How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair

Jonathan Beckman

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 0306823551

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1785, a sensational trial began in Paris that would divide the country and captivate Europe. A leading Catholic cardinal and scion of one of the most distinguished families in France stood accused of forging the queen’s signature to obtain the most expensive piece of jewelry in Europe: a 2,800-carat diamond necklace. Where were the diamonds? Was the cardinal innocent? Was, for that matter, the queen? The revelations from the trial would bedevil the French monarchy as the country descended into a bloody revolution.

In How to Ruin a Queen, award-winning author Jonathan Beckman tells of political machinations and enormous extravagance; of kidnappings, prison breaks, and assassination attempts; of hapless French police in disguise, reams of lesbian pornography, and a duel fought with poisoned pigs. It is a detective story, a courtroom drama, a tragicomic farce, and a study of credulity and self-deception in the Age of Enlightenment.

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How to Ruin a Queen Copyright � 2014 by Jonathan Beckman All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information, address Da Capo Press, 44 Farnsworth Street, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02210. Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

go-ahead from the queen in person. Impossible, said Cahouet de Villers, that was not how the queen did business. Instead, she promised that the queen would signal her approval, with a smile and twist of her head, as she walked to Mass. Cahouet de Villers spread word that two women would be sporting particularly elaborate headdresses, and arranged for two friends of hers to be suitably scaffolded and decked out. When the queen noticed them, she reacted as predicted. Bérengar’s money was spent

stood in one of its pans. The king’s stature would be diminished by his embroilment in a public quarrel over the queen’s dignity. And Louis had also submitted not just his wife but himself, his reign and the monarchy to another fickle judge, one swayed more by well-wrought tales than facts, whose sympathies, like spring weather, shifted unpredictably – public opinion. Of more immediate concern to Louis was the allegiance of the parlement of Paris itself. It was not a parliament in the English

into her hand? ‘What you suggest is fantasy.’ Anyone who falls for such ‘an unbelievable fable of stupidities’ must be ‘touched by madness’ – ‘the Académie Française ought never again be open to the cardinal, after having spoken, or got others to speak, such idiocies’. The accusations about her role ‘make me indignant with so many lies and horrors’. But Jeanne did not rely on exasperated outrage alone. More than the other defendants, she was aware that presenting a believable account was more

connections I’d be laughed at and arrested. In a word, I made no use of the signature, and did not profit from it. Titon was flummoxed by the argument, and made no objections during the interrogation. By the récolement, however, a response had been formulated. There was a very simple reason why the writing of the words ‘Marie Antoinette de France’ was a crime: they had been already deemed so by the king’s letters patent. No further quibbling over the matter was possible. For the time being, the

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