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Culture

Jewellery belonging France’s last queen, Marie Antoinette, to be auctioned

media A natural pearl and diamond pendant that once belonged to the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette, expected to fetch €18m when it is auctioned at Sotheby's Genva, November 12, 2018. Sotheby's

Jewellery belonging to France’s last queen, Marie Antoinette, who was beheaded in Paris during the French revolution, is among a number of pieces to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in Geneva next month.

The collection, which is described as one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to come to auction, has not been seen in public for 200 years.

The execution of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, 1794 Wikimedia Common/Isidore Stanislas Helman

Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma family, which spans centuries of European history, from the reign of Louis XVI to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, will be auctioned off with some pieces expected to fetch up to €1.8 million.

Descendants of Louis XIV of France, the Holy Roman Emperors and from Pope Paul III, the Bourbon-Parma family is linked by blood to the most important ruling families of Europe - from the Bourbons to the Habsburgs.

Members of the lineage include Kings of France and Spain, Emperors of Austria and the Dukes of Parma.

The House of Bourbon-Parma itself is an Italian royal and ducal family and younger branch of the House of Bourbon, whose members once ruled as King of Etruria. The House is descended from the French Capetian dynasty. Its name of Bourbon-Parma comes from the main name (Bourbon) and the other (Parma) from the title of Duke of Parma.

According to the family history, as King Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their family prepared their escape in March 1791, the queen placed all her diamonds, rubies and pearls in a wooden chest, which made its way to Vienna by way of Brussels in the care of Count Mercy Argentau, a loyal retainer to the queen. She expected to collect them later.

However, both the king and queen were executed by guillotine in 1793 and their 10-year-old son Louis XVII died in captivity shortly after.

Their last surviving child Marie-Thérèse, known as "Madame Royale", was released from three years of solitary confinement in 1795. Upon her eventual arrival in Vienna in 1796 she reclaimed her mother’s jewels, which had been kept safe by her cousin, the Austrian Emperor.

A picture taken on May 4, 2018, in the Versailles Castle estate, in Versailles, west of Paris shows an outside view of the Queen's Hamlet, built for Marie-Antoinette between 1783 and 1787, after restoration work FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

The s jewels are also connected to the House of Habsburg, one of the most influential royal dynasties of Europe. Reigning over the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, the Habsburgs also occupied the throne of the Holy Roman Empire and produced emperors and kings whose dominions included Germany, England, Spain, Holland and Italy.

In a statement from the auction house, Daniela Mascetti, deputy chairman and Sotheby’s Jewellery Europe specialist said that the collection is one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to appear on the market.

 
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