How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair
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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.
célèbres, captioning them ‘comtesse de La Motte’, ‘Mademoiselle d’Oliva’ or ‘Rétaux de Villette’, and sold them by the thousand. Pornographic mannequins of Jeanne in coitus with Rohan and Villette were also available. In London, a tavern in St James’s Street charged five shillings just to see a portrait of Jeanne. The longer Rohan was detained, the more sympathy he accrued. By mid-May 1786, Dorset reported that the ‘whole of public opinion is greatly in [his] favour’. Ballads characterised Rohan
1990) Ferrière, Claude Joseph de, Dictionnaire de droit et de pratique (Paris, 1787) Fierro, Alfred, Histoire et Dictionnaire de Paris (Paris: R. Laffont, 1996) Fitzsimmons, Michael P., The Parisian Order of Barristers and the French Revolution (Cambridge, Mass: HUP, 1987) Fleischmann, Hector, Les pamphlets libertins contre Marie-Antoinette (Paris, 1908) Fosseyeux, Marcel, L’Hotel-Dieu de Paris au XVII et au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1912) Fraser, Antonia, Marie-Antoinette (London: Weidenfeld &
Nicolas La Motte’s claims to responsibility, 126; absence in Bar, 132; leaves Paris, 142, 212; Jeanne’s closeness to, 172–3; handwriting, 208, 216; arrested in Geneva and repatriated to Paris, 209–10; interrogated, 210–11; as forger of Marie Antoinette letters, 211–12, 216, 222; confrontation with Jeanne and Rohan, 216–19, 222–3; denies knowledge of necklace, 218; fears guilty sentence, 223; admits role in affair, 225, 228; interrogated by whole court, 227; verdict and punishments, 241–2, 245,
be precluded in person. Cécile is happy to write to her confidante, Sophie, about her burgeoning love for Danceny, but adds ‘perhaps, even with you, to whom I tell everything, if we were to talk about it I should be embarrassed’. An amorous relationship may smoothly develop because barrages of wit can be traded as more sincere feelings incubate. The physical distance gives an impression of safety, makes it easy to imagine that escape is a simple matter should you begin to feel uneasy. But it is
someone – or at least know someone who knew someone. In December 1784 Achet told the jewellers that his son-in-law Jean-Baptiste Laporte, another lawyer, was an acquaintance of the comtesse de La Motte-Valois, who everyone knew – didn’t they? – was a bosom friend of the queen. Laporte agreed to broach the matter with Jeanne. Jeanne was initially coy, ducking away from any commitment. She did agree to examine the necklace, which gave the jewellers hope of convincing her to intervene, and Jeanne