Another cause of the French Revolution: the diamond necklace affair [next article. The Storming of the Bastile]. The diamond necklace rocked the foundations of the monarchy, and gave the people and opportunity to set themselves against the royal family, leading to political unrest, and ultimately the revolution.
{Pre Revolution Marie Antoinette}
At 15 Marie Antoinette entered France and Austrian “princess” (she was later called Austrian Duchess, which in French was very similar sounding to female dog) daughter of Marie Thérèsa. From there she became dauphine of France, and soon after Queen. Unlike her shy husband, Marie Antoinette was very proud and arrogant; she came from the Habsburg line- the oldest royal family in Europe! Many of the old nobility resented her pride, and how she disrespected court etiquette and didn’t invite them to her balls and card games. They gossiped about her lack of male heir- though it was due to Louis’s impotence, no fault of her own. Marie Antoinette spent lavishly on jewels, balls, and gardens and country houses. She was often in debt after gambling. When Louis finally had an operation, and Marie Antoinette had three children, she began to mature. But by then it was to late, pamphlets and compromising pictures of Marie Antoinette had been circulated, she was hated by France.
{The Affair}
Louise René Edouard de Rohan was the Cardinal of France. He however, was in disfavour of the queen. He had been at court at Austria, and Marie Thérèsa had disliked him. Her daughter followed her mother in this. Rohan believed rumours of Marie Antoinette having love affairs, and hoped to gain royal favour through her, to be a part of her royal circle. Ambition blinded him.
The Countess de Lamotte was a member of the Valois family, though he was very poor. After becoming mistress to Rohan, she convinced him that he was indeed in the Queen’s favour.
Soon the necklace enters: at 2800 carats, with a choker of 17 diamonds of 5-8 carats, with a 3-wreathed festoon and pendants hanging from it, a necklace proper [double row of diamonds around an eleven carat stone], and hanging from the necklace: a four knotted tassel. In France 1 600 000 lives – about 100 million today.
This necklace had been intended for Madam du Barry, mistress of the late king Louis XV. However, before completion, the king had died and du Barry had been long banished from court. The jeweller, Charles Bohmer, hoped the queen would buy it, however even she knew it was a waste of money, better spent on a war ship then on a necklace, no matter how beautiful the necklace.
Lamotte used Rohan and Bohmer. She told them that the queen wished to buy the necklace secretly, and forged letters (signed Marie Antoinette of France. This proved that it was forged, as she never signed herself of France) of the queen expressing interest. After some time Rohan wanted more than letters- he wanted the queen! While he waited in the garden Madam d’Olivia [who Lamotte found to be so like Marie Antoinette in appearance] dressed in a dress of the Queen’s, gave Rohan a Rose, and told him “all may be forgive him” before she ran off.
When the time had come to pay for the necklace – which Lamotte had given to her husband, who took it a part and sold it – the plot was disclosed. A public trial was held – and this was un heard of in France – but Marie Antoinette had her reputation to consider – and Lamotte was found guilty. Lamotte was beaten and branded crying out “It was the queen who should be branded, not me.”
Though not the final cause of the revolution [Even as the American Revolution could have stopped after the Boston Tea Party] the diamond necklace affair undermined the monarchy. Those in France who believed the queen wasn’t capable of something like this diminished by the minute. More scandalous stories spread across France about the Queen. 7 years later the queen was without a head.