Death, the Final Frontier


When Louis XV was dying, and it became apparent that the king is not going to pull out, some of the courtiers loaded into their carriages and went to express their condolences to Madam Du Barry at Louveciennes. For years after Marie-Antoinette referred to those who had chosen to follow the norms of humans decency, as “one of those fifteen carriages.” Her own brother, Emperor Joseph II of Austria, showing up in France to give a  few sex ed lessons to Louis XVI, also went to pay his respects to Du Barry, “Hey, look here sis, I am number sixteen!”

Antonia Fraser in her book Marie-Antoinette, decided to settle the old score between the Queen and the Countess by comparing their deaths: Marie-Antoinette doing it with dignity and Du Barry without. Dying heroically, dying as a performative gesture, dying to prove the innocence, or the righteousness, dying to punish, dying to challenge, dying to reproach, dying to prove the superiority…. Antonia Fraser, take your vulture suit off! Madam Du Barry used to have a pet bird which died by flying out of its cage and knocking its head senseless against the window. Fifi. She built her Fifi a little glass pyramid and kept it on a bookshelf. It does matter how theatrical we want to make it, in the end let us remember Fifi. “Mister Executioner, just another moment…. Please!” These were the last words of Countess Du Barry, and the crowd empathized because nobody wanted to be in her place.

The portrait of Du Barry  at forty-seven painted by Luise-Elisabeth Vige-Lebrun.

On the subject of the settled scores, Marie-Antoinette vs. Du Barry see also the Irony of History

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This entry was posted in Louis XV, Louis XVI, Madame du Barry, Marie-Antoinette. Bookmark the permalink.

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