La Vie Creative

EP 137: Paris History Avec A Hemingway (Madame Campan)

August 16, 2021 Krystal Kenney Episode 137
La Vie Creative
EP 137: Paris History Avec A Hemingway (Madame Campan)
Show Notes

Madame Campan was one of the only women to work for Marie Antoinette, survive the Revolution, work for Napoleon and end with another Bourbon king when most didn’t survive past Marie Antoinette. Jeanne-Louise Henriette Campa was born October 2, 1752 in Paris. Her father was a foreign affairs clerk sent to London to work on the 1763 peace treaty and took a large role in her education. Teaching her italian and english she also became well versed in the piano, guitar and harp.


At 16 years old she became the reader to the daughters of Louis XV and two years later the lady in waiting to the young and shy Marie Antoinette. The two became very close as they were so near in age. The day after Louis XV died and Marie was named queen Jeanne-Louise married Pierre Francois Berthollet. The marriage resulted in a son, Henri but that was about it. The two separated but never divorced and she spent all her time at Versailles. 

On October 6, 1789 as the royal family left Versailles behind, Campan was by their side and remained until June 20, 1791 when they tried to escape. After leaving court she created a boarding school in Saint Germain en Laye for the daughters of the French elite. Attendees included the sisters and nieces of Napoleon and the daughter of Josephine. Napoleon was very impressed by Madame Campan and in his wish to bring back to etiquette of the court of Versailles he tapped Campan as his Madame Etiquette. 

Josephine did not enjoy her input that forced her to sit and watch Napoleon eat and how she must carry herself at events. After Bonaparte was ousted and Louis XVIII arrived Campan was asked again to court. Madame Royale, the daughter and only surviving member of the family of Marie Antoinette who remembered her as a child asked how she was able to survive and lived so well during the Napoleon years. It ended her run at the palace once and for all. 

Madame Campan had surgery while suffering from cancer in February 1822 and died a month later at 69 years old on March 16, 1822.  Few people survived to tell the tale of three reigns of French power and do it so elegantly. 

Listen to the full story today on La Vie Creative - Paris History Avec a Hemingway

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