Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Crown Jewels

( Originally Published 1880 )

FROM the period of the Plantagenet rule to the close of the Stuarts, the CROWN JEWELS experienced strange vicissitudes, and were repeatedly pawned to provide for the necessities of kingly ambition or extravagance. To begin with Henry III, who spent enormous sums on the decoration of Westminster Abbey, and who more than once took the jewels he had given to it, and pawned them to meet his wants. When he was in conflict with his nobles, he provided against probable contingencies by confiding the royal jewels and plate to the Queen of France, and raised money, as he required it, from the French merchants upon the security of these valuables. His successor, Edward I.,, had to redeem these jewels, and although saddled with his war expenses in Scotland, he managed to keep the kingly dignity unsullied in this respect. His accumulation of crown jewels, which were deposited for safety in Westminster Abbey, and, as related in a previous chapter, " Robberies," were sacrilegiously plundered, was enormous. He had four crowns : one set with rubies, emeralds, and pearls ; one set with Indian pearls only; a third mounted with emeralds and rubies; and most valuable of all, the great crown of gold used at his coronation, ornamented with emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and large Eastern pearls. Among his lesser treasures were gilt combs and mirrors, pearl-covered ewers, silver-gilt mugs, knives and forks in silver sheaths, crosses set with precious stones, silver girdles and trumpets, gold clasps and rings, and a fine collection of topazes, amethysts, sapphires, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, carbuncles, garnets, and chalcedonies.

Edward III., pledged his crown and jewels to the merchants of Flanders, in the seventeenth year of his reign, to supply his expenses in the French wars ; and soon after the accession of his grandson, Richard II., they were placed in the hands of the Bishop of London and the Earl of Arundel as security for a loan of ten thousand pounds which that monarch had borrowed from John Philpot and other merchants of London. Shakspeare makes Bolingbroke's adherents assert that the proud rebel returned to England to " redeem from broking pawn the blemished crown." Richard was obliged to pawn his favourite jewels, his " white harts."

In the "Archæologia" (vol. x. page 241), there is a long inventory of the crown jewels, taken, 3 Ed-ward III., from a record in the Exchequer. Among the miscellaneous articles in this inventory are the culinary objects already mentioned (page 145). In another inventory we have also " 1 frying panne, 1 sklife (slice), and 1 ladell d'argent." Spits, grid-irons, and other kitchen furniture, are not omitted in the jewel inventory of Henry V. (Rot. Parl. iv. 210.)

A crown which had belonged to Richard II. was pledged by Henry V. to the Abbot of Westminster, to enable him to carry on his wars in France. A splendid crown, called the " Harry Crown," was broken up and distributed by way of pledge amongst several persons by this king. To Sir John Colvyl was pledged " a great flower-de-lys of the said crown, garnished with one great balays (pink ruby), and one other balays, one ruby, three great sapphires and two great pearls. To John Pudsey, Esq., " a pinnacle of the aforesaid crown, garnished with two sapphires, one square balays, and six pearls." To Maurice Brune and John Saundish, " two other pinnacles of the same cross, similarly garnished." Henry V. also pawned " a great circle of gold, garnished with 56 balays, 40 sapphires, 8 diamonds, and 7 great pearls, weighing altogether four pounds, and valued at 800 lbs sterling." In 1418, he pawned to the Mayor of London, in trust for the city, his collar called " Pusan," the jewels of which were valued at £2,800, and his " Skelton " collar, garnished with rubies, sapphires, and pearls, to the Bishop of Worcester and the city of Coventry. The first he redeemed the following year, but the " Skelton " collar was still in pawn when the hero of Agincourt died. Henry VI., although he redeemed all the pledges of his father, was himself compelled to resort to the same plan for raising money. The jewels which had belonged to Henry V., and were valued at £40,000, were delivered to Sir Henry Fitzhugh and his other executors for the payment of the late king's debts. In 1422 two parts of the " Pusan," the great collar of gold and rubies, was pawned by Henry VI. to his uncle, the Cardinal Beaufort, who is said at the time of his death to have amassed more wealth than any subject in England. In 1445 King Henry made an assignment to a certain knight for the purchase of his jewel of St. George, and also as security for the sum of 2,000 marks, " which," says Henry, " our beloved knight hath now lent us in prest (ready money) at the contemplation of the coming of our most best beloved wife, the queen (Marguerite of Anjou) now into our presence." Rymer's " Foedera" gives other instances of the poverty of the royal ex-chequer at this time, and the difficulty of the unfortunate sovereign to meet his bridal expenses. Among other items there is an order directing "that the remaining third part of one of the crown jewels called the ` rich collar,' " two parts of which we observed were pledged to Cardinal Beaufort, " in the time," as Henry pathetically observes, " of our great necessity, should be delivered to the said most worshipful father in God, and a patent made out, securing to him the first two parts, and for the delivery of the third." This jewel was never redeemed by the impoverished king, who was, in fact, compelled to pawn all his private jewels and household plate, to provide the equipages and other indispensable articles required for his marriage and the coronation of the young queen. To the cardinal were also pledged, a gold sword garnished with sapphires, known as the " Sword of Spain," the Sklyngton Collar, three gold tablets—of St. George, Our Lady, and the Passion ; a great alms' dish " made in manner of a shippe full of men of armes feyghtying upon the shippe's side," and divers chargers, dishes, chalices, pots, basins, and saucers. To the Earl of Buckingham Henry handed over, as security for the payment of himself and his soldiers, for services rendered in France, " two gold basins, a gold tablet, and a little bell of the same material."

