Before saying good-bye to the charming protagonist of this book, I interviewed her in Versailles, in the quietness of a past enlightened by her beauty.
Instead of being considered the Monument of the century-old national unity of France, Versailles was used as the Olympus of the Monarchy, and subsequently transformed into the Temple of France History whose glories were remembered and collected in thousands of pictures showed in its salons.
Thanks to the greatness of Louis XIV and the mediocrity of Louis XV Versailles became the Palace of Women and Love: from the young Duchess of La Vallière to Madame of Montespan, from M.me Maintenon to M.me of Mailly, of Vintimille and Laurangais, M.me of Chàtearoux and the Pompadour herself, not to mention M.me Du Barry. This fact is confirmed by the frescos of the Venus Salon, which show the great and most famous lovers in history: from Titus and Berenice to Cleopatra and Marc Antonio, Giasone and Medea, Teseo and Arianna, Nabuchodonosor and Semiramide until Ciroel, anonymous princess. It is a whirlwind of passions and youth, almost a poem dedicated to the feelings and the impressive figure of Roi Soleil whose virility enabled him at being always successful whether in fighting or loving.
It is here in this beautiful salon, dedicated to the most adored goddess, that Jeanne-Antoinette answers to my questions with the same words that she wrote in her best periods. It is here where love strongly vibrates, that Madame Pompadour meets me with the same dress that she wore in portrait by M. Q. de la Tour. She appears from one of the doors at the far end of the salon and suddenly her shining beauty lights everything up. Her blonde hair has a delicate grey shade and frames the perfect oval of her face, which seems painted by a divine hand. Her eyes are slightly sad, the long neck and the straight shoulders give elegance to her bust: she seems a rare flower created by a superb artist. The discreet elegance of the dress underlines the personality and gracefulness of this woman who, greeting me with a light smile, gives me the chance to talk to her just to revise her life as insuperable example of femininity and intelligence.
Why did you spend most of your life working in politics?
Personally I dislike politics, but my presence at the court gives me the opportunity to study this subject. I know you are amazed at seeing a woman involved in a typical male field but my whole life is quite peculiar. Besides I have proved a few times that women are much more sensible and better advisors than men. I feel content at seeing France in peace, the King satisfied and the citizens quiet: it means that my life has been useful. To be a good politician one has to be steady and very reasonable, but I think that women regain sensitiveness and steadiness only with the age.
How do you consider politicians?
A politician must be extremely able at cheating and telling lies for the benefit of his country.
What do you think about our Countries?
Italy is the most beautiful country in Europe as well as the weakest. France is invincible when attacked on its own territory. My country doesnt like the sea so the fleet wont be powerful.
Are wars really inevitable?
The miserable point of view of the honour is far more deadly in the big fights between people than those in small families. Peace is the most precious value for a King to give to his country. The ambition and the vanity of the princes ruin the people.
Taking into consideration the external position of Russia and England towards the rest of Europe, what kind of forecasts do you have?
One hundred years ago Russia was unknown almost like the Southern Countries but nowadays is getting stronger, with a good military skill and I think that many countries are going to take advantages from this ability. I think that suddenly a crowd of barbarians from Siberia with a new Attila, as chief will invade Europe. May God be with us!
In England the merchants declare a war only to satisfy their personal and economical needs. Due to this fact it is most important to pay attention to the Stock Market than to the gossips of the court. The English are a very particular people: greedy and unfair, the natural enemy of other countries. They like the extremes, in vice and virtue. The French hate them with all their strength; they always fight against England, at least with their ideas.
Every place in which Athens could plant olive trees and vines was considered a Greek property. The English dont make any swear like the ancient Greek did, but the attitude is quite similar.
Is the Monarchy better than the Republic in your opinion?
A King has two families, his own and his country so hes always worried. In a (absolute) Monarchy the King usually gives the start to a chain reaction: he kicks his prime- minister who kicks the Dignitaries of the Crown that kick some other people below them and so on. In a Republic things are very different: everybody can reach the top, even the ones at the lowest position. Any member of the society has equal importance, it is written in the Constitution: anybody is a noble and a legislator, without any distinction.
Traditionally in an assembly the majority decides, though I must observe that often should be better let the minority decide.
What are your opinions about the power of the Church? Isnt this interference in politics...a bit too much?
Despite being deeply religious I often dislike its ministers very much. The priests would like men to have their same habits and life-style. Personally I think they are ambitious, vane, bad citizens of the Kingdom and the worst servants of God. If you ask them something about religion, they always answer with words from the Bible. I wonder if they are really so useful.
What kind of future do you see for Rome, the city of the Popes?
The philosophical and reasonable attitude of the Pope Benedetto XIV is quite amazing, the people are astonished. Despite his sensitiveness he is a priest and I wonder why Kings still send their ambassadors to him even if they cant do anything. I often compare the pride of the Church with the words of Saint Peter: he couldnt believe that his successors would be so bad and incredibly ambitious. The Priests put themselves above the King.
Would you please describe your feelings towards the Catholic religion?
It is a Holy religion, true and compassionate, there is no need to destroy it, but to eliminate any abuse. To cut down only the dry branches not the whole tree. My personal opinion is that priests should spread the holy words of Jesus without trying to govern the humanity.
I love the goodness of our Lord.
As you can consider yourself an icon of the feminine beauty and intelligence, what do you think about women?
