Monday, September 21, 2009

Hope Diamond

At Evelyn Walsh McLean, one the last owners of the Hope Diamond. It is now the Indonesian Embassy. The house was built by Evelyn's father, Thomas Walsh, an Irish immigrant who struck it rich as a gold miner. Legend has it that he had a piece of gold ore embedded in the arch of the main entrance.

Evelyn grew to adulthood in this house and enjoyed all the privileges of Gilded Age high society (especially the morphine!!!). She married Ned McLean, of the real estate and publishing McLean family, and they embarked on a six month grand tour of Europe for a honeymoon. While there they noticed an incredible blue diamond around the neck of the Sultan Abdul-Hamid's favorite concubine. They thought little of it until three years later when the were in Paris and being shown jewelry by Pierre Cartier. In the intervening three years the Sultan's favorite had been stabbed to death and the Sultan had drowned.

Bad luck was nothing new to the diamond and even Cartier warned Mrs. McLean of the diamond's history. It had been stolen from a Hindu temple by a man named Jean Tavernier, who brought it back to him to France, only to be torn apart by wild dogs. It ended up in the court of Louis XVIII and Marie Antoinette and we all know how they ended up. It had been a favorite of Marie's close friend and rumored lover, the Princesse de Lambelle, who was brutally murdered during the French Revolution while the Queen was forced to watch.

Following the chaos of the Revolution, the diamond disappeared, It wasn't until 1824 that it reappeared in the collection of Henry Hope, a British merchant who gave the diamond it's name. Naturally he died shortly after and remained in the Hope family for several ill-fated generations. Eventually it ended up in Paris with the Cartier's.

When warned of this history, Evelyn responded "Bad luck objects for me are lucky"

Sadly this proved not to be true. Her husband Ned became an alcoholic and eventually divorced her. Her nine year old son died in a tragic car accident. Evelyn herself became addicted to morphine and through a series of poor decisions died deeply in debt of pneumonia at age 60.

After her death, the diamond was sold to pay off her debts to jeweler Harry Winston who, unable to find a buyer, ended up donating it to the Smithsonian.
Winston mailed it to the Smithsonian via the U.S. Postal Service, which cost him $145.29 in shipping costs. The postman who carried the daimond, James T. Todd, soon had his leg run over by a truck, had his dog strangled by it's own leash, his wife die of a heart attack, and had his house burn down.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah, Evelyn Walsh McLean haunts the mansion and the staff firmly believes this. There have been numerous sightings in the mansion one of which was after a party that was actually caught on tape. If you visit the embassy as part of their introduction they show a video about the country of indonesia as well as the history of the mansion and at the end of the video they show footage of a shadowy figure ascending the staircase whom they believe is the ghost of Evelyn Walsh Mclean.