The History of the Hope Diamond and its Relation to Bar Harbor – Part V

published march 13, 2024 | written by emily cough | edited by bhhs staff

Part V – The Stolen Crown Jewels

A Disgraced King

As grievances mounted and tensions boiled over, the French Revolution erupted in a wave of popular uprising and mass mobilization. With the storming of the Bastille, it marked the symbolic beginning of the revolution, as ordinary citizens rose up against royal tyranny and demanded radical change.

By 1791, the French Revolution had entered a critical phase, with tensions between the monarchy and revolutionary factions reaching a boiling point. Louis XVI, faced with mounting opposition and pressure from the revolutionaries, attempted to flee France in June 1791. Disguised as servants and accompanied by their children, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had hoped to slip away unnoticed from the confines of Paris, seeking refuge in the Austrian Netherlands (Covington 2023). However, their escape attempt was thwarted, and they were apprehended near the town of Varennes and brought back to Paris under guard (“Louis XVI” 2023).

Meanwhile, The French Crown Jewels, among them the French Blue, were surrendered to the revolutionary authorities. From there, the jewels were “moved to the Garde-Meuble, the Royal Storehouse, where they were put on view for the public once a week until 1792” (“History of the Hope Diamond,” n.d.).

Stolen Jewels

Using the momentum of a crumbling France, with riots and fights breaking out regularly, in September of 1792, a series of break-ins occurred at the Garde-Meuble. Over the course of 5 nights, a majority of the French Crown Jewels were stolen.

The last known whereabouts of the Golden Fleece, where the French Blue was set in, laid with Cadet Guillot Lordonner, one of the thieves. According to author and historian María Pilar Queralt del Hierro, Londonner “removed the French Blue from the setting” and unlike a majority of the French Jewels, which were later resurfaced, “the French Blue vanished” (Del Hierro and National Geographic 2021).

…Or did it?

Marie Antoinette and the Curse

Though not integral to the overall story of the Hope Diamond and its relation to Bar Harbor, it is important to note Marie Antoinette’s role, or lack thereof, in the saga of the French Blue.

It was on October 16, 1793 that Marie Antoinette was beheaded on counts of treason, for “making secret agreements with Austria and Prussia (which had joined with Austria in the war against France), [for] shipping money abroad to Louis’ two younger brothers in exile and of conspiring with these enemies against France,” (Covington 2006).

With the death of France’s last queen, and the connection of the French Blue by marriage, it only added fuel to the cursed fire that became associated with the Hope Diamond—did bad luck follow the jewel around?

Well…not exactly. Remember our distinction in Part I? The Order of the Golden Fleece/French Blue was rarely, if ever, worn. Even by the King.

According to cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin, there has been only one substantiated claim that the diamond was even removed from the Golden Fleece setting (and subsequently returned to its place). Calculating and “conducting studies on specific gravity,” Mathurin-Jacques Brisson wanted to use the French blue in a science experiment, along with other Crown Jewels (Kurin 2017). Apart from this instance, there is no recorded documentation that the diamond was removed or used for other purposes.

The Golden Fleece was a symbol of the King’s power, and as Antoinette was only queen consort, there is even a less likely chance she either wore it or was in possession of it. In a way, as queen consort, she was in a station below her husband, and therefore not seen as possessing the same level of power as him.

Already with Tavernier’s and Antoinette’s stories we see the discrepancies with the supposed curse. Though her ending was tragic, it’s highly unlikely that the “curse” that follows the Hope Diamond would be attributed to Antoinette’s ending.

References

Covington, Richard. 2023. “Marie Antoinette.” Smithsonian Magazine, March 13, 2023. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/marie-antoinette-134629573/.

Del Hierro, María Pilar Queralt and National Geographic. 2021. “Stolen Along With the French Crown Jewels, This Prized Blue Diamond Stayed Lost for Centuries Until the Detective Work of Historians and Scientists Cracked the Case.” National Geographic, April 30, 2021. https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2021/04/stolen-in-1792-the-french-blue-diamonds-fate-puzzled-historians-for-centuries.

“History of the Hope Diamond.” n.d. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. https://naturalhistory.si.edu/explore/collections/hope-diamond-history.

Kurin, Richard. 2017. Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem. Smithsonian Institution.“Louis XVI.” 2023. Palace of Versailles. February 17, 2023. https://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/history/great-characters/louis-xvi#:~:text=The