Jewelry

The Duchess of Berry and the Battle for the French Throne

By Sotheby's

T he Duchess of Berry (1798–1870), whose emerald and diamond necklace and earrings feature in the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on 15 November, was one of the most famous and fascinating aristocratic figures of the 19th century.

EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE AND A PAIR OF EARRINGS, FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY. FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF THE DUCHESS OF BERRY. ESTIMATE CHF 585,000–785,000. FROM MAGNIFICENT JEWELS AND NOBLE JEWELS.

Born Marie-Caroline of Bourbon-Two Sicilies in 1798, the eldest child of Prince Ferdinand, the future King Francis I of the Two Sicilies, and Archduchess Maria Clementina of Austria, she led an adventurous and courageous life in the turmoil of French politics.

The Duchess married Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, King Louis XVIII of France’s nephew, son of the future King Charles X, and great grandson of King Louis XV, in Naples on 24 April 1816. After the marriage the couple lived at the Elysée Palace in Paris and had four children, only two of whom survived: Louise Marie Thérèse, future Duchess of Parma, and Henri.

The Duke was assassinated in 1820 while the Duchess was pregnant with their fourth child, Henri, Count of Chambord (1820–1883), who was dubbed the 'miracle child', as his birth continued the direct Bourbon line of King Louis XIV of France. He became the heir to the Throne of France and his mother was an important figure in the politics of the Bourbon Restoration. In 1824, Louis XVIII died and was succeeded by his brother, Charles X, the widowed Duchess’s father-in-law.

MARIE-CAROLINE OF BOURBON-TWO SICILIES, DUCHESS OF BERRY

In the July Revolution of 1830, Charles X was overthrown. Both Charles X and his elder son abdicated. Their cousin, Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, allowed the National Assembly to declare him king and he became ‘King of the French’. The Duchess of Berry did not accept her son’s exclusion from the Throne of France and she declared her son to be the legitimate King of France and herself to be regent. In 1831, she returned to her family in Naples. There, with the help of the Viscount de Saint-Priest, she intrigued for a legitimist rebellion to restore her son Henri to the throne.

On 14 December 1831, she secretly married Ettore Carlo Lucchesi-Palli, Count Lucchesi-Palli, Duke della Grazia (1806–1864), son of Antonio Lucchesi Palli, Prince di Campofranco, Duke della Grazia, and Maria Francesca Pignatelli. In June 1832, in Vendée and Brittany, she succeeded in instigating a brief but abortive insurrection.

She was betrayed to the government in November 1832 and imprisoned in the Château of Blaye. During her incarceration, she gave birth to a daughter and her marriage was revealed. She thus lost the sympathies of the Legitimists and because of her remarriage to an Italian aristocrat, she was ineligible to serve as a regent of France. She was no longer an object of fear to the French government who released her in June 1833.

FAMILY TREE OF THE DUCHESS OF BERRY

In 1844, the Duchess purchased the beautiful palazzo Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, on the Grand Canal in Venice. As a patron of the arts, she was an enthusiastic collector, with a passion for music, botany, garden design and literature – her library in the Château de Rosny was legendary. She was also known to patronise Sèvres porcelain, and commissioned numerous notable works throughout her life.

The emerald and diamond necklace and a pair of earrings, which were formerly in her collection, date from the first half of the 19th century. They will feature in the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on 15 November.

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