In the " Liber Memorandorum Camerariorum Receptae Scaccarij," in the Chapter House, Westminster (commencing with the 39th year of Ed-ward III., and concluding 35th Henry VIII.), is an account of jewels pledged by Henry VI. to Cardinal Beaufort. This is published in the " Archaeologia " (vol. xxi., p. 34).

In the possession of the Rev. E. E. Estcourt,F.S.A., are several documents in connection with royal pledges, which may be thus described :—" The most curious is a deed of acquittance between King Henry VII. and Richard Gardyner, Alderman of London, on the return of a piece of plate pledged to the latter for £66 13s. 4d. by King Richard III. ; and also of a loan of £100, being Gardyner's share of a loan of £2,400, made by the Mayor and Aldermen of London to Richard III., and secured by a variety of jewels. The document was drawn up in two parts ; one under the sign-manual of the king, the other under the seal of Richard Gardyner. The acquittance is given at full length in the " Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries," vol. L, second series, page 356. Mention is made of " a Salte of golde, with a Cover standyng vpone a morene garnyshed with perles and precious stones ;" also " a Coronalle of golde, garnyshed with precious stones, and many other grete and riche Jewelles."

The salt of gold pledged by Richard III. is probably the same as that described in the inventory of the regalia and gold plate of Henry VIII., printed in " Ancient Kalendars and Inventories of the Ex-chequer," vol. iii. It is thus described at page 286 __ " Item, a Salte of golde, wt a cover, borne up wt a Moreane, the Moreane havying aboute his necke v course rubyes and vi garnysshing perles, wt one that he hath in his honde ; havyng about the foote xij course rubyes and xij course garnysshing perles, and about' the bordure of the cover vj course dyamontes, vj course rubyes, and xij course garnysshinge perles, weyinge xlvj oz. di." (scant.)

This salt is described in exactly the same terms in the MS. inventory of the goods of Henry VIII., belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, taken in the reign of Edward VI. ; it was probably supported by a Moorish figure, somewhat in the style of an ancient salt at All Souls' College, Oxford, which rests on the head of a gigantic man.

Strange have been the vicissitudes attending the K0H-I-N00R, with this peculiarity—that its history can be well authenticated at every step. The mystic character of the diamond has never been lost sight of, from the days when Ala-ud-deen took it from the Rajahs of Malwa, five centuries and a half ago, to the day when it became a crown jewel of England. Tradition carries back its existence in the memory of India to the year 57 B.C.; and a still wilder legend would fain recognize in it a diamond first discovered near Masulipatam, in the bed of the Godavery, five thousand years ago.

The Koh-i-noor is reported by Baber, the founder of the Mogul empire, to have come into the Delhi treasury from the conquest of Malwa in 1304. The Hindoos trace the curses and the ultimate ruin inevitably brought upon its successive possessors by the genius of this fateful jewel ever since it was first wrested from the line of Vikramaditya. If we glance over its history since 1304, its malevolent influence far excels that of the necklace for which Eriphyle betrayed her husband, or the Eguus Scianus of Greek and Roman tradition. First falls the vigorous Patan, then the mighty Mogul empire, and, with vastly accelerated ruin, the power of Nadir, of the Dooranee dynasty, and of the Sikh. The Koh-i-noor came into the possession of Nadir Shah by a very clever trick. He did not take the diamond by force, as he had the other treasures, but when going through the ceremony of re-establishing the Tartar monarch on the throne of Delhi, he remembered the ancient oriental custom of exchanging turbans in token of amity. The fallen monarch could not refuse this pledge of friendship, though, to his own chagrin and the dismay of the court, the famous Mountain of Light passed with it to the conqueror.

At length in the possession of Runjeet Singh, it was, of course, the distinguishing decoration of the jewel-loving " Lion of Lahore," who wore it on his arm. He was so convinced of the truth of the mystic powers of the diamond that, being satisfied with the enjoyment of it during his own lifetime, he sought to break through the ordinance of fate, and the consequent destruction of his family, by bequeathing the stone to the shrine of Juggernaut for the good of his soul and the welfare of his dynasty. His successors would not give up the baleful treasure, and the last Maharajah is now a private gentleman in England. In 1850, in the name of the East India Company (since, in its turn, defunct), Lord Dalhousie presented the Koh-i-noor to Queen Victoria.

The Rev. Mr. King considers that we should have been better without it. The Brahmins will hardly relinquish their faith in the malignant powers possessed by this stone, when they think of the speedily following Russian war, which annihilated the prestige of the British army, and the Sepoy mutiny three years afterwards, which caused England's influence as a nation to hang for months on the forbearance of one man.

On the fall of Shahrukh (? 1783), Ahmed Shah had allowed him to reside at Meshed, and govern it and the surrounding district. Thousands of pilgrims annually resorted to the sacred tomb or shrine of the Imam Riza. Aga Mohammed, who advanced with a force to that city, pretended to be merely one of these. His real reason for the expedition was this : When Shahrukh went to Meshed, the fallen monarch took with him many jewels of great value, part of the spoils which Nadir had brought from India. Aga Mohammed, like Nadir, was passionately fond of jewels, and after he had prayed at the holy tomb, he requested the blind monarch to deliver up the gems. He, however, protested that he had none, so he was ordered to be tortured, and revealed the hiding-places of stones of great value. The last torture was diabolical. A circle of paste was put on his head, and boiling oil poured in ; its effect being that an immense ruby which had been in the crown of Aurungzebe was given up. The poor king soon after died from. the injuries received. Aga Mohammed, however, met with the retribution he deserved, for he was some time after-wards assassinated ; and one of his leading generals, Sadek Khan Shekaki, knew something beforehand of this deed, for he protected the murderers, and received from them the crown jewels, including the celebrated diamonds, the Taj-Mah, or Crown of the Moon, and the Derya-i-noor, or Sea of Light.

