Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, the notorious mistress of Louis XV, was guillotined on December 8, 1793. Madame du Barry was the successor of Madame de Pompadour in Louis XV's affections. At the court of Versailles she belonged to the party opposing the Choiseul-Pompadour clique which had arranged the marriage of the Dauphin Louis-Auguste to Marie-Antoinette of Lorraine-Austria. Madame du Barry was allied with the royal family, who were against the Austrian marriage. The daughters of Louis XV, although she was more or less on their side, would have disliked anyone who shared their father's bed, on moral grounds. It was they who encouraged the teenage Marie-Antoinette not to speak to Madame du Barry. The young princess shunned the courtesan, causing a diplomatic crisis. The aunts were not always prudent in the guidance of their nephew's bride, whom they ultimately damaged through their own pettiness and gossip.
Much has been made of Marie-Antoinette's refusal to speak to the royal mistress, but it was the kind of power play that happened in courts all over Europe. I sometimes wonder that if Marie-Antoinette had lived to be an old lady and had died peacefully in her bed, if anyone in posterity would have given the incident between her and Madame du Barry a second thought. Because Marie-Antoinette died stripped of all human dignity, after being destroyed in practically every way a woman can be destroyed, with her reputation in shreds, people are always looking for reasons that led to such a dreadful fate. Hence the focus on the early rift with Du Barry, which but for the debacles that followed, would have been forgotten.
It is said that Madame du Barry became hysterical on her way to execution, begging them not to hurt her. Her last words to the executioner: "Encore un moment, monsieur le bourreau, un petit moment." ("One moment more, executioner, one little moment.") Unfortunately for her, the moment had passed.