many have cauliflower in them. The cauliflower may be an allusion to her powdered wigs, which had curls piled high on top of each other like cauliflower curds.
Du Barry was portrayed in film by:
Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, commonly known as Madame de Pompadour, was a member of the French court and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1751, and remained influential as court favourite until her death.
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace was an incident from 1784 through 1785 at the court of King Louis XVI of France involving his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. The reputation of the Queen, already tarnished by gossip, was ruined by the implication that she participated in a crime to defraud the crown jewelers in acquiring a very expensive diamond necklace. The event is historically significant as one of the events that led to the French populace's disillusionment with the monarchy, which, among other causes, eventually precipitated the French Revolution.
Jean-Henri Riesener was the French royal ébéniste, working in Paris, whose work exemplified the early neoclassical "Louis XVI style".
Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, soi-disant "Comtesse de la Motte" was a notorious French adventuress and thief; she was married to Nicholas de la Motte whose family's claim to nobility is dubious. She herself was an impoverished descendant of the Valois royal family through an illegitimate son of King Henry II. She is known for her prominent role in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, one of many scandals that led to the French Revolution and helped to destroy the monarchy of France.
Marie Adélaïde de France,, was a French princess, the fourth daughter and sixth child of King Louis XV of France and his consort, Marie Leszczyńska.
Marie Antoinette is a 2006 historical drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst. It is based on the life of Queen Marie Antoinette in the years leading up to the French Revolution. It won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. It was released in the United States on 20 October 2006, by Columbia Pictures.
Victoire de France, was a French princess, the seventh child and fifth daughter of King Louis XV of France and his Queen consort Maria Leszczyńska. She was named after her father, and Maria Theresa, Queen of France, her great great grandmother and the consort of Louis XIV of France
Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Étiolles is best known as being the husband of Madame de Pompadour or Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the illustrious mistress of King Louis XV of France.
François-Hubert Drouais was a leading French portrait painter during the latter years of Louis XV's reign. His clientele included the French royal family and nobility, foreign aristocracy, fermiers-généraux, and the wealthier members of Parisian society and their favourites. But it was his increasing popularity at the French court that expanded his clientele and made his portraits a fashionable necessity. Drouais’s work was admired during his lifetime, and his popularity and clientele did not diminish from the occasional adverse judgement published in Salon reviews.
Marie Joséphine of Savoy was a Princess of France and Countess of Provence by marriage to the future King Louis XVIII of France. She was, in the opinion of Bourbon Royalists Legitimists, regarded as titular 'Queen of France' when her husband assumed the title of King in 1795 upon the death of his nephew, the titular King Louis XVII of France, until her death. In reality she never had this title, as she died before her husband actually became King in 1814.
Maria Theresa of Savoy was a French princess by marriage to Charles Philippe, Count of Artois, grandson of Louis XV and younger brother of Louis XVI. Some nineteen years after her death, her spouse assumed the throne of France as King Charles X.
Marie Louise de Rohan, also known as Madame de Marsan, was the governess of Louis XVI of France and his siblings. She was an influential figure of the French court and a driving force of the Dévots and the conservative fraction of the court nobility.
Sophie Philippine Élisabeth Justine de France, was a French princess, a fils de France; she was the sixth daughter and eighth child of Louis XV of France and his queen consort Marie Leszczyńska. First known as Madame Cinquième, she later became Madame Sophie. She and her sisters were collectively known as Mesdames.
Zamor was a French revolutionary of possibly Siddi origin from Bengal, who, as a boy of eleven, was taken from Chittagong, Bengal Subah, Mughal Empire by slave traders. Later he was enslaved by Countess du Barry and became her servant until informing on her to the Committee of Public Safety. He participated in the French Revolution and was imprisoned by the Girondins.
Victoire Armande Josèphe de Rohan, Princess of Guéméné was a French noblewoman and court official. She was the governess of the children of Louis XVI of France. She is known better as Madame de Guéméné, and was Lady of Clisson in her own right.
Madame du Barry is a 1954 French historical drama film directed by Christian-Jaque and starring Martine Carol, Daniel Ivernel, Gianna Maria Canale and Jean Parédès. The film depicts the life of Madame du Barry, mistress to Louis XV in the eighteenth century.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Madame du Barry .|