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When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV no one expected her to Madame de PDF or retain his affections for long A member of the bourgeoisie rather than an aristocrat she was physically too cold for the carnal Bourbon king and had so many enemies. Nineteenth century historians shocked by the contemplation of such a merry pointless life have been at great pains to emphasize the boredom from which they say the whole Court and the King suffered No doubt a life devoted to pleasure must sometimes show the reverse side of the medal and it is uite true that boredom was the enemy to be vanuished by fair means or foul But the memoirs of the day and the accounts of the courtiers who lived through the Revolution do not suggest that it often got the upper hand on the contrary they speak on and all of a life without worries and without remorse of perpetual youth of happy days out of doors and happy evenings chatting and gambling in the great wonderful palace If ever a house radiated cheerfulness that house is Versailles no other building in the world is such a felicitious combination of palace and country house The case of the Duc de Richelieu illustrates the fact that once a man has been convicted of treachery he is better dead the traitor will always betrayIf when the Regent had enough proof to cut off four of M de Richelieu s heads he had cut off just one the history of France might have been different indeedIf you guys read those paragraphs and aren t smiling or shaking your head or clapping your hands or some other expression of delight then perhaps this book isn t for you but I m doing all of those things and LOVING IT I absolutely adored this book from start to finish and Nancy Mitford s narrative charm is the reason entire It is of course helpful that her subject is fascinating in her own right and her cast of supporting characters were leading men and ladies in many other stories and indeed can t help but steal the spotlight from time to time if the Duc de Richelieu is playing sidekick 2 you ve got a damn good thing going is all I m saying But this biography reveals two women not one and it is a picture of two times and two mindsets and the primary one is not the one that takes place in the 18th century What is it about these early 20th century women These British women writers in particular There s something about their assurance their ability to opine and pronounce and tell a tale with such utter confidence and pull it off without the slightest self consciousness There s a way some of these women have of staring you down with utter unconsciousness that anyone could sensibly feel anything different that makes you blink even when you know there s something wrong with that reasoningI think part of it really does have to do with the fact that so many of them descended from the aristocracy It might have been an aristocracy whose material rights had in many ways long since gone but please do let s remember that it is just possible for women of that generation to have had grandfathers who fought Napoleon The values being imbibed the educational program and the history being taught was not so different and the society was still to a great degree closed It still mattered who you were born but of course there is a consciousness that that is all fading away so uickly And you know that when things are falling away oftentimes that is the first time you see them clearlyNancy Mitford s book was all about this It manifested itself in two ways the first was the way that she approached the world of Versailles the nobles the King and Madame de Pompadour herself She approached her as an eual and actually rather as her sympathetic superior While other historians might have spent a great deal of painstaking time explaining the social codes of Versailles and entangled family trees and have lists of names and navigational charts Nancy Mitford s book assumes a warm familiarity with her readers and her subjects She is not intimidated by Versailles and she expects that you will be eually comfortable walking about the ancient pile while she waves her hand at oh that old Hall of Mirrors it really is just too dusty I keep telling Mother the maids really do forget to dust in there oh mind your dress darling the step is just a bit uneven there this way loves we ll have a picnic lunch by the lake today shall we it s lovely outside as we pass on easily from room to room watching the men and ladies come and go confident that the people we meet will be in perfect accord with us The dresses might be different and the wigs but Mitford makes that all seem a matter of fashion as if we had been out of the country for a year and just needed to pay a morning call to our good friend the Duchess who would fill us in We just need to make sure our friends don t see us in this shocking state before we ve had time to get rigged up properlyAs the uotes above might show her aristocratic ease and sense of belonging to this world means that she feels free to make many pronouncements on it In telling the story of La Pompadour she lets us know when she feels the lady has gone wrong when she s been clever and what she could have done better the same judgement and really the same understanding is applied to the other characters in the story For instance she sets up a careful contrast between the marriage of the King and the ueen and how the ueen was a clearly inferior creature to Madame de Pompadour because she hadn t the least idea of how to manage a man and nor should she poor lamb taken out of poor obscurity with her poor Polish king father with her dowdy religiousity and her frigid refusal to sleep with the King who otherwise apparently might have been faithful much better to have stayed at home When Madame de Pompadour ceased sleeping with the king by contrast Mitford applauds how well she manages to keep his love despite it all though she is realistic about the nearby brothel that develops to replace her She has a fairly down to earth view of things and when she is sentimental it is well hidden behind a practical argumentWhat I loved about this whole viewpoint was that she successfully individualizes history to the extent that she makes it all seem a matter of person X was rather cranky that day and lady Y just didn t uite know how to manage him properly and person Z was a nasty little beast who should have been strangled at birth and made things very much the worse It s a personal view of history that makes the work of deciding the fate of millions declaring war and peace dealing with complex financial matters as just another damn thing that must be done after inspecting what s on for dinner and sorting out a dispute between the cook and the housekeeper There s really no reason to make it a bigger drama than that and those who do well loves perhaps that is a sign you don t really belong here isn t itSo this is the second thing that fascinated me about this one Similar to the work of Isak Dinesen to Vita Sackville West and Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead at any rate this is a lament for the decline of the aristocracy It might seem an odd approach to celebrate the life of one of the world s most successful bourgeoisie social climbers while also making a case for why the aristocracy has been unjustly maligned and why it should still exist but it s actually a rather clever way of doing it I don t think it was necessarily a conscious agenda of hers but her opinions on the subject seemingly couldn t help but come through Mitford presents Jeanne de Poisson as yes the poor lady was born before she became La Pompadour as a good upper middle class girl who never forgot her roots or pretended to be anything other than she was both a prime English virtue and something the class conscious aristocrat would have been on the lookout for and yet as someone who was naturally born with an upper class feeling and point of view and taste she is fiercely loyal to her friends a lovely warm person who doesn t gossip behind other people s backs a lady who throws wonderful parties and makes even shy people feel welcome a woman who can discuss important issues with men but knows when to retire a woman who knew how to keep her looks and her friends as she aged An unusual case but much like Cinderella hiding in her dirty clothes a case where the way we are born nonetheless does tell She constantly defends Madame as having gotten a bad rap and completely unfairly too she rather mindblowingly and continuously argues for why she may have gotten a lot of money from the King but a it wasn t as much as has been thought oh you know fifty million not a hundred million so that s totally okay and b that what money she did have was well spent Nancy Mitford rather crushingly tells us that she was skilled in the art of living and people who were starving for their bread just can t properly appreciate that apparently She goes on rapturously about the beautiful houses she built and decorated with her exuisite taste and seems to save the greatest of her pity for these troubled times for how her houses didn t last long after her death after all beauty and art are what should be appreciated above all Once again the starving and the bread and the oppressed peasants with no rights get no mention or if they do it is in mentions of Madame s charity or her helpfulness in certain sticky political situations to save an innocent With regards to the King she takes him to task when she feels he is not fulfilling his proper role in the world and honestly blames a lot of what comes after on the fact that he does not know how to lead properlyThere are some mentions of the Revolution to come of course How she approaches this though is to phrase the problems as a peculiarly French extreme of oppression and particular problems of the personalities at the top She does once or twice acknowledge that Louis XVI was rather shut off from the world in Versailles and speaks of the political abuses that went on in France However she phrases it as if there really would have been no need for the overthrow of the system which is perfectly fine in theory thank you if France hadn t gone about it all the wrong way I don t mean to present this as a political program of a book that s not the dominant feeling of it just something that underpins the approach More of a viewpoint really her biography dominating Madame s biography I wouldn t have it any other way It s incredibly well written relatable and warm sparkling and close She knows how to tell a story in just the right way to make you laugh how to deploy an anecdote to tell you all you need to know about a situation Her knowledge about her subject is clearly deep but she is able to use it in the way that only the most eminent of scholars do these days without footnotes without careful demonstration of knowledge and self conscious admissions of I could be wrong just one long continously flowing story that is written not to prove she knows something but because it s a story worth telling and perhaps it will pass the evening until you go to bed One could picture her as a good hostess handing these out to her guests to busy them at a house party rather than gossiping to them herself all night long since she has a cold in her throat Her ultimate verdict on the story of Madame de Pompadour and its meaning really is that of a hostess or someone who has been a guest for many years As her funeral cortege leaves the palace and the King turns to go inside with tears streaming down his face she remarks only After this a great dullness settled over the Chateau of VersaillesBy that point in the book you know what that means and bells ringing out and a Reuiem blasting at full strength couldn t have said it better

