Acclaimed French historian Lever here chronicles the extraordinary life of the most famous and influential mistress of Louis XV: Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour. This seductive, astute, and resilient woman was destined to be both adored and reviled by the Court and French public because of her relationship with one of the most powerful men in Europe, yet she was also to wield enormous influence on the culture, politics, and military future of France, with an authority that far exceeded any previously exerted by an official mistress.
The incredible story of how a bourgeois girl of questionable parentage would rise to the highest ranks of French society, consolidate her position at Court and maintain a twenty-year relationship with Louis XV, begins with a fortune-teller's prophecy that one day the young Jeanne-Antoinette would be the mistress of a king. In spite of the difficulties presented by her background, by the age of twenty-four the beautiful Jeanne-Antoinette had indeed become the favorite of the monarch. The implications—both personal and political—of their relationship were far-reaching, and Lever illustrates how Madame de Pompadour gradually played the role not only of official mistress but also of France's second queen.
Louis XV's happiness was of the utmost importance to his lover, and this talented and innovative young woman was to make a lasting contribution to the culture of the period through her efforts to amuse him and her own lively interest in the arts. She was an outstanding singer and actress, and frequently entertained the King and Court in impressive stage productions. She sat for portraits and commissioned paintings by Boucher, Nattier, Van Loo, La Tour, and Pigalle; and she formed friendships with many of the philosophers and writers of the time, including Fontenelle, Crébillon, and Voltaire. But she was also loathed for her role in France's disastrous military losses during the Seven Years War, and was the victim of persistent court gossip and intrigues designed to remove her.
With this illuminating biography of a woman who succeeded against all odds, and whose love affair with a king changed the fate of a nation, Lever weaves a portrait of an extraordinary relationship, an exceptional woman and a country in turmoil.