Madame de Pompadour Royal Mistress and Patron of the Arts (1721-1764)

Madame de Pompadour was a mistress, friend and advisor to Louis XV, remaining with him until her death in 1764. Introduced in the Court by well-placed connections, she caught the King's eye and soon became his official mistress. For her Louis XV commissioned the Petit Trianon, which became a private haven of peace.

The future Marquise de Pompadour, Jeanne-Antoinette Lenormant d’Etiolles, born Poisson, met Louis XV at Versailles in 1745. She was invited to the great masked ball held to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand. The king was smitten with her and brought her to the Palace of Versailles that same year, providing her with an apartment just above his own. A secret staircase allowed the monarch to access his mistress's apartment without being seen. In July he presented her with the Pompadour Estate and made her a Marquise, officially presenting her to the Court in September 1745. Her bourgeois, non-aristocratic roots (she was the daughter of a director of provisions for the army), however, soon drew harsh criticism from certain members of the nobility. Nonetheless, she succeeded in having her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, appointed Director General of the Royal Palaces.

Commented place

The Petit Trianon

Madame de Pompadour persuaded Louis XV to build this small palace

During the 1750s she ceased to be the king's mistress but retained considerable influence over the monarch. After moving to the ground floor of the main wing of the Palace in 1751, her role changed from that of mistress to that of confidante. She oversaw new construction projects and busied herself primarily with her patronage of the arts. In 1756 she backed the foundation of the royal porcelain factory at Sèvres, lent her support to the creation of Place Louis XV, now known as Place de la Concorde, and persuaded the king, with the help of her brother the Marquis de Marigny, to build the Petit Trianon. Madame de Pompadour had a fondness for truffle soup, chocolate and champagne, but was also just as keen to nourish her intellect. In 1751 she supported the publication of the first two volumes of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopaedia.

Two years later, in 1753, Louis XV purchased the Hôtel d'Evreux – now known as the Elysée Palace – for her to use as a place to stay while visiting Paris. Thereafter she split her time between the capital and the Palace of Bellevue, in Meudon. She died of tuberculosis at the age of just 42, passing away at Versailles in 1764. The King was greatly affected by the end of this "twenty-year friendship".

ANECDOTE

After moving to the ground floor of the main wing of the Palace in 1751, Madame de Pompadour's status changed from that of mistress to that of confidante. She oversaw new construction projects and became an active patron of the arts.