Du Barry was a lady — make that a comtesse — or as we would say, a star

I’ve been doing a little research… She was portrayed on film no less than 10 times, here in a fluffy fantasy from the 1940s by Lucille Ball.

Du Barry was a lady

She was reviled and loved and lost her head to Madame Guillotine in 1793 at the age of 50. She was a woman of a certain age, a woman born to reduced circumstances who rose to become Madame du Barry — Comtesse du Barry — mistress to a king. She was a friend of Voltaire’s, and an enemy of Marie Antoinette.

Claude Saint-André wrote of her dramatic entrance to the French court of Louis XV— she was 25, he was 58 — that’s a difference of 33 years, poppets. Some things never change.

…A low murmur rose from the inquisitive crowd that had collected below the windows of the Chateau. It grew late, and Richelieu, the First Lord-in-Waiting, gazed eagerly into the darkness of the Cour de Marbre. Choiseul himself was absent, but his supporters were radiant, feeling sure that Madame Du Barry would not be presented after all. Soon, however, a smart equipage bearing the double escutcheon of a married woman appeared and stopped at the grand staircase. The usher opened the doors and Richelieu triumphantly announced the favourite, who entered preceded by her sponsor, the Countess de Beam. At the dazzling apparition the King started, his eyes under their
heavy eyelids lighting up with joy. The sight of this graceful woman bending before him seemed to justify his love. When she rose after the three “reverences d’adieu,” kicking back her long train with accustomed ease, even her enemies gave way to admiration and did homage to the power of beauty.

On this occasion, too, she had enhanced her attraction by choosing the most marvelous of costumes. Madame Du Barry loved to set off her fair and slender form with sumptuous white fabrics of diaphanous texture; on her presentation dress were scattered, in a mad profusion of knots, clusters and garlands, diamonds which the King had sent her the previous evening. More diamonds were on her little high-heeled slippers, and again in the elaborate coiffure whose intricacies had delayed the ceremony. The etiquette of the period had compelled her to powder her lovely golden hair and to rouge her already beautiful complexion ; but such artifices served only to deepen the blue of her long, caressing eyes, half closed in lazy coquetry, and to make doubly attractive her delicate features and her
mutinous lips, parted in a mocking smile at the envious and malicious.

She seemed to leave a luminous trail in the salons and staircases where an open-mouthed crowd had come to gaze at her. Serene and proud at having been chosen from among all by His Majesty, she passed on and paid her difficult visit to Mesdames de France and Monseigneur le Dauphin without a hint of awkwardness. The latter was so astounded at her audacity that he wrote in his hunting diary, in which he noted only the most memorable events: “April 22, 1769. Presentation of Madame Du Barry.”

That night, while messengers were already hastening to the courts of Europe to announce the news of her presentation, worn out with emotion, and happy in having attained at last the glory she so much desired, the favourite fell asleep to dream, perhaps, of her humble childhood, and of the long and difficult path that she had had to traverse to reach the Royal Palace. Had she wished, she could not forget her lowly origin, for the satirists and pamphleteers of the day made it their business to remind her of it. From this her moment of triumph her enemies assailed her with that 18th century weapon, the lampoon, and no one has been the victim of more scurrilous calumnies than she. These took the form of rhymed couplets, sometimes witty, sometimes merely coarse, and were heard everywhere, in the streets, in the salons of the capital and in the antechambers of

A king’s favourite : Madame du Barry and her times from hitherto unpublished documents


Claude Saint-André, published in 1915

Lucille Ball on the set of Du Barry was a Lady


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