Detail from Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour by Francis Boucher (1756).

Marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764) also known as Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson was the official mistress of Louis XV of France from 1745-1751. This was a staggering jump for a member of the bourgeoise to make.

It all began when she was 9 and her mother took her to see a palm reader called Madame de Lebon, who predicted she would one day become the mistress of the King of France. From then on her mother did everything she could to give her daughter the future that had been predicted. Her father had fled the country previously due to fraud, and her mother had relationships with a series of men, the most prominent being Charles Le Normant de Tourneham, a wealthy banker. After a thorough education at a convent, Jeanne-Antoinette married Charles’s nephew; Charles Guillaume Le Norment d‚ÄôEtioles, who also provided them with a good income, a place in Paris and a country estate.

In 1745 Jeanne-Antoinette finally met the man she had been preparing for since she was 9. She attended a masked ball at Versailles, which was celebrating the betrothal of the Dauphin, dressed as Diana Goddess of the hunt. Louis XV (1715-74) was married to Marie Les Zinska with whom he had 10 children, but he had a strong sexual appetite that meant he had many mistresses. His most recent and beloved mistress had died shortly before this event and so there was an opening to be his new mistress. Louis was soon captivated by Jeanne-Antoinette: she was beautiful, educated and her sole aim was to amuse and delight Louis! The only thing standing in her way was the fact that she was bourgeoise and not an aristocrat and so she could not become the chief mistress, however that was all she was prepared to accept, so Louis gave her the title Marquise de Pompadour. She then left her husband and one year old daughter and joined Louis’ court as the official mistress.

She had many enemies envious of her success, but she was clever in how she dealt with them. She was alway on good terms with the queen (something previous mistresses had not done) and she made a lot of effort with Louis’s children. While Louis was in love with her, she found it hard to keep up with his huge sexual appetite and so she made herself indispensable in other ways. She became ‘mistress of the revels’ which included creating intimate suppers for Louis and his closest friends and the creation of the Theatres des Petites Cabinets which provided entertainment including opera, ballet and plays, in which she often had the starring role.

In 1751 she had to stop having sex with Louis; it had become increasingly painful for her, possibly due to complications that had arisen during childbirth many years before. She succeeded in making a smooth transition from mistress to friend. To prevent another woman coming along and replacing her in Louis’ affections she came up with the Parc aux Cerfs, a house filled with young, virgins from the working class. This way the kings appetite would be satisfied but not by anyone with the education and intellect that could rival her.

Jeanne-Antoinette died at the age of 42 of tuberculosis, still holding high esteem and affection from Louis and she is remembered as the ‘greatest royal mistress in French history’.

-Danielle Triggs
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.


Pin It on Pinterest