‘Jeanne Du Barry’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: What Happened To Jeanne In Her Later Life?


Jeanne du Barry is a French historical drama film that opened the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, but sadly, there is too little to watch in this visually pleasing but otherwise empty work. Starring Maiwenn, who is also the director and producer, as the titular figure and Johnny Depp as King Louis XV, the film presents the tale of the historic Madame du Barry, who rose from impoverishment to a life in the Versailles court. The locations used for the shoot, including many real palaces, and adequate cinematography, make up for an average watch, while the content and performances in Jeanne du Barry may keep one wondering about the purpose of the film.

Spoiler Alert

Plot Summary: Who was Jeanne du Barry?

As claimed by Maiwenn’s Jeanne du Barry, Jeanne Faubernier was born to a monk and a cook outside of any wedlock, making her an illegitimate child destined to grow up in poverty and neglect. Since her mother Anne raised Jeanne by herself, the two stayed at Anne’s employer’s house. The employer, Mr. Domoso, was extremely kind and loving towards young Jeanne, and he often let the girl sit with him at parties and intellectual gatherings. During this time, the girl received some primary education with the help of her generous employer, who then also decided to guide Jeanne further. The erstwhile societal conditions made girls belonging to the common class very susceptible to various unforeseen situations, and in order to avoid such matters, Mr. Domoso got Jeanne admitted to a monastery to receive her education.

As Jeanne grew up, her interest in love and romance grew, as is normal for a certain age, and the strict regulations of the monastery started to get in the way of her wishes. The teenager would often sneak out of the place and read various books by herself, which ultimately led her to get expelled from the monastery. As Anne was still working at Mr. Domoso’s house, and it was he who had been bearing the cost of all of Jeanne’s education, the girl returned to the same house. Her and the employer’s relationship remained as good as ever, and the man still helped her with reading and other facets of education. But Jeanne was not a young child anymore, and her youthfulness made Mrs. Domoso nervous. Seeing the teenager spend so much time with her husband alone, Mrs. Domoso falsely accused Anne and Jeanne of thievery and got them ousted from the house.

Moving to Paris, the two women struggled to survive until Jeanne was appointed as the reader of a rich woman, Madame de la Garde. While this job turned out to be an enriching experience for Jeanne, as her knowledge was also sharpened, it did not last very long. The employer caught Jeanne intimate with her two sons and immediately turned her away from her house. Although unwilling to sell her body earlier, Jeanne now had no option but to become a prostitute for the sake of her and her mother’s livelihood. 

How did Jeanne first meet King Louis XV?

A few years after moving to Paris and having started work as a sex worker, Jeanne Faubernier met a renowned nobleman, John du Barry, who would often visit the brothel she was at. Despite all the difficulties she had faced in life this far, Jeanne was determined to somehow turn her situation around. Being an extremely charming and beautiful woman came to her aid, and John was very swiftly smitten by her. The man proposed to take her away from the brothel to his own house, where she could live with her mother, and Jeanne agreed. Although he was never offering her the respect of a wife, John had very different intentions for helping Jeanne progress in life. Now staying at his house, the woman still had to sleep around with various men, as John was essentially pimping her himself. The man would sometimes use Jeanne as bait to earn good relations and political favors, while at other times, he would simply charge money from the men who came.

Jeanne was understandably not comfortable with this arrangement, especially since John would also bring his other lovers to their house. Gradually, their relationship got worse, as the man would often physically assault her as well, but there was no respite for her. Around this time, he was also very interested in introducing the woman to King Louis XV, presumably in order to better his relationship with the ruler of the country. Although Jeanne initially denied doing so, it was later the high-ranking politician, Duc de Richelieu, who convinced her otherwise. If noticed by the King and made one of his mistresses, Jeanne’s life would significantly change for the better, and her mother, Anne, was also of the same opinion. Jeanne then finally agreed to go meet with the King.

A few days later, at the palace in Versailles, Jeanne and Louis XV saw each other for the first time, and as Jeanne du Barry presented it, the King was smitten at this very first glance. Very soon, he sent his trusted valet, La Borde, to John du Barry’s house in order to fetch the woman. Both John and Jeanne had been waiting for this call, for she seemed impressed by the handsome King as well. Despite everyone else’s advice, Jeanne does not spend any time or effort getting herself prepared for the visit. Instead, she relies on her natural beauty, somehow knowing that it would be enough to get the attention of the King.

How did Jeanne and Louis XV’s relationship develop?

