Sunday, October 18, 2015

Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace by John E Watkins 1919

Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace by John Elfreth Watkins 1919 from his book _Famous Mysteries_

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The Cardinal de Rohan, Grand Almoner of France, lived in morbid dread of Queen Marie Antoinette's disfavor. His troubles had begun when that hapless Queen once mercilessly snubbed him at court and he was willing to pay any price for restoration to her favor. His plight was one which naturally opened up a fertile field for blackmailers and that class of adventurers who take advantage of persons in trouble. Cagliostro, the celebrated magician, in return for a substantial fee, assured the Cardinal that he had used his mystic powers to regain the Queen's good will. Another agent employed by de Rohan to obtain her Majesty's forgiveness was the Countess de la Motte, a cousin of the King. Coming to him with the claim that she could effect a reconciliation, the Countess had obtained various sums of money from the Cardinal for that purpose.

The late King, the dissolute Louis XV, had ordered for his mistress, the Countess Du Barry, a diamond necklace, valued at a third of a million dollars, but had died before it had been finished by the jewelers. It later changed hands several times and eventually fell into the possession of a firm of Paris jewelers, who, about the time of the Cardinal's employment of the Countess de la Motte, were attempting to sell it to the Queen. But Marie Antoinette rejected it, stating that it was ugly and not to her taste. While the jewelers were nursing their disappointment the Countess de la Motte entered their establishment and informed them that Marie Antoinette really wanted the diamond necklace very badly and hesitated to take it openly because she feared that the purchase would further embitter the common people, who were already railing against her extravagance. The Countess, according to her story, had been appointed as the Queen's secret agent to negotiate the purchase and, leaving the jeweler's shop, she went straightway to Cardinal de Rohan, telling him the same story and assuring him that his favor with the Queen would surely be restored if he would covertly arrange to order the necklace for her, it being agreed that Marie Antoinette should remit for it in four quarterly payments. The Cardinal jumped at the opportunity, and in his presence the jewelers delivered the necklace to the Countess, who turned it over to a man who,
the Cardinal was given to understand, was a secret messenger from the Queen.

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The Cardinal was soon afterward shown by the Countess a number of letters alleged to be from the Queen and greatly complimenting him. Shortly afterward, the Countess delighted him greatly by stating that the Queen desired to meet him secretly in a grove on a certain night. The Cardinal proceeded to the place mentioned and there met a heavily cloaked figure, who presented him with a rose and whispered:

"You may hope that the past is forgotten."

But in spite of all this evidence that the Countess had, in truth, bought for him the Queen's favor with the generous funds that he had given to her, de Rohan's troubles now began to multiply. He anxiously awaited the Queen'e appearance, wearing the necklace, but noted with alarm that she never adorned herself with it. Nor did she relax her cold demeanor toward him at court; nor were his fortunes advanced in any way. Worst of all, the promised quarterly remittances for the diamond necklace were not forthcoming from her majesty. Entering the palace chapel one morning, clothed in his full regalia, and prepared to say high mass, Rohan was apprehended by the King. It appeared that the jewelers, tired of waiting for their money, had commenced to dun the Queen directly, and that she had referred the bill to the King, protesting her ignorance of the charge. The Cardinal made a clean breast of the whole matter to the King, and Marie Antoinette hearing the confession, flew into a rage, branding the Cardinal as a scoundrel. Poor de Rohan, realizing that he had been duped by someone, offered to pay for the necklace out of his own pocket, but the ueen demanded his arrest, and the King signed
the warrant.

Hie trial before Parliament lasted for nine months and stirred all France. The revelations of court intrigue and extravagance which it brought forth hastened the Reign of Terror. Those who heard the evidence could never agree as to whether the Countess de la Motte was really the Queen's secret agent or merely an imposter; whether the letters complimenting de Rohan were really from the Queen or skilful forgeries; whether the man to whom the diamond necklace was given was acting for the Countess or the Quean, and whether it was Marie Antoinette
or some one impersonating her who who received the Cardinal in the grove at night.

According to the Queen's witnesses ahe was, without her knowledge, impersonated in the grove by a certain Mlle. d'Oliva.

The trial ended in the acquittal of de Rohan and the public whipping of the Countess de la Motte, who was also branded and sent to prison for a brief term; but the fact that she was allowed unusual luxuries in prison and that d'Oliva was allowed to go scot-free caused many to think that these two women were scapegoats.

The truth as to the diamond necklace will ever remain one of the unfathomable riddles of the court of France.

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