How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal That Shook the French Throne
'A hell of a tale and Jonathan Beckman gives it all the verve and swagger it deserves ...I read it with fascination, delight and frequent snorts of incredulity' The Spectator On 5 September 1785, a trial began in Paris that would divide the country, captivate Europe and send the French monarchy tumbling down the slope towards the Revolution. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, scion of one of the most ancient and distinguished families in France, stood accused of forging Marie Antoinette's signature to fraudulently obtain the most expensive piece of jewellery in Europe - a 2,400-carat necklace worth 1.6 million francs. Where were the diamonds now? Was Rohan entirely innocent? Was, for that matter, the queen? What was the role of the charismatic magus, the comte de Cagliostro, who was rumoured to be two-thousand-years old and capable of transforming metal into gold? This is a tale of political machinations and extravagance on an enormous scale; of kidnappings, prison breaks and assassination attempts; of hapless French police disguised as colliers, reams of lesbian pornography and a duel fought with poisoned pigs. It is a detective story, a courtroom drama, a tragicomic farce, and a study of credulity and self-deception in the Age of Enlightenment.
A tale of greed, lust, deceit, theft on an extraordinary scale, charlatanry, kidnapping, assassination and escape from prison.
Glittering and gloriously goofy ... This is a terrific tale, told with assurance and gusto Guardian Jonathan Beckman has an eye for a good story. His account of the affair is full of human drama, including illicit sex, assassination attempts and prison escapes ... a superb piece of research that separates myth from reality Sunday Business Post A really fascinating history Dan Stevens Stranger than fiction and told with a verve that suggests the author relishes his dodgy tale Country Life Jonathan Beckman has tunnelled into the warren of misinformation ... and has come out with what must be as near to the truth as we'll get Daily Mail Jonathan Beckman tells his complicated tale with gusto Observer A wonderfully enjoyable account of one of the most audacious cons ever perpetrated John Preston, Evening Standard Books of the Year Jonathan Beckman dazzlingly rehabilitates Marie Antoinette in an atmospheric and evocative account of diamonds, fraud, intrigue and a 1785 case that stoked antiroyalist feeling in France Telegraph Books of the Year A richly enjoyable account of one of the most audacious scams ever perpetrated Mail on Sunday Beckman's tale of the Diamond Necklace Affair is full of character and tawdry details, and glistens with wit and insight Daily Telegraph Beckman has waded through masses of evidence from the trial to retell this fascinating and complicated story Daily Mail Gripped me like a whodunnit ... That's not surprising. It relates the story of the greatest crime caper of the 18th Century The Times Beckman has waded through masses of evidence from the trial to retell this fascinating and complicated story Irish Daily Mail Stranger than fiction but just as gripping, How to Ruin a Queen is a masterly exploration of the 'diamond necklace' affair Hilary Mantel A work of scholarship and imagination, that focusses new light on the famous and extraordinary affair of Marie Antoinette and the stolen diamonds. The narrative is like an ingenious chess game showing us the complex moves of bishops, knights and pawns round the king and queen. Jonathan Beckman is the new Wilkie Collins of biographical history Michael Holroyd How to Ruin a Queen is a fascinating and impeccably researched account of one of the great scandals of the 18th century. Beckman is a master-storyteller whose consummate skills are evident on every page Amanda Foreman A murky story of the Ancien Regime including diamonds and sex, brilliantly told Lady Antonia Fraser Necklace to neckless! This is the murky tale of the diamond heist that led to Marie Antoinette's demise Tatler A rollicking whodunit Independent A hell of a tale and Jonathan Beckman gives it all the verve and swagger it deserves ... I read it with fascination, delight and frequent snorts of incredulity - and I strongly suspect you will too The Spectator Fascinating ... a gripping detective story and a witty revelation of a scandal that shocked Paris BBC History Magazine In his intriguing history, Jonathan Beckman has spun out of this dirty tangle of source material a clear and compelling narrative line ... with its exuberant use of language and subtly ironic storytelling, it is almost as colourful as the scandal it explores Sunday Times Gripped me like a whodunit ... Beckman tells this scarcely believable story with flair The Times Jonathan Beckman skilfully unfolds the intricacies and absurdities of this extraordinary episode ... Beckman provides us with an engaging and finely researched study of an affair that, despite having the plot of a frothy operetta, was of genuine historical significance Literary Review As gripping as a heist movie Mail on Sunday A gem ... glistening with wit and insight Sunday Telegraph Fast-paced, colourful and rich The Economist Vivid and compelling History Revealed
Jonathan Beckman is senior editor of Literary Review. He has degrees in English from the University of Cambridge and Intellectual and Cultural History from Queen Mary, University of London. In 2010, he won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction.