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How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne Hardcover

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007351534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007351534
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,320,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
It was the scandal which put the reputation of the queen of France at stake. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, the prince-bishop of Strasbourg and the grand almoner of France, was accused of stealing a 2,800 carot diamond necklace worth 1.6 million livres and invoking the name of the queen in his criminal enterprise. Offending the royal dignity was a crime seen as far worse than the theft. This fascinating book reads more like a historical thriller, as the author traces the events of the crime and investigates the people involved.

What unfolds is really a sordid affair; of thwarted ambition, revenge, debt, deception and a longing for attention. One of the most central characters was Jeanne de Saint Remy, a young woman who had a deeply unhappy childhood. Told that she was descended from royalty, her family’s wealth decimated and abandoned by her mother, Jeanne felt a deep resentment at her poverty and dependence on benefactors. After making a much repented marriage to Nicolas de la Motte, she headed for Versaille to try to reclaim her family lands. “Everyone at Versaille was waiting – for a promotion, for as assignation, for an increased stipend or a favour for a relative. The La Mottes joined the queue,” remarks the author. However, the queue was extremely long and there was little interest in another impoverished claimant. Even when Jeanne attempted a fainting fit in front of Marie Antoinette, it elicited no response. Yet, Jeanne felt that she should have been given a sympathetic shoulder on which to cry and, more than that, she wanted financial help. It is fair to say that no money would have been enough for the La Mottes – the couple lived in virtual poverty, yet constantly begged and borrowed to keep up appearances.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 19 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a lively re-telling of the scandal of Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace aimed at a general, popular audience rather than an academic one. Beckman is clearly enjoying himself as he re-traces this tale of scheming adventuresses, cardinals, royalty and fraud set in the years running up to the French Revolution.

At its heart is Jeanne de Saint-Remy, the descendent of an illegitimate line from king Henri II, who calls herself la comtesse de La Motte-Valois and sets out to re-claim her lost inheritance – or, at least, gain some benefit from an aristocracy which has shunned her.

With its themes of manipulation, play-acting, political shenanigans, and the eventual downfall of the monarchy, this is framed in a very modern manner making it accessible and spirited.

Beckman doesn’t uncover anything new about the story, or re-contextualise it in a novel way – but anyone who has read Alexandre Dumas’ Le Collier de la Reine (The Queen’s Necklace) will enjoy this re-telling of the facts behind the fiction.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 May 2015
Format: Paperback
Hard to believe that this re-telling of a fascinating footnote in French history is the first published work of Jonathan Beckman, senior editor of the Literary Review. The writing - certainly in the first half of the book - is delicious: sharp, funny, mellifluous and marvellously modern.

It tells the story of the Diamond Necklace Affair, a jewel-festooned garland "so heavy that...two streamers [of diamonds]...ran down the back of the wearer to stop her toppling over". This colossal and really rather hideous piece of brazen bling amounted to a whopping 2,800 carats and its theft led - directly, Beckman argues - to the toppling of the Bourbon monarchy. The diamond chain would eventually choke Marie Antoinette to death, though the French realised that "the quickest way to kill a queen was to slice straight through her throat".

Jeanne, the self-styled comtesse de La Motte-Valois, was a scrounger and "wannabe noble" who believed herself a descendant from an illegitimate line of kings. Worming her way into an ambiguous relationship with Cardinal Rohan, prince-bishop, almoner of France and scion of the phenomenally powerful Rohan dynasty, Jeanne used him to purchase the necklace, ostensibly on behalf of Marie Antoinette. She was aided and abetted by her husband, her lover and a celebrity charlatan, a fumbling team of fraudsters. An unsuspecting prostitute - a ringer for the queen - would be used to dupe the cardinal, whose gullibility beggars belief. It was this act that left them open to the far more serious charge of lèse-majesté - impugning the dignity of a sovereign. "Jeanne would show that the only difference between a prostitute and a queen was a clean dress and a dark night."

You couldn't make it up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Loverofbooks on 3 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I so wanted this to be good and a fun read - but I found it dull and turgid. The story of 'The Queen's Necklace" is there but lost in far too much background and sub-plots and distractions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Henry H8 on 6 Jun. 2015
Format: Paperback
I found this a frustrating book - mainly because at the end of it I simply didn't understand what the scam concerning the necklace had been about. The book is written in an almost novel-like fashion and Mr Beckman certainly paints vivid pictures of the main characters. Yet I found myself puzzling as to what the purpose of the scam had been. I also wasn't very engaged with the book. It was at its most interesting when Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI appear - but their appearances are relatively brief. I'm not sure whether the Necklace Affair particularly warranted a whole book and instead would have been more interesting as a chapter in a wider book on the causes of the French Revolution. I can understand why some people have really enjoyed the book - it does indeed read like a Wilkie Collins novel as has been suggested on the back cover of the book - but sadly it didn't grip me and left me confused.
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