Petticoat Rule by Emma Orczy

Petticoat Rule


3.67 — 3 ratings — 0 reviews

subjects: Historical Fiction

Register for a free account.

All our eBooks are FREE to download! sign in or create a new account.


A story of the French aristocracy, the book concerns Madame de Pompadour’s influence over the King and France.

386 pages, with a reading time of ~6.0 hours (96,543 words), and first published in 1909. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

Community Reviews

Your Review

Sign up or Log in to rate this book and submit a review.

There are currently no other reviews for this book.



“Eh? d’Aumont!”

The voice, that of a man still in the prime of life, but already raucous in its tone, thickened through constant mirthless laughter, rendered querulous too from long vigils kept at the shrine of pleasure, rose above the incessant babel of women’s chatter, the din of silver, china and glasses passing to and fro.

“Your commands, sire?”

M. le Duc d’Aumont, Marshal of France, prime and sole responsible Minister of Louis the Well-beloved, leant slightly forward, with elbows resting on the table, and delicate hands, with fingers interlaced, white and carefully tended as those of a pretty woman, supporting his round and somewhat fleshy chin.

A handsome man M. le Duc, still on the right side of fifty, courtly and pleasant-mannered to all. Has not Boucher immortalized the good-natured, rather weak face, with that perpetual smile of unruffled amiability forever lurking round the corners of the full-lipped mouth?

“Your commands, sire?”

His eyes–gray and prominent–roamed with a rapid movement of enquiry from the face of the king to that of a young man with fair, curly hair, worn free from powder, and eyes restless and blue, which stared moodily into a goblet full of wine.

There was a momentary silence in the vast and magnificent dining hall, that sudden hush which–so the superstitious aver–descends three times on every assembly, however gay, however brilliant or thoughtless: the hush which to the imaginative mind suggests the flutter of unseen wings.

Then the silence was broken by loud laughter from the King.

“They are mad, these English, my friend! What?” said Louis the Well-beloved with a knowing wink directed at the fair-haired young man who sat not far from him.

“Mad, indeed, sire?” replied the Duke. “But surely not more conspicuously so to-night than at any other time?”

“Of a truth, a hundred thousand times more so,” here interposed a somewhat shrill feminine voice–“and that by the most rigid rules of brain-splitting arithmetic!”

Everyone listened. Conversations were interrupted; glasses were put down; eager, attentive faces turned toward the speaker; this was no less a personage than Jeanne Poisson now Marquise de Pompadour; and when she opened her pretty mouth Louis the Well-beloved, descendant of Saint Louis, King of France and of all her dominions beyond the seas, hung breathless upon those well-rouged lips, whilst France sat silent and listened, eager for a share of that smile which enslaved a King and ruined a nation.

“Let us have that rigid rule of arithmetic, fair one,” said Louis gaily, “by which you can demonstrate to us that M. le Chevalier here is a hundred thousand times more mad than any of his accursed countrymen.”

“Nay, sire, ‘tis simple enough,” rejoined the lady. “M. le Chevalier hath need of a hundred thousand others in order to make his insanity complete, a hundred thousand Englishmen as mad as April fishes, to help him conquer a kingdom of rain and fogs. Therefore I say he is a hundred thousand times more mad than most!”

Loud laughter greeted this sally. Mme. la Marquise de Pompadour, so little while ago simply Jeanne Poisson or Mme. d’Étioles, was not yet blasée to so much adulation and such fulsome flattery; she looked a veritable heaven of angelic smiles; her eyes blue–so her dithyrambic chroniclers aver–as the dark-toned myosotis, wandered from face to face along the length of that gorgeously spread supper table, round which was congregated the flower of the old aristocracy of France.

She gleaned an admiring glance here, an unspoken murmur of flattery there, even the women–and there were many–tried to look approvingly at her who ruled the King and France. One face alone remained inscrutable and almost severe, the face of a woman–a mere girl–with straight brow and low, square forehead, crowned with a wealth of soft brown hair, the rich tones of which peeped daringly through the conventional mist of powder.

Mme. de Pompadour’s sunny smile disappeared momentarily when her eyes rested on this girl’s face; a frown–oh! hardly that; but a shadow, shall we say?–marred the perfect purity of her brow. The next moment she had yielded her much-beringed hand to her royal worshipper’s eager grasp and he was pressing a kiss on each rose-tipped finger, whilst she shrugged her pretty shoulders.

“Brrr!” she said, with a mock shiver, “here is Mlle. d’Aumont frowning stern disapproval at me. Surely, Chevalier,” she asked, turning to the young man beside her, “a comfortable armchair in your beautiful palace of St. Germain is worth a throne in mist-bound London?”

“Not when that throne is his by right,” here interposed Mlle. d’Aumont quietly. “The palace of St. Germain is but a gift to the King of England, for which he owes gratitude to the King of France.”