|Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, The Duchess de Polignac. 1783, oil on canvas. The National Trust Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, UK.|
A year after Marie Antoinette and the Princesse Lamballe teamed up, the comtesse de Polignac enters the picture. She was born in Paris in 1749. Her father was Comte Gabriel Polastron, who had been a member of the household of Marie Antoinette's father-in-law, Louis XVI’s father, the late Dauphine Louis. and her mother was Jeanne Charlotte Hérault, daughter of Rene Hérault who had served on the privy counsel. Their family was more impoverished than wealthy, and had been that way for decades.
|Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Duchesse de Polignac. 1787, Pastel.|
Yolande was introduced at Versailles in September of 1775. Madame Campan recalled that Marie Antoinette was instantly fascinated with her and couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t seen the girl at court before. At learning she was not permitted to attend royal weddings due to her wealth, Marie intended to counteract, “the injustice of wealth.”
|Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Yolande Polignac. 1782, oil on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum.|
She expressed her gratitude for all Marie Antoinette wanted to bestow on her as a favorite but let M.A. know she feared the cost of living at Versailles. Marie consulted Louis XVI about it, and how much she wanted her friend to live near them. The comtesse, later the duchesse, was given her own apartments at Versailles at the top of a marble staircase. She became a favorite, and the Queen would often run to her drawing room to take a needed break from life, or merely gossip.
Little Po is portrayed by writers in two ways, either as an enormous cause of the revolution, scheming to improve her own status and having utter disregard for the state of the country, or she as almost a total pawn a midst needy, greedy and ambitious relatives and associates. Some claimed there had never been a favorite at the court who was less greedy or egotistical. Madame Campan noted that she never saw the duchesse wear diamonds, she could pull off the same effect with a flower in her hair, and that her personality left her free from jealousy and always pleased. While others associated her with the Trianon entertainments described as rude as scandalous orgies!
The Duke de Polignac was secured a job in 1780 as directeur-général des postes and Little Po herself was given the position of gouvernante des Enfants de France. Her, lover, the comte de Vaudreuil also enjoyed living off the benefits of her post, comfortably by the late 1770’s. The Polignacs received a dowrey for their daughter of 800,000 livres, 400,000 livres to pay off various family debts and had won 10,000 in the lottery on pure luck!