The main female ambition is to please and to be loved although pleasure and love dont last more than ten, fifteen years. Women dont think about improving their spirit as well as their appearance, they forget that a good soul lasts forever and it is a nice company in the forthcoming years. Beautiful women inspire kind feelings and are even very good at giving the right advices, because a vivid intelligence doesnt have sex. The only one difference between the two sexes is that we are lovely and nice but much more difficult to guide than men.
Madame as you are a superior and sensitive woman, may I ask you to give a reflection about the human intelligence and the great men of your time?
When Isaac Newton astonished Europe with his new ideas, nobody could have ever imagined that a woman would have been able at understanding and explaining them: her name is Emilia de Chatelet and she is French. This is to remark that intelligence has nothing to do with a sex gender.
When Molière died the comical genius died with him. Today the theatrical authors write only about ridiculous topics instead of putting into light the main vices of our society. We have thousands of different writers of verses but only one poet: Voltaire. It doesnt matter whether he believes in God or not, he is a great man.
What is your opinion about the "Encyclopaedia" and the new way of thinking?
It is reported that the Encyclopaedia contains a few thoughts against religion and the King as well. If this is true we must burn the book, if its false the slanderers have to be burnt. Montesquieu was a great man and a good citizen, some of his works delighted me very much except Esprit de Lois: I didnt have enough time to read it or the right intelligence to understand his thoughts completely. Very few women have the skill to read and comprehend such profound subjects. Even if Voltaire wrote that women could do everything, the only difference is that they are nicer than men.
Which are your favourite authors?
My favourite is undoubtedly Voltaire, he is a charming person who everyone likes and appreciates. I dont see any other man with the same intelligence, humanity and eloquence. He is involved in so many things and hes so alive and passionate! I consider Rousseau slightly crazy despite all of his rewards. He has such a singular, arrogant way of writing that I dont have a high opinion of his thoughts. He tries to be so unkind, extravagant, and heartless while the others do their best to show happiness, gentleness and joy. I dont consider him an author, hes too much rough, cynical, negative: I dont like him at all.
How do you increase your personal culture?
I like an easy philosophy, nice and concerning, without a demanding reasoning. Basically without any bad attitude. Like many others I usually write a lot of memories, I describe extraordinary events; I consider this an intelligent hobby, almost a good companion for a woman of my age. I wish my memories would be published only after my death in order to avoid criticisms and resentments by nasty and vulgar men. Once dead I wouldnt care about living people.
How did you react to the tasks and situations that you had to confront? Did you fulfil your ambitions?
Ambition is the greatest torture. I am about to cry on my madness though I dont have regrets yet. I am alone among a crowd of despicable noblemen who hate me. The vanity, the false behaviour is unbearable.
Did you feel happy on managing the Kingdom?
I dont see happiness in being at the top and I feel sorry for the great men in history. I pity myself for my ambition that led me here as well as for my weakness that prevent me from going away. A woman cant have benefits from being involved in politics because her only ambition is to please men.
You are Lady of Honour of the Queen: what kind of relation do you have with her?
The Queen hates me, it seems that she forgot the theory that says that we have to love one another unconditionally.
Madame, how did you feel on seeing the splendour of the court for the first time?
Nowadays I am aware about my silliness. This enchanting environment with all its richness and grandeur doesnt appeal me anymore. The charm is over, it left my heart empty and I am hopeless at finding something to believe in. Sometimes I feel slightly happy despite everything, we are all instruments of the Providence.
Have you ever thought of leaving the King and your position?
I often think about this chance, I wonder about a private life somewhere else, with my dear friends.
Only my weakness prevents me from giving up and I hate myself for that.
Do you consider yourself unhappy?
If happiness does exist the court is not the right place to look for it, definitely. There is a lot of insincerity, slanders, false friends who try to kill me because of their advantages. When I was young I used to imagine the court as the most alive, kind place to live, full of opportunities to smile: now I only have a lot of opportunities to cry and to feel sorry for myself.
How do you judge the other members of the court?
On observing the nasty, malicious habits of the most part of the noblemen, I see an enormous difference between being great men and great gentlemen. I feel as if I was abandoned by gentlemen in the middle of a superficial, unpleasant, boring crowd. I have the real intention of taking up the study of Philosophy, to know the vanity of this world in order to absolutely despise it.
I didnt have happy moments since I am here, but I have to affront the reality because I have been looking for this life.
Do you have many friends?
I have a lot of acquaintances, a lot of male and female humble servants who I meet without any pleasure and that I leave without any regret. Those who try to adulate think that everyone is made like them.
If you were free to choose, how would you spend your time?
I would love to care for the real needs of the people, this is the only occupation that I like. I would like to have more power to live not only for myself. The ladies are envious of my role but I envy their lives and their freedom. This is the kind of existence that I wish for my enemies.
The public misery, the hate, the boredom of the court, a bad health, the wrinkles that begin to line my face, everything is good at making my situation really sad despite being considered lucky and powerful.
Are you afraid of dying?
Yes, I am afraid of it but not for myself for the people that I love though. I often think about death, it is a consequence of the age. Dying means feeling free and liberated. A woman is much more scared by the end of her youth than by death.
What do you still expect from life?
Nothing. I should retire from the court, but my soul is so fragile and that I wouldnt bear this decision. It seems quite strange because I dont have any more interested in this kind of life. I am not living anymore, I am already dead. Everything has part in this bitter way of living. Too much hate and betrayal make me extremely sensitive, my life is a continuous death.
Madame, as everyone knows, you played in quite a few theatrical works written by good authors. Do you consider yourself a fine actress?
The answers are hide in my letters, the people who read them with patience and curiosity have found mine a short life but intensely dedicated to France.