Several stories are told of the SANCI diamond celebrated for its rare beauty and size, weighing 33 carats, and for a long time an ornament of the French crown. According to one account it was brought from Constantinople by an ambassador of the name of Sanci, who purchased it there for an enormous sum. Another story states that it formerly belonged to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who wore it in his hat at the battle of Morat, in 1476. Being defeated with the loss of all his baggage, the jewel was found by a Swiss soldier on the field of battle, who sold it to a French gentleman of the name of Sanci. In this family the diamond remained for nearly a century, until Henry III. commissioned a descendant of the purchaser, a captain in the royal service, to raise recruits in Switzerland. Driven from the throne by his subjects, the monarch, without money to pay his troops, borrowed the Sanci diamond in order to pawn it to the Swiss. Sanci entrusted it to one of his servants, who disappeared no one could tell whither. The king reproached Sanci bitterly for having confided an object of such value to a valet ; but Sanci, full of confidence in his servant, set out in search, and discovered that the man had been attacked by robbers, and that the body was buried in a neighbouring forest. Thither he went, ordered the body to be disinterred and opened, when the diamond was discovered in his stomach—the faithful servant having swallowed it to prevent theft.

Commines in his " Memoirs" describes the diamond as the " largest one then in the world, having an immense pearl attached to it." He states that the diamond was picked up by a Swiss after the battle of Nancy, and sold afterwards to a priest for a florin, who again resold it for three francs. Nicolas de Harlai, Lord of Sanci, celebrated in the reigns of Henry II. and IV., " bought it of Don Antonia, prior of Crats."

Another statement is that this diamond came into the possession of the English crown. It is mentioned in a letter from Queen Henrietta Maria, when in exile, in connection with a gift of jewels to the Marquis of Worcester, who owed his ruin to his loyalty to Charles I.

The letter, or testimonial, accompanying the gift was in French : " We, Henrietta Maria of Bourbon, Queen of Great Britain, have, by order of the king, our very honoured lord and master, caused to be delivered into the hands of our dear and well-beloved cousin, Edward Somerset, Count and Earl of Worcester, a necklace of rubies, containing ten large rubies and one hundred and sixty pearls, set and strung together in gold. Among the said rubies are likewise two large diamonds, called the Sanci and the Portugal," etc.

James II. is said to have bought the former from the Baron de Sanci, while living at St. Germain.

According to another writer, this diamond after-wards came into the possession of Louis XIV., who is stated to have given James II. for it 625,000 francs (.25,000). His successor had it placed in the crown used at his coronation. It remained among the crown jewels of France until the revolution of 1792, when it disappeared. In 1830 and 1831 the diamond was in the hands of a French merchant, and in 1832 it was the occasion of a process which was pleaded at the Tribunal ; the case was M. Demidoff against M. Levrat. The principal facts were that the latter (a managing director of the Society of Mines and Forges of the Grisons, Switzerland) purchased it from M. Demidoff for 600,000 francs, but it was not worth more than 145,800 francs, since it had lost a portion of its weight from being cut as a brilliant. This price was stipulated to be paid in three sums at six months' interval, and as a guarantee for the execution of the agreement M. Levrat placed in the hands of the seller two hundred shares in the society he represented. The first term of payment becoming due, M. Levrat could not meet it, and M. Demidoff demanded the cancelling of the sale, not having been paid for it, and the restitution of the Sanci diamond which M. Levrat had placed at the Mont de Piété. M. Demidoff was authorized to with-draw the diamond on being accountable to that establishment for the expenses attending the placing of it there. M. Levrat was condemned to pay the costs of the trial.

In 1835 this diamond came into the possession of M. Paul Demidoff, grand huntsman to the Emperor of Russia. In the following year it was sent to Paris for sale, and on being weighed was found to be fifty-three carats. It came into the possession of Charles I., and is said to have been given by that monarch, on the scaffold, to Bishop Juxon for his son, Charles II.

To crown the vicissitudes of this mythical gem, another statement relates that it was purchased of the Demidoff family (February, 1865) for the sum of £20,000, on the commission of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, of Bombay, by Messrs. Garrard.

In the newspaper accounts of the marriage of Prince Albert of Prussia with Princess Mary of Sachsen-Altenburg, in Berlin, the bride is described as wearing " the crown necklace with the celebrated Sanci diamond."

In the Russian Imperial Treasury, besides the famous Orloff diamond, there is another remarkable one called the SHAH. It was one of the two enormous diamonds which ornamented the throne of Nadir Shah, and that the Persians called the Sun of the Sea, and the other the Moon of Mountains.

When Nadir was assassinated, his treasures were pillaged, and some of the jewels were divided among the soldiers, who hid them carefully. An Armenian of the name of Shafras resided at that time with his two brothers at Bassorah. One day an Afghan came to him and offered to sell an immense diamond, the Moon of Mountains, also a ruby and emerald of great size and beauty, a sapphire of remarkable lustre that the Persians called the Eye of Allah, and a hundred other precious stones of less value, for all of which he asked a moderate price. Shafras, surprised at the offer, asked the Afghan to call again, as he had not sufficient funds to purchase them ; but the other, having some suspicions that a trap would be laid for him, left Bassorah secretly, and, notwithstanding the efforts of the three brothers to trace his flight, he could not be found.