After being taken to the palace, Jeanne was first examined by doctors and specialists, mostly to understand whether she was carrying any venereal diseases. Once she was found to be healthy enough, the woman was taught some basic manners and etiquette of the court, which were to be followed in front of the King. Among these was the custom to never turn one’s back on the King, as only the Dauphin, meaning the royal heir, had the permission to do so. Everyone else, including Jeanne, was to walk backward out of the room once they were supposed to leave or to even move inside the room. At this point, Jeanne thought that La Borde would also take advantage of her, for she was accustomed to men at every level and step taking her body for granted. However, La Borde was of different principles, and over the years, he formed a genuine bond of respect and love with Jeanne.

Once Jeanne was allowed to enter King Louis’ room, she did not have to put much effort into charming the man, and she impressed him even more than before. Among the characteristics that the King liked in her was Jeanne’s direct confrontation with the baseless norms, as she very openly stated that she would turn her back on the ruler and not walk in the ridiculous manner that everyone else followed. Sleeping with the King came with an added advantage—his mistresses were allowed to stay back inside a hidden room in his chamber, where they could witness the activities of the court the next morning. Jeanne also receives this opportunity, with some extra attention from the King himself, making it clear that it is she who still lingers in his memory.

Sometime later, Louis XV’s official wife, Queen Maria Leszczynska, passed away, clearing up the space for Jeanne to be officially announced. Although Louis and Jeanne’s bond had now grown into a strong and loving affair, their relationship was not publicly known, as announcing it would be scandalous. However, now, after the Queen’s death, King Louis wanted to publicly announce Jeanne as a mistress and “favorite” of his, which meant she would officially accompany him on his travels and during his leisure as well. Such an arrangement was difficult to make, though, because Jeanne belonged to the common class and was also once a sex worker. But had she been married to a man of high society, then the King could easily take her away as his mistress, with no shame or scandal.

As a solution to the problem, John, or Comte, du Barry, married Jeanne on the orders of the King, and the woman was given the name Jeanne du Barry. Although the film does not make mention of it, John also pulled some strings and managed to change Jeanne’s background legally during this marriage, making her appear to be of high social class. Now, with the heavy and noble name of du Barry, Jeanne could be easily taken to Versailles by King Louis, and soon, such a ceremony was held. Even during this public occasion, Jeanne did away with most of the conservative and mindless customs, and she rather enjoyed herself at the special event. As taught by La Borde, Jeanne knew that expressing oneself in court was not allowed and that it was considered outright vulgar for the woman to look directly into the King’s eyes. Not taking any of these absurd rules seriously, Jeanne celebrated her official union with King Louis; as for someone like her, this was the closest she could get to marrying the King. But it is also to be noted in this regard that Jeanne du Barry starts off with the promise of telling the story of a woman who had perhaps brought about some exceptional changes in history. However, when the time to show such greatness arrives in the film, Jeanne does not really do much other than not follow a few meaningless customs and dress in the clothes of a man in one or two instances.

Jeanne du Barry then takes a turn towards a different problem—that of Jeanne not being accepted by many in the court. Louis’ three daughters were immediately enraged by their father’s decision to take a mistress so early after their mother’s death. At some point, when the Dauphin brought over his own bride from Austria, Marie Antoinette, these sisters put their trust in the Queen-to-be. Putting poison in young Antoinette’s ears, they convinced her that she should oust Jeanne from the palace and royal life. Doing this directly was not possible since her husband was not the King yet, and so Antoinette started to ignore Jeanne completely, never talking to her in public or in private. This seemingly insignificant matter created a lot of discussion and tension in French royalty and perhaps in society as well. Accordingly, the film also creates much drama about the incident. However, Marie Antoinette did indeed publicly speak to Jeanne some time later, leading to her exuberantly celebrating the occasion, at least according to the film.

What Happened To Jeanne In Her Later Life?

Although Marie Antoinette’s acknowledgment of her did comfort Jeanne du Barry, as this meant that she was officially acknowledged by the royal family, her life gradually filled with sorrows. The first of these was regarding the sudden accidental death of Adolf, the son of John du Barry. Although Adolf was not her biological son, Jeanne was extremely attached to the boy, and so she struggled to accept his loss. While this incident took place before the grand occasion of Antoinette speaking to her, what followed in some time was Louis XV himself falling extremely sick.

The man was diagnosed with smallpox, and he died shortly afterward. Jeanne was taken away to a monastery to live a year in captivity before the next King, Louis XVI, released her. The woman then went to live in Lovcen for the next fifteen years, until her ultimate fate during the French Revolution. During this time, Marie Antoinette reunited with Jeanne, mending their broken relationship, but both represented a social class that had oppressed and unjustly ruled over the common masses for centuries. Jeanne du Barry was the third royal member to be beheaded at the guillotine, even though she did not really belong to the family per se and had to fight throughout her life to belong to the high class. Jeanne du Barry‘s ending does not show any of this visually, though, as it ends with this information narrated in the background.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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