Café a la Pompadour


von Thomas Stiegler

It sounds like well invented, but it has been proven to have happened exactly like that: The young bourgeois daughter Jeanne-Antoinette was prophesied at a very early age that a king would one day fall in love with her.

What a bold statement at a time when there were hardly any points of contact between the world of the nobility and that of the commoner. And yet that is exactly what was to happen: Jeanne-Antoinette, as Madame de Pompadour, became the mistress of the French king Louis XV and one of the most important figures of the 18th century.

But it was a long road until then.

She was born in 1741 as the daughter of a bourgeois army supplier who had made it to some prosperity. But her real father was the wealthy banker and chief tax tenant Charles François Paul Le Normant de Tournehem, who would later assume the role of her guardian and adopt her, along with her brother. He provided her with a solid education and she received private lessons from the greatest artists of her time, especially in singing and acting.

François Boucher, Madame de Pompadour, 1756, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München, URL: (Zuletzt aktualisiert am 24.02.2022)

Finally, at the age of twenty, she married her guardian’s nephew, the rich tenant farmer Charles-Guillaume Le Normant. This was actually her fortune in life and her future was set on a firm course, but her ambition went much higher. For deep within her apparently still slumbered the dream of one day being the mistress of a king.

In 1745, that day seemed to have come.

At a masked ball in honor of Crown Prince Ludwig Ferdinand (to which non-nobles were also admitted), she succeeded in being introduced to the king. This brief acquaintance was apparently enough to make Louis XV and Jeanne-Antoinette lovers. She left her husband and, together with her daughter, they moved to the Palace of Versailles, where they became the first commoners to be elevated to the rank of “maîtresse en titre” (official mistress).

In addition, she was given the title of Marquise de Pompadour, which included a country estate and her own coat of arms.

Unlike most of her predecessors, however, the newly ennobled Madame de Pompadour was well aware that her physical advantages would not last. So she tried to bind the king to her not only in an intimate way, but also made herself indispensable in other areas. She acted, sang and danced on a private stage, provided polished entertainment and reliably succeeded in always lifting the king, who was prone to depression.

She also immediately began to secure her position at court through a dense network of alliances. For example, in contrast to earlier mistresses, she always treated Queen Marie with high esteem and select friendliness, and eventually succeeded in being made her lady-in-waiting and appointed to the rank of Duchess of Menars.

Thus it also happened that after the end of their love affair she was not deported to a convent by the king, as was customary at the time, but became more powerful than ever as his indispensable friend and advisor.

Abroad, her influence was underestimated for a long time. Frederick the Great, for example, claimed that she had turned France into a “stigma of love” and degraded the king Louis XV to a “plaything”. Stupidly, he was writing these lines to Voltaire, who had nothing more urgent to do than pass them on, so they ended up on Pompadour’s desk.

Versailles, © charlemagne

But perhaps his reaction was also understandable. After all, it was she who drove France into the Austrian camp before the start of the Seven Years’ War, where, together with Russia and Sweden, they had a clear superiority over the Prussians. But as we know, Frederick eventually emerged successful from this struggle.

It was after the lost battle at Roßbach that she made the legendary statement “Après nous le déluge” (“After us the deluge”). Because of this, and because of her policies, which seemed to be truly guided by this motto, she was eventually seen as the culprit for the catastrophic defeat and impending national bankruptcy. Louis XV remained loyal to her anyway, but shortly after the end of the war she died of pneumonia in Paris.

Today, only a few stories and some beautiful paintings remind us of the once powerful and disreputable woman, and of course a coffee specialty that bears her name, the “Café a la Pompadour”.

To prepare it, melt 15 grams of dark chocolate in a bain-marie, mix it with a little liquid whipped cream and fill the cup with hot coffee.

Finally, season the whole thing with a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom.

veröffentlicht am 28.06.2022

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