Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wandering around France with Keeper

My little dog's name is Keeper, because when I tasked Micah with finding me a puppy ("You know what I like, go find me a puppy.") the summer before she went away to college, she found two.  I took them both home overnight to get to know them better and kept this one.  Thus, the name.  He's half Bichon Frise and half Shih Tzu.   Mind wandering, habitually looking to snag a French angle, I thought maybe I should've named him Bijoux - French for jewelry, and a combination of his two breeds, sort of.  Bi Tzu.  We could call him Bee.  

That led wandering mind to G. Fouquet's early 20th century art nouveau jewelry store relocated from Rue St. Honore to Musée Carnavalet in Paris and the day I visited it with my sister-in-law, Michele, in March 2012.  

The design of the fashionable store was as much a showpiece as the jewelry they displayed.  
Not my style, but interesting.

Michele peeking out the front door of the reconstructed jewelry store.  


While we're on the subject of jewelry, this is our March 2013 private Versailles guide and a mock-up of the Queen's famous necklace, that of the Diamond Necklace Affair.  It was in one of the rooms on our back room tour of the chateau.  I love the expression on the guide's face.  Serious about the subject.  She liked us, because we (Elissa and I) were serious and she could tell that we know more about French history than the average tourist.  I hung on her every word and dragged as many out of her as possible.

She seems to be saying, "Now let me get this just right." which I appreciate.

The Diamond Necklace Affair story is outlandish, by any standards.  As convoluted and outrageous as it was, it was damaging and was an important step stone toward the French Revolution and the demise of Bourbon Monarchy.

Gossip and slanderous libelles had so sullied Marie Antoinette's image that when she unknowingly became a central player in a scam involving...

1) a royal descendant born into poverty turned prostitute/con artist
2) a fabulously wealthy, well-connected Cardinal de Rohan, former ambassador to Marie Antoinette's mother's Viennese Court where his immoral and disrespectful behavior earned him the eternal disdain of mother and daughter
3) the royal jewelers Boehmer and Bessange who created, at the request of the previous king for his mistress, a monstrosity of a diamond necklace, that they peddled, unsuccessfully, to the world's rich and royal
4) an occultist named Cagliostro who claimed to have been reincarnated
5) random other oddball characters

.... people found it conceivable that it was true.  Some of those that knew it wasn't true nevertheless relished seeing their enemy Queen unfairly persecuted.

A few of the tantalizing scenes that captivated Paris' attention for months...

1)  The queen's routine burning of a note from the jewelers asking for payment for a necklace she hadn't purchased
2)  The Cardinal's arrest, in his pontifical robes, as he prepared to say Mass at Versailles
3)  The Cardinal's secretary's speedy and surreptitious burning of incriminating evidence as instructed by scribbled note penned by a panicked Cardinal
4)  a prostitute/Queen lookalike hired at the Palais Royale,  den of iniquity/residence of the King's traitorous cousin, the duc d'Orleans
5)  said prostitute, not fully aware of the significance of her role, impersonating the Queen in the garden of Versailles
6)  the Cardinal living in relative luxury in the Bastille while his powerful family stood shoulder to shoulder in his defense
7) Jeanne de la Motte's public branding after the Parlement de Paris trial and her subsequent descriptive pornographic publications describing fictional Versailles orgies and such

Though Marie Antoinette was completely innocent, the accusations were believable enough to a public who'd been fed a steady diet of mistruths and exaggerations - some of which were rooted in Marie Antoinette's frivolous behavior.

You might enjoy this cohesive summary of the famous story.  If you really enjoy it, let me know.  I'm always in the market for a new best friend.

I could wander on and on about this for hours, but will wrap this up with something I read somewhere (in the book "Marie Antoinette:  The Journey by Antonia Fraser, I think).  Its slightly raunchy tone might be the reason no one has ever acknowledged the humor I see in the story. Whenever I've gotten up the nerve to relate it, listeners seem to cringe a bit.  Not all that much more than they cringe when I summon the courage to tell any French Revolution anecdote, though, so maybe it's not too offensive.  During the 18th century there was a popular style of very long necklace often gifted to mistresses by their aristocratic lovers.  They were called "la rivière" (the river) because they appeared to flow to their source.  That's pretty clever, I think.  Also, the French word for jewelry, "bijoux," is French slang along the lines of "the family (female) jewels."  Libelists and cartoonists of the Diamond Necklace Affair era gleefully used the play on words when linking the diamond necklace to Marie Antoinette.

And, on that note, I'll wander away...

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