Madame de Pompadour

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Portrait of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, painting by Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766).
Signature of Madame de Pompadour:Signature Madame de Pompadour.PNG

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson , dame Le Normant d'Étiolles, marquise ( Margravine ) de Pompadour, duchesse ( Duchess ) de Menars (born  December 29,  1721 in Paris , † April 15, 1764 in Versailles ), short Madame de Pompadour , was one Mistress of the French King Louis XV.


Childhood and youth

Louise-Madeleine de La Motte , the mother of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson
Charles François Le Normant de Tournehem (1684–1751), Jeanne-Antoinette's presumed biological father. Engraving by Louis Tocqué

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson was born in Paris as the daughter of Louise-Madeleine de La Motte and François Poisson (1684–1754), a wealthy bourgeois army supplier and administrator to the Pâris brothers . Her biological father, however, was probably the wealthy banker and principal tax farmer Charles François Paul Le Normant de Tournehem (1684-1751). This took over after Poisson was exiled as a result of a scandal in 1725, the position of her guardian and took her together with her mother, Louise-Madeleine de La Motte (1700-1745), and her brother, Abel-François Poisson de Vandières (1727–1781), with himself.

The father François Poisson was born the youngest of nine children of a weaver in Provenchère not far from Langres , their mother came from the same village. He entered the service of the Paris financiers Jean Pâris de Montmartel (1690–1766) and Joseph Pâris-Duverney (1684–1770). Having come to prosperity, he married Anne-Geneviève-Gabrielle de Carlier de Roquaincourt (1695-1718) on July 29, 1715. This connection remained childless and his wife died in 1718. In the same year, on October 6, 1718, Poisson remarried, his second wife was Louise Madeleine de la Motte. In the fourth year of marriage, his second wife gave birth to a daughter on December 30, 1721. Since her husband had been in Provence for a long time nine months earlier , two names were mentioned about Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson's biological father, Jean Pâris de Montmartel and Charles François Paul Le Normant de Tournehem.

François Poisson came into the vortex of the speculative bubble of John Law of Lauriston and was to repay 232,430 on April 23, 1727 Livres convicted and punishment, but he preferred to flee abroad before. His daughter was sent to the Ursuline convent of Poissy, couvent des Ursulines de Poissy .

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson was a regular visitor to the Saturday discussion group in the Club de l'Entresol , which had been founded by Pierre-Joseph Alary (1689-1770) and Charles Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre and from 1720 (or 1724) to 1731 took place in the mezzanine floor apartment on Place Vendôme in Paris by Charles-Jean-François Hénault (1685–1770).

Marriage and children

On March 9, 1741, Jeanne-Antoinette was married to the wealthy sub -tax tenant Charles-Guillaume Le Normant , seigneur d' Etiolles (1717–1799), the nephew of her guardian, in the Church of St. Eustache . From him she had a son, who died one year after his birth, as well as the daughter Alexandrine-Jeanne, called Fanfan , who was born on August 10, 1744, but also died early, at just under 10 years of age.

Mistress of the king

There is historical evidence that at the age of nine she was prophesied that she would one day become the mistress of Louis XV. will be. The fortune teller in question, a Madame Lebon , was later offered a pension of 600 livres.

Since then, first her mother and then herself tried to attract Louis XV's attention . to excite. So when she was in Étiolles , she was driven in a carriage to the nearby forest of Sénart , where the royal hunting party used to meet. This was of little use, however, since the mistress of the time, Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle , Marquise de La Tournelle and Duchesse de Châteauroux (1717–1744), forbade her to continue appearing at the king's hunts. She had no choice but to wait for the death of the royal mistress, which finally occurred on December 8, 1744.

Portrait of Louis XV (1710–1774), painting by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704–1788)

The Cardinal de Bernis beat Louis XV. Madame d'Étiolles, whom he had noticed during the hunts, and invited her to a masked ball on February 28, 1745, on the occasion of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig Ferdinand , where she and the King met. He not only made her his official mistress (French: maîtresse en titre ), the first native bourgeois with this status at the French court, but also made her Marquise de Pompadour with a country house and her own coat of arms in July of the same year. Their official presentation took place on September 14, 1745 at the court of Versailles.

Although her intimate relations with the king only lasted until 1751, she kept the position as official mistress until her death in 1764. This is mainly due to her diplomatic skills. Unlike other royal mistresses, she did not make the mistake of making the queen an enemy, but did everything not to snub her and to please her. She even got her to appoint her her lady-in-waiting and Duchess of Menars (1756).

