The Queen’s Necklace by Antal Szerb - review by Jonathan Beckman

Jonathan Beckman

V For Voleuse

The Queen’s Necklace


Pushkin Press 308pp £12

Marie-Antoinette, was summoned to Versailles to explain why exactly he had demanded payment from the Queen for a necklace she had never bought and had no desire to own. The meeting confirmed his mounting fears: he had been swindled. 

Böhmer and his partner Bassange had spent years working on the 2,800-carat necklace that they hoped would be bought by Louis XV for his mistress Madame du Barry. But Louis died in 1774 before the piece was completed, and though the jewellers badgered Marie-Antoinette to purchase it, they were unable to convince her. The debt incurred was throttling their company. Böhmer’s luck seemed to have changed in January 1785, when he was approached by Cardinal Louis de Rohan, the Archbishop of Strasbourg, who claimed that the Queen wanted to buy the jewel on the quiet and had authorised Rohan as her intermediary. But Rohan himself had been deceived. 

Rohan came from of one of the most distinguished lineages in France and had his eye on the highest ministerial office. His one obstacle was Marie-Antoinette’s disdain for him. In the 1770s, as ambassador to Vienna, he had alienated the Queen and her mother, the Holy Roman Empress

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter