The Verdict


If you don’t want to know what happened to whom, then please don’t read on! If, however, you’re curious about what happened to all these characters who I have bringing to you one by one, then please read on.

Early on the morning of Mary 31, 1786, the courtyard of the Palais de Justice and all of the surrounding streets and byways were filled with people waiting to hear the verdict in the trial of the century, a trial that had captured the imagination on the entire French kingdom. A Cardinal of the Church was accused of theft, forgery, and lèse-majesté(criminal disrespect for the person of the monarch, in this case Marie-Antoinette); a young, pretty adventuress was accused of masterminding a plot to steal a necklace worth a large fortune and tricking the Cardinal; a mystic, Rosicrucian, and fraud was accused of–sort of, somehow–being involved in the theft; and a young prostitute was accused of impersonating the queen in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles.

Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan had a very large, very powerful family. As court was opened very early on May 31st, 19 powerful members of his family (from the Soubise, Guéménée, and Lorraine) arrived in mourning. It was a show of support for their relative and respect for the Parlement de Paris, the court hearing the case.

Before this trial began, many witnesses had been examined. It was something of a parade, including everyone from a clockmaker to the Du Barry herself. The Prosecutor General, Monsieur Joly de Fleury, wrote down his recommendations to the court before the accused were brought before it. The recommendations were sealed, to be opened after the accused persons were questioned by the lords of the Parlement. Once this was done, the seal would be broken and the recommendations read and the voted on. Continue reading

Retaux de Villette

Characters #4: Retaux de Villette (1759-1797?)

Like almost everyone else involved in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Retaux de Villette left a first-hand account for posterity. Memoirs were something of a vogue, and nearly everyone had one–Madame de La Motte, Monsieur de La Motte, and Comte Beugnot to name a few involved directly in the affair. Villette’s memoirs were published in Venice in 1790 under the name “Mémoires Historiques des Intrigues de la Cour”.

The “intrigue” is, of course, the Affair of the Diamond Necklace which Retaux de Villette had a very intimate involvement in.

Plan of the grounds of the Chateau de Versailles, where Retaux de Villette took part in the “Grove of Venus” incident.

Villette, a tall blonde-haired blue-eyed young man, had known Nicolas Marc-Antoine de La Motte since childhood. They were both born in Bar-sur-Aube and both went into the cavalry at the garrison of Lunéville. Villette was relatively well educated and accomplished, with a good voice, the ability to play the mandolin almost professionally, and some real flair for penmanship and writing. He was published in a few European newspapers such as the Gazette of Leyden.

His relationship with his friend Nicolas’s wife (Jeanne de La Motte-Valois) is a little sketchy. But it seems fairly likely that there was a ménage à trois between them. He certainly was named Madame de La Motte’s “personal secretary”. Certainly he was good with a pen, but one suspects that “personal secretary” was as much a euphemism as a job title. Villette himself admits in his memoir that he “loved Madame de La Motte to distraction”.

In any case, Villette was always in financial trouble. According to a friend of Madame de La Motte’s, a young lawyer named Jacques Claude Beugnot, he lived an itinerant lifestyle, leaving a trail of debts and running from them. He therefore had something in common with Jeanne de La Motte-Valois: financial desperation. It wasn’t much of a leap, therefore, for the two to go from (probable) lovers to co-conspirators . . . with Nicolas de La Motte, the husband, in on it, too.

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