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myself by granting what my heart neither will nor
can bestow."

Thereupon, she handed to the duke his Majesty's
letters, which contained such expressions as "You are
only too admirable" ; "Permit me to kiss your hands" ;
"Permit me, in absence at least, to embrace you," and
so forth.

Choiseul read the letters, and, much relieved, "pre-
pared to throw himself at the lady's feet to implore her

"The King is indeed in the right," said he; "you
are but too admirable. Now tell me what service can
be rendered to you by the new friend you have at-
tached for life?"

The lady accepted an appointment for a M. de la

Bathe, a young officer who was about to marry her

sister; but would take nothing herself from the King,

except a little hotel situated at the back of the Oratory. 8

1 Memoires de Marmontel (edit. 1804), iii. 64, et seq.


About this time, Louis XV. would appear to have
been seized with one of his periodical fits of remorse.
As a rule, these attacks began with Lent, reached their
climax in Holy Week, and ended at Easter; but the
present one was prolonged until after the death of the
Queen in June, 1768. "Advancing in years, worn out
with pleasures," writes Mercy-Argenteau, the Austrian
Ambassador, "he appeared to seek in the bosom of his
family the tranquillity and happiness which disorders
would not permit of; he visited the Queen regularly
every evening, and this princess, who for a long time
had not enjoyed the least credit, obtained then many
things which indicated that she would recover a cer-
tain ascendency over her husband's mind. At the same
time, the King showed on several occasions a desire
to put away from him too near temptations to a licen-
tious life ; the number of inmates of the Parc-aux-Cerfs
was reduced to two, one of whom, Mademoiselle
Estain, requested permission to retire, and did, in
point of fret, do so. The illness of the Queen super-
vened, and from the first her state was considered

"Then every one believed that the King, already in-
clining towards a reformation in his morals, would,
perhaps, in the event of widowerhood, think of
espousing a young and amiable wife, who would be
able to assure him repose of conscience and happiness
for the remainder of his days ; and this idea was firmly
established in the public mind/'

Vain hope! Scarcely had poor Marie Leczinska
been laid in her grave than Louis fell again, and this
time lower than he had ever yet descended.

Cheverny says that the "little hotel" was, in reality, une
belle maison, and scoffs at the idea that the King got nothing in
return; but then Cheverny was a scandal-monger.

* Mercy to Kaunitz, November 9, 1768.


BOUT the middle of the reign of Louis XIV.,
there lived in Paris a rotisseur, or roasting
cook, named Fabien Becu. This Becu, who
is said to have been a singularly handsome man, had
the good fortune to find favour in the eyes of a certain
Dame de Cantigny, or Quantigny, who carried her
infatuation so far as to marry him. Their wedded life,
however, does not seem to have been of long dura-
tion, and, after bearing him a daughter, of whom
nothing is known, the countess died, "leaving her
affairs in great disorder." Fabien had perforce to
return to the kitchen, and entered the service of the
beautiful Madame de Ludres, who, for some months in
the early part of the year 1677, disputed with Madame
de Montespan the possession of the heart of le Grand
Monarque. Worsted in the unequal contest, and un-
able to bear the cruel taunts and insults which her
"thunderous and triumphant" rival heaped upon her,
Madame de Ludres quitted the Court and retired
to her country-seat, the Chateau de Vane, in Lorraine.
Fabien accompanied his mistress, and, in 1693, married
a fellow servant, a girl called Jeanne Husson, by whom
he had seven children, three sons and four daughters.
Of the sons, Charles, the eldest, became valet-dc-
chambrc to Stanislaus Leczinski, ex-King of Poland,
while his two brothers, Jean-Baptiste and Nicolas,
took service with noble families in Paris. Of the
daughters, two, Marie-Anne and Marguerite, married
persons in their own station in life; a third, Helene,



became femme-de-chatnbre to Madame Bignon, wife
of the librarian of the Bibliotheque du Roi ; while the
fourth Anne, who with her sister Helene, inherited
Fabien Becu's good looks, settled at Vaudouleurs,
a small town on the borders of Champagne and Lor-
raine, now in the Department of the Meuse. 1

Anne Becu was by occupation a sempstress, but in-
asmuch as she lived in a large and comfortable house,
the neighbours entertained a shrewd suspicion that
she had a more lucrative source of revenue than her
needle a suspicion which was confirmed when, on
August 19, 1743, she gave birth to a natural daughter,
who was baptized the same day, the acte de naissance
being as follows :

"Jeanne, natural daughter of Anne Becu, otherwise
known as Quantigny, was born the nineteenth of
August of the year seventeen hundred and forty-three
and baptized the same day; having for godfather
Joseph Demange, and for godmother Jeanne Birabin,
who have signed with me.


