Charlemagne, Crown of Louis XV, Crowns and Regalia, De Sancy Diamond, French Revolution, King Louis XV of France, King Louis XVI of France, Louis XIV of France, Marie Antoinette, Philippe II of Orleans, Prince Regent, The Regent Diamond, Thomas Pitt
Today I feature my 9th favorite European Crown, The Crown of Louis XV, the sole surviving crown from the French ancien regime among the French Crown Jewels.
The Crown of Louis XV of France and Navarre
The crown was created for King Louis XV in 1722, when he had a new crown created. It was used at his coronation and was embellished with diamonds from the Royal Collection.
The new crown was made by Laurent Ronde, the French Crown jeweller. It originally contained a collection of Mazarin Diamonds, the de Sancy diamond in the fleur-de-lis at the top of the arches, and the famous ‘Regent’ diamond, which was set in the front of the crown, as well as hundreds of other precious diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
The de Sancy diamond has a long and colorful history, too long to tell in this blog entry. I’ll tell it’s story in one of tomorrow’s blog entries. I can tell the history of the Regent Diamond.
The Regent Diamond.
According to one rumour, in 1698, a slave of India found the 410 carats (82 g; 2.6 ozt) rough diamond in the Kollur Mine in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, India and hid it inside a large wound in his leg. An English sea captain stole the diamond from the slave, killed him and sold it to an Indian merchant.
The Regent Diamond
Thomas Pitt claimed he acquired the diamond from the eminent Indian diamond merchant Jamchund for 48,000 pagodas in the same year, so it is sometimes also known as the Pitt Diamond.
Thomas “Diamond” Pitt (1653-1726) of Stratford in Wiltshire and of Boconnoc in Cornwall, was an English merchant involved in trade with India who served as President of Madras and six times as a Member of Parliament. He was the grandfather of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (“Pitt the Elder”) and was great-grandfather of Pitt the Younger, both prime ministers of Great Britain.
Pitt dispatched the stone to London hidden in the heel of his son Robert’s shoe aboard the East Indiaman Loyal Cooke, which left Madras on October 9, 1702. It was later cut in London by the diamond cutter Harris, between 1704 and 1706. The cutting took two years and cost about £5,000. Rumours circulated that Pitt had fraudulently acquired the diamond.
Sale to the French Prince Regent
After many attempts to sell it to various Members of European royalty, including King Louis XIV of France, it was purchased by the French Regent, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, in 1717 for £135,000 (equivalent to £20,680,000 in 2019), at the urging of his close friend and famed memoirist Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon.
The stone was set into the crown of Louis XV for his coronation in 1722 and then into a new crown for the coronation of Louis XVI in 1775. It was also used to adorn a hat belonging to Marie-Antoinette. In 1791, its appraised value was £480,000 (equivalent to £58,160,000 in 2019).
All of France’s about 20 crowns of the Ancient Regime, kept in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, including the one of Saint Louis IX of France and the one said to have belonged to Charlemagne, were destroyed in 1793 during the French revolution. The crown of Louis XV was the only one to survive and counts, with those of the 19th century, among the only six remaining French crowns.
Louis XV of France and Navarre (Crown in the background)
The Ancien Régime (literally “old rule”) was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages (circa 15th century) until the French Revolution of 1789, which led to the abolition (1792) of hereditary monarchy and of the feudal system of the French nobility. The late Valois and Bourbon dynasties ruled during the Ancien Régime.
In 1885 the French Third Republic decided to sell the Crown Jewels. Given its historic importance, the crown of Louis XV was kept, though its precious stones were replaced by colored glass. It is on permanent display in the Louvre museum in Paris.
Crown of Louis XV displayed with Regent Diamond
The Regent Diamond is now separate from the crown diamond and is on display in the Louvre, worth as of 2015 £48,000,000. It is widely considered the most beautiful and the purest diamond in the world.