The Fate of the Crown Jewels of France


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Highlighting Historical Romance with Saralee Etter

I am currently working on HER WILD IRISH ROGUE, which takes place in Paris in July 1815, about a month after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. As I researched this period of history, I ran across a delightful bit of information about the Crown Jewels of France.

All of Europe breathed a sigh of relief on March 31, 1814. After 20 years of waging war and bloodshed across the continent, Napoleon had been forced to abdicate.

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Napoleon by Jacques Louis David via Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon, rough and uncultured military general though he was, loved rich clothing and sparkling jewels. He took every advantage of his position as Emperor of the French to adorn himself. He had the huge Le Regent diamond mounted in the hilt of his sword that he carried at his coronation in 1804. His coronation portrait shows him with all the royal regalia, including the Hand of Justice scepter.

But in 1814, his reign was over. The victorious allied forces decreed that he should be sent to Elba, a small and barren rock of an island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy. In his place, King Louis XVIII pledged to rule as a constitutional monarch of France. Then the diplomats of Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and other European countries gathered at the Congress of Vienna to redraw the national boundaries of Europe.

As the diplomats negotiated and partied in Vienna, Napoleon grew restless on his Mediterranean island. On February 26, 1815, the former Emperor escaped from Elba and returned to France.

Over the following three weeks, Napoleon swept across France, gathering an army of supporters. He was half-way to Paris when King Louis XVIII fled the capital for Ghent, a pleasant city on the coast of Belgium.

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Photo by Wouter Engler [CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

Although King Louis didn’t sneak out of Paris on the sly, one aspect of his flight was indeed conducted in secret: the removal of the Crown Jewels of France.  This collection of mounted and loose precious stones, diamonds, and pearls included the famous diamond Le Régent, a 410-carat stone valued at 6 million francs. The treasure was to be taken to Calais, and then across the Channel to England for safekeeping.

The mission to smuggle the jewels out of the country was entrusted to Baron Francois Hüe, Treasurer of the Royal Household.  A former member of the court of Louis XVI, upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 Hüe was rewarded for his faithfulness with a baronetcy by Louis XVIII.

Baron Hüe’s plan was to hide the jewels in artillery boxes and spirit them away at midnight on March 20, 1815. But that was the very day Napoleon entered Paris, and his troops were already flooding the city. It was 6 o’clock in the morning before the Baron finally escaped from the Tuileries Palace.  Worse still, news of the clandestine operation had traveled fast – many people had already learned of the Baron’s precious cargo. Fortunately, some of them helped him along the way.

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Le Regent: photo by Tangopaso via Wikimedia Commons

In Calais, the Baron encountered the next problem – the political situation with England was so unsettled that he couldn’t get across the channel. Desperate, he changed course, taking the Crown Jewels to Lille where, flashing his official travel documents, he talked his way over the border into Belgium. He passed through the Belgian cities of  Tournai and Ostende before rejoining the exiled French King in Ghent.

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Main de la Justice Sceptre: Louvre Museum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On March 28, 1815, Napoleon’s ministers opened the vault where the Crown Jewels were kept, only to find it empty except for the document left there by Baron Hüe – Louis XVIII’s order instructing him to remove the Crown Jewels.

Napoleon’s return to power after Elba only lasted 100 days. His final defeat came at the Battle of Waterloo, on June 18, 1815. He was exiled to the remote tropical island of St. Helena, in the southern Atlantic ocean. The Crown Jewels returned to France along with Louis XVIII.

More information:
http://famousdiamonds.tripod.com/regentdiamond.html

http://www.100days.eu/items/show/30

https://traveltoeat.com/napoleon-and-the-french-crown-jewels/

headshot-web-240x300 Art Highlighting Historical About the Author

Saralee Etter is the author of three traditional Regency romances. Her next book, coming October 2018, will be HER WILD IRISH ROGUE. It is part of the LEGENDS TO LOVE Regency romance series, with a protagonist based on the legendary Irish hero Cuchulain. She is working on A SHORT SHARP SHOCK, the first book in a Victorian-set mystery series featuring sleuth Lucy Turner and her friends, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

You can visit her on the web at www.saraleeetter.com

 

 

 

Excerpt from HER WILD IRISH ROGUE

Miss Emma Forgall waved her fan lazily. “Where in Ireland are you from?”

“I’m from Macha’s Brooch,” Captain Killian replied, hands clasped behind his back and feet set sturdily apart. Somewhere in the back of the elegant Parisian ballroom, the orchestra struck up a tune.

Lord Parkington snorted. “Impossible. Macha’s Brooch isn’t a place.”

It’s a riddle, you fool,Emma wanted to say. Why wouldn’t Lord Parkington go away? Just because Emma’s father approved of him, that didn’t give him permission to act like he was her keeper.

She ignored him and thought about the riddle. In Celtic legend, the goddess Macha used the point of her brooch-pin to scratch the boundaries of the city of Ulster into the ground, and made her vanquished enemies dig its fortifications for her.

Macha’s Brooch meant Ulster.

“Ulster is a great distance from Paris,” Emma remarked casually, watching Captain Killian’s face for signs that she’d gotten it right. “Where did you stop along the way, when you traveled here?”

He shrugged his wide shoulders. “We stopped in the home of the man who herds the cattle on the plain of Tethra.”

“The what?” demanded Lord Parkington, who still hadn’t gone away. The man simply never could take a hint. “What are you talking about?”

Another riddle. She was beginning to enjoy herself. Good thing she knew her myths – Tethra was an ancient guardian deity ruling over the waters, and the “plain of Tethra” was the sea. Therefore, the cattle of the sea were…fish. Captain Killian had stayed at the home of a fisherman.

“So your host was a fisherman,” she said coolly. “No doubt you had excellent fish for dinner?”

He grinned at her. “Most excellent fish.”

Right, again! Emma’s heart gave a little hop of excitement. She smiled back at him and asked, “And where did your travels take you then?”

“Simple enough,” replied Captain Killian. “We went over the Great Secret of the men of Dea,  down the Great Crime, across to the Land of the Red Dragon, to the Ford of Oxen, and then to Caer-Lud. Then on to Lutetia.”

“What nonsense are you spouting?” Lord Parkington howled. “Surely you can’t pretend that you understand him, Miss Forgall!”

Emma waved a dismissive hand. She knew her Celtic mythology and her ancient Roman history. Besides, it was worth it just to see Lord Parkington’s purple-faced frustration.

“So, down the Boyne, over the River Delvin, across the sea to Wales, and then through Oxford to London. And here you are in Lutetia—or, as we call it, Paris.”

“Exactly.” Captain Killian nodded. “Now tell me about yourself.”

 

 

 

 

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Caroline Warfield

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