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Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

A scene from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
A scene from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

I had a hard time deciding on a title for this blog. It could have been several titles and I still would have gotten your attention.

I love Madonna. I love Marilyn Monroe. They were the “IT” girls for their respective generation. In 1953, Marilyn starred in a movie called, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She sang the song, Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Thirty-one years later, Madonna produced and starred in the video entitled, “Material Girl.” Both dance scenes are eerily alike—check them out below. However, approximately 173 years earlier, the French “IT” girl was Marie Antoinette.

The “Other” Woman.

King Louis XV ordered a diamond necklace to be made for his “favorite”—Madame du Barry. It was quite expensive and took many years to find the right diamonds. During this time, Louis died and Madame du Barry was banished from the court (as was the custom with the king’s mistresses).

The Parisian jewelers funded the creation of the necklace out of pocket and so they were anxious to sell the necklace to Louis’s successor, King Louis XVI. There was only one problem. Marie Antoinette hated Madame du Barry and when Louis XVI presented the necklace to his wife, she turned him down. Now, the jewelers were in a fix. Without the sale of the necklace, they would go out of business.

An Affair to Remember

So began what is known today as the “Affair of the Necklace.” A young woman, Jeanne de la Motte, had become the mistress of the Cardinal de Rohan. He had fallen out of favor with Marie Antoinette and was looking for a way back into her heart. Jeanne in the meantime had wangled her way into the court and told the Cardinal she was becoming the queen’s friend.

All of a sudden, correspondence between the Cardinal and the queen began. The letters got steamy and the Cardinal became convinced the queen had a hankering for him. So he used Jeanne to arrange a meeting. However, Jeanne used a prostitute to substitute for the queen. At the meeting, the “queen” absolved the Cardinal of all their past arguments. After this, Jeanne began to borrow heavily from the Cardinal and used the money to enter society as a respectable member of the court.

The paths of Jeanne and the jewelers were to cross and she was offered the opportunity to sell the necklace to the queen (of course with a substantial commission). So Jeanne began to deliver letters to the Cardinal from the “queen” indicating her desire to buy the necklace. But the Cardinal was asked to be the front person in buying the necklace on behalf of the queen.

The necklace was delivered to the Cardinal who turned it over to a man he thought was the envoy of the queen. However, it turned out it was Jeanne’s husband and he took the necklace to London and had it broken up to sell the diamonds individually. When the time came to pay, as they say: the jig’s up. Well, there was quite a scandal. While the queen was declared innocent and the perpetrators were all punished, it was public opinion that ultimately prevailed.

By 1785, the time of the scandal, the public hated Marie Antoinette. Despite the declaration of her innocence, the consequences of the scandal led the public to heap even greater contempt on her and the monarchy. It was the beginning of the death spiral for Marie Antoinette.

In this case, diamonds were not a girl’s best friend. By the way, Madame du Barry emigrated to London during the Revolution, only to return to Paris to retrieve her diamonds and jewels. She was arrested, tried, and guillotined. Again, diamonds were not her best friend either.

Do we have a lot of stories? Of course we do. I’m looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our newsletter and blog. Perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on the most recent newsletter and blog posts.

Thanks so much for following my newsletter and blogs as well as my little journey through this incredibly interesting process of writing a series of niche walking tour books based on European historical periods or events.

– Stew

Please note that I do not and will not take compensation from individuals or companies I mention or promote in my blog.  

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