Menars Castle on the Loire

On the other hand, she made a network of allies at court who secured her position. In addition, she not only knew how to bind the king to herself in an intimate way, but also how to satisfy his need for entertainment and thus make herself indispensable. She sang sacred concerts and motets with prominent artists from Paris to arouse his curiosity about the theater . Finally the king granted her wish for a small theater, which was called the "theater of the small apartment". The inauguration took place on January 17, 1747 with the piece Tartuffe by Molière . As director, the mistress chose the Duke de La Vallière, who was the best administrator of French comedy. The performances were popular, but the audience was small and carefully selected by the mistress.

It also led the king to dismiss the State Secretary Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count de Maurepas , in 1749 after 15 years, although the latter considered himself irreplaceable; however, according to Voltaire, Maurepas had "the mania of falling out with all his master's lovers, and that was bad for him". The dismissal and banishment of Maurepas' achieved by reporting to the king that Maurepas wanted to poison her; in fact, he had only written an epigram against her.

Madame de Pompadour used her position as official mistress to promote numerous - from the point of view of the Ancien Régime "progressive" - ​​intellectuals and artists, including the authors of the Encyclopédie Denis Diderot and Jean Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert , the writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the painters François Boucher , Jean-Marc Nattier and François-Hubert Drouais . Voltaire was one of her favorites; the poet and philosopher, who had fallen out of favor with the late Duchesse de Châteauroux, immediately sought her closeness and spent a few months with her in Étiolles in 1746 while the king was on a campaign. That is why he sang her praises even years later: She was “educated, clever, amiable, full of grace, artistically gifted and was born with common sense and a good heart”. Through their influence, he was appointed historiographer of France in 1745 and a year later he was accepted into the Académie française , which Maurepas had previously prevented. Finally, thanks to the Marquise, he was raised to the rank of Ordinary Chamberlain. She gave her former teacher Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon a pension over 100 Louisdors when she learned that he was in need. After his death in 1762 she persuaded Louis XV. of France to commission a mausoleum for Crébillon in the church of Saint-Gervais .

In the last years of her life, the marquise had to defend her place again and again. So Anne Couppier de Romans , a new connection of the king, was a great danger for her, because she had a son named Louis-Aimé de Bourbon (1762–1787) by him, the Louis XV. recognized as the only one of his many illegitimate children. The Marschallin de Mirepoix reassured her, however, that the king loves no woman more than the marquise. After her death, Louis XV. known that he had not parted with her just out of compassion because he feared her suicide.


The mistress wanted her family to share in her prosperity. For example, she bought her mother, who died in December 1745, a grave vault in the Capuchin church on Place Vendôme , into which she had the body transferred. Her father bought the Marigny estate, later the Marquisat, where he died of heart failure in 1754 at the age of 70. In addition, she had her younger brother Abel-François Poisson (1725–1781) elevated to Monsieur de Vandières and Marquis de Marigny and gave him offices at court. She sent her daughter Alexandrine to a monastery where only daughters from the best families in the kingdom were raised. There the girl was treated like a princess and the other girls also strived for their friendship. At the age of 13 she was to marry the Duke de Picquigny, son of the Duke of Chaulnes . However, the marriage never took place because Alexandrine fell ill with peritonitis in the monastery , from which she died when she was almost ten years old.


The marquise's health was poor from birth. In her youth she spat blood and therefore took milk cures which supposedly helped her, but which she later had to do without, out of consideration for the king's habits. Colds and attacks of fever followed. Her health was also weakened by numerous miscarriages.

From 1748 onwards her health deteriorated. D'Argenson noticed her emaciated cheeks and the unhealthy complexion, a little later she was emaciated and her skin had turned yellow. Because of her illness, the marquise drew up her will in November 1751. In 1764, her condition worsened dramatically: her cough increased and she suffered from attacks of suffocation. During this time Louis XV visited she almost daily or found out about her condition through couriers. When things suddenly improved after three weeks, it was decided to return to Versailles. There she died on April 15, 1764, on a Palm Sunday, in the Petits Apartments around seven in the evening after a two-month illness. According to tales, there was bad weather when the hearse left Versailles for Paris. Thereupon Louis XV. have said: “La marquise n'aura pas beau temps pour son voyage” (German: “The marquise will not have good weather for her trip”).

