The Characters #5: Nicole d’Oliva
I’ve come across some varying versions of Nicole d’Oliva’s name, but from what I can gather, her true name was Marie Nicole Leguay d’Oliva. She was also christened “Baronness [‘Barone’ in French] d’Olisva” by the Comtesse de La Motte. She was also known around the Palais Royal and to the police as Mlle de Designy. Most descriptions give her name as Nicole d’Oliva, however (many people at this time had two or more first names and used the second, in this case Nicole).
Young Nicole was born in Paris in 1761, “of honest if humble family. She says in her memoirs that her “first misfortune was to be orphaned at too tender an age, deprived of parents’ care and vigilance which would have warded off the dangers inevitable to an unprotected girlhood”.
Nicole did not have any guidance or opportunities in her life. Like many women before and since, she was given very options and turned to prostitution. The oldest profession has many different levels, from the cheap hooker on the corner to the well-kept maitresse en titre, a woman who had a semi-official role and title as the mistress of the king. During Nicole’s childhood, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry were the first ladies in the land, the mistresses of Louis XV. Nicole may have looked to their example of what even an uneducated, unprivileged young woman could accomplish. No doubt she aspired to creating a comfortable life for herself. However, she was still pretty far down on the ladder of life.