In the article, “Madame de Pompadour and the Theaters of Power,” author Thomas E. Kaiser examines how Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson rose to become Madame de Pompadour, a very influential mistress to the King of France. Her rise was seen in both positive and negative lights, with her acquisition of power being questioned from those within the royal family and the public1. The life of a mistress was never an easy one, but Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson rose to the daunting task and succeeded where most had failed. Thomas E. Kaiser goes on to explain how Madame de Pompadour was viewed in court and society, how she influenced the King, King Louis XV, and how she was able to succeed in her own right, advancing further than most thought possible for a woman during that time.
The role of the Royal Mistress or maitresse entitre often extended further than that of just the bedroom, and she did have influence, but remaining in this position was no small feat2. The popularity of the mistress to the king is the primary force behind her maintaining her position, this can be inherently difficult for the best of women. Royal mistresses were subject to instant dismissal if they feel out of favor with the King, as was the case for the two previous mistresses that resided before Jeanne-Antoinette3. Along with the responsibility of entertaining the King, the royal favorite also had to contend with the royal family, the court, and the public.
There was often a danger posed from being the King's favorite, oppositions could lead to trouble for the Mistress, and Madame de Pompadour experienced her fair share of opposition and resentment. According to Thomas Kaiser one of the main oppositions that Pompadour encountered was that of the queen's party, or parti devot, this party included the royal family, powerful figures in the community, and
influential figures among the Jesuits and the episcopacy 4. The goal of this group among the mistresses was to limit the influence or affection lavished upon them from the King, and this group among others continued to campaign towards Madame de Pompadours dismissal among her predecessors5 . But this was not the case as Thomas Kaiser shows that Pompadour defied the odds and her opposition.
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson did not enter the court as an innocent girl, her family and name had encountered scandal that followed her. And as Kaiser explains, however subjective, reputation in the French court had the power to make or break a person and their ambitions6. Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson had to handle her families scandal and notorious promiscuity of her mother, Louise Madeleine de La Motte, and the questions of her father and birth 7. But even though she endured scandal and considered to be of low birth, Jeanne-Antoinette relied heavily on her education throughout her life and would continue to influence how she was received by the King. A young Jeanne-Antoinette gained entry into one of the most prestigious salons of Paris,...