December 29, 1721: Jeanne Antoinette Poisson is born in Paris, France. Called Reinette by her friends, she was the child of François Poisson and his wife Madeleine de La Motte. However, it is believed that Poisson was not actually her father. It is thought either Pâris de Montmartel or Le Normant de Tournehem took that honor. It is known that the latter became Reinette’s legal guardian when her purported father was forced to flee the country in 1725 due to accrued bad debts, a crime punishable by death. He was cleared of the crime and able to return to France eight years after his departure.
Reinette was beautiful, intelligent, well-educated, and a talented musician, dancer, and artist. She could recite entire plays and was given a wide-ranging education, much of it paid for by de Tournehem. In 1741, when she was 19, she was married to Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d’Étiolles, Tournehem’s nephew. Reinette and her new husband had two children, a son who died in infancy and a daughter born in 1744. Reinette founded her own salon and was joined by many of the philosophers of the time, including Voltaire.
As her fame grew, she came to the attention of the royal court and the King. Through the auspices of others, including her father-in-law, she gained an acquaintance with Louis XV. At the time of the introduction, he was mourning the loss of his second official mistress. Toward the end of February, Reinette was invited to a masked ball hosted by the King and by March, she had become his mistress. She was given rooms at Versailles in an apartment directly below the King’s. On May 7, the official separation from her husband was announced.
To be welcome at court, she needed a title and so the King purchased one for her. On June 24 she became the marquisate of Pompadour and was the given the estate, title, and coat of arms. Madame Pompadour wielded considerable power at court and was able to retain her place in the King’s heart and if not his bedchamber. She had two miscarriages, one in 1746 and another in 1749. She stopped sleeping with the King in 1750 but she remained his mistress until her death of tuberculosis in 1764 at the age of 42.
“A lover always thinks of his mistress first and himself second; with a husband it runs the other way.” – Honore de Balzac
“A mistress never is nor can be a friend. While you agree, you are lovers; and when it is over, anything but friends.” – Lord Byron
“A mistress should be like a little country retreat near the town, not to dwell in constantly, but only for a night and away.” – William Wycherley
“If ever a man and his wife, or a man and his mistress, who pass nights as well as days together, absolutely lay aside all good breeding, their intimacy will soon degenerate into a coarse familiarity, infallibly productive of contempt or disgust.” – Lord Chesterfield
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