Royal Scandal Affair of the Diamond Necklace
Marie Antoinette was a frivolous, silly woman interested in dancing, clothes and jewels. She was the perfect victim of the diamond necklace plot. She was innocent of any wrongdoing but the scandal ultimately destroyed her. Napoleon Bonaparte later stated that “The Queen’s execution must be dated from the Diamond Necklace Trial.”
It all started with the Queen’s mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. She was in a political feud with Cardinal Prince de Rohan. He was from a prominent family but since the feud with her mother, his queen would have nothing to do with him. The cardinal was anxious to gain royal favor and was also very attracted to Marie Antoinette. This made him a good target for some wily con-artists.
His mistress, Jeanne, Countesse de la Motte told him that she was a close friend of the queen and would act as an intermediary for him in his pursuit of the queen. She had Count Cagliostro forge letters from the queen and arranged a meeting in a dark garden at Versailles. She hired a look alike prostitute as a substitute for the queen. She didn’t talk but she gave his a rose as a sign she forgave him for the fight with her mother.
Now the countesse had the cardinal hooked, the count forged a new letter from the queen asking him to buy her a fabulous diamond necklace. The necklace had been made for the late Louis XV to give to his mistress, Madame du Barry. The King had died before he could pay for the necklace and the jewelers, Boehme and Bassenge, still had the necklace. They wanted 6 million livres for it and Marie Antoinette wanted it.
The cardinal took the letter to the jewelers and picked up the necklace. He gave it to the countess to give to his queen. But the countess immediately gave it to her husband, who had been helping her in the sting. He took it to England, where the very large, ugly necklace was broken up and sold.
The cardinal was paying for the necklace in installments and the jewelers sent a bill to the queen. She , of course, knew nothing about it and refused to pay. She pointed out that the letter was a forgery and the king agreed. Cardinal Rohan was questioned and then arrested and sent to the Bastille. The king was certain that the cardinal was involved in a plot to embarrass the crown. The countess was eventually rounded up, along with the prostitute who impersonated Marie Antoinette and the forger, Count Cagliostro.
Now that everyone, except the countess’s husband, was in jail, Marie Antoinette wanted a trial to clear her name. This was a big mistake. Rohan was found not guilty as was Cagliostro. The prostitute was sent to prison and Jeanne de la Motte was whipped and branded then sent to a woman’s prison. She drew a life sentence but soon escaped and joined her husband in England.
But Marie Antoinette drew the harshest sentence, the theft and trial destroyed her reputation for once and for all, even though she was completely innocent. The Queen was so frivolous that people believed she could covet the necklace and the trial just drew attention to her. She went to the guillotine several years later.