Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour (1721–1764) was a member of the French court and was the maîtresse-en-titre of King Louis XV from 1745 to her death.
She spent her younger childhood at the Ursuline convent in Poissy where she received a good education. At adolescence, her mother took personal charge of her education at home by hiring tutors who taught her to recite entire plays by heart, play the clavichord, dance, sing, paint and engrave.
At the age of nineteen she married to Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d’Étiolles and they had two children. Contemporary opinion supported by artwork from the time considered the young Mme d’Étiolles to be quite beautiful, with her small mouth and oval face enlivened by her wit. She was celebrated in the fashionable world of Paris and she founded her own salon whichwas joined by many philosophes including Voltaire.
She was invited to a royal masked ball at Versailles in February 1745; within a month she was the King’s mistress, installed at Versailles in an apartment directly above his.In May, the official separation between her and her husband was pronounced.
The Marquise de Pompadour had little formal political influence in France. However, she did wield considerable power and control behind the scenes, as seen when in 1755 by a prominent Austrian diplomat, asking her to intervene in the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Versailles. She also established a cordial relationship with Queen Marie Leszczyńska who said: ‘If there must be a mistress, better her than any other.’ She was an accomplished woman who planned buildings like the Place de la Concorde and the Petit Trianon.
Although she and the King had ceased being lovers after about 1750 they remained friends, and Louis XV was devoted to her until her death from tuberculosis in 1764 at the age of forty-two. Voltaire wrote after her death: ‘I am very sad at the death of Madame de Pompadour. I was indebted to her and I mourn her out of gratitude. It seems absurd that while an ancient pen-pusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty two.’ She was buried at the Couvent des Capucines in Paris.