World History 1785

About the history of the world in 1785, the affair of the queen's diamond necklace a precursor to revolution and Napoleon graduates.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1785

Aug. 1 The affair of the queen's diamond necklace, from which Napoleon dated the downfall of the monarchy, came to a head. Two confidence tricksters induced the wealthy, gullible Cardinal de Rohan, hungry for advancement at court, to purchase a $500,000 diamond necklace for Marie Antoinette, who he believed would favor him if he concealed the business from the king. The conspirators hired a girl to impersonate the queen by moonlight and forged her signature. They expected that even when the cardinal realized he had been duped, he would keep quiet to avoid scandal. Meanwhile they obtained the necklace on credit, separated the stones, and sold them.

The turning point came on Aug.1, when the jewelers unexpectedly went to the queen for payment instead of to the cardinal. Furious at Rohan for apparently involving her in a scheme to defraud the jewelers, she had him tried before the parliament of Paris to clear her name. But everyone believed the queen was in league with the conspirators (who were given harsh punishment), and Rohan was found innocent, a stunning blow to the monarchy. These bizarre events, which inspired a Dumas novel and a Goethe play, could not have transpired without Marie Antoinette's reputation for frivolity, extravagance, and duplicity.

Sept. 28 Napoleon Bonaparte, 16, graduated from the military academy in Paris after taking a standard three-year course in one year. He ranked 42nd in a class of 51 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

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