Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour (29 December 1721 - 15 April 1764) was a member of the French court, and was the official maîtresse-en-titre of Louis XV from 1745 to her death.
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson was born on 29 December 1721 in Paris to François Poisson and his wife Madeleine de La Motte. However, it is suspected that her biological father was either the rich financier Pâris de Montmartel or the tax collector (fermier général) Le Normant de Tournehem, who became her legal guardian when François Poisson, a steward to the Pâris brothers — foremost financiers of the French economy — was forced to leave the country in 1725 after a scandal over a series of unpaid debts, a crime at that time punishable by death. Poisson was cleared eight years later and allowed to return to France. Her younger brother was Abel-François Poisson de Vandières, who would later become the marquis de Marigny.
Jeanne Antoinette was intelligent, beautiful, and refined. 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 teachers who taught her to recite entire plays by heart, play the clavichord, dance, sing, paint and engrave. She became an accomplished actress and singer, and also attended Paris's Club de l'Entresol (formed in 1724 and suppressed in 1731). The greatest expense of her education was undoubtedly the employment of renowned singers and actors, such as Pierre Jélyotte, much of it paid for by Le Normant de Tournehem; and it may have been this in particular that sparked rumours of his paternity to Jeanne Antoinette.
She later claimed that, at the age of nine, she was taken by her mother to a fortune teller and told that she would someday reign over the heart of a king. Apparently, her mother believed the prophecy and accordingly nicknamed her "Reinette".
In 1741, at the age of nineteen, Jeanne Antoinette was married to Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Étiolles, nephew of her guardian, who accepted the match and the large financial incentives that came with it. These included the estate at Étiolles (28 km south of Paris), a wedding gift from her guardian, which was situated on the edge of the royal hunting ground of the forest of Sénart. With her husband, she had two children, a boy who died the year after his birth in 1741 and Alexandrine-Jeanne (nicknamed "Fanfan"), born 10 August 1744. 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. Her young husband was soon infatuated with her and she was celebrated in the fashionable world of Paris. She founded her own salon, at Étiolles, and was joined by many philosophes, among them Voltaire.
As Mme d'Étiolles became known in society, the King came to hear of her. In 1745, a group of courtiers, including her father-in-law, promoted her acquaintance with the monarch, who was still mourning the death of his second official mistress, the duchesse de Châteauroux.
Jeanne Antoinette was invited to a royal masked ball at the Palace of Versailles on the night of 25 to 26 February 1745, one of the many fêtes given to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin Louis de France (1729-1765) to the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain (1726-1746). At the chosen moment in the Galerie des glaces, eight costumed figures appeared, dressed as topiary figures, one of which was the King in disguise (an event preserved in a watercolor by Charles Cochin). By chance or design, Jeanne Antoinette, dressed as a shepherdess, had found her prey and soon the King removed his headdress and engaged her in courtly conversation. By March, she was the King's mistress, installed at Versailles in an apartment directly below his. On 7 May, the official separation between her and her husband was pronounced.
To be presented at court, she required a title. The King purchased the marquisate of Pompadour on 24 June and gave the estate, with title and coat-of-arms, to Jeanne Antoinette, making her a Marquise. On 14 September, she was formally introduced to the court by the king's cousin, the Princess de Conti. She quickly mastered the highly-mannered court etiquette. Her mother died on Christmas Day of the same year, and did not live to see her daughter's achievement at becoming the undisputed royal mistress.