When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, no one expected her to retain his affections for long. A member of the bourgeoisie rather than. Nancy Mitford (–) was born into the British aristocracy and, by her own Mitford was also the author of four biographies: Madame de Pompadour. Nancy Mitford lovingly tells the story of how the little girl rose, against a My favourite biography is Nancy Mitford’s Madame de Pompadour – a.

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Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford – Penguin Books Australia

Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford. Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford. When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, no one expected her to retain his affections for long. A member of the bourgeoisie rather than an aristocrat, she was physically too cold for the carnal Bourbon king, and had so many enemies that she could not travel publicly without risking a pelting of mud and stones.

History has loved her little better. Nancy Mitford’s delightfully candid biography recreates the spirit of 18th-century Versailles with its love of pleasure and treachery. We learn that the Queen was a “bore,” the Dauphin a “prig,” and see France increasingly overcome with class conflict. With a fiction writer’s felicity, Mitford restores the royal mistress and celebrates her as a survivor, unsurpassed in “the art of living,” who reigned as the most powerful woman in France for nearly twenty years.

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No doubt a life devoted to pleasure must sometimes show the reverse side of the medal and it is quite true that boredom nanncy the enemy, to be vanquished by fair means or foul. But the memoirs of the day and the accounts of the courtiers who lived through the Revolution. If ever a house radiated cheerfulness, that house is Versailles; no other building in the world is such a felicitious combination of palace and country house The case of the Duc de Richelieu illustrates the fact that once a man has been convicted of treachery, he is better dead; the traitor will always betray If, when the Regent had enough proof to cut off four of M.

I absolutely adored this book from start to finish, and Nancy Mitford’s narrative charm is the reason entire. It masame of course helpful that her subject is fascinating in her own right, and her cast of supporting characters were leading men and ladies in many other stories and indeed can’t help but steal the spotlight from time to time if the Duc de Richelieu is playing sidekick 2, miitford got a damn good thing going is all I’m saying. But this biography reveals two women, not one, and it is a picture of two times and two mindsets, and the primary mavame is not the one that takes place in the 18th century.

What is it about these early 20th century women? These British women writers in particular? There’s something about their assurance, their ability to opine and pronounce and tell a tale with such utter confidence and pull it off without the slightest self-consciousness.

There’s a way some of these women have of staring you down with utter unconsciousness that anyone could sensibly feel anything different that makes you blink even when you know there’s something wrong with that reasoning. I think part of it really does have to do with the fact that pommpadour many of them descended from the aristocracy. It might have been an aristocracy whose material rights had in many ways long since gone, but please do let’s remember that it is just possible for women of that generation to have had grandfathers who fought Napoleon.

The values being imbibed, the educational program, and the history being taught was not so different, and the society was still to a great degree closed. It still mattered who you were born And you know that when things are falling away, oftentimes that is the first time you see them, clearly. Nancy Mitford’s book was all about this.

It manifested itself in two ways: She approached her as an equal, and actually rather as her sympathetic superior. While other historians might have spent pompaxour great deal of painstaking time explaining the social codes of Versailles and entangled family trees and have lists d names and navigational charts, Nancy Mitford’s book assumes a warm familiarity with her readers and her subjects.

She is not intimidated by Versailles, and she expects that you will be equally comfortable walking about the ancient pile while she waves her hand at “oh that old Hall of Mirrors, it really is just too dusty I keep telling Mother the maids really do forget to dust in there, oh mind your dress darling the step is just a bit uneven there, this way loves, we’ll have a picnic lunch by the lake today, shall we, it’s lovely outside The dresses might be different, and the wigs, but Mitford makes that all seem a matter of fashion- as if we had been out of the country for a year and just needed to pay a morning call to our good friend the Duchess who would fill us in.


We just need to make pompwdour our friends don’t see us in this shocking state before we’ve had time to get rigged up properly. As the quotes above might show, her aristocratic ease and sense of belonging pompadoue this world means that she feels free to make many pronouncements on it. In telling the story of Madame de Pompadour, she lets us know when she pompaadour the lady has gone wrong, when she’s been clever, and what she could have done better- the same judgement and really the same understanding is applied to the other characters in the story.

For instance, she sets up a careful contrast between the marriage of the King and the Queen and how mwdame Queen was a clearly inferior creature to Madame de Pompadour mmadame she hadn’t the least idea of how to manage a man- and nor should she poor lamb, taken out of poor obscurity madzme her poor Polish king father, with her dowdy religiousity and her frigid refusal to sleep with the King who otherwise, apparently, might have been faithful When Madame de Pompadour ceased sleeping with the king, by contrast, Mitford applauds how well she manages to keep his love despite it all, though she is realistic about the nearby brothel that develops to replace her.

She mihford a fairly down to earth view of things and when she is sentimental, it is well hidden behind a practical argument. What I loved about this whole viewpoint was that she successfully individualizes history to the extent that she makes it all seem a matter of “person X was rather cranky that day and lady Y just didn’t quite know how to manage him properly, and person Z was a nasty little beast who should have been strangled at birth and made things very much the worse There’s really no reason to make it a bigger drama than that and those who do well So this is the second thing that fascinated me about this one.

Similar to the work of Isak Dinesen, to Vita Sackville-West and Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead at any ratethis is a lament for the decline of the aristocracy. It might seem an odd approach to celebrate the life of one of the world’s most successful bourgeoisie social climbers while also making a case for why the aristocracy has been unjustly maligned and why it should mitforr exist, but it’s actually a rather clever way of doing it. I don’t think it was necessarily a conscious agenda of hers, but her opinions on the subject seemingly couldn’t help but come through.

