THE KING’S FAVOURITE AND PATRONESS OF THE ARTS (1721-1764)

Madame de Pompadour, mistress, friend and adviser to Louis XV, remained with the king up to her death in 1764. Introduced to the court through relatives, she was noticed by the king and quickly became one of his preferred mistresses. Louis XV had the Petit Trianon palace built for her, a haven of peace away from the court.

The future Marquise de Pompadour, Jeanne-Antoinette Lenormant d’Etiolles, née Poisson, met Louis XV at Versailles in 1745. She was invited to the grand masked ball held for the wedding of the Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand. The king became enamoured of her and installed her that same year in the Château de Versailles, in an apartment above his own. A secret stairway enabled Louis XV to visit her there, away from prying eyes. In July 1745, he presented her with the Pompadour estate, the favourite became a Marquise and was officially presented to the court in September. But her middle-class, non-noble origins – the daughter of a financier, she was raised in the house of the king’s Farmer General – quickly attracted the criticisms of aristocratic circles. Yet she managed to get her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, appointed Superintendent of the King’s Buildings.

In the early 1750s she ceased to be the king’s mistress but still had great influence on him. Henceforth installed on the ground floor of the central palace building, she introduced young girls to the court and presented them to him, oversaw new construction work and, above all, played a role in the country’s artistic life. In 1756, she encouraged the foundation of the porcelain factory of Sèvres, promoted the laying out of the place Louis XV in Paris, the present place de la Concorde, and convinced the king, with the backing of her brother the Marquis de Marigny, to build the Petit Trianon palace. A lover of truffle soup, chocolate and champagne, Madame de Pompadour also took an interest in intellectual nourishment and in 1751 encouraged the publication of the first two volumes of the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert.

Two years later, in 1752, Louis XV bought her the hôtel d’Evreux, now the Palais de l’Elysée, for her stays in Paris. She began to split her time between the capital and her château de Bellevue, in Meudon. But in 1764, aged 42, she died of pulmonary congestion in Versailles. The king mourned his “friend for twenty years”.

The will of Madame, the Marchioness of Pompadour

The will of Madame, the Marchioness of Pompadour

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marchioness of Pompadour, separated wife of Charles-Guillaume le Normant, wrote this present testament to have my last will executed.
I recommend my soul to God, begging Him for mercy and for His forgiveness to die in His Holy grace, hoping to satisfy His justice for the rewards of the precious blood of Christ, my Saviour, and for intervention of the Blessed Virgin and all the Saints in Heaven.
I wish my body to be carried to the Capuchin Friars in Place Vendome in Paris, without ceremonies in order to be buried in the crypt of the chapel that has been given to me in this church.

To Mr. Collin I leave a pension of 6000 livres, in acknowledgement of his affection towards me.
To Mr. Quesnay 4000 livres.
To Mr. Nesmes 3000 livres.
To Mr. Lefévre, surveyor, 1200 livres.
To my three chambermaids, to Ms. Jeanneton, to my three pages, to my cooks, assistants, my first surveyor, butler and doorkeeper I leave an income of 10% on 500 livres each.

In order to make my intention clear I will mention an example.
Madame Labbatv has been at my service for twelve years, therefore she will have an income of 600 livres for her entire life, as this sum is the multiplication to twelve of the income of 500 livres at 10%, as every year of service will be calculated in fifty livres.
To my valets, my coachmen, doormen, ushers, gardeners and cloakroom attendants I leave the sum of 300 livres to pay an income each as I previously explained.

I leave to all of my servants who I haven’t mentioned before the sum of 500 livres to pay a pension each as I previously explained.

Besides I wish that every pensions and incomes that have been creating through these years of service would be paid without any reduction.

I give to my chambermaids my dresses, underwear, skirts and laces. To my third chambermaid I leave a legacy of 3.000 livres plus her income; and to my cloak-assistant for her daily service a legacy of 1.200 livres plus her income.

To my three valets a legacy of 3.000 livres.
I ask the King to accept as a gift my hotel in Paris, to be transformed as a palace for one of his nephews.
I wish to assign to the Prelate the Count of Provence (1)
I ask His Majesty to accept the gift of all my precious stones embossed by Guay (bracelets, rings or seals), to enrich His collection.
I leave my estates and possessions to Abel-François Poisson, Marquees of Marigny, my brother, who I now name as my heir, in case of his death, I name Mr. Poisson de Malvoisin, Quartermaster of the Army and Sergeant of the Carabineers and his children.(2)

I name the Prince of Soubise as executor of my will, to whom I confer power to act and take any proper decision according to his own will, especially to set aside the funds and the incomes that belong to my patrimony to pay the incomes that I have prearranged and to decide to sell my properties in case the money wouldn’t be enough to pay all the pensions. I confer to my executor the faculty to employ a trusty person and to pay a wage to him: this person will cash any income coming from the funds previously set aside in order to pay a pension to each of the people that I previously named, who as designated, won’t claim for any further right on my estates.

On working at this fastidious task I ask Mr. De Soubise to take my trust and affection towards him into consideration.
I beg him to accept two of my rings, the one with the big diamond with the colour of a Blue Stone and the one embossed by Guay showing The Friendship.
I hope that he won’t sell the two rings but will keep them as a memory of my person and of my affection and friendship.

Drawn-up in Versailles, 15 November 1757.
JEANNE-ANTOINETTE POISSON
Marchioness of Pompadour