Vicar of Vaucouleurs.

Such was the origin of the future Comtesse du
Barry, the last left-hand queen of France.

It will be observed that in the above certificate the
name of the father is omitted, nor has the question of
the child's paternity been settled to this day, not-
withstanding the fact that it has given rise to intermin-
able disputes between historians and a long and costly
lawsuit. 8 The majority of encyclopaedias and bio-

1 M. Vatel's Histoire de Madame du Barry, i. I, et seq.
2 E. and J. de Goncourt's La Du Barry, p. 6.
*See p. 342, infra.


graphical dictionaries, including even some of com-
paratively recent date, agree in giving the little girl
for father a certain Gomard de Vaubernier, a clerk
in the Excise, an error the origin of which we shall
presently explain; but the theory which finds most
favour with modern writers is that which ascribes the
paternity to a Picpus monk, 4 one Jean Jacques
Gomard, in religion Frere Ange, with whom Jeanne
Becu was on very intimate terms in later years in
Paris, and who is believed to have been at this time an
inmate of a community established at Vaucouleurs, in
the Rue de Chaussee, the remains of whose house may
still be seen. 6

Some time between the spring of 1747 and the close
of 1749, Anne Becu, with her little daughter, removed
from Vaucouleurs to Paris, where, as we have men-
tioned, two of her brothers and her sister Helene were
in service. This step was not improbably prompted by
the fact that, in February of the former year, Anne
had become the mother of a second child, a boy, who
was baptized as Claude," and was beginning to find
herself regarded with disfavour by her neighbours.
Soon after their arrival in the capital, Jeanne, who,
even at this early age, showed promise of quite re-
markable beauty, attracted the attention of a M. Bil-
lard-Dumouceaux, 7 a rich financier and army con-

4 The Picpus monks, so called from the site of their chief
monastery at the village of Picpus, near Paris, were Tertiaries,
or members of the Third Order of St. Francis. They were not,
strictly speaking, monks at all, but non-conventual members, who
continued to live in society without the obligation of celibacy.

5 M. Vatel's Histoire de Madame du Barry, i. 5.

6 Nothing seems to be known about the subsequent career of
this boy.

7 Pidansat de Mairobert and other contemporary biographers of
Madame du Barry assert that this M. Dumouceaux was Jeanne's
godfather, having been present at Vaucouleurs at the time of
her birth and undertaken the duty at the request of her father,
Vaubernier, the Excise clerk, who was one of his subordinates.


tractor, and, according to Grosley, "the most amiable
man in Paris," who constituted himself a kind of in-
formal guardian to the child, and took both her and her
mother to reside with him, the latter, apparently, in
the capacity of cook. M. Dumouceaux was a patron
of the arts, and himself a pastelist of some ability,
which probably accounts for the fact that in the inven-
tory of the Chateau of Louveciennes, the residence
which Louis XIV. gave to the favourite, mention is
made of a portrait of Madame du Barry as a child.
M. Vatel is of opinion that this is a copy of a work
executed for M. Dumouceaux by one of the artists
who frequented his house.

When Jeanne was seven years old, through the in-
fluence of M. Dumouceaux or one of his friends, very
possibly the Abbe Arnaud (who used to boast in after
years of having dandled the future favorite of Louis
XV. upon his knee), admission was procured for her
to the Couvent de Sainte-Aure, in the Rue Neuve
Sainte-Genevieve. This was a community which had
been founded, about the year 1687, by Pere Gardeau,
cure of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, "to provide an asylum
for young girls of his parish whom poverty had led
into dissipation." But, in 1723, it had been changed
to "an establishment for the education of youth, where
they are instructed in Christian piety and in arts suit-
able for women," and thrown open to "all young
people, born of honest parents, who may find them-
selves in circumstances in which they are in danger

f * ?>8

of rum.

This is, of course, ridiculous, as we have shown that Joseph
Demange was the parrain of Jeanne Recu and that Vaubernier
was a myth ; and we mention it merely as an instance of the
amount of credence to be placed in the testimony of these

8 Hurtaut's Dictionnaire de fa viUe de Paris et ses environs
(Paris, 1777), i. 413. Tableau de I'humanite et de la bienfaisance,
1769, by Alletz, cited by M. Vatel.


