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The fascinating six-hundred-year history of one of the world's most coveted gems and the royal feuds, intrigues, and betrayals it engendered
The Sancy Diamond first came to Europe from India in the fourteenth century, and until 1661 it was the largest white diamond-and the most concentrated and secure form of wealth-in all of Christendom. Alternately believed to impart invincibility to its wearer and to bring ruin to any who owned it, the Sancy cast a seemingly mystical spell over everyone from the king of Portugal to Henry III of France to England's Elizabeth I to Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen Maria Luisa of Spain.
The riveting account of one of the most hotly pursued gems in history, The Sancy Blood Diamond follows its six-century journey from the diamond mines of Golconda to where it now modestly resides at the Louvre, among the remnants of the French crown jewels. In a colorful, fast-paced narrative, historian Susan Ronald describes the often violent passions the Sancy engendered among many of the giants of European history. She also describes the pivotal roles it played on the chessboard of European geopolitics, and how it was used to raise armies, settle national debts, and enhance its owners' power and prestige.
Working from primary sources, Ronald solves, once and for all, the mystery of the Sancy's disappearances in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and she explores the legend of the Sancy curse, which arose after the violent deaths of Burgundy's Charles the Bold, England's Charles I, France's Louis XVI, and other ill-fated owners.
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If diamonds could speak, none could match the 55.232-carat Sancy for the wild tales it could tell. Like the Scheherazade of diamonds, it would keep a listener spellbound with a thousand and one stories of war and intrigue, pomp and ceremony, and the foibles and follies of the monarchs, lords, ladies, moneymen, and schemers who owned, lusted after, and even killed to possess it.
In this first comprehensive history of one of the world’s most coveted gems, historian Susan Ronald brings to vivid life the Sancy Diamond’s six-hundred-year odyssey–a labyrinthine journey that begins in the fabled mines of Golconda, India, and wends its way across three continents and through some of the most spectacular events in European history.
Once the largest white diamond in the Western world, the Sancy was thought to impart invincibility to whoever wore it. Paradoxically, it was also believed to be the source of an ancient curse that visited a violent death upon any who owned it. Over the centuries, the diamond adorned the crowns of several French royals and was worn as a lucky hatpin by King James I of England. In the fifteenth century, it was lost on the field of battle by Charles the Bold of Burgundy only to be found by a Swiss soldier who sold it for one florin to a priest from Basel. In the sixteenth century, while en route to be pawned to raise a mercenary Swiss army, it was ripped from the vitals of King Henry IV’s hapless courier, who had swallowed it in order to conceal it from robbers. Won and lost by a king of Portugal and lusted after by several Spanish monarchs, the elusive Sancy was hotly pursued for decades by England’s Elizabeth I, was stolen from the Louvre and secreted under the floorboards of a Parisian garret during the French Revolution, and was instrumental in Napoleon’s meteoric rise to power.
In The Sancy Blood Diamond, Susan Ronald traces the stone’s progress as it passes among the royal and noble houses of Europe, from John Galeazzo di Visconti, Duke of Milan, to England’s Charles I, France’s Louis XVI, a Russian prince, and, ultimately, the British Astors. Along the way, Ronald explores the origins of the legend of the Sancy curse, and, working from original sources, she conclusively solves the riddle of the Sancy’s two disappearances–one, for 120 years, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and then again, following the French Revolution.
An enthralling narrative account of a magnificent gem and the passions it spawned among many of the giants of European history, The Sancy Blood Diamond is must-reading for anyone interested in power and greed as well as for history buffs of every stripe.About the Author:
SUSAN RONALD is one of the world's leading experts on commercial activities in historic sites and has been an advisor to Britain's National Trust. She has written numerous articles on historic subjects and a popular history of France for young adults. Raised in the diamond trade-her father was a diamond merchant for over seventy years-her fascination with the Sancy Diamond, and gems in general, began at a very early age.
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