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Miss Chon du Barry, sister-in-law of the Countess du Barry


Chon du Barry, whose real name is Françoise-Claire du Barry, daughter of the province, had an extraordinary destiny, living at court thanks to her sister-in-law Jeanne Bécu, the Countess du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV. These two women see their lives linked, to such an extent that it was said "the duo Jeanne and Chon formed two halves of Pompadour"! And Her Highness Princess Adelaide wrote "the Countess du Barry would have been nothing without her sister-in-law, who was nothing without her".

His arrival in the capital

Chon du Barry born in the vicinity of Toulouse around 1730, was called to Paris at the age of 36, by her brother Jean-Baptiste who wanted to marry Jeanne Bécu to Guillaume, the almost twin brother of Chon. This not pretty provincial, even qualified as ugly, petite, limping, celibate, almost virgin, must serve as a chaperone for her future sister-in-law.

Chon thus arrives in the capital, is introduced to the 25-year-old bride-to-be, attends the signing of the marriage contract at the notary. As a witness, she goes from surprise to surprise, is even disgusted, even horrified ... She judges the countess from the first moments: a young woman not very smart, but pretty.

Chon at the King's Court

After Joan's presentation to the Court in April 1769, Chon and her sister Bischi moved into an apartment, admittedly modest but next to Jeanne's. For these provincials with a Gascon accent, it is difficult for them to endure the gibes and the nastiness of the courtiers, to face the gossip and mockery of some as well as to comply with the habits and customs. She describes in spite of herself, the people surrounding the king, as this premonitory portrait of the future Louis XVI "bearing misfortune on his face, one would think he was destined to end up in a public place" ...

Lucky for them, the King likes them, finds them enjoyable and fun, and often makes Chon jump on his knees. "Little Chon," he said at all times, "big Chon, do this, go there!" And the other to multiply, to tell her stanzas that she was mimicking or that she had been sent by La Beaumelle, one of her most tender friends ”. Thus, no one dares to laugh at them out loud! Especially with his outspokenness, Chon often puts courtiers in their place.

As close as possible to the King, they have the opportunity to meet great characters, like Gustave of Sweden, who befriends these two women, because they are not overdone.

As a "chaperone", Chon receives the little sweet words of his Majesty and formulates the answers, so that no one realizes the naivety and the stupidity of Jeanne. It must be said that the provincial has a lot of wit, finesse and mischief. Intelligent, she guides Jeanne, knows how to maneuver to be accepted, and succeeds in having Minister Choiseul dismissed. She also takes the opportunity to marry her brothers.

Everything is for the best until the day when Joan comes across the Almanac announcing misfortunes and predictions in December 1773. The deaths follow one another in the royal entourage until April 1774 and the king himself begins to feel the pain. first discomforts: various ailments and bad smells, until his death.

And as always, from there, the courtiers turn away from them, rumors are rife, they are accused of all misfortunes, receive their letter of exile, are removed from the court but take jewelry and the treasured money, disgrace befalls all of the Barry. They have one small consolation, however: the daughters of the dead king are also exiled and pushed outside the castle.

The exile of the two sisters-in-law

Chon and Jeanne therefore find themselves in exile in the abbey of Pont-aux-Dames. The nuns and the Mother Superior greatly appreciate Jeanne for her kindness, her respect for the rules and her modesty. But Chon is seized with melancholy "I have no more suitors, they noticed that I was not pretty the day after the King's death" and Jeanne replies "Don't be surprised! There are people who, at the same time, dared to notice my imperfections ”.

In 1775, with the jewels brought by Jeanne and the investments made by Chon, they could buy a ruined castle in Saint Vrain, far enough from Versailles where they were allowed to stay. The "ruin" is sold for a profit, and Louis XVI grants them the return to Louveciennes.

They lead a calm life and appreciate the visits of Joseph II, Emperor of Austria, who came to see "the countess so hated by his sister Marie Antoinette", Count Don Olivadès, former introducer of ambassadors, Mr de Brissac, and Mrs Vigée Le Brun. Jeanne still thinks she is in Versailles, is the coquette, wanting to appear 18 years old when she is now 43.

The revolution

From 1789, the rare visitors push them to leave France; Jeanne persists, does not believe in misfortune even when she hears cannonades. She even went so far as to take in two poor Swiss guards who wandered to Versailles after October 6, 1789 ... Chon, who had a feeling that the world was in the midst of a revolution, pushed Jeanne to hide jewels and stones in November 1790, before that the castle is not searched, ransacked and beautiful pieces stolen in January 1791.

When the burglars were found in London in the winter of 1792, the two women left for England and found there, not only part of the jewelry, but also all the exiles of Versailles: Jeanne breathed and rediscovered the atmosphere of the castle. Not being able to understand and not imagining the terror which reigns in France, Jeanne decides to return to her domain of Louveciennes, accompanied by Chon.

Imprisonment

In July 1793, the Committee of Public Safety installs a guard in their castle. They will be accused, imprisoned, then released until Jeanne is definitively arrested for "incivism and aristocracy" by previously succeeding in making Chon escape, who joined Toulouse in October 1793, while her brothers were arrested in Paris.

In Toulouse, all of the du Barrys, including Chon and his sister Bischi, were wanted and imprisoned by the revolutionary police on October 10, 1793, as one can read “Citizens, We continue to take revolutionary measures; 1,500 suspicious people were arrested by our searches in Ariège and Haute Garonne. We hold the entire Parliament of Toulouse in our power; the Barry family is in our hands, we thought that a simple arrest was not enough for the members of this predatory family ... "

Chon is put under lockdown for the same reason for incivism "Françoise-Claire, fifty-nine years old, single, having an income of twenty-one thousand three hundred pounds and a fortune of two hundred four thousand pounds in property, plus a few contracts; of a suspicious and immoral character, having displayed uncivil feelings in all circumstances; deeply regretting the old regime ... "

Chon, Bischi and their sister-in-law Magdelaine, in detention, have to spin hemp, make lint for hospitals, clean hallways, stairs and toilets (worse than barracks chores) until the day Chon sees arrive a fake baroness who swoons when she learns their last name. She has just understood that Jeanne is dead. The only consolation remains for him to play on an abandoned harpsichord with the nuns of Saint-Vincent de Paul.

Freedom regained

The du Barrys disappear one by one; September 26, 1794, the appeal of the condemned is suspended, the prisoners are released except those bearing the famous name of Barry. Chon and his sister will not be until two months later. Recovering all the family papers, Chon leaves for the Louveciennes estate where she unearths the jewelry box. She discovers, not without great emotion, Louis XV's medallions and Jeanne's diamond earrings. She escaped the guillotine and died in 1809 at the age of 75.

According to Frédéric Lenormand "Mademoiselle Chon du Barry"


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