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Book Review: How To Ruin A Queen

How To Ruin A Queen by Jonathan Beckman
This is an account of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace which has inspired an essay, an opera, novels and a Hilary Swank movie. This was a scandal full of entrapment, credulity, false friendship, fabulous diamonds, con artists, a prison break, pornography, attempted rendition and a proposed duel involving an arsenic laced pig.

The unloved haughty Queen Marie Antoinette, a layabout named Nicolas de la Motte and Cardinal Rohan were manipulated by an adventuress named Jeanne who was descended from an illegitimate Valois line and was obsessed with her ‘rights’ and ‘due’. Jeanne’s con involved a grubby encounter in a garden, a prostitute pretending to be the Queen of France, forged letters, a forger and the theft of the most expensive piece of jewellery in Europe. The necklace vanished never to be seen again and various bling ring participants are jailed for theft, offending royal dignity, forgery and gullibility. The trials helped pave the way for the Revolution as the overproud Queen made baseless assertions and did herself no favours.

The fates of all involved are meticulously laid bare. This is an excellent account of a bizarre true crime that took place in 1786 and shows the pervasive mindset against the monarchy was exacerbated by this event.

Best Lines:
“Jeanne would show that the only difference between a prostitute and a queen was a clean dress and a dark night.”

“Indecently sluttish.”

“In the most indecent position.”

“Dishonourable atrocities.”

“She was banned from the unsupervised use of crockery.”

“Unhappy in not being dead.”
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