21 August, 2010

Since immemorial times people desire the best, bigger and more expensive materials. The ownership of those acts as a declaration of statu toward the world and toward men. The process of getting them, however, can be very difficult. In 1772 King Luis XV of France ordered to Boehmer et Bassenge, the crown jewelers , the most extraordinary diamonds's necklace ever done until then. Evaluated, by that time, in two million pounds, the jewel, with which the king intended to please he's favourite, Madame du Barry, would never fulfill such purpose. In 1774, two years after the necklace being ordered and before it could be concluded, Luis XV died and du Barry was moved away from the court by Luis XVI, that succeded to his grandfather as King of France. The delayed and hard execution of the necklace dragged the jewelers in demand of the best, the biggest, and the most expensive diamonds. When it was finally concluded, Louis XV's death was a tragic event, since it left the jewelers without a purchaser to the necklace. On selling it or not depended the future of the Maison Boehmer et Bassenge: bankruptcy or glory.

By the time was Queen of France no other than Marie Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsburg. This queen, who was born in the day after to the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, is, maybe, better known for her flamboyency and her role in history as avant-gardist trend setter and fashion victim. Conscientious of that, Boehmer et Bassenge, still without any apt purchaser to pay the excessive price of the necklace, went directly, in 1781, to the court of Versailles looking for to convince the Queen to make the acquisition. Marie Antoinette readily declined the proposal. Her fame of excessive spender mined her reputation so she was able to restrain her impetus and did not acquire the necklace. This categorical and unequivocal refusal of Marie Antoinette left the jewelers in a truily desperate situation. Quickly other protagonists would reach the tram looking for fame and fortune.
From a old dynasty of kings of France, Valois is one of the great historical family names of that country and retraces to centuries before the Bourbons that occupied the throne by the time of this case.
Despite her family glorious background, Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Remy experimented, on her childwood, extreme poverty and beggary. Years later, even after marrying Nicolas de la Motte and create herself Countess de La Motte-Valois her economic condition were still fragile; The King had repeatedly refused the pension that traditionally was granted to the poor nobility and Jeanne, that tried, unsuccessfully, for some times to come close to the queen, hoping that her, as a woman, would understand better her situation, got knowledge of “the seized” necklace. Immediately she idealized a plan that, as she intended, would benefit her.


Louis René Edouard, Prince of Rohan, Cardinal of Strasburg and one of the healthiest men of France was, years before, ambassador of the King to the imperial court of Vienna. Marie Antoinette, who was daugther of the Empress of Austria, Maria Theresia, disdained Rohan since that time. Willing the King to nominate him as prime minister and conscientious that that would never happen without the favor of the Queen, the Cardinal tried desperately to please her. Then is when the Countess first appears, without coincidence, on Rohan's life. Her plan was simple and efficient: she would convince Rohan about her pretense close relations with the Queen and, through a set of signed letters “Marie Antoinette de France”, that Rétaux de Villette, her lover, skillfully had done, she would convince the Cardinal to serve as intermediary of Marie Antoinette to the purchase of the necklace, since, as she explained him, it was not convenient to be public known the Queen's participation in the millionaire transaction. By speeding the purchase of the necklace the Cardinal would enjoy the infuence of the Queen instigating the King to finally nominate him as prime minister of France.

The scheme went well: Rohan intercepted the jewlers delivering them one of Villette's false letters. On that letter Marie Antoinette", apparently changing ideas, explained to Boehmer et Bassenge that the Cardinal were acting on her behalf and requested them to deliver him the necklace so that he could make it arrive to her. The payment should be done later in four installments. On the same night, Rohan delivered the necklace to the Countess who passed it to Rétaux de Villete and to her husband the Count. Both immediately run to sell the now dismantled necklace in Paris and London.

Some months later, still without notices of the Queen to have used the magnificent necklace and without any the installments payed, Boehmer et Bassenge returned to Versailles to ask for satisfactions. The King and the Queen, ignoring all about the case, were scandalized with it. On August 15, 1785, when the whole court was awaiting the King and Queen in order to attend the mass that the Cardinal was intented to officialize, the monarchs requested his presence to justify his participation at the “affair of the diamomd necklace”. Rohan displayed the letters signed Marie Antoinette de France. On reading which the King became furious that a prince of the house of Rohan could have let himself be fooled, since kings and queens of France signed only their first name, without any nickname - and even so, Marie Antoinette would never sign thus as de France since she was de Lorraine-Habsburg, the dinastic name of the emperors of Austria, her parents.
All the involved people - The Count and the Countess, the Prince of Rohan, Villete and other abetters were sentenced.
The public quarrel generated by the “Case of the Diamond Necklace” was one of the first frightenings to the royal authority and marks the beginning of the end of the monarchy in France.
The public, who did not like Marie Antoinette, insisted, unjustly, in blame her for the all and her image would not leave undamaged from the scandal. Rohan would be acquitted in public process; Rétaux de Villete, condemned to the exile; the Count, living in London, would never face justice and the Countess, despite being condemned to life in prision, would soon run away to from Salpêtrière prison. The King and the Queen, afterall the major injureds, would be lead to the guillotine during the French Revolution that would happen in 1789.
The death of the Countess would happen in 1791 from an accidental fall from a window, in London, while she ran away from creditors.
The descendants of the Cardinal continued, until the end of XIXth century paying the debt of the necklace to the descendants of the jewelers.