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.
Back when pepper was the king of spices and monarchs governed Europe, jewels ruled. The more precious gems a king or queen had, the greater the chances of mounting an army to seize land, power and more gems. Until it was cut in 1661, the 106-carat Sancy was "the largest white diamond in Christendom," a guarantee of wealth, though not of security. Ronald, a British historian, has gone on a treasure hunt to dig up every fact imaginable about the diamond's owners from the 14th century to the present it's now in the Louvre, which purchased it from Lord Astor, who inherited it from his father. While she clearly illustrates the ill fortune that befell many who came into contact with the diamond, it's hard to buy her claim that "it helped change the course of European history," though those who bought, traded, stole or coveted the Sancy among them Queen Elizabeth I, King Charles I and Louis XIV were Europe's most powerful. As an introduction to mostly European history, this book is alternately enlightening and overwhelming. At times, the diamond gets lost in a snarl of names and facts, but those with some familiarity with and interest in European history may consider this a gem worth having in their library.