Friday, April 15, 2011

Madame de Pompadour

It's good to be the king, and it may be good to be the mistress as well.  Especially if you are the chief mistress, as Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the Madame de Pompadour, became for Louis XV of France.  Jeanne filled a void in Louis' heart after his second chief mistress died, and she enjoyed a short life of favor, dying of tuberculosis on April 15, 1764.

We find Madame de Pompadour mentioned in the introduction to Walter Scott's "Quentin Durward", which was set in France.  Here the author discusses his meeting with a character called Marquis de Hautlieu.

'...Observing this peculiarity, I backed out of the candid confession which my vanity had meditated, and engaged the Marquis [de Hautlieu] in farther remarks on the mansion of his ancestors. "There," he said, " was the theatre where my father used to procure an order for the special attendance of some of the principal actors of the Comedie Francoise, when the King and Madame Pompadour more than once visited him at this place ; — yonder, more to the centre, was the Baron's hall, where his feudal jurisdiction was exercised when criminals were to be tried by the Seigneur or his bailiff; for we had, like your old Scottish nobles, the right of pit and gallows, or fossa cum furca, as the civilians term it; — beneath that lies the Question-chamber, or apartment for torture ; and truly, I am sorry a right so liable to abuse should have been lodged in the hands of any living creature. But," he added, with a feeling of dignity derived even from the atrocities which his ancestors had committed beneath the grated windows to which he pointed, "such is the effect of superstition, that, to this day, the peasants dare not approach the dungeons, in which, it is said, the wrath of my ancestors had perpetrated, in former times, much cruelty." As we approached the window, while I expressed some curiosity to see this abode of terror, there arose from its subterranean abyss a shrill shout of laughter, which we easily detected as produced by a group of playful children, who had made the neglected vaults a theatre, for a joyous romp at Colin Maillard....'

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