Some years afterwards, however, the eldest brother met the Afghan by chance at Bagdad, where he had sold the jewels for a sum of 65,000 piastres and two valuable horses. Shafras got him to point out the house of the purchaser, who was a Jew, and offered to double the amount he had paid, but was refused. Upon this the three brothers agreed to assassinate the Jew, which was done ; and the next day the Afghan, having been invited to a repast, was -poisoned. The two bodies were placed in a sack and thrown into the Euphrates.

A dispute soon arose between the three brothers about the division of the spoil, and the eldest got rid of the others in the same way that the Afghan had been treated. He then fled to Constantinople, and from thence went to Holland. There he made known his treasures, and offered them to the different courts of Europe. The news reached Catherine H. of Russia, who proposed to purchase the Moon of Mountains only. He was invited to Russia, and put into communication with the crown jeweller. The conditions of purchase were, a title of nobility, and an annual payment of 10,000 roubles. Shafras demanded 600,000 roubles. Count Panin, then minister, delayed the purchase, and drew the Armenian into a style of living which placed him heavily in debt, and when he knew that he had no money left, he broke off the purchase. Shafras, according to the laws of the country, could not leave the empire, or even the city he was living in, without paying his debts. His situation was embarrassing. The court jeweller profited by his distress, and obtained the diamond for a quarter of its value. The Armenian now perceived the trap that had been laid for him ; and, after selling some inferior precious stones to his countrymen, he paid his debts and suddenly disappeared.

Ten years afterwards he was at Astracan, and this being made known to the Russian Court, offers were made for the jewels he still had, some of which he sold, and had a title of nobility also conferred upon him. The sapphire, said to be the finest known, be-longs to the crown of Saxony, as also the rubies.

Shafras could not 'return to his own country in consequence of his crimes, but settled at Astracan, where he married and had seven daughters. He was poisoned by one of his sons-in-law.

The history of that remarkable diamond, the REGENT, is so curious that a few particulars concerning its discovery, and the events connected with it, will be interesting. It was found at Parteal, forty-five leagues south of Golconda, by (if we may credit the story) a slave, who concealed it in a gash made for its reception in the calf of his leg, until he had an opportunity of escaping to Madras. There the poor wretch fell in with an English skipper, who, by promising to find him a purchaser for the stone, and to halve the profits, lured him on board, and disposed of his claims by throwing him into the sea. The captain then offered it to a dealer named Jamchund, obtaining a thousand pounds, which he speedily ran through, and then hanged himself. Whatever doubts there may be about this part of the story, we find in a letter to the editor of the European Magazine (October, 1791) from the subsequent owner of the diamond, Governor Pitt, the particulars of his obtaining possession of it. " About two or three years after my arrival at Madras (which was in July, 1698), I heard there were large diamonds in the country to be sold, which I encouraged to be brought down, promising to be their chapman, if they would be reasonable therein ; upon which Jamchund, one of the most eminent diamond merchants in these parts, came down about December, 1701, and brought with him a large rough stone, and some small ones which myself and others bought ; but he asking a very extravagant price for the great one, I did not think of meddling with it, when he left it with me for some days, and then came and took it away again, and did so several times, not insisting upon less than two hundred thousand pagadoes, and as I best remember, I did not bid him above thirty thousand, and had little thoughts of buying it for that. I considered there were many and great risks to be run, not only in cutting it, but, also, whether it would prove foul or clean, or the water good ; besides, I thought it too great an amount to be adventured home on one bottom. But Jamchund resolved to return speedily to his own country, so, as I best re-member, it was in February following, he came again to me (with Vincaty Chittee, who was always with him when I discoursed with him about it), and pressed me to know whether I resolved to buy it, when he came down to one hundred thousand pagadoes, and something under before we parted ; when we agreed upon a day to meet, and make a final end thereof one way or other, which, I believe, was the latter end of the aforesaid month, or the beginning of March ; when we accordingly met in the consultation room, where, after a great deal of talk, I brought him down to fifty-five thousand pagadoes, and advanced to forty-five thousand, resolving to give no more, and he, like-wise, resolving not to abate, so delivered him up the stone, and we took a friendly leave of one another. Mr. Benyon was then writing in my closet, with whom I discoursed upon what had passed, and told him now I was clear of it, when an hour afterward my servant brought me word that Jamchund and Vincaty Chittee were at the door, who, being called in, they used a great many expressions in favour of the stone I closed with him for the sum of forty-eight thousand pagadoes (10,400)." This letter, duly signed and attested at Bergen, is dated July 19th, 1710.

The possession of this magnificent jewel does not seem to have created much happiness in its possessor; the fear of losing it seems to have absorbed the mind of Governor Pitt. Uffenbach, a German traveller, who visited England in 1712, says that he made many fruitless efforts to get a sight of the diamond, the fame of which had spread all over Europe. But there was no obtaining an interview with the far from enviable possessor, so fearful was he of robbery (and not without causé in those days), that he never made known beforehand the day of his coming to town, nor slept twice consecutively in the same house.

It appears that the acquisition of this diamond occasioned many reflections injurious to the reputation of Governor Pitt, and Pope has been thought to allude to this in the lines ___

"Asleep and naked as an Indian lay,
An honest factor stole a gem away :
He pledg'd it to the knight ; the knight had wit,
So kept the diamond, and the rogue was bit."

These reports, however, never obtained much credit, though they were loud enough to reach the ears of the person against whom they were directed, who vindicated himself in the letter which I have already quoted. In the Daily Post (Nov. 3rd, 1743) is also a vindication of Mr. Pitt.

