Let them keepsake! Two diamond bracelets that Marie Antoinette entrusted to a friend before her execution are set to fetch £3MILLION at auction
- Jewels were sent from France before her and husband King Louis XIV’s execution
- After their 1793 deaths, they ended up with eldest daughter Marie-Therese
- Was exiled to Britain and died in 1851, passing jewels onto nieces and nephews
Two diamond bracelets that belonged to Marie Antoinette who entrusted them to a friend for safekeeping before her execution are tipped to sell for £3million.
The stunning jewels, which contain 112 diamonds, were among her few surviving possessions sent from France before she and her husband, King Louis XIV, were captured during the French Revolution.
After the royal couple were executed in 1793 the jewellery ended up with their eldest daughter, Marie-Therese, who was exiled to Britain.
She died in 1851 and her jewellery collection was divided among her three nieces and nephews, the Count and Countess of Chambord and the Duchess of Parma.
The two matching bracelets have been presented to Christie’s auctioneers by a mystery member of European royalty who is selling them almost 250 years later.
Two diamond bracelets that belonged to Marie Antoinette who entrusted them to a friend for safekeeping before her execution are tipped to sell for £3million
François Curiel, chairman at Christie’s in Europe, said: ‘It is a privilege to be able to offer these exceptional and unique bracelets which will attract bidding from collectors globally.
‘As seen in recent sales, the market for jewels of noble provenance continues to perform extremely well.
‘Of the pieces of jewellery with a traceable provenance back to the Queen of France, these extraordinary bracelets are the only example to include diamonds belonging to her.
‘While it is possible that the bracelets might have been re-mounted at a later stage, no changes were made to the overall composition.’
Marie Antionette bought the bracelets for 250,000 livres in 1776, paying for them partly with gemstones from her personal collection and with funds provided by her husband.
The king’s personal papers dated at the time state: ‘To the queen: down payment of 29,000 livres for the diamond bracelets she bought in Boehmer.’
Marie Antionette bought the bracelets for 250,000 livres in 1776, paying for them partly with gemstones from her personal collection and with funds provided by her husband, King Louis XIV
As the French Revolution gathered pace, the queen placed the bracelets in a wooden chest which she sent to Austrian ambassador and personal friend, Count Mercy-Argenteau, in Brussels in 1791.
He kept the box safe and unopened until Marie Antoinette was tried for treason and guillotined on October 16, 1793 following the abolition of the royal family.
Emperor Francis II of Austria, the queen’s brother, later ordered the chest to be opened and an inventory made of the items she had left behind.
The jewellery inside was presented to her daughter, 17-year-old Marie-Theresa – known as Madame Royale – the only surviving member of the French royal family.
Vincent Meylan, a historian who researched the bracelets for his new book, said: ‘The story begins in 1794 when a box of jewels is opened in Brussels by Count Mercy Argenteau, Austrian ambassador to France and a personal friend of Queen Marie Antoinette.
‘In March 1791, the queen had sent her jewels to Count Mercy for safe keeping. She had been guillotined in Paris on October 16 1793.
‘All of her jewels were given to her only surviving child, Madame Royale, who had just been freed from the Prison Du Temple in Paris.
‘She had entered the Temple in August 1793 with her father, King Louis XVI, mother, Queen Marie Antoinette, brother, the dauphin, and aunt, Madams Elisabeth – all were dead by the time she left.’
After the royal couple were executed in 1793 the jewellery ended up with their eldest daughter, Marie-Therese, who was exiled to Britain. Above: Marie-Therese is seen wearing the jewellery in an 1816 portrait painted by Antoine-Jean Gros
Queen Marie Antoinette was born the Archduchess of Austria as the daughter of Emperor Frances I of Austria in 1755.
She married into the French royal family in 1770 at the tender age of 14.
The queen had attempted to flee Paris to Varennes with her family in June 1791 but they were captured and placed under house arrest.
They were later imprisoned and the monarchy replaced by the National Convention in 1792.
The new government found Louis XVI guilty of treason and he was guillotined on January 21 1793, later followed by his wife.
Marie Theresa was released in a prisoner exchange and taken to her mother’s birthplace in Vienna in 1795
In a portrait by Antoine-Jean Gros, painted in 1816, Marie-Theresa is wearing a pair of diamond bracelets remarkably similar to those she received from her mother.
The bracelets will be sold in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 9.
The queen had attempted to flee Paris to Varennes with her family in June 1791 but they were captured and placed under house arrest. They were later imprisoned and the monarchy replaced by the National Convention in 1792. The new government found Louis XVI guilty of treason and he was guillotined on January 21 1793, later followed by his wife
How were Marie Antoinette’s jewels smuggled out of France?
In March 1791, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children began to prepare their escape from France.
According to accounts written by Marie Antoinette’s lady in waiting, Madame Campan, the queen spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping all of her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and placing them in a wooden chest.
In the following days, the jewels were sent to Brussels, which was under the rule of the queen’s sister, Archduchess Marie-Christine and which was home to Count Mercy Argentau.
The count, the former Austrian Ambassador to Paris, was one of the only men who had retained the queen’s trust.
It was he who took delivery of the jewels and sent them on to Vienna, into the safe keeping of the Austrian Emperor, Marie Antoinette’s nephew.
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