Marie Antoinette, known for her lavish lifestyle of self-indulgence, possessed what is now one of the 14 Most Expensive Jewels In The World—a sparkling diamond necklace with one lush 1.84 karat pink diamond and two yellow accent diamonds of 7.06 and 5.24 karats.
Although the beautiful and spoiled queen lived an indulgent life during the first years of her husband King Louis XVI’s reign, the tide would turn and the family would experience several tragedies including the regicide of all members of the entire family except for their daughter, Marie Therese, the sole survivor.
The Blue Hope Diamond Curse: Tragedies Befall Marie Antoinette and the Royal Family
The Death of Baby Sophie: The first child and daughter of Queen Marie Antoinette, Marie Therese, was often seen strolling the gardens of the Petit Trianon at the age of nine with her aunt after the death of her little sister, Sophie, the Queen’s fourth child. Sophie Beatrix died just before her first birthday. Marie Therese, still a child herself, adored her little sister. The death of Sophie made a lasting impression on Marie Therese, who insisted on diligently watering the chrysanthemums in the garden to fervently keep the favorite flowers of her aunt alive.
After the tragedy, the heartbroken Marie Antoinette asked the family’s favorite artist to remove baby Sophie from the family portrait below and leave in her place, an empty cradle.
Princess Sophie Helene Beatrix of France, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, 9 July 1786 to 19 June 1787.
Tragedy Strikes Again.
The young queen was soon to be plagued by tragedy again in her short lifespan. Although Marie Antoinette was seen as a young idol when she first arrived in the French capital, 30 people were trampled to death in the crowd of 50,000 Parisians who came to see the beautiful young princess, their next Queen. The death of 30 Parisians marked the beginning of a black cloud over the new Queen’s reign.
Tragedy Strikes a Third Time.
The Hope Diamond, known at the time as the “Blue Diamond of the Crown,” was set in gold and suspended on a ribbon that the king wore around his neck on ceremonial occasions. The royal family was said to be in possession of the Hope Diamond, also known as the French Blue, at the beginning of the French Revolution the night that the guards stormed the Versailles Palace. In 1792, during the early stages of the Revolution, thieves broke into the Royal Storehouse and looted the crown jewels. At this time, the French Blue disappeared from history.
Alternatively, other historians conjecture that when the royal family fled France to escape captivity and the bloodthirsty revolutionaries, Marie Antoinette secretly smuggled the royal jewels out of France using her royal hairdresser, Monsieur Léonard in an effort to have the jewels available to her after their escape. The Queen’s hairdresser, Léonard Autié, is also famous for being the creator of Marie Antoinette’s famous French pouf (click on my blog here titled “Marie Antoinette – A Notorious Beauty at the Court of Versailles, France.”
Not surprisingly, the royal family’s flight to Varennes was thwarted during their poorly planned escape when a local townsperson in the countryside near the French border recognized the King’s face openly viewable in the carriage window. Was it the curse of the Hope diamond? Historical records tell the tale of how the Queen insisted on packing and taking along an extensive list of possessions including her wardrobe of newly ordered gowns and even her writing desk, which slowed their travel progress and contributed to their capture. According to this alternative view of the disappearance of the royal jewels, after the failed attempt by King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette to flee France, the jewels of the French Royal Treasury were turned over to the revolutionary government. In September of 1792 during the time of the week-long riots and rebellious looting that further fueled the revolution, the citizens of France broke into the Royal Treasury and the crown jewels, along with the French Blue diamond, were stolen. Thus, the French Blue diamond disappeared again.
What happened to the famous French Blue? In September of 1812, the French Blue diamond resurfaced in the possession of a London diamond merchant in the United Kingdom and was rumored to have possibly been in the possession of King George IV of England, which leads one to question how the French Blue came into the hands of the English King? However, upon King George IV’s death, the French Blue diamond disappeared once again. Some suggest that the French Blue may have been stolen by the King’s mistress, Lady Conyngham, or sold through private means with the funds being used for payment of the King’s exorbitant personal debts. But the French Blue was not lost for long.
Later in 1839, the French Blue reappeared in a catalogue of the gem collection of Henry Philip Hope. By this date, the French Blue had been reset as a medallion, surrounded by sixteen smaller white, pear-shaped and cushion cut diamonds. The beautiful French Blue was now renamed the blue Hope Diamond since it was often worn by Thomas Hope’s widow to society balls.
Brief History of the Hope Diamond
The fascinating history of the beautiful blue diamond, which was renamed the Hope diamond, originally began when the French merchant traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, purchased a 112 3/16-carat diamond. The violet blue diamond, which was found in the Kollur mine in Golconda, India, was triangular in shape and crudely cut. In 1668, Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France along with 14 other diamonds. In 1673 the violet blue diamond stone was recut by Sieur Pitau, the court jeweler, into a stunning 67 1/8-carat stone described as an intense steely-blue, which earned the unparalleled stone the name of the “Blue Diamond of the Crown,” or the “French Blue.”
During his rule in 1749, King Louis XV had the stone reset by his court jeweler, Andre Jacquemin, and fashioned into a ceremonial jewelry piece for the Order of the Golden Fleece. From this point, the French Blue began to weave its presence in and out of history, all the while some say severely altering the fate of its owners with tragedy. For further reading on the Hope Diamond, refer to the Smithsonian Institute site.
Interestingly enough and more recently, the Hope Diamond has been worn by the great Dane of the glamorous socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, as portrayed in the photo below.
For those of you who are want to know more about the Hope Diamond, here are the jewel’s details:
Weight: 45.52 carats Dimensions: Length 25.60 mm, Width 21.78 mm, Depth 12.00 mm Cut: Cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion Clarity: VS1. Whitish graining is present Color: Fancy dark grayish-blue
Further reading on the extensive history of the mysterious Hope Diamond along with current events can be found by clicking on the image below:
In summary, some say that the curse of the Hope Diamond brought about Marie Antoinette’s early death. A likeness of the Queen shown below can be viewed in Madam Tussaud’s wax museum.
For Your Movie Viewing Pleasure
If you love historical novels and movies, you may enjoy Kiera Knightly in The Duchess.
The 2008 movie, directed by Saul Dibb, is a depiction of the true story of the 18th-century Duchess of Devonshire, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage and falls in love with a young politician. This film adaptation of Amanda Foreman’s bestselling novel “Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire” also won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
View trailer by clicking on the above photo
For the next installment of Life in the time of Marie Antoinette, sign up for Lorrie Anne’s next newsletter at lorrieanne.com.
Next up, we will don our tiaras and be dazzled by the most famous and most expensive jeweled crowns of royalty through time.
You won’t want to miss my next blog, so subscribe now at lorrieanne.com.
Lorrie Anne is a historical author who loves palaces, balls with beautiful French gowns, eating tea and crumpets, and basically anything a royal princess would do. She is fascinated with Marie Antoinette, Queen Victoria, and the Empress Sissi of Austria. She loves traveling around Europe and writing about the many places she visits to share the fascinating stories of history with you.
Nicole de Reyniès, Mobilier domestique: Vocabulaire typologique. Paris: Centre des monuments nationaux, Éditions du patrimonie, 2003, vol. 2, 944–5.
Smithsonian. (2018). The Hope Diamond. The History of the Hope Diamond. Obtained on September 16, Retrieved at https://www.si.edu/spotlight/hope-diamond/history