EP 12: Paris History Avec a Hemingway (Marie Antoinette Part 2)

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Jun 08 2020 28 mins  

The marriage bed to a necklace that brought down a queen  When we left off in last week's podcast episode, part une of Marie Antoinette she had just married Louis XVI and became the Dauphine of France. Just 14 years old, embarking on a life and the future queen of France with a tragic end we know so well. On the night of May 16, following a long day of ceremony and parties the young couple took to their bed. The bed was blessed by the Archbishop while members of the court watched, closing the curtain the two were left somewhat alone. However, nothing would happen, nothing would happen for seven years. The issues in the bedroom was the talk of France and even past its borders. How can the now king rule from the throne if he couldn’t even give the country an heir. Marie Antoinette’s mother was also quite concerned and let her know what her important role was. During this time to avoid the constant rejection of her husband she turned to friends, parties, all night gambling. The rumors began to turn to her and how she spent her time. Finally after seven long years the marriage was consummated and the next year their first child was born. The talk of the spending of the court while the coffers were empty was picking up momentum in France. Marie Antoinette’s shopping for dresses, shoes and jewelry didn’t play out well when people were starving. She became the perfect unknowing victim of a plot that would be her downfall. Jeanne de la Motte would use this to her advantage. In 1772 King Louis XV wanted to have a necklace made for his mistress Madame du Barry and asked jewelers Boehmer & Bassange to create a lavish gift. Taking years to gather the more than 600 diamonds needed, Louis XV would die before it was finished. Left with a very expensive necklace on their hands without being paid they reached out to Louis XVI thinking he would want to buy it for his queen. With a very high price tag, the queen refused telling her husband “we have more need of 24 ships”. However, it could also be that she never liked Du Barry and didn’t want to have anything intended for her. Once word had spread throughout Paris, the jewelers reached out to Jeanne in hopes to appeal to Marie Antoinette and to buy the necklace.  Jeanne told Rohan that the Queen wanted the necklace but needed someone to get it for her. Jeanne forged a letter and a purchase order for the necklace and he took it to Boehmer. Handing over the necklace to Rohan, he then took it to meet Jeanne and what he thought was one of the Queen’s valets. It was Jeanne’s husband who promptly took the necklace, broke it apart and sent the jewels around Europe to be sold. Months went by and when Boehmer still hadn’t been paid he went to the court with the order signed by the Queen. She had never seen it before. Rohan was arrested in the Hall of Mirrors, would go on trial and be found innocent. Jeanne de la Motte would also be arrested, sentenced to prison but would break out one day dressed as a boy and flee to London.. The Affair of the Diamond Necklace led to her final fall that was to come in just a few years. Today that necklace would be worth over $15 million dollars and held 2800 carats and 685 diamonds. When I saw a replica at the exhibit at the Conciergerie I gasped, but then again I love an over the statement piece.

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