About the year 1717, negotiations were set on foot to effect the sale of this diamond to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France ; and in this transaction the unscrupulous Law, the Scotch financialist, then in high favour with the French court, figures prominently. The Duke De Saint Simon, in his lively " Memoirs," gives an account of the affair. It seems that a model of the diamond was made in England, and placed in the hands of Law, who proposed to the regent that he should purchase the jewel for the king. The price dismayed the regent, who refused to buy. Law took the model to Saint Simon, who agreed with him that France ought to possess a jewel unique of its kind in the world : and, together, they persuaded the Duke of Orleans to make the purchase for one hundred and thirty thousand pounds, five thousand of which were expended in the negotiation, of which Law, no doubt, had his full share. Money, however, was fearfully scarce in France, and the interest of the purchase was paid until the principal could be settled, jewels to the full amount being, given as security.

Anquetil, in his "Memoirs of the Court of France," says that the diamond weighed more than five hundred grains, was of the size of a large plum, perfectly white, without spot, and of an admirable water.

In the list of the crown jewels of France, published by order of the National Assembly in 1791, the " Regent " is thus described :—" Un superbe diamant brilliant blanc, forme carrée, les coins arrondis, ayant une petite glace dans le filetis, et une autre â un coin dans le dessous : pésant 136 karats, estimé douze millions livres."

It was considered the largest diamond in Europe, weighing in the rough 410 carats. To cut it into a perfect brilliant occupied two years.

The strange vicissitudes to which the " Regent " was exposed during the French Revolution, I have already related in the chapter on " Robberies."

At the Exposition Universelle at Paris, the exhibition of the " Regent " diamond, in common with other valuable jewels of the French regalia, proved to be fully worthy of the praises bestowed on its marvellous beauty and purity.

One of the most interesting of causes célèbres is that which, under the designation of " LE PROCÈS DU COLLIER," occupied the French courts of justice in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and created an unusual amount of importance from the high positions of the principal persons engaged in this fraudulent transaction. The particulars involved in this lengthened trial are voluminous ; a brief résumé of facts will suffice for the present purpose.

Bœhmer and Bassange, court jewellers to Louis XVI., had been engaged for several years in collecting a large number of superb diamonds, to form a neck-lace which they intended offering for purchase to Madame Dubarry, who possessed large treasures of precious stones, and, in case of her refusal, to the queen, Marie Antoinette, who was passionately fond of diamonds. Not succeeding with Madame Dubarry, the jewellers carried the magnificent ornament to the king, who sent it for inspection to the queen. Her reply was worthy her royal station : " That she had already many diamonds, which were only worn on grand occasions four or five times in the year, and it would be better to employ the money demanded for the necklace in building a ship of war."

The jewellers, disappointed in their hopes from these quarters, endeavoured to sell the necklace to foreign potentates, but unsuccessfully ; and after the lapse of a year, made another effort to induce their majesties of France to become the purchasers, which was met with a decided refusal.

In 1785, on. the Day of the Assumption, the great personages of the court assembled in the royal apartments at Versailles to attend mass. Among them was the Cardinal de Rohan in full pontificals. Possessed of an enormous fortune, accumulated from the various benefices he held, and a member of one of the most ancient and renowned families of France, Prince Louis de Rohan, Cardinal, Bishop of Strasbourg, Grand Almoner, etc., notwithstanding his exalted 'position, was not in favour at court. He had been sent ambassador t0 Vienna in 1772, and having been coldly received by the Empress Maria-Theresa, he had endeavoured, but unsuccessfully, to efface this unfavourable impression by his prodigal and luxurious mode of living. With equal indiscretion and ingratitude he had made insinuations publicly on the conduct of Marie Antoinette, the daughter of the Empress of Austria, and in his despatches to the French government he did not spare Maria-Theresa herself ; altogether, his conduct during his embassage was disgraceful. He had been recalled from his post at the urgent request of the empress herself two months after the death of Louis XV. The cardinal succeeded in getting only a brief interview with the new monarch, and was mortified in finding that the queen, Marie Antoinette, would not receive him. He was still in disgrace, when, on August 15th, 1785, he awaited, as before stated, in the grand gallery of Versailles, the king's orders for mass. At noon his majesty sent for him to his private cabinet, in which the queen was seated.

" You have purchased a diamond necklace," the king observed to the cardinal, as he entered, of Bœhmer and Bassange."

" Yes, sire."

" What have you done with it ? "

" I believe it was given to the queen."

" To whom did you give this commission ? "

" A lady of the court, Madame de la Motte Valois, who gave me a letter from the queen, and I am much honoured by the condescension of her majesty, in giving me this commission."

" How, cardinal," angrily exclaimed Marie Antoinette, " could you believe that after four years, during which I have not addressed a word to you, that I should choose you for such a negotiation, and by means of a disreputable woman ? "

" I see," said the crest-fallen cardinal, that I must have been cruelly deceived. In the great desire of my heart to please your majesty, my zeal has blinded my prudence ; but still the letter seemed to authorize me," and he produced a document, signed with the royal signature, and addressed to Madame de la Motte, giving instructions to purchase the necklace.

On reading it, the king said, " This is not the writing of the queen, nor her signature. How could a prince of the house of Rohan believe that the queen would sign her name Marie Antoinette de France ? Surely every one ought to know that queens sign their names only."