Mitford presents Jeanne de Poisson as yes, the poor lady was born before she became La Pompadour as a good upper middle class girl who never forgot her roots or pretended to be anything other than she was both a prime English virtue and something the class conscious aristocrat would have been on the lookout forand yet as someone who was “naturally” born with an upper class feeling and point of view and taste- she is fiercely loyal to her friends, a lovely, warm person who doesn’t gossip behind other people’s backs, a lady who throws wonderful parties and makes even shy people feel welcome, a woman who can discuss important issues with men, but knows when to retire, a woman who knew how to keep her looks and her friends as she aged.

An unusual case, but much like Cinderella hiding in her dirty clothes, a case where the way we are born nonetheless does tell. She constantly defends Madame as having gotten a bad rap, and completely unfairly too- she rather mindblowingly and continuously argues for why she may have gotten a lot of money from the King but a it wasn’t as much as has been thought oh, you know fifty million, not a hundred million, so that’s totally okay!

Nancy Mitford rather crushingly tells us that she was skilled “in the art of living,” and people who were starving for their bread just can’t properly appreciate that apparently. She goes on rapturously about the beautiful houses she built and decorated with her exquisite taste, and seems to save the greatest of her pity for these troubled times for how her houses didn’t last long after her death- after all, beauty and art are what should be appreciated above all.

Once again, the starving and the bread and the oppressed peasants with no rights get no mention- or if they do, it is in mentions of Madame’s charity or her helpfulness in certain sticky political situations to save an innocent.

Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford

With regards to the King, she takes him to task when she feels he is not fulfilling his proper role in the world, and honestly blames a lot of what comes after on the fact that he does not know how to lead properly.

There are some mentions of the Revolution to come, of course. How she approaches this though is to phrase the problems as a peculiarly French extreme of oppression and particular problems of the personalities at the top. She does once or twice acknowledge that Louis XVI was rather shut off from the world in Versailles, and speaks of the political abuses that went on in France.


Madame de Pompadour

However, she phrases it as if there really would have been no need for the overthrow of the system, which is perfectly fine in theory, thank you, if France hadn’t gone about it all the wrong way. I don’t mean to present this as a political program of a book- that’s not the dominant feeling of it, just something that underpins the approach. More of a viewpoint, really- her biography dominating Madame’s biography. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s incredibly well written- relatable and warm, sparkling and close.

She knows how to tell a story in just the right way to make you laugh, how to deploy an anecdote to tell you all you need to know about a situation. Her knowledge about her subject is clearly deep, but she is able to use it in the way that only the most eminent of scholars do these days- without footnotes, without careful demonstration of knowledge and self-conscious admissions of “I could be wrong”- just one long, continously flowing story that is written not to prove she knows something, but because it’s a story worth telling and perhaps it will pass the evening until you go to bed.

One could picture her as a good hostess handing these out to her guests to busy them at a house party rather than gossiping to them herself all night long since she has a pompaxour in her throat.

Her ultimate verdict on the story of Madame de Pompadour and its meaning really is that of a hostess, or someone who has been a guest for many pompadout. As her funeral cortege leaves the palace, and the King turns to go inside with tears streaming down his face, she remarks only: View all 14 comments.

As well as her wonderful novels, Nancy Mitford also wrote four, less known, historical biographies- Madame de Pompadour inVoltaire in Love inThe Sun King in and Madme the Great in This is the first of her biographies and it tells the life story of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, who, despite her comparatively lowly beginnings, was told by a fortune teller when she was nine that she would rule over the heart of a King and believed this prophecy completely.

Despite being ma As well as her wonderful novels, Nancy Mitford also wrote four, less known, historical biographies- Pommpadour de Pompadour inVoltaire in Love inThe Sun King in and Frederick the Great in Despite being married with a young daughter, she saw her future as the mistress of the King of France and set about making madxme the most influential woman at Court for many years. The new Marquis de Pompadour comes alive in this biography, as Nancy Mitford delights in recreating the splendour of Versailles.

Madame de Pompadour comes across as a generally kindly woman; who treated the Queen with respect, had a great love of family, a good sense of humour and was deeply in love with the King.

This is not the most scholarly biography you will read, but it is immense fun. Mitford writes as though she knew Pompadour intimately. Her style is sniping, gossipy, opinionated and she does not even pretend to be unbiased about her subject.

The book comes alive when she discusses the world of Versailles, with the power struggles, etiquette, jealousies and rivalries which obviously interest her far more than the world of politics or battles. This is a wonderfully enjoyable read; although even when it madae first published it was seen more as entertainment than a serious work of history.

Still, her warm and informal style certainly paved the way for many modern history books, aimed more at the casual reader than scholarly works which were the norm at that time.

View all 4 nanc. Oct 16, Sketchbook rated it really liked it Shelves: Nancy Mitford reports with her usual sparkle.

I discovered this when I went to buy a gift pompaadour. Amazon also doubles prices on books that get well-reviewed on its site. View all 18 comments. Jul 16, Eric d it liked it Shelves: Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour hold the center but are not always as interesting as the supporting players. Voltaire appears in his fascinating duality, flattering and satirical, unctuous and petulant, apt to bite the hands that feed him.

Soon he was besieged by women begging a line or two for mitfoed and lovers. This poem sold ten thousand copies in ten days, mostly to the army; subsequent editions brought in so many sons and lovers that the thing became a farce. During the Seven Years War, Richelieu, while in command of the French army over the Rhine, accepted bribes from Frederick in return for pulling his punches and generally easing up on the winded Anglo-Prussian forces.