This fine quality yellow oval-cut diamond, weighing about 10 carats, is named after Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre (1725 - 95). Neither the circumstances now the date of the Duke's aquisition of the gem appear to be known. In the world of great diamonds, the Penthièvre is relatively small, but its history is odd to say the least.
Born at Rambouillet, the Duke of Penthièvre was heir to the last of the legitimate sons of Louis XIV. He became Governor of Brittany and his service in the French army saw him fight with great bravery in the battles of Dettingen, Fontenoy and Raucoux. He possessed an immense fortune which he made generous use of and he was the sole prince of his family to remain popular up to the time of his death. This occured just 36 days before the ruling Convention passed a decree placing all the princes of Bourbon dynasty under arrest and ordering the sequestration of their property.
The Duke of Penthièvre had six children but only one survived: his daughter Louis-Marie Adelaïde de Bourbon. She married Philippe, Duke of Orleans, who came to be known as 'Egalité' and became the mother - that is if the following account of events is disreguarded - of Louis Philippe, the future King of France. The Duke of Orleans adopted the name of 'Egalité' in accordance with his liberal views, voted for the execution of his kinsman, Louis XVI, in 1793, but went to the scaffold himself later the same year. The marriage between 'Egalité' and the daughter of the Duke of Penthièvre was not a happy one. In the event, the alleged efforts of 'Egalitè' prevent his wife's rich inheritance from reverting to her relations, if she should die early, proved to be responsible for one of the most extraordinary and bizarre episodes ever to have taken place within the confines of a prominent European royal family.
The story centered on Maria Stella Petronilla who, in October of 1786, became the second wife of the first Lord Newborough. After his death she married another nobleman, Baron Angern Sternberg, before dying in Paris in 1843 in obscurity and poverty. One day in 1821 she recieved the following letter:
The day on which you were born to a person, whom I cannot name, and who is dead, a son was born to me. I requested to make an exchange of children, and in the then state if my finances, I agreed to the profitable proposals that were made to me, and adopted you for my daughter, my son being taken by the other party. Heaven has repaired my fault, since you are in a better position than your real father, although he was of almost similar rank, and this makes me quit life in some peace ... I pray you keep this information concealed, to prevent the world from discussing a matter beyond remedy. This will reach you only after my death.
- Lorenzo Chiapinni"
But the world did not begin to discuss the matter, while Maria Stella was astounded by the contents of the letter she had recieved. At once she saw all the difficulties of her early life cleared up, in particular the harsh treatment meted out to her and the difference between her upbringing and that of the other Chiapinni children. Furthermore she remembered that when she was beside the dying Chiapinni he had uttered three, at that time, incomprehensible final syllables: 'Dio mio. Baranto.' Finally, after she had recieved the above letter she came to understand the full meaning of the word 'baranto': evidently it was a mispronunciation of 'baratto', meaning in Italian a 'substitution' or 'tricky exchange'.
But if Maria Stella was not a Chiapinni then who was she? Henceforth the whole purpose of her life was resolve this question. After her inquiries and investigation into the affair, Maria Stella contended that:
1) She was the legitimate daughter and eldest child of the Duke and Duchess of Orleans ('Egalité').
2) In 1772, 'Egalité' and his wife, at the time the Duke and Duchess of Chârtres, were travelling incognite in Italy as Comte and Comtesse of Joinville.
3) In 1773 at Modigliana, in Tuscany, the so-called Comtesse of Joinville gave birth to a daughter.
4) A song being greatly desired as an heir, chiefly for pecuniary reasons, his infant daughter was exchanged for a son, born the same day to the wife of one Lorenzo Chiapinni, constable of the village of Modigliana. (If the Duke's wife had died before him without leaving a son, a large proportion of her great wealth would have been reverted to her family into which he had married. 'Egalité' may have had cause to fear that his wife, who was very delicate, might not produce a healthy boy.)
5) This girl was brought up in the constable's family and passed for his daughter. She was married at Florence, at an early age, to the first Lord Newborough.
6) The son of Florenzo Chiapinni was, for a monetary consideration, handed over to the Comte de Joinville, otherwise the Duke of Chârtres, whoever after fraudulently represented him to be his own child, and that this changeling eventually became Louis Philippe, King of the French. 7) In person, manner, and in the contour of his physiognomy, Louis Phillipe resembled an Italian peasant; this charactistic resemblance being strikingly apparent in his dark and coarse skin, very common appearance, and heavy under-bred physique, while Philippe 'Egalité', his reputed father, was, when young, said to have been the most handsome man in France, especially in figure and carriage.