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Madame de Pompadour

That she could not travel publicly without risking a pelting of mud and stones History has loved her little better Nancy Mitford's delightfully candid biography recreates the spirit of th century Versailles with its love of pleasure and treachery We learn and. I ve never posted an image before other than book covers so this is likely to be painful I don t know why I m starting with La Pompadour as her brother apparently said that none of the many portraits of her resembled her But I have always loved this Boucher paintingMitford s style is conversational I felt like I was was back in the 18th century having a good old gossip over a cup of tea No doubt Nancy I would have been whispering behind our hand painted fans Mitford s writing style involves a lot of jumping around probably a lot familiarity with famous names of the time than I have even if my schoolgirl French hadn t changed from poor to non existent I don t think I would have been able to translate all the French verse Mitford included I tried a couple of times with Babelfish then gave up Mitford s own explanation is that some of the insulting doggerels are untranslatable being a play on Pompadour s maiden name poisson is fish in French there is a mention of the Princess of Hesse Rhinevelt s mother giving birth alternately to daughters hares There is no explanation of this no cite eitherSo you just have to go with the flowPompadour s rise to the top was remarkable A bourgeiosie with a beautiful but rather common mother who had made a very fortunate alliance after the banishment of her husbandshe was educated at home but as Mitford writes a accomplished woman has seldom livedAfter she attracted the attention of Louis XV her taste was given full rein Theatres were built for to act houses for her to decorate gardens to create Although apparently not that fond of jewellery she had plenty of it She was a patron of the arts notably Voltaire who wasn t always touchingly grateful the creation of Sevres porcelain unlike the aristocrats she or rather Louis paid her billsMitford theorises that history her French contemporaries don t always judge her kindly because of her extravagance because her fondness was for beautiful small things rather than large monuments that would stand the test of time Also she is condemned for her part in the Seven Years WarEven amazingly the physical side of their relationship ceased around 1750 but although Louis XV started sleeping with other women none of them could replace her in his heart he was heartbroken at her relatively young death Mitford believed the jolly Mme du Barry would have only had the status of these other women if Pompadour had been still aliveMitford s final line view spoiler After this a very great dullness fell on the Chateau of Versailles hide spoiler

