Madame de Pompadour's Staircase

Nancy Mitford describes how Louis XV never talked politics out of the Council Chamber. Hunting was his only distraction until Madame de Pompadour introduced him to “plans and designs ... bibelots and stuffs ... gaiety and lightness.”

“It isn’t you he loves,” the Marechale I de Mirepoix used to say to Madame de la Pompadour, “it’s your staircase.” And very naturally indeed the King loved the staircase at the top of which he found this delicious creature, this lively clever companion, waiting to concentrate on him and his entertainment. The rooms to which the staircase led are on the second floor of the north wing; visitors to Versailles, coming into the garden through the usual entrance, should count the nine top windows from the north-west comer: they were hers at this time. We still see what she saw from her little balcony between the statues on the colonnade—the Parterre du Nord, the fountains of mermaids and cupids, the Bassin de Neptune, and over the trees of the park, cut into solid walls of leaves, the endless forest of Marly. We still hear the great clock on the parish church, the organ in the palace chapel so few yards away, the birds in the park, and the frogs in the Bassin de Neptune quacking like ducks. But we do not hear the King’s hunt in the forest, the hounds and the horns and the King’s curious husky voice giving the view halloo.

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