Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, was the last of Louis XV's royal favorites,
rnaitresse en titre, left-handed queens, or the host of other
euphemisms for the King's mistresses. In eighteenth-century France,
the position of rnaitresse en titre was the dream of many
young girls, offering the promise of glamour, riches, adoration, and power,
not unlike contemporary dreams of fame as a film,
star. Jeanne Becu proved to the world that even the illegitimate daughter of
a cuisiniere (female chef) and a monk, inappropriately named
Brother Angel, could make it to the top, provided that she was one of the
most beautiful women in France.
Known as Madame du Barry to the Versailles court, Jeanne was the classic "hooker with a heart of gold." Although she enjoyed the
luxuries of her position, she was noted as much for her kindness,
generosity, and amiability as much as for her extravagance and her beauty.
Although Jeanne Bécu inherited her
mother' s talent in the kitchen, she also was
an advocate of the equality of female chefs as the equal of male chefs. She
secretly hired a female chef to prepare an extravagant dinner at one of the
nobles castles that she, Louis, and his retinue were visiting.
overwhelmed with the dinner and asked to meet the chef. The king was
dumbfounded that the chef was a woman. du Barry convinced Louis to present
her chef with the cordon blue, the Royal Order of St. Esprit for what
became the first cordon blue
du Barry should have stuck with female chefs. After Louis death, she hired
a male chef named Salanave whom she later fired for stealing. Salanave later
lied at her trial during the French Revolution and it was his malicious
that resulted in her execution by guillotine.