The Duke’s Diamonds: 1863


The Duke Of Brunswick.—The Duke of Brunswick, now residing in Paris, has an extraordinary collection of diamonds, valued at £450,000. A catalogue of his gems, which has just been published, contains 268 quarto pages, and gives the history of each stone; one has glittered on the breast of an emperor, another has sparkled in a royal diadem, a third has served as the eye of an idol. In this way diamonds follow one another of the value of from £2000 to £12,000 each. Not content with these, the duke is at the present moment bargaining for two gems—one valued at £35,000, the other at £97,500.

The possessor of these treasures is a perfect slave to them—he dare not leave Paris, for his diamonds form the chain which binds him; he dare not even absent himself from home a single night for fear of being robbed. The house he resides in is built less for comfort than for safety: it is equally proof against fire and thieves. It is surrounded by a lofty wall, on the top of which are spikes so arranged that when a hand is laid on one of them a bell commences ringing. The diamonds are kept in a safe let into the wall, and the duke’s bed stands before it, so that a thief attempting to get at the safe must awaken the sleeper. But this arrangement enables the Duke to gloat over his beloved jewels while he is lying in bed, and this he frequently does for hours together. Even were the safe reached and forcibly opened it would be useless, for four guns would be discharged and kill the burglar on the spot; and with the discharge of the guns is connected the ringing of an alarm-bell in every room to arouse the household. The duke’s bedroom has but one small window, and this is securely barred. The bolt on his door is of the stoutest iron, and the lock cannot be either picked or forced. A case containing twelve loaded revolvers stands by the side of his bed. Notwithstanding these precautions the duke continually fancies that he is about to be robbed, and this fear pursues him day and night. His idols prove his curse.

The Panorama, 1863: p. 83

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The alleged “Duke of Brunswick,” was, in fact, Charles II, former Duke of Brunswick, although he was allowed to keep his title when he was deposed in 1830 for his eccentricities and his corrupt government. Since he spent the first years after his father’s death under the guardianship of the Prince Regent, later George IV of England, his fascination with diamonds is readily explicable. While described in his obituary as a “painted, bewigged Lothario, whose follies, eccentricities, and diamonds made him the talk of Europe,”  he undeniably had an eye for jewels. It was said that he owned the Agra diamond and the “Brunswick Blue,” reputed to have been cut from the same stone as the Hope Diamond. He never married and left his fortune to the City of Geneva, which was disappointed in the results of the sale of his jewels and plate, some of which proved spurious.

Mrs Daffodil understands, from a mention made by a tabloid-reading footman, that a certain television personality, a Miss Kardashian, in town for Paris Fashion Week, was recently the victim of a terrifying and daring jewel robbery. The thirteen pieces of jewellery purloined, including Miss Kardashian’s immense engagement ring, were reported to be worth US$10 million, a figure later reduced to US$5.6 million in the insurance claims.  If Miss Kardashian happens to peruse these pages, she might wish to take a hint from the Duke who seems to have neglected no detail of security for his collection, anticipating the use of so-called “panic rooms” in the residences of the wealthy and powerful.

For a story of a sinister tablet-diamond ring, see this post; and for a clever diamond thief, see “The Diamond Buckles.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



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