Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Diamond Necklace
by [?]

Paris, that city of sensations, was shaken to its centre by tidings of a new and startling event. The Cardinal de Rohan, grand almoner of France, at mass-time, and when dressed in his pontifical robes, had been suddenly arrested in the palace of Versailles and taken to the Bastille. Why? No one knew; though many had their opinions and beliefs. Rumors of some mysterious and disgraceful secret beneath this arrest, a mystery in which the honor of Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, was involved, had got afloat, and were whispered from end to end of the city, in which “the Austrian,” as the queen was contemptuously designated, was by no means a favorite.

The truth gradually came out,–the story of a disgraceful and extraordinary intrigue, of which the prince cardinal was a victim rather than an accessory, and of which the queen was utterly ignorant, though the odium of the transaction clung to her until her death. When, eight years afterwards, she was borne through a raging mob to the guillotine, insulting references to this affair of the diamond necklace were among the terms of opprobrium heaped upon her by the dregs of the Parisian populace.

What was this disgraceful business? It is partly revealed in the graphic account of an interview with the king which preceded the arrest of the prince cardinal. On the 15th of August, 1785, Louis XVI. sent for M. de Rohan to his cabinet. He entered smilingly, not dreaming of the thunderbolt that was about to burst upon his head. He found there the king and queen, the former with indignant countenance, the latter grave and severe in expression.

“Cardinal,” broke out the king, in an abrupt tone, “you bought some diamonds of Boehmer?”

“Yes, sir,” rejoined the cardinal, disturbed by the stern severity of the king’s looks and tone.

“What have you done with them?”

“I thought they had been sent to the queen.”

“Who gave you the commission to buy them?”

“A lady, the Countess de La Motte Valois,” answered the cardinal, growing more uneasy. “She gave me a letter from the queen; I thought I was obliging her Majesty.”

The queen sharply interrupted him. She was no friend of the cardinal; he had maligned her years before, when her husband was but dauphin of France. Now was the opportunity to repay him for those malevolent letters.

“How, sir,” she broke out severely; “how could you think–you to whom I have never spoken for eight years–that I should choose you for conducting such a negotiation, and by the medium of such a woman?”

“I was mistaken, I perceive,” said the cardinal, humbly. “The desire I felt to please your Majesty misled me. Here is the letter which I was told was from you.”

He drew a letter from his pocket and handed it to the king. Louis took it, and cast his eyes over the signature. He looked up indignantly.

“How could a prince of your house and my grand almoner suppose that the queen would sign, ‘Marie Antoinette of France?'” he sternly demanded. “Queens do not sign their names at such length. It is not even the queen’s writing. And what is the meaning of all these doings with jewellers, and these notes shown to bankers?”

By this time the cardinal was so agitated that he was obliged to rest himself against the table for support.

“Sir,” he said, in a broken voice, “I am too much overcome to be able to reply. What you say overwhelms me with surprise.”

“Walk into the room, cardinal,” said the king, with more kindness of tone. “You may write your explanation of these occurrences.”

The cardinal attempted to do so, but his written statement failed to make clear the mystery. In the end an officer of the king’s body-guard was called in, and an order given him to convey Cardinal de Rohan to the Bastille. He had barely time to give secret directions to his grand vicar to burn all his papers, before he was carried off to that frightful fortress, the scene of so much injustice, haunted by so many woes.