The Marquise de Pompadour was buried in the chapel of the Capuchin Convent in Paris . The monastery was destroyed in 1806.

Political influence

The marquise mainly influenced foreign politics, including military leadership, laws and strategic planning. She also advised the king to form an alliance with Austria against England and Prussia during the Seven Years' War . Here she met all the expectations of the Austrians. They pushed for the ratification of the second Treaty of Versailles and received permission to send three armies, instead of the planned 24,000 men, to support Austria. After the lost battle near Roßbach , she did not want to make peace, as the peace would have ruined her work. Your saying "Après nous le déluge" (German: "After us the deluge") after the lost battle is legendary. Therefore, after her death, she was held responsible for all the failures of the Seven Years' War. She supported the Duke of Choiseul .

Due to her bourgeois origins, despite her nobility, she was an outsider at court, her status completely depended on the fickle favor of the king. She also constantly had to assert herself against numerous rivals and hostile courtiers.


The establishment of the Manufacture royale de porcelaine de Sèvres can also be traced back to the mistress in order to outdo the Saxon porcelain. However, the first samples were unsuccessful until the kaolin of Saint-Yrieix was discovered in 1765 . Sèvres was then declared a royal manufacture . But the breakthrough only came when the mistress herself presented the Sèvres porcelain at exhibitions in the Versailles Palace . She tried with all available means to attract buyers and even made the porcelain a patriotic matter: "It is a misunderstanding of one's civic duty if one does not buy this porcelain as long as one has money."

But there were other projects that fascinated the marquise far more: the construction of the Place Louis XV and the military academy in Saint-Cyr . She wanted to set up a military academy for sons whose relatives had died or been wounded in the war. An institute for young girls from impoverished, noble families - the Maison Royale de Saint-Louis - already existed there; this was founded in 1685 by Madame de Maintenon , the favorite of Louis XIV. Louis XV was supposed to take care of the sons. take over the deputy paternity of France. In July 1756, the military academy was finally completed.


In addition to her country estate Pompadour, she received numerous other possessions from the king, including the current Élysée Palace and the Petit Trianon (which she did not live to see completed), which she often had to be converted at great expense. Her constant building projects and the employment of numerous artists cost France around 36 million, which earned her the charge of wastefulness among both the nobility and the general public.

The marquise owned the following castles and residences:




Web links

Commons : Madame_de_Pompadour  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Genealogy of her biological father
  2. Family genealogy
  3. Genealogy of the first wife
  4. Brief description of the discussion group and its members in French ( Memento from August 2, 2012 in the web archive )
  5. Uwe Schultz: Madame de Pompadour or love in power. CH Beck, Munich (2004) ISBN 3-406-52194-0
  6. Pictures of important people by Madame de Pompadour
  7. Le Moniteur de la mode: journal du grand monde: modes, illustrations, patrons, littératures, beaux-arts, théâtres, Goubaud, (1853), p. 200 ff .: Livre de dépenses de Madame de Pompadour.
  8. ^ Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler "The great mistresses", Paderborn 2005, p. 183; Caroline Hanken "Kissed by the King - the life of the great mistresses", Amsterdam 1996, p. 186
  9. ^ Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler "The great mistresses", Paderborn 2005, p. 186f.
  10. Voltaire , Memoirs , ed. u. Translated by Anneliese Botond (Title of the original edition: Memoires pour servir à la vie de M. de Voltaire, écrits par lui-même ), Frankfurt / M. (Insel Verlag), 1981 (first edition 1967), page 25
  11. ^ Voltaire, Memoirs (see above), p. 37
  12. ^ Voltaire, Memoirs , p. 36
  13. Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler “The great mistresses”, Paderborn 2005, p. 207
  14. Biographical data on the siblings
  15. Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler "The Great Mätressen", Paderborn 2005, p. 210
  16. Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler "The great mistresses", Paderborn 2005, p. 203
  17. Anna Eunike RöhrigPompadour, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 14, Bautz, Herzberg 1998, ISBN 3-88309-073-5 , Sp. 1373-1375.
  18. Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler "The Great Mätressen", Paderborn 2005, p. 200
  19. ^ Alfred Semerau, Paul Gerhard Zeidler "The great mistresses", Paderborn 2005, p. 200f.
  20. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .