Madame du Barry came to my mind recently because of the Cannes’ Festival. Indeed, there was a film about her directed by a French director named Maïwenn, starring herself and Johnny Depp. The film was controversial and was severely criticized. So, I thought that I had to write an article about Jeanne du Barry because of that.
Also, last week, I saw that her former neoclassical music pavillon in Louveciennes was put to sale for 44 million euro! If you’re interested, you must that this is a pure architectural jewel.
Anyway, Jeanne du Barry always fascinated me because of her beauty and her fabulous destiny, especially her ascension from poverty to being the last maitresse-en-titre of King Louis XV. I’ve always thought she was born at the wrong era. Today, she would have been acclaimed as a modern-day Cinderella…or even the manifestation of the American dream!
Let’s examine the intense life of Madame du Barry, as well as her beauty secrets!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission whenever you click on the links and purchase the products, with no additional cost to you.
Who is Madame du Barry?
Her birth and education
The life of Madame du Barry didn’t start on a bed of roses. Born Jeanne Bécu in 1743 in Vaucouleurs, she was the illegitimate daughter of a monk called Frère Ange and of Anne Bécu, a seamstress. Anne Bécu was an extraordinarily beautiful woman who passed on her beauty and charms to her daughter.
Later, Anne Bécu had a relationship with a rich financier who took care of her financially. This enabled Anne to send little Jeanne in a religious boarding school led by nuns. She was a good student and stayed there until she reached 15. She had already blossomed as a very beautiful young woman.
Her early professional life
Afterwards, Anne Bécu tried to insert her daughter into the workforce. And unfortunately, Jeanne discovered the power of her beauty, for better and for worse…
First, Anne Bécu sent her daughter as an apprentice in a hair salon. There, she learnt how to groom hair and how to use hair to enhance the facial features of her clients. This skill would be very useful later when she would become a maitresse-en-titre.
There, she had an affair with her boss who showered her with gifts. Unfortunately, her boss went bankrupt and Jeanne was kicked out of his life by his mother who called her “a dirty little whore” (sale petite pute in French).
After this first mishap, her mother found her a position as a reader and lady-in-waiting in the household of an aristocrat woman. However, her new boss soon found out that Jeanne had an affair with her two brothers, who were both married. Therefore, she immediately fired her.
Then, she landed a job as a saleswoman in a fashion boutique called La Toilette, in a chic neighborhood of Paris. In that boutique, she met many aristocrats who came to shop there and she emulated their manners and style. Eventually, she met a man called Jean-Baptiste du Barry who would soon change her life.
Indeed, she became her lover but he soon started to prostitute her to his noble friends. We can say that her lover became her pimp. That’s how she became a high-class prostitute who worked under the moniker “Mademoiselle Lange”, after her father. She quickly became a “sexpert” and her reputation grew. She even had a net worth equivalent to 5,3 million euro before she became a maitresse-en-titre!
While she worked as a courtesan, she entertained one of her most important clients: the Duke of Richelieu. The latter was an extremely well-connected nobleman, and a ferocious aging libertine. Also, he constantly conspired to have a higher position near the king.
When he met Jeanne, he realized that she could be the key to opening a whole new world of opportunities for him. He talked to Jean du Barry about putting Jeanne into Louis XV’s bed. Then, they started to groom Jeanne to become an acceptable maitresse-en-titre. She was beautiful and intelligent, but this wasn’t enough as she wasn’t an aristocrat. Consequently, Jeanne took many lessons: etiquette, art of conversation, genealogies of major French noble families…
When Jeanne was ready, they introduced her to Lebel, the king’s senior valet. He was the closest king’s confidant and took care of many of his intimate matters, including “trying” potential lovers before introducing them to the king. Once he “tried” Jeanne, he was convinced of her feminine qualities and decided to put her in a place where the king would notice her. And it worked!
The king noticed her and summoned her in his bedroom. And she never left it till his death! She amazed the king because of her kindness, her beauty, and her “sexpertise”. Soon, he wanted to make Jeanne his maitresse-en-titre but she wasn’t married and wasn’t a noblewoman. Consequently, she married Jean du Barry’s brother who was a count; and that’s how she earned her title of “Comtesse du Barry”. Afterwards, the king paid one of his acquaintances to introduce Jeanne to the court. Thus, she became his official maitresse-en-titre from that moment.
Her life at Versailles
Despite her triumph, she had some difficulties at the Court. Many aristocrats were jealous of her beauty and despised her because of her humble origins. And there’s more: she was in constant competition with the new Dauphine, Marie-Antoinette. There was a catfight between those two ladies on who was the more beautiful and who was the more elegant.
