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Alice Mackrell

[Bécu, Marie-Jeanne]

(b Vaucouleurs, Lorraine, Aug 19, 1746; d Paris, Dec 8, 1793).

French royal favourite, patron and collector. She was the daughter of Anne Bécu, a dressmaker, who took her to Paris at eight years old. She was educated at the convent of the Daughters of St Aure and in 1760 became an assistant in the shop in Paris of the celebrated dressmaker Labille. She came to the attention of Comte Jean du Barry, who installed her in his house in the Rue de la Jussienne, where she presided over a celebrated literary salon. In 1768 she married her protector’s brother, Comte Guillaume du Barry, as was required for her presentation at court in 1769; by that time she had already become the mistress of Louis XV. Beautiful, graceful and intelligent, she became the last enduring liaison of the King’s life.

Like the Marquise de Pompadour, her predecessor, Mme du Barry came to dominate French fashion and was a great patron of the arts. In ...