Thursday, 2 June 2005
Marie Antoinette and The Diamond Necklace Affair
The notorious necklace
Marie Antoinette was born Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna in Vienna, Austria, on November 2nd 1755. Daughter of the austere empress Maria Theresa, she was married off to the young Dauphin, the future king Louis XVI of France, at the age of 14. She was thrown into the lavish lifestyle, where the pursuit of pleasure was dominant. She was unhappy in her marriage and sought refuge in an extravagant lifestyle, spending enormous sums of money when she was Queen, thus making herself extremely unpopular with the French people.
One incident, which damaged her reputation to the highest degree, was the so called Diamond Necklace Affair. Chief player in this story was a woman called Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois, comtesse de la Motte, who was a notorious con-woman, sleeping her way to the top while simultaneously claiming to be an aristocrat. At the time Jeanne was having an affir with the Cardinal de Rohan, a gullible man off whom she borrowed large amounts of money and quickly got herself into debt. Jeanne came up with a plan: She knew the cardinal was anxious to get in with the Queen (in more ways than one) so she convinced him that she had access to the Queen and could arrange for a meeting. She told him to write letters to the Queen, which she would deliver personally. Of course, these were not really delivered and Jeanne forged replies to the cardinal, supposedly written by Marie Antoinette. She told de Rohan that the Queen wanted him to buy her a necklace made of 647 diamonds. He believed it and after Jeanne had staged a meeting with a look-alike, he was determined to get it. This particular necklace was so costly it was worth as much as a battle-ship. As soon as the cardinal had purchased it on behalf of the Queen, Jeanne convinced him that she would hand it over to the Queen but instead had her husband smuggle it to England to be sold.
When the jewellers saw that payment was not forthcoming they went straight to the Queen demanding their money. She of course had no idea what they were talking about and once she realised was horrified. She demanded that the cardinal stand trial. De Rohan was acquitted but Jeanne de la Motte was convicted. However, the French people were not convinced that Marie Antoinette had nothing to do with this and her reputation was seriously blemished from that point onwards.
Posted by Anna at Thursday, June 02, 2005