Because of the comments of the King’s daughters, Marie-Antoinette didn’t want to talk to Madame du Barry. She even boasted about it in a letter to her mother and it truly irritated the king in the long run. Soon, Marie-Antoinette’s mother ordered her to talk to Madame du Barry and to obey the king. Then, one day, she met Madame du Barry and told her: “Il y a bien du monde aujourd’hui à Versailles” (Versailles is crowded today). And that was it.
During that period, Madame du Barry‘s life was a literal fairy tale. Louis XV showered her with many gifts and jewels. She also commissioned her music pavillon I talked about in the intro during that time. Unfortunately, King Louis XV died in 1774 from a smallpox crisis. After his death, the new King Louis XVI and the new Queen Marie-Antoinette kicked her out of the court and sent her to a convent.
Upon the intervention of her friends, the King released her from the convent and sent her back to her estate in Louveciennes. As she was rich, she lived the high life with her friends and found love again with the Duke of Brissac. Thus, she had an easy life until the French Revolution.
At that moment, all the aristocrats were targeted. Madame du Barry was especially a primary target because she was the mistress of the late King Louis XV. However, she refused to leave Louveciennes and stayed with her lover. Unfortunately, the Duke of Brissac was mirdered in 1792, his corpse was decapitated and his head was sent to Madame du Barry. Awful!
In 1793, she lost her jewels and went to England to recover them. Upon her return to France, she was arrested and judged as an active support of royalists who emigrated abroad to flee the Revolution. The jury found her guilty and decided that she should be executed. She died on December 8, 1793. Before being guillotined, she screamed: “Encore un moment, Monsieur le bourreau!” (Wait a moment, Mister Executioner).
Her physical appearance
According to all her acquaintances, friends and foes, Madame du Barry was strikingly beautiful. She had beautiful blue eyes, long blond hair, a pearly white skin, and a curvaceous body. As she had a sweet tooth, she gained weight in her later years but her beauty remained intact.
But her true secret was her character. She had a kind and sweet spirit, and never wished harm to anyone. For this reason, she always won everyone she met, especially men.
All the beauty secrets of Madame du Barry
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many beauty secrets of Madame du Barry because many French historians insist on her “sexpertise”. However, I found that she had regular honey facials to treat her skin and took a perfumed bath everyday.
She had very beautiful hair and introduced high hairdos that would be so shocking during the era of Marie-Antoinette. Otherwise, she also wore wigs because they were fashionable at the Court of Versailles during that period.
In addition, Madame du Barry introduced a more natural look at Versailles, as she enjoyed some of the writings of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, such as Emile ou de l’Education. She didn’t like formal dresses too much because they prevent her body to move freely. She preferred silk, satin, or taffeta negligés.
Also, the rumor has it that she enjoyed staying naked in her private apartments, but shhh…
Madame du Barry’s beauty trivia
Once again, our beauty trivia on Madame du Barry refers to her “sexpertise”. After her bath, Madame du Barry perfumed her private parts with a perfumed blend called “Le Baptême Ambré”.
Now ladies, I don’t recommend to emulate Madame du Barry in this. Indeed, perfuming your private parts can potentially burn you down there and disturbs your vaginal flora. So, it’s potentially dangerous. I repeat, don’t do this at home!
What we can learn from Madame du Barry
“Beauty is power; a smile is its sword” – John Ray
Madame du Barry is the perfect example where beauty is a powerful weapon. It was a blessing because it brought her wealth, power, and honor. However, as we saw in her early years, her beauty was also a curse because she created chaos in families and at her workplace. That’s why we need to favor discipline in beauty, without making it lethal to our fellow men.
“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years” – Audrey Hepburn
As we saw earlier, Madame du Barry was strikingly beautiful. But the more I studied her life, the more I was convinced that her true beauty came from within. Her kindness, her gentleness, and her generosity enhanced her facial features which were already perfect. Consequently, men continued to be fascinated by her, even when she was in her 40s (she died at 50).
Thus, true beauty is not only about cosmetics and routine; it’s also about having a kind heart which reflects on your countenance and your face. Thus, true beauty really comes from within. And if someone tells you otherwise, remind him/her of the example of Madame du Barry.
Well, that’s it for today! What do you think about the beauty secrets of Madame du Barry? Feel free to share your point of view in the comments below!
Click here to receive my free ebook on the 9 time-tested secrets to eternal youth.
Learn more about Madame du Barry
If you want to go further about Madame du Barry’s life and times:
Madame du Barry: The Wages of Beauty by Joan Haslip
The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnes Sorel to Madame du Barry by Tracy Adams and Christine Adams
If you speak French, you can look for the documentary of a TV show called Secrets d’Histoire: La Du Barry: coup de foudre à Versailles (try to see if they have English subtitles) – available on YouTube