The nuns, who followed, in a modified form, the
regulations of Saint Augustin, and entitled themselves
"adoratrices du sacre cceur de Jesus," numbered fifty-
three, of whom ten were lay-sisters ; they provided ac-
commodation for forty pupils, who paid from 250 to
300 livres a year and certain extras, and also admitted,
at an annual charge of 500 livres, ladies who wished
to use the convent as a temporary retreat.

On the whole, the life was not austere, but conven-
tual habits were very strictly observed. The pupils
rose at five; at seven, they attended mass in a private
chapel built for the use of the convent ; at eleven, they
dined on plain but sufficient food; and at nine, they
retired to their dormitories. The costume was severe
and simple. On the head each little girl wore a black
woolen hood, with a band of coarse cloth bound tightly
across the forehead, a plain frock of white Aumale
serge, an unstarched veil, and shoes of yellow calf
fastened with cords of the same. Playfulness, jesting,
raillery, affectation, and even loud laughter were for-
bidden and punished. The curriculum, besides instruc-
tion in religious duties, included reading, writing,

drawing, needlework, embroidery, and housekeep-


To this convent, then, Jeanne was sent, "with two
pairs of sheets and six towels," and here she remained
until she was fifteen; at least we hear no more of
her until the early part of 1759. Of her life there
nothing is known, except that she would appear to
have received a tolerable education. Her spelling and
her grammar are ridiculed by writers like Pidansat de
Mairobert, but, as M. Vatel very justly points out, in
those days few ladies knew how to spell correctly;
and the grandes dames who reproached Richelieu with

' Constitution des religieuses de Sainte-Aure, suivant la regie d&
Saint-Augustin (Paris, 1786), cited by the Goncourts.


his infidelities wrote "Vous ne meme plu." "With
the exception of the letters addressed to Henry Sey-
mour, 11 and which appear to have been dictated by
ardent passion," he says, "her style is dull or, as she
called it, terre-a-terre. What must be borne in mind
from the letters verified as hers is that she received
and retained a certain amount of intellectual culture,
which could have been acquired only at Sainte-Aure.
We find her expressing an opinion on Nero, whose
cruelties she considered to have been exaggerated ; on
Lovelace, &c. She read Cicero and Demosthenes, and
had a great love for Shakespeare, translated, of course,
since she professed herself unacquainted with the
English language. She had learned how to draw, and
founded a prize for the pupils at the School of Draw-
ing opened by M. de Sartines. This little accomplish-
ment ought also to be placed to the credit of the edu-
cation she received at the convent."

Nor were the years spent at Sainte-Aure without
their effect upon Jeanne's character. The curriculum,
as we have said, included instruction in household
management; and, even in the midst of her greatest
prodigality, when she was squandering the public
money with both hands on an army of jewellers,
dressmakers, milliners, and bric-a-brac dealers, she
never forgot the lessons of her childhood. She kept
a daily account of her expenses ; she carefully checked
every item in the bills of her tradesmen ; she exercised
as keen a supervision over her household as the wife
of any bourgeois; and when in London, in 1792, we

"Madame de Pompadour, who was one of the most accom-
plished women of her time, never seemed able to distinguish
between the possessive pronoun se and the demonstrative ce, and,
like Louis XV., was in the habit of adding an ^ to the third
person plural of verbs ; while the orthography of Madame Geof-
frin, who kept a literary salon, was a thing to marvel at.

11 See p. 294, et sequ., infra.

"Histoire de Madame du Barry, i 27


find her writing instructions to her steward to make
jam of all the fruit grown at Louveciennes.

Again, as with Madame de Montespan, the traces of
her early religious education remained ineffaceable,
and throughout her life she manifested the most pro-
found respect for the forms and ceremonies of the
Church. She built a private chapel in her hotel at Ver-
sailles, another at Saint-Vrain, a third at Louvecien-
nes, where the services were conducted by a Recollect,
who came from Saint-Germain expressly for the pur-
pose. She enriched the Church at Louveciennes by
gifts of candles, pictures, and ornaments of all kinds.
Banished to the Abbey of Pont-aux-Dames after the
death of Louis XV., she speedily conciliated the abbess,
Madame de Fontenille, who had been strongly preju-
diced against her, and made so many friends among
the nuns that her enemies accused her of a hypocritical
simulation of devotion. Finally, in 1792, she gave
shelter, at no small risk to herself, to the Abbe de
Jorre, the Abbe de Roche-Fontenille, nephew of the
Abbess of Pont-aux-Dames, and a number of other
persecuted ecclesiastics.

