Madame de Pompadour
The mistress of Louis XV of whom Carlyle wrote, ‘of whom it is not proper to speak without necessity’ was however an exceptional woman. After Encyclopaedia was banned without her active intervention the Enlightenment as a movement could not have got its potential as it did. She was on friendly terms with Voltaire and his circle of friends.
In one of the supper parties at Trianon the Duc de la Valliere wondered loudly what gunpowder was made of. ‘It seems so funny that we spend our time killing partridges, and being killed ourselves on the frontier, and really have no idea how it happens.’
Madame Pompadour didn’t miss her chance and she asked, ‘yes and face powder? What is it made of?’ She turning to the king and asked, “Now if you hadn’t banned the Encyclopaedia, Sire, we could have found out in a moment.’
The king presently asked for a copy from his library. After an amusing evening he relented and allowed the subscribers to have their copies, though he kept the ban for public in place.
Mme de Coislin
Mme de Coislin was a rival who after her success in snatching the king’s favour did not forget to rub it in whenever she had a chance. During a game of brelan Mme de Coislin had a winning hand and she said to Mme de Pompadour, ‘I take the lot.’ Scooping the cards she gloated, ’I’ve a handful of kings.’
Madame de Maintenon
Madame de Maintenon the mistress of the Sun King once told her confessor that it tired her very much to make love with the king twice a day and asked it she was obliged to go on doing so. The confessor wrote down her question for his bishop to decide and he replied as a wife she must submit. The king was five years younger to her and she was 75.
Once two mistresses of the Sun King came across each other at Queen’s staircase at Versailles. Marquise de Maintenon called out to Marquise de Montespan and said, “You are going down, Madame, and I am going up.”
Years later Marquise de Maintenon was asked what was her secret of her influence over Louis XIV and she replied, “I always send him away despondent but never in despair.”