To these and other questions the cardinal could make no reply, and, on leaving the royal presence, he was arrested and sent to the Bastille. Parliament took up the case, and the trial, which lasted more than nine months, revealed the disgraceful conduct of the cardinal and his foolish credulity. While endeavouring in every way to obtain the queen's favour, he happened to make the acquaintance of the Countess de la Motte Valois. This woman, born July 22nd, 1756, at Fontette, in Champagne, under indigent circumstances, was really descended from the royal house of Valois, by Henry de St. Remi, son of Henry II. and of Nicola de Savigné. While begging for bread at Passy, she came under the notice of the Marchioness of Boulainvilliers, wife of the prevost of Paris. By this lady she was clothed and educated, and in 1780 Mademoiselle de Valois, as she was now called, was married to the Count de la Motte. In 1781 she was presented to the Cardinal de Rohan, and, unscrupulous and cunning, she soon saw his weak and credulous character, and determined to profit by it. She persuaded him that she possessed the entire confidence of the queen, and had it in her power to secure him the royal favour. Believing these assurances, the cardinal addressed several letters to the queen, which Madame de la Motte engaged to deliver, and brought him answers which had been forged by a profligate associate of her husband—one Villette. To increase the confidence of the dupe, it was pretended that for various reasons, he could not have a public interview at court, but the queen would grant him a private meeting on an appointed evening in one of the arbours in the park at Versailles. Accordingly between eleven and twelve o'clock on the night of August 2nd, 1784, the cardinal was conducted to the spot, when a woman, named Leguay, who resembled the queen in height and appearance, was there to receive him. Her features were covered with a veil, and she ad-dressed the kneeling prelate in a low voice :

" You wish that the past should be forgotten ; so let it be ;" at the same time she gave him a rose, and a small casket which contained a portrait of the queen. A sound of approaching steps put an end to the interview, and the cardinal retired, delighted with the mark of favour he had received. From that time he set no bounds to his joy, and became a ready instrument of the intriguing Madame de la Motte. She obtained considerable sums of money from him, as loans to the queen for charitable purposes, and conceived the project of getting into her own possession, by the same means, the famous diamond necklace of the court jewellers. With great plausibility she persuaded the cardinal that the queen wished to purchase it secretly through him, and repayment would be made in two years ; a contract to such effect was brought to him signed " Marie Antoinette de France."

The necklace was delivered to the cardinal February 1st, 1785, by the court jewellers; the price paid for it was one million six hundred thousand livres. The Countess de la Motte brought a pretended message from the queen that the jewels should be given to her the next day, as she wished to wear them at a state banquet. Accordingly, towards evening, the cardinal went to the house of Madame de la Motte at Versailles, followed by a servant who carried the precious casket, and where he was received by the clever actress, who took care that no time should be lost, and in a few moments the door of the apartment was suddenly opened, a voice exclaimed " from the queen," and a valet de chambre in the royal livery (who was the confederate Villette) received the casket from Madame de la Motte, and quickly disappeared. The robbery of these precious jewels was thus adroitly effected. Madame de la Motte and her husband lost no time in taking the necklace to pieces, in order to dispose at once of some of the diamonds ; the former obtained at Paris two hundred thousand livres, the latter went to London and sold some of the diamonds at a high price ; but an English jeweller named Gray, to whom the Count de la Motte had offered all the remaining gems, was able, afterwards, when the design of the famous necklace was shown to him, to recognize them as having belonged to it. The non-payment of the first draft of five hundred thousand livres, due on July 31st, 1785, which Madame de la Motte, on the pretended authority of the queen, had pre-pared, brought about the discovery of this audacious robbery. Her majesty, informed by Madame Campan (to whom the court jewellers had related the circumstances of the sale of the necklace) of the abuse made of her name, conferred with the Baron de Breteuil, governor of the royal household, the implacable enemy of the Cardinal de Rohan, who took measures to bring the culprits to justice. The Countess de la Motte was arrested August 18th, 1785, as was also, soon afterwards, the woman Leguay, who had personated the queen, and Villette. The Count de la Motte remained in England, after placing in security the products of the fraud. Amongst the number of persons implicated in this shameful intrigue was the famous Count de Cagliostro, an impostor who pre-tended to have been present at the marriage at Cana in Galilee with our Saviour, and whose juggleries had blinded the eyes of the Cardinal de Rohan.

Sentence was pronounced in a solemn judicial assembly of the parliament at Paris, May 31st, 1786. Mark Antony de la Motte was condemned to be beaten with rods, to be marked on the right shoulder with the three letters G. A. L. (galleys), and to have hard labour for life ; Madame de la Motte to be beaten with rods, to have a cord round her neck, and the letter V. (vol) to be burned in her two shoulders by the executioner before the door of her prison, and to be imprisoned for life. Leguay was acquitted, as were also Cagliostro and others, the Cardinal de Rohan also escaping from penal punishment. Four hours after the release of the latter from the Bastille, he received an order from the king to resign his appointments at court, and to exile himself in his Abbey of the Chaise Dieu in Auvergne. Madame de la Motte suffered within the prison of the Conciergerie the punishment that had been decreed, because it was feared that in her fury and despair, she would give utterance to scandalous calumnies. It was necessary to employ strong force to apply the hot irons. In prison she attempted to stifle herself with the bed-clothes. In the course of a few months she succeeded in effecting her escape, dressed in masculine attire, and rejoined her husband in London, where, August 25th, 1791, she terminated her infamous career, after having published her " Justificatory Memoirs," which are a series of mendacious libels.