8) The younger children of Philippe 'Egalité' - the Duke of Montpensier, the Count of Beaujolais and Madame Adelaïde - were handsome, fair and refined and bore no resemblance to his so-called eldest son, Louis Philippe.
9) Maria Stella's likeness to many members of the house of Orleans, particularly to the children of 'Egalité', excepting Louis Philippe, was most striking, and in evidence to this she was repeatedly accosted by old domestics of the Orleans family.
10) She bore no likeness whatever, in form or face, in mind or character, to the real and undoubted offspring of Chiapinni, the village constable, who passed for her father.
The store by Maria Stella was chiefly based on circumstantial evidence; however, it was admitted at the time that there were numerous statements vaguely recorded by her the truth of which had come to be proved beyond question. This fact supported her argument to some extent. Her first success was the judgement of the episcopal court at Faenza which, in 1824, declared that the Comte de Joinville had exchanged his daughter for Lorenzo Chiapinni's son. When Maria Stella published proofs of her identity, in 1830, some people were only too ready to support her claim and used it as a weapon to pour scorn and ridicule upon the 'bourgeois monarch', as they termed the King. The publication coincided with the accession of the French throne to Louis Philippe who, for his part, treated the whole story with amused contempt.
Among those who would never have believed Lady Newborough's story was Queen Victoria. After Louis Philippe had been forced to give up his throne and flee the country, in 1848, he sought refuge in England where a mansion in Surrey was placed at his disposal. Queen Victoria, who came to know the exiled monarch, categorized both his virtues and failings but of one thing she was certain: he was the epitome of a true Frenchman. Many years after the deaths of the main protagonists in the episode a book was published in Paris in 1907 based on unpublished material in the National Archives. It refuted that Maria Stella's claims, dismissed her version of the events and asserted that her real father had been a certain Count Carlo Battaglini of Rimini who had died in 1796. The case had been not so much one of substitution as of 'farming out' so as to avoid scandal.
While the mystery of Maria Stella, Lady Newborough, may never be solved, the alleged protagonist, Philippe 'Egalité', would have been pleased with the turn of events had he survived the guillotine. His wife's inheritance did not revert to members of her family and at least one item, the Penthièvre Diamond, came into the possession of their future daughter-in-law, Queen Marie-Amélie, the consort of Louis Philippe. On November 25th, 1839, the Crown Jeweller, Constant Bapst, assisted by the Inspector of the Crown Jewels, drew up an inventory of the Queen's jewelry: one of the items was recorded as a 'pin with a yellow brilliant in a basket mounting, valued at 10,000 francs.'
Queen Marie-Amélie owned an extensive collection of jewels which were valued at 629,000 francs in the 1839 inventory. Together with other valuables belonging to the family of Louis Philippe, they were kept in the Tuileries. In another part of the palace were the Crown Jewels which remained locked in the vaults of the Civil List from 1832 until the end of Louis Philippe's reign. Neither the King nor the Queen made use of them, the former eschewing all forms of ostention and having no taste for luxury. Moreover, it would have been politically unwise for the monarch to have had anything to do with them. The King's decretion in the matter, however, was not enough to prevent yet another further misfortune befalling the jewels in the final months of his reign. In February of 1848 a mob besieged the Tuileries - on this occasion in search of wine, not jewels. They succeeded in breaking the cellars of the Commandant of the National Guard where they eagerly fell upon 10,000 bottles. The next morning twelve corpses, including one of a very beautiful girl of nineteen, were found among the mass of broken bottles and a veritable sea of wine. In the following month an inventory was made and it was ascertained that three items of jewelry were missing. Despite a widespread search they were never recovered.
The jewelry beloning to members of Louis Philippe's family escaped the misadventure that befell the Crown Jewels so that the next recorded owner of the Penthièvre was the Count of Paris (1838 - 94), the grandson of the 'bourgeois king.' The gem appeared as a 'pin with a daffodil yellow stone known by the name of Penthièvre' among the jewels which he bequeathed to his son, the Duke of Orleans. Then, at some point, the Duke of Orleans sold the diamond to his great-uncle, the Duke of Aumale, the fifth son of King Louis Philippe. This royal personage inherited the fortune of the Condé family, which included the famous pink Condé Diamond. In 1886 the Duke of Aumale bequeathed his entire fortune, including both the Condé and Penthièvre diamonds to L'Institut de France, as well as the park and Château de Chantilly, now an important museum.
Today the Penthièvre is retained by the Musée Condé in Chantilly, outside Paris, and is set in a large oval-shaped motif on a flat bandeau with a number of smaller diamonds, varying in color from white, yellow and brown hues.