On leaving the convent, Jeanne went to live with
her mother, who had some years previously married a
man named Nicolas Rangon, described in the marriage
certificate as "a domestic," and now resided in the
Rue Neuve Saint-Etienne. If we are to believe the
Goncourts, the family were in great poverty, and the
little girl was compelled to earn a precarious livelihood
by peddling haberdashery, sham jewellery, and other
trifles "that people buy for the sake of the beaux'
yeux of the seller," about the streets, and that, while
engaged in this occupation, she fell a victim to the
Comte de Genlis,"one of the most fascinating libertines
of the age," who, in after years, was profoundly aston


ished to recognize in the mistress of Louis XV. a little
girl of the streets whom his valet-de-chambre had once
brought him. 13

The account, however, which the Goncourts give of
Jeanne's early life is, for the most part, based on very
untrustworthy evidence, and must be regarded with
suspicion, and the earliest authentic information which
we have of the future favourite after her admission
to Sainte-Aure is in the spring of 1759, when she
makes her appearance in a somewhat singular con-

On April 18, 1759, Anne Becu, or Rangon, as she
now was, accompanied by her daughter, who, it may
be mentioned, also> called herself Rangon, and gave her
age as fourteen and a half, though she was within
four months of completing her sixteenth year, pre-
sented herself before Charpentier, the commissary of
police for their quarter, to lodge a complaint, and
demand protection, against the widow Lametz, or
Lameth, dressmaker, of the Rue Neuve des Petits-
Champs. It appeared that Madame Rangon and
Jeanne had made the acquaintance of the widow's son,
who was a coiffeur de dames at the house of a Madame
Peugevin, where Helene Becu, Anne's sister, was
employed as femnie-de-chambre, and which young
Lametz used to visit in his professional capacity.
Madame Rangon suggested that Lametz should give
a few lessons in his art to her daughter, which, as may
be supposed, he was willing enough to do, and hence-
forth seems to have spent the greater part of his time
at the Rangons' house.

After the lessons had continued for some months,

with great satisfaction to all parties concerned, the

young man's frequent absences from home began to

arouse the suspicions of his mother, who caused in-

3 E. and J. de Goncourt's La Du Barry, p. 12.


quiries to be made, with the result that one fine day
she called upon Madame Rangon, overwhelmed her
with reproaches and insults, and concluded by threat-
ening to denounce both her and Jeanne to the cure
of the parish for compassing the moral and material
ruin of her son. This was a menace not to be treated
lightly, as in those days the parochial clergy were
invested with considerable powers, and the police were
in the habit of committing persons to prison on their
application, 14 and, consequently, Madame Rangon lost
no time in invoking the protection of the commissary
of her quarter.

The affair does not appear to have proceeded any
further, though a lengthy proces-verbal was drawn up,
which, in later years, was brought to light and fur-
nished the enemies of the future Comtesse du Barry
with one of their favourite weapons.

Shortly after the Lametz episode, Jeanne became
lady's companion, or femme-de-chambre, to the widow
of a farmer-general named La Garde, who resided at
a villa called the Cour-Neuve, in the suburbs of Paris.
Pidansat de Mairobert, the chronicler in whom the
Goncourts repose such misplaced confidence, asserts
that she was indebted for this post to the Picpus monk,
Gomard, whom most writers now believe to be the
father of Jeanne, but whom he metamorphoses into her
paternal uncle. Gomard had now entered the priest-
hood, and, according to Pidansat, had been appointed
private chaplain to Madame de la Garde; but M.
Vatel, who carefully examined the papers of the La
Garde family, declares that he was never in any way
connected with it.

14 On the other hand, the police appear to have exercised a
very strict supervision over the conduct of the clergy, both
regular and secular, and to have promptly brought any irregular-
ities which they discovered to the notice of the ecclesiastical


M. Vatel's researches enabled him to demolish an-
other fiction, which had long obtained credence. The
story went that Madame de la Garde had two sons,
both young men, residing with her, that the lads fell
in love with Jeanne and quarrelled violently about her,
and that, in order to restore tranquillity, their mother
was compelled to turn her out of the house.

