It was inevitable. Scarcely eight months since the Prince of Hohenzollern married and the new Princess is already cleaning out the attic.
I’m teasing, of course. However, the Prince did mention that the decision to sell his family’s heirloom was “not his alone.” Hmmm.
The Beau Sancy is also known as the “Little Sancy” — one of a pair of diamonds named for their procurer who brought them to Western Europe in the sixteenth century out of Constantinople, their origin presumably from the diamond mines of India. The smaller gem is not the finest of white diamonds, nor does it benefit from modern cutting techniques. It does have a particularly romantic history.
Henri IV of France bestowed the diamond on his second wife, Marie de Medici, who wore it in her coronation crown the day before her new husband was assassinated. He once said Paris was worth a mass, but not all were convinced of his conversion to Catholicism. Side note: they found his skull, by the way, which had been taken from his ransacked tomb during the Revolution, still bearing the stab wound in his jaw from a previously unsuccessful assassination attempt.
Things of great beauty have a way of following the money, and so went the Beau Sancy to her next owners, the wealthy Princes of Orange. Prince Frederick Henry snagged an English queen for his son with its fire, but only for a time, and the diamond was returned to the Netherlands. By the Treaty of Utrecht, drawn up to settle the succession of Orange, it was soon on its way to one of the Prince’s descendants. To a little-known principality in Germany called Prussia.
That was 1713, and it has remained there ever since.
Oddly, the gem’s arrival coincided with a slow but steady development of tremendous power which Prussia began to wield all over Europe. Some will say this was rather a result of its rulers, Frederick William, the “Soldier King,” or Frederick the Great, the reluctant architect of her greatest military accomplishments. Others will point to Prussian virtues of order and obedience. Still more would point to its Junker aristocracy, which birthed the Iron Chancellor von Bismarck, who controlled Europe with a balance of power, and kept the constituency content with his creation of the modern welfare state. Regardless, the diamond presided over the development of Europe as we know it today.
They found the Beau Sancy after World War II, bricked up like a memory of the past. Perhaps they thought to protect it. Perhaps it had been merely forgotten.After all, it was one of the very few things left after decades of Imperial rule, returned to the family who had wielded the power it symbolized.
Now the symbol of past greatness is to be auctioned off in May. A relic of a vanished Empire.