Diamond Necklace, Affair of the

Diamond Necklace, Affair of the, scandal that took place at the court of King Louis XVI of France just before the French Revolution. An adventuress who called herself the comtesse de La Motte duped Cardinal de Rohan, the grand almoner, who was out of favor with Queen Marie Antoinette, into believing that she could regain the queen's regard for him. Mme de La Motte and her accomplices then engineered a sham correspondence between the cardinal and the queen and even arranged an interview between him and a woman impersonating the queen. In the interview the cardinal was led to believe that the queen wished to acquire a diamond necklace of enormous value and that she had chosen him as her confidential agent. When Rohan obtained the necklace from the jewelers, he turned it over to the comtesse; her husband took it to London, where it was broken up for sale. The affair became public after Rohan failed to meet the payments to the jewelers. The cardinal was arrested and tried by the parlement; he was acquitted but lost his position in court. Mme de La Motte was punished and imprisoned, but she escaped to London, where she wrote her highly questionable memoirs. Alessandro Cagliostro, at first suspected of complicity, was acquitted. The queen, noted for her extravagance and frivolity, was unjustly implicated in the affair; her enemies hinted that she had schemed to ruin the cardinal or that she had used her favor to obtain the necklace and then refused to pay. The scandal added greatly to her unpopularity at a critical time. A vast literature has grown around the subject, notably Dumas's romance The Queen's Necklace and Carlyle's Diamond Necklace.

See also F. Mossiker, The Queen's Necklace (1961).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: French History