Jonathan Beckman

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne | Jonathan Beckman


– How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne
Cover: UK Paperback

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.


Hilary Mantel

‘Stranger than fiction but just as gripping . . . a masterly exploration’

Michael Holroyd

‘A work of scholarship and imagination, that focusses new light on the famous and extraordinary affair of Marie Antoinette and the stolen diamonds . . . Jonathan Beckman is the new Wilkie Collins of biographical history’

Amanda Foreman

‘A fascinating and impeccably researched account . . . Beckman is a master-storyteller whose consummate skills are evident on every page’

Antonia Fraser

‘A murky story of the Ancien Régime including diamonds and sex, brilliantly told’

Dan Stevens

‘A really fascinating history’

John Preston, Evening Standard Books of the Year

‘A wonderfully enjoyable account of one of the most audacious cons ever perpetrated’

Sinclair McKay, Telegraph Books of the Year

‘Jonathan Beckman dazzlingly rehabilitates Marie Antoinette in an atmospheric and evocative account of diamonds, fraud, intrigues and a 1785 case that stoked antiroyalist feeling in France’


‘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’

Mail on Sunday

‘As gripping as a heist movie’

Sunday Times

‘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’


‘Fast-paced, colourful and rich’


‘Narrative history at its best. Every page is studded with the kind of detail that brings a scene to life … Jonathan Beckman tells his tale with gusto’

Sunday Telegraph

‘A gem . . . glistening with wit and insight’


‘Glittering and gloriously goofy … This is a terrific tale, told with assurance and gusto’

BBC History Magazine

‘Fascinating … a gripping detective story and a witty revelation of a scandal that shocked Paris’.

Daily Mail

‘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’

Country Life

‘Stranger than fiction and told with a verve that suggests the author relishes his dodgy tale’

Mail on Sunday

‘A richly enjoyable account of one of the most audacious scams ever perpetrated’

Sunday Business Post

‘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’


‘Necklace to neckless! This is the murky tale of the diamond heist that led to Marie Antoinette’s demise’