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See France increasingly overcome with class conflict With a fiction writer's felicity Mitford restores the royal mistress and celebrates her as a survivor unsurpassed in the art of living who reigned as the most powerful woman in France for nearly twenty years.. UNPOPULAR OPINION THIS DID NOT DO IT FOR ME Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019 Two books that share the same title When it comes to biographies of Madame the Pompadour this one is most often revered as the best of the best However I was not impressed Now it must of course be remembered that this book is than 60 years old and the field of history has come a long way since then So it has to be cut some slack which is the reason for my 2 stars and not just 1 Madame de Pompadour knew her own worth she suffered neither from an inferiority nor a superiority complex she saw herself as she was and on the whole approved of what she saw WHAT I DISLIKED Assumptions Through a lot of this book Mitford makes a lot of seemingly unsupported assumptions that she doesn t back up with any evidenceWho is she This was a biography of Madame de Pompadour so I would say that the fact that I once I finished this book felt like I didn t really understand the subject her motivations her personality her impact on her country and time is pretty bad Really I couldn t get a sense of the womanEsoteric I am an historian and I have read about Madame the Pompadour earlier Still I felt like there were so many things and people in this book that weren t explained It meant that it felt like I had to have read a lot about the time and the people before reading this book because it was actually a bit hard to get into when I had to look up everything all the timeFollow me for book goodness Facebook Twitter Instagram

10 thoughts on “Madame de Pompadour

  1. says:

    Nineteenth century historians shocked by the contemplation of such a merry pointless life have been at great pains to emphasize the boredom from which they say the whole Court and the King suffered No doubt a life devoted to pleasure must sometimes show the reverse side of the medal and it is uite true that boredom was the enemy t

  2. says:

    I've long been a fan of Nancy Mitford having read the incredible biography of her family The Sisters The Saga of the Mitford Family and then two of her novels ink The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate This is Mitford's biogra

  3. says:

    As well as her wonderful novels Nancy Mitford also wrote four less known historical biographies Madame de Pompadour in 1954 Voltaire in Love in 1957 The Sun King in 1966 and Frederick the Great in 1970 This is the first of her biographies and it tells the life story of Jeanne Antoinette Poisson who despite her comparatively lowly beginnings

  4. says:

    Louis XV Mme explain the worldly French sexyouall sensibility after 5 6 years the pash is over we should all know that and love deepens while outsider sexercises play on Yes some of us know but few have the French toleration understanding Nancy Mitford reports with her usual sparkleI will NOT expand as doubles prices on books with good GR reviews I discovered this when I went to buy a gift etc also doubles prices on books that g

  5. says:

    An enjoyable biography of that greatest of all courtisanes Madame de Pompadour told in the extremely posh voice of Nancy Mitford Nancy Mitford is through her own aristocratic upbringing very apt in commenting on the ways of the French court and courtiers I must confess that I was sometimes getting a bit bored by the abundance of noble names and affairs but not bored enough to stop reading The biography certainly provides many hilarious anec

  6. says:

    I've never posted an image before other than book covers so this is likely to be painful I don't know why I'm starting with La Pompadour as her brother apparently said that none of the many portraits of her resembl

  7. says:

    Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour hold the center but are not always as interesting as the supporting players Voltaire appears in his fascinating duality flattering and satirical unctuous and petulant apt to bite the hands that feed him Mitford describes the “laudatory poem” he penned after the victory over the English

  8. says:

    UNPOPULAR OPINION THIS DID NOT DO IT FOR ME 🤷‍♀️ ✨ Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019✨ ✨✨Two books that shar

  9. says:

    Biographies are my kind of book I've probably said it before but if they're well written they're an instant 4 star read for

  10. says:

    Madame de Pompadour excelled at an art which the majority of human beings thoroughly despise because it is unprofitable and ephemeral the art of livingDecadent 18th century French life told in the crisp tones of the 1950's An unusual and cute biography that I don't think you could get away with publishing today Nancy Mitford writes as if she knows her subjects personally Her opinions on the characters of these long dead historic