Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Madame Du Barry

I really want to write about Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen, and toss about the lovers or not question, but have to get my thoughts in order before attempting that.  The alternately swirling and frozen thoughts in my head are becoming a problem.  I made Sunday evening dinner plans with an AP French teacher from my school, so we could discuss a Marie Antoinette tour she'd like to put together and a French Rev presentation she'd like me to do for her classes.  At my favorite restaurant, at my favorite time.  The noise in my head caused me to completely forget.  I left her sitting in a booth at Black Walnut.

Anyway, whatever.  Back to Du Barry.  Yes, this lovely, warm, generous, ex-prostitute (supposedly) was Louis XV's last mistress.  Her association with the fourteen-year-old dauphine, Marie Antoinette, began with a tit-for-tat rivalry between their two cliques.  Marie Antoinette's refusal to speak to the King's mistress  practically became an issue of state.  They didn't become friends, but the animosity faded with time. Years after she left the palace at the time of Louis XV's death, immediately after the storming of Versailles, the Du Barry had an opportunity to show her good will.

An early Du Barry biographer writes:
"The gardes-du-corps who escaped the massacre of October 6 dragged themselves from Versailles to Louveciennes and the Comtesse du Barry nursed them at her château as their families would've done.  The Queen, informed in Paris of this generous conduct of the Comtesse, charged certain nobles who were in her confidence to go to Louveciennes and carry thither her sincere thanks.  Madame Du Barry then wrote the following letter to the Queen:  "Madame:  The young men who were wounded only regret that they did not die with their companions for a Princesse so completely worthy of such sacrifice as Your Majesty.  What I can do here for these brave chevaliers is much less than they deserve.  If I were here without servants and handmaidens I would wait upon your guards myself.  I comfort them and honor their wounds when I reflect that but for their willingness to die and their wounds Your Majesty might no longer be alive.  Louveciennes is at your disposal, Madame.  Is it not to your favor and kindness that I owe it?  Everything I possess I owe to the Royal Family.  I have too good a heart and too much gratitude to forget that.  The late King, by a sort of presentiment, made me accept a number of valuable presents before sending me from his person.  I have already had the honor of offering you these treasures at the time of the Assembly of Notables.  I offer it to you again, Madame.  You have so much expenditure to meet…  permit me, I beg you, to render back to Caesar, those things that are Caesar's.    Your Majesty's faithful subject and servant, Comtesse Du Barry"

The original letter has been lost and the biographer (Laffont d'Aussonne) paraphrased, according to my source.

Oh, and in keeping with my new practice of quoting other peoples' writing rather than going to the trouble of thinking…

The Life magazine article begins, "Madamoiselle de Coigny kept a corpse in her coach.  The Age of Reason was dawning in France - it was the 18th Century - and there were otherwise just not enough minutes in those days of wonderful Enlightenment for mademoiselle to pursue, like other dedicated bluestockings, the fascinating study of anatomy.  But with the corpse handy and her scalpel as keen as M. de Voltaire's wickedly witty mind, she could, while rattling over the Paris cobblestones, slice and eviscerate in daily officiation at the new faith whose deity was reason, whose ritual was science, whose high priests were philosophes…"  Did she really?


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