The Interrogation of Nicole d’Oliva Part 2

 Previously on the Affair of the Diamond Necklace . . .

My last post (here) was part 1 of my translation of Nicole d’Oliva’s testimony to the court during the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. The examiner told us how she told him that she had met Nicolas de La Motte one day while walking at the Palais-Royal. He took her to meet his wife, Jeanne de La Motte. The pair called themselves Comte and Comtesse, and

Portrait of Marie Antoinette, 1783 by Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun. The gown and headdress were changed because the queen’s white muslin dress in the original portrait was considered inappropriate. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

made Nicole part of their circle. Jeanne claimed to be a friend of the Queen’s, and on a summer night, she took Nicole out to do a little favor for the Queen. Nicole was to hand a man a rose and a letter and said, “You know what this means.” She was playing the part of the Queen in the gardens of Versailles–in particular the Grove of Venus.

Here’s the short story.

Suffice it to say that Nicole’s bit of playacting fooled a credulous Cardinal into thinking Marie-Antoinette favored him. He later acted as guarantor for what he thought was a purchase of a necklace on the Queen’s behalf. Jeanne was the go-between. The necklace disappeared (presumably, Jeanne stole it), and eventually all parties were arrested. As a result, Nicole was interrogated.

As mentioned in part 1, this is my attempt at a translation of a transcription from a book in French. I do not know French, so it was difficult. Some of the phrasing might be stilted, and some phrases were downright impossible for me to decipher confidently. But, without further ado, here is PART TWO:

We asked whether, when this person came, she lifted her hat “avec son éventail” [with her fan] and he said to her that he hoped she would forget what had happened in the past [the interrogator is asking about the Grove of Venus scene, and the person in question is Cardinal Rohan] . She answered that she did not raise the white Thérèse [a kind of hat] she had on her head, that she had no fan that night, and that she did not say she forgot the past because she was not able to say anything of the sort.

A little background is helpful here; the Cardinal had mortally offended Marie-Antoinette when she was still Dauphine by insulting her mother. He’d been trying to win back the Queen’s favor ever since (unsuccessfully). This is “the past” that Rohan wished her to forget–keep in mind that he thought he was talking to the Queen herself. Nicole’s comment implies that she was confused by the Cardinal’s words and wasn’t sure how to answer him without breaking character as it were.

I asked her if the person who came to her did not make a deep obeisance to her. She answered that she could not be certain, since it was night, if he made a deep obeisance, or if he was tall, or short. This was the affair of only a minute, and Madame de La Motte came to them saying, “Come quickly, come quickly!”

We asked if there was not with her [Jeanne de La Motte] at that moment a person with a slender figure, long pale face, and dark brows. We asked if that individual came to say that Madame [the Comtesse de Provence] and Madame la Comtesse d’Artois had rejoined the Queen. [This individual was Retaux de Villette.]

Again, a bit of clarification: Retaux de Villette, Jeanne de La Motte’s personal secretary, appeared on the scene at a pre-appointed time to make sure the Cardinal didn’t linger and discover the ruse. The ladies in question, the Comtesse de Provence and the Comtesse d’Artois, were Marie-Antoinette’s sisters-in-law (wives of Louis XVI’s brothers). They were often Marie-Antoinette’s companions.

She responded that upon entering the park, she saw a man to whom Madame de La Motte said, “Ah! There you are!” and that this man withdrew with Madame de La Motte. She had not seen this person we refer to, either near herself or near Madame de La Motte, who only came to say, “Come quickly!” The respondent did not hear anything else.

Based on my understanding, this means that Retaux also appeared just as they arrived at the gardens of Versailles, then disappeared until the right moment.

We asked whether, before going to Versailles or going to the park, she was instructed on the role she was meant to play. She responded that she didn’t know anything more than what she had just said.

We asked if in addition to the 4,000 livres, she would declare that she had received any additional sum. She responded no.

We asked if, upon her return to Versailles, she lived at the Rue Neuve St. Augustin, which was furnished. She responded yes.

We asked how she could pay her debts and furnish her house if she had not received a large sum from Madame de La Motte. She responded that before knowing Madame de la Motte, she had rented her apartment and begun to furnish it. The thousand écus that she received from Madame de la Motte at once went to pay the debts. Without that, she would have had the resource of a thousand écus from her family.

We asked if she did not continue to see Madame de La Motte and go to her house until August 1785. She responded that Madame de La Motte installed her only that once at her home and that she had dined with Madame de La Motte in Paris and Charonne three or four times, but she ceased to see her during the course of the year 1784.

We asked whether she saw other people at Madame de La Motte’s home, notably a woman known as de Courville, or the Baronne de Sallerberg. She responded that she saw various people at Madame de La Motte’s home, but only knew Madame and Monsieur Lafresnaye, with whom she had supper with Madame de La Motte upon returning with her from the countryside

We asked whether she saw at Madame de La Motte’s home a Monsieur Ogeard or Augeard or another individual sometimes called Marsilly, a sometimes counselor [lawyer?]. She responded that she did not intend to name names here.

I like Nicole’s sassiness here!

We asked whether she had seen or had anything to do with Madame de La Motte since September 1784. She responded no.

We asked why, when Madame de La Motte was arrested, she was absent from Paris and remained out of the kingdom.

She responded that she was in the countryside when Madame de La Motte was arrested. Upon returning to Paris, she was very troubled by her creditors. The man with whom she lived [Toussaint de Beausire] was just about to see all his furniture sold and had commitments to make payments that he couldn’t keep. He proposed that they retire to some small town until he had attained his majority, at which point he could pay his debs and arrange his affairs. They were determined to go to Fontainebleau, but a woman who lived in the same maison as the respondent, and to whom she spoke of her financial embarrassment, said, “You would do better to leave for Brussels, which is my country, where you can live very cheaply. What you have will suffice to live comfortably like you wanted to in Paris. I will accompany you.” The respondent told the man with whom she lived [Toussaint] of this project. He told her that he did not care to live elsewhere. After that, she went to Brussels, where that particular person [Toussaint] joined her eight days later. They intended to stay there until November, when he would attain his majority.

The interrogator went to some lengths (probably for propriety’s sake) to avoid naming Toussaint de Beausire or saying he was Nicole’s lover. He was precisely that. Nicole and Toussaint went to Brussels, where they were arrested and brought back to the Bastille. Toussaint was released shortly thereafter but Nicole, as we see, was interrogated.

We asked if she was not in fear of being arrested as a participant of all that Madame de La Motte had done. She responded that when Madame de La Motte was arrested, she heard it had something to do with a diamond necklace. She couldn’t be concerned about it, having never seen or heard of a necklace at Madame de La Motte’s home, since she absolutely ceased seeing her in September 1784.

We asked if she trusted the witnesses. She responded no.

We asked if she had ever been in prison. She responded that she had once been in La Force [a prison; presumably the charges were to do with prostitution] for four hours before someone posted bail for her.

So what happened to Nicole? Find out here, in the Verdict and the Epilogue.


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