The Rise and Fall of the French Royal Mistress

I love this kind of history.

Age of Revolutions

By Christine Adams and Tracy Adams

When Louis XV of France elevated Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, later the Marquise de Pompadour, to the position of royal mistress in 1745, courtiers were shocked; the Duke of Luynes wrote that she could only be agalanterie(fling), not a mistress. It was inconceivable that a woman from a bourgeois background, “whose mother is named Mme Poisson” (French for fish) could be the nextmaîtresse déclaréeof the king.[1]But while the tradition of choosing the royal mistress from among aristocratic ladies of the court came to an end with Pompadour’s elevation, she stepped into a position that had, by the eighteenth century, a long genealogy. Rulers throughout the world had always had extra-conjugal sexual partners; history is replete with stories of powerful mistresses and concubines.[2]But only in early modern France did the royal mistress become a tradition, a quasi-institutionalized political position…

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