Some curious particulars are related in connection with the "HASTINGS" DIAMOND. While the impeachment of Warren Hastings in 1786 was pending, a circumstance occurred which told against him in the popular feeling, and the suspicions current that Queen Charlotte, who was generally believed to be avaricious, had sold her favour for Indian presents. The Nizam of the Deccan, anxious at this time to conciliate the friendship of England, had sent King George a valuable diamond of unusual dimensions, and, ignorant of what was going on in the English Parliament, had selected Hastings as the channel through which to deliver it. This peace-offering arrived in England on the 2nd of June, after the second charge had been decided against Hastings by the Commons. The diamond, with a rich purse containing the Nizam's letter, was presented by Lord Sydney at a levée when Hastings was present.

When the story of the diamond got wind, it was tortured into a thousand shapes, and was even spoken of in a serious manner in the House of Commons; and Major Scott, the intimate friend and zealous champion of Hastings in the House, was obliged to give an explanation in his defence. It was believed that the king had not only received one diamond, but a large quantity, and they were to be the price of Hastings' acquittal. Caricatures on the subject were to be seen in the windows of every print-seller. In one of these, Hastings was represented wheeling in a barrow the king, with his crown and sceptre, observing, " What a man buys, he may sell." In another, the king was exhibited on his knees, with his mouth wide open, and Warren Hastings throwing diamonds into it. At that time there was a quack who pretended to eat stones, and bills of his exhibition were placarded over the walls, headed in large letters, " The Great Stone-Eater." The caricaturists took the hint, and drew the king with a diamond between his teeth, and a heap of others before him, with the inscription, "The Greatest Stone-Eater."

Songs and epigrams on the diamond were passed about in all societies, and others, of a less refined character, were sung about the streets. One of these was entitled, "A True and Full Account of the Wonderful Diamond presented to the King's Majesty by Warren Hastings, Esq., on Wednesday, the 4th of June, 1786, being an excellent new song to the tune of ' Derry Down. "

Plato believed that the DIAMOND was the kernel of auriferous matter—its purest and noblest pith condensed into a transparent mass. Pliny calls " adamus," the diamond, a nodosity of gold, and the Rev. C. W. King observes that he may have stumbled on this truth by accident ; but it still remains the fact that all diamond mines of which we know anything have been brought to light in the pursuit of gold. This was notably the case in Brazil, and is beginning to be true of the Australian diggings, which Mr. King thinks will yield a vast supply when their gravel comes to be turned over by people having other eyes for other objects than nuggets and gold flakes.

Four thousand years of the world's history had elapsed before it was ever dreamed that diamonds existed, save in one spot, and that of limited extent. The first diamond of well-ascertained water brought to light out of India was, it is said, accidentally dis-covered by a miner in Brazil, in the commencement of the eighteenth century. Previous to this, the only known diamonds had been found in Borneo and Hindostan.

Some Brazilian miners in the beginning of the eighteenth century, while searching for gold, found some curious " pebbles," which they carried home to their masters as curiosities. Not being considered of any value, they were given to the children to play with. An officer who had spent some years in the East Indies saw these pebbles, and sent a handful to a friend in Lisbon to be examined. They proved to be diamonds, and were pronounced to be equal to those of Golconda.

Strange and various were the vicissitudes attending the early discovery of the Brazilian diamonds. Colossal fortunes were made, and as quickly dissipated. The adventurers who flocked to the diamond grounds saw before them a boundless source of wealth, and they had some reason for their expectations, for, it is said, that in the first twenty years of exploration, Europe /received from Brazil diamonds amounting in weight to upwards of three millions of carats—a circumstance that appears almost fabulous, but the mines were then in their rich abundance, and the buried spoil of many ages.

Captain Burton, in his " Highlands of the Brazil," says "that the first man who sent diamonds to Portugal was one Sebastino Leme do Prado, in 1725. He had washed several brilliant octahedrons in the Rio Manso, an influent of the Sequitinhonha. They found no sale ; and the same happened to Bernardo (or Bernardino) da Fonseca Lobo, who hit upon a large specimen amongst others, in the Cerro do Frio. There is a local tradition that the latter was a friar who had been in India, and that about 1727, seeing the curious brilliant little stones used as counters at backgammon by the gold miners of the Sequitinhonha, he made a collection of them, and took them to Portugal. Others attribute the discovery to an Ouvidor, or Auditor Judge, fresh from service at Goa. The specimens were sent to the Netherlands, then the great jewel-market of Europe."

The. official account of the diamond exploitation in Brazil was that of D. Lourenço de Almeida, the first governor of Minas Geraès (Aug. 18th, 1721, Sept. 1st, 1732), who reported the new source of wealth to the home government. Portugal at once declared the diamond district to be crown property, and established the celebrated Diamantine demarcation, forty-two leagues in circumference, with a diameter of fourteen to fifteen leagues.

Among the crown jewels of Portugal is a magnificent diamond, "the Braganza," which was extracted from the mine of Caétha Mirim, in 1741. It was worn by D. Jogs VI., who had a passion for precious stones, and possessed them to an amount estimated at three millions sterling. There are some differences as to the weight of this diamond ; Mawe and the Abbé Reynal make it 1,680 carats. It is, however, suspected to be a fine white topaz, a stone which, in the Brazil and elsewhere, often counterfeits the diamond. Mr. St. John, in his " Forests of the East," mentions a noble in Brunei who, for one thousand pounds, offered a diamond for sale the size of a pullet's egg, which proved to be a pinkish topaz.

