- NAME: Madame de Pompadour
- OCCUPATION: Theater Actress, Singer, Political Leader
- BIRTH DATE: c. December 29, 1721
- DEATH DATE: April 15, 1764
- EDUCATION: Convent of the Ursuline Order, Club de l'Entresol
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Versailles, France
- Full Name: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour
- AKA: Madame de Pompadour
- Nickname: "Reinette" ("Little Queen")
- AKA: Jeanne-Antoinette Le Normant d'Etiolles
- AKA: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson
Best Known For
Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of French King Louis XV in the mid-1700s. She greatly influenced French culture during this time, including decorative arts, architecture and statecraft.
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Madame de Pompadour was born in Paris on December 29, 1721. She became the official mistress of French King Louis XV at the age of 23, and from then until her death 20 years later, created a sphere of influence that included the decorative arts, architecture, fashion, entertainment and politics. De Pompadour developed a distinctive French style during this period, which was considered the height of refined taste,
"Après nous le déluge." ["After us, the flood."]
and still lingers today as a defining aspect of French culture.
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, better known as Madame de Pompadour, was born sometime at the end of December in 1721 (the date is often fixed at December 29 because she was baptized in the church of Saint-Eustache on December 30 of that year). Her mother, Madeleine de La Motte, was known as a beauty; her father, François Poisson, a financier, fled the country a few years after her birth to avoid being put to death for fraud. François Poisson later returned, but during his absence, tax collector Charles Le Normant de Tournehem, who paid for Jeanne-Antoinette's education, was frequently assumed to be her real father.
Jeanne-Antoinette was well-educated, first in an Ursuline convent, then with excellent private tutors in voice and elocution from the Parisian opera and theatre (she memorized entire plays). She was later educated at the Club de l'Entresol, an exclusively male political and economic think-tank.
At age 19, Tournehem married Jeanne-Antoinette off to his nephew, furnishing them with an opulent estate at Etoiles. She bore him two children, a son who died in infancy, and a daughter nicknamed "Fanfan." Jeanne-Antoinette's beauty, intelligence and passion for the arts led her to instigate "salons" that attracted a varied circle of painters, sculptors, philosophers and writers, including Voltaire.
Jeanne-Antoinette entered the glittering life of the court at the Clipped Yew Tree Ball in 1745. She dressed as a shepherdess, and was determined to meet the magnetic King Louis XV, adorned as the tree. When their paths crossed, their fates were sealed—her carriage was reportedly seen outside of his apartment the next morning.
Louis XV was moody, sometimes languishing in the shadow of his great-grandfather, Louis XIV, the "Sun King." He was fond of his Polish queen (with whom he would have 10 children); he had been through several mistresses by this time, but "Madame de Pompadour"—a title that Jeanne-Antoinette was soon given, along with an estate—became his chief mistress within a year. Her "office" came with castle apartments beneath the king's own, as well as an annual income.
A talented seductress, actress and singer, Madame de Pompadour dazzled Louis XV with lively theater productions that she organized and performed in. She also adored the king, so even after their sexual liaison had run its course, she continued to be his loyal companion, and was accorded unprecedented political influence.
So devoted was the king to Madame de Pompadour, he became the stepfather of Fanfan, rushing doctors to her side when she fell ill.
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