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The Queen's Necklace: Marie Antoinette and the Scandal that Shocked and Mystified France (Phoenix Press) Paperback – September 1, 2004
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This book is a series of fascinating first person accounts of how the necklace swindle occurred and the trial that followed it. Most of the people involved in the scandal wrote their memoirs and virtually all the court related documentation is still available in France in archives. This book is a compilation of these memoirs and legal statements made by all the parties involved in this crime which opened the monarchy and France to the fury of the revolution.
The author does not impose her own interpretation of the events on the reader, but does provide explanations to the backgrounds of the people involved and the social and political niceties of the time that explain why people acted as they did.
This book is a lively account of this important French scandal that, because of the first person accounts, reads like a novel. If the story wasn't true it would be hard to credit such a cast of interesting characters, with their extravagant and wildly different backgrounds, coming together like this to play a crucial role in the downfall of the French Monarchy. Its also very interesting to compare this book to what is portrayed in the movie of the same name. There are a number of very significant differences!
It was a delightful read with virtually no connection to the movie of the same name. What a wasted opportunity that was! The real story is the stuff of movie making, had the writer and producer used this book, the film might have been a hit. Sophia Coppola, with her "Marie Antoinette" film could have benefitted from this book as it accurately presents Marie Antoinette at a time when her fate had already been decided in the minds of the public by libelous pamphleteers and the actions of such self-interested, self-involved charlatans as Madame La Motte-Valois, the central character in this story.
I was fortunate to be able to see the San Francisco Legion of Honor exhibit on Marie Antoinette and the Grand Trianon as I was reading this book. It served to reinforce what a great book this is.
Arrives an adventuress, Jeanne de Valois, false Countess de La Motte and true descendant of the former Valois reigning dynasty. She approaches the Cardinal with the assertion that she is a very intimate friend of the Queen, and can, provided that the price be right, reinstate the prelate into Marie-Antoinette's good graces.
At first Jeanne is content with extorting substantial sums of money from the Cardinal, but soon she indicates that the Queen is extremely desirous of acquiring the Diamond Necklace, a jewel of monstrous proportions that the official Court jewelers, Messieurs Boehmer and Bassenge, have been trying to sell, first to Louis XVI, then to every other sovereign in Europe, for over a decade. The Queen, according to Madame de La Motte, had to decline the necklace, when it had been offered to her by the King, because of the overwhelming budget troubles faced by the kingdom, but in fact she cannot live without it. She absolutely wants it. The Cardinal, if he accepts to act as a "front" for the Queen in the purchase, will secure her eternal gratitude.Read more ›