M. Vatel says that Madame de la Garde certainly
had two sons, Nicolas and Frangois Pierre, but they
were not romantic youths, but middle-aged and
married men, occupying responsible positions, Nicolas
being, like his father before him, a farmer-general,
and Francois Pierre a maitre des requetes. Moreover,
they did not reside with their mother, but had separate
establishments of their own, the elder living in the
Place Louis-le-Grand and the younger in the Rue
Neuve du Luxembourg. 15

From demoiselle de compagnie Jeanne became
demoiselle de boutique. Towards the close of the year
1760, or at the beginning of 1761, she left Madame de
la Garde, and was apprenticed by her parents ap-
parently under the name of Mademoiselle Lange, or
1'Ange to a man-milliner called Labille, in the Rue
Neuve des Petits-Champs." In establishments of this
kind pretty girls were exposed to endless temptations,
and it would have needed one of much more austere
virtue than poor Jeanne to have successfully resisted
the assaults of the gilded youths, who, under the pre-
text of purchasing lace ruffles, cravats, and so forth,
frequented the shop and "ogled the demoiselles from
morn till eve." That she had several lovers at this

a Histoire de Madame du Barry, i. 41, et seq.

16 And not in the Rue Saint-Honore, where so many writers
have located it. The account given by the Goncourts of Madame
du Barry passing the shop on her way to the scaffold in 1793,
and gazing pathetically up at the girls crowding to the windows
to catch a glimpse of the ex-milliner, is a myth.


time is not disputed, though none of them seem to
have been of sufficient social importance to call for the
attention of contemporary writers.

Jeanne does not appear to have remained long at
Labille's shop, and little is known of her life during the
next two or three years, in which some writers assert
that she sank so low as to become a woman of the
town, and even for a time an inmate of an establish-
ment kept by a notorious entremetteuse called La
Gourdan. M. Vatel discusses this very unpleasant
question at considerable length, and his conclusion is
that the charge is devoid of foundation and was a
mere invention of the Choiseul party, about whose
methods of warfare we shall have occasion to speak
hereafter. 17 The register of loose women, he says,
was kept by the police with minute exactitude, but
it contains no name resembling any of those by which
Jeanne Becu was at different periods known. More-
over when in 1776 the woman Gourdan, having been
indiscreet enough to allow the wife of a magistrate
to make assignations at her house, was haled before
the Tournelle, or Criminal Court of the Parliament
of Paris, the ledger containing the names of all her
pensionnaires for many years past was impounded.
M. Vatel is of opinion that if Madame du Barry's
had appeared therein, it would have been made known,
as she was then in disgrace, and no one was interested
in defending her. 18

Upon so very delicate a subject we naturally prefer

17 Sara Goudard, in her Remarques sur les Anecdotes concernant
Madame du Barry, relates that in the early days of Jeanne's
favour, when the Choiseul party were making desperate efforts
to prevent her presentation at Court, a stranger came to La
Gourdan and offered her a large sum of money if she would
publicly attest that the new favourite had been one of her pen-
sionaires, bwt that the woman refused, " as she would not con-
sent to publish such a lie."

18 Histoire de Madame du Barry, i. 57, et seq.


not to dwell, and will, therefore, merely remark that
M. Vatel, in his zealous championship of Madame du
Barry, appears to entirely ignore the possibility that a
person who is known to have lost at least three aliases
might very well have had others which have escaped
the notice of historians.

But if, for lack of evidence, we must acquit Jeanne
Becu of having been a woman of the town, there can be
no possible doubt that during these years she had be-
come one of those who, as M. Vatel delicately ex-
presses it, "ignore the obligations of virtue without
having the excuse of passion"; in other words, that
she was a femme entretenue in the very fullest accep-
tation of the term. According to Soulavie not, how-
ever, a writer in whom much confidence is now re-
posed a M. Lavauvenardiere was the first amant
en titre of the lady; while other chroniclers mention
an Abbe de Bonnac, a Colonel de Marcieu, and a M.
Duval, a clerk in the Marine, as among her pro-

Towards the close of 1763, Jeanne, who now called
herself Mademoiselle Beauvarnier, or Beauvernier,
seems to have been in the habit of frequenting a
gambling-house in the Rue de Bourbon, kept by a
"Marquise" Duquesnoy gambling-houses were the
favourite haunt of the filles galantes of those days
and it was here apparently that she encountered Jean
du Barry, the man with whose assistance she was

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