The Affair of the Necklace

On August 15, 1785, the “Affair of the Necklace” broke upon France, just as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were about to attend the Mass of the Assumption, the patronal solemnity of the realm. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, who was supposed to offer the Mass, was publicly arrested in his pontifical robes for his part in the debacle… (more)

Elena at Tea at Trianon summarizes the scandal, and links to a review of the film of the same name at Salon.

I wholeheartedly agree with Elena: apart from a creditable performance by Joely Richardson as Marie-Antoinette, it is indeed a dreadful movie. It utterly fails at making Madame de Lamotte (Hilary Swank), false countess and swindler extraordinaire, a sympathetic figure.

For the sake of accuracy, Louis, Prince de Rohan and Bishop of Strasbourg (played by Jonathan Pryce) was not “the Cardinal of all France” as he keeps repeating throughout the movie. There is, or was no such title. The Cardinal de Rohan was Grand Aumônier de France, “Great Almoner of France,” meaning that he was chaplain to the royal family and had christened all of the children of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Yet the Queen loathed him. He was aware of it, and ready to do anything to ingratiate himself with her, including falling headlong into the snares of Madame de Lamotte.

Imagine the uproar that followed the Cardinal de Rohan’s arrest on the high holiday of the Assumption, on the threshold of the Royal Chapel in Versailles, before the eyes of the assembled -and astonished- Court. And that was only the beginning of a scandal that would destroy, less than four years before the Revolution, whatever remained of Marie-Antoinette’s already tarnished reputation. All for a jewel she had never owned, worn or even wanted, but that would remain the Queen’s Necklace.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 Comments to “The Affair of the Necklace”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    Elisa – You are right, Madame de Lamotte (or La Mothe, or La Motte, spelling of proper names then was erratic) was indeed the direct descendant of a bastard son of King Henri II. Her father, Saint-Remy, was a drunkard, physically and financially ruined. This is the same man who is presented as such an idealist in the film.

    Elena – The movie was unwittingly ludicrous. I am starved for a good historical film and have pinned my hopes on The Duchess.

  2. I am glad that you hated the movie, too, Catherine….

  3. Elisa says:

    If I remember correctly, Mme La Motte was descendent of illegtimate children of Henry II of England. Incredible there were people who believed her wild yet false tales.

Leave a Reply