These Brazilian discoveries of diamonds are very curious. The Abaété brilliant was found in 1791, and the circumstances of its discovery are related by Mawe and others. Three men, convicted of capital offences, Antonio da Sousa, José Felis Gomes, and Thomas da Souza, were exiled to the far west of Minas, and for-bidden, under pain of death, to enter a city, wandered about for some six years, braving cannibals and wild beasts, in search of treasure. Whilst washing for gold in the Abaété river, which was then exceptionably dry, they discovered this diamond, weighing nearly an ounce (576 grains—144 carats). They trusted to a priest, who, despite the severe laws against diamond-washers, led them to Villa Rica, and submitted the stone to the Governor of Minas, whose doubts were dissipated by a special commission. The priest obtained several privileges, and the malefactors their pardon, no other reward being mentioned.

So far, the new world gave promise of a more copious supply of diamonds than the old. The famous jewels of Golconda are associated with the diamond beds of Raolconda and Gomec Parteal, from whence they were really derived, and which are situated in the territories of the kings of Golconda, on the north bank of the Kistna river. The fickle changes of fortune, which are especially obvious in the discoveries of the precious metals and jewels, are conspicuous in this world-renowned district, which has been the fountain of almost fabulous wealth. The diamonds found at Parteal were merely cut and polished at Golconda ; the place itself now affords no indication of its former distinction, being in ruins, and the inhabitants, descendants of those who were enriched by their precious discoveries, being ill-clothed and half-starved in appearance.

" The existence of diamonds in South Africa" (remarks Mr. Boyle, in his interesting work, " To the Cape for Diamonds ") "had been several times asserted before the English conquest of Cape Colony. It was so far accredited in the middle of the last century, that the words, ` Here be diamonds,' are to be seen inscribed across our modern territory of Griqua-land West, in a mission map of 1750, or thereabouts. The probability of such discoveries had also been pointed out by various men of science, the late Sir Roderick Murchison, among others. The old Dutch residents of Cape Town appear to have been quite astir upon the matter on several occasions ; but as years passed on the ancient rumour died away. Men had to search back for memories long buried, when Governor Wodehouse set the colony in agitation by exhibiting the `Hopetown Diamond,' in 1867. That Bushmen, Corannas, and other tribes of low condition, used the gem mechanically from immemorial time, seems to be quite ascertained. They still remember how their fathers made periodical visits t0 the rivers of West Griqualand, seeking diamonds to bore their weighting stones.'

" The rediscovery, however, took place in 1867. At that date, a shrewd trader, named Niekirk, passing through a country forty miles or so to the west of Hopetown, saw the children of a Boer, called Jacobs, playing with pebbles picked up along the banks of the neighbouring Orange. Struck with the appearance of one among their playthings, Niekirk told Vrouw Jacobs that it reminded him of the white shining stones mentioned in the Bible. As he uttered the words, an ostrich-hunter, named O'Reilly, chanced to pass the doorway of the house. He overheard, entered, and was also impressed. Vague ideas of a diamond—which none of the three had ever seen—passed through their minds. They tried the pebble upon glass, scratching the sash all over, as I have seen it at this day. A bargain was struck. O'Reilly took the stone for sale, and each of the parties present were to share. At Capetown, upon the verdict of Dr. Atherstone, Sir P. E. Wodehouse gave £500 for it. The news of this discovery spread fast, and there was a general rush to the diamond fields.

" In 1869, a Hottentot shepherd, named Schwarzboy, brought to Mr. Gers' store, at the Hook, a gem of 831 carats, the ` Star of Africa,' wide-famed. In Mr. Gers' absence, the shopman did not like to risk the £200 worth of goods demanded. Schwarzboy passed on to the farm of that same Niekirk already mentioned. Here he demanded £400, which Niekirk ultimately paid, receiving £ 12,000 from Messrs. Lilienfeld the same day. The diamond was passed to Cape-town, and all the colony rose."

Mr. Boyle remarks that " the next generation of colonists will certainly be round-shouldered, for the quick eyes of children were found to be peculiarly useful in the search for diamonds."

The " Estrella do Sul " (Star of the South) brilliant, in the possession of the Khedive of Egypt, has a curious story attached to it. It was found in 1853, at Bargugem, of Minas Geraès (Brazil), by a negress. In the rough state it weighed 254 carats. Of the score or two of persons who made fortunes by the discovery, Casimiro (de Tal), whose negress brought it to him in order to obtain her freedom, was the only one disappointed, having sold it for £3,000. At the Bank of Rio de Janeiro it was deposited for £30,000. It was cut by Costar, of Amsterdam, who became its possessor, and was sold to the Khedive.

Not so fortunate as the negress was the finder of a diamond in the mines of Zejuco, in the same country. He was a negro slave, and very popular among his fellow workpeople, who all wished him to gain his liberty. His chance depended upon the weight of the diamond, and on its being placed in the balance it was found to be sixteen carats and a half. One carat more, he would have obtained his freedom.

A wonderful unearthing of treasure occurred at Petrossa, in Roumania, part of the ancient Roman Dacia. A mass of gold and jewels was exhumed by some peasants, so immense, that the ignorant finders were bewildered, and probably not conceiving that gold could be in such masses, one of them gave a piece of a salver to a tinker to mend his kettle ! Ultimately many of the important objects were re-covered, and among them extraordinary bird-shaped fibulae, inlaid with precious stones ; a gorget, with the garnet ornament in slices ; and with these, two torques of Celtic character ; the other objects being Gothic and Gotho-Byzantine.

The " Tara " brooch, now in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, was found near Drogheda, and sold to a metal merchant for a shilling! Five hundred pounds were subsequently offered for it. The gold filagree and plaited work is of such delicacy, that it has defied all imitation.

Home | More Articles | Email: