Known as the 'Conde' or the Great Conde', this is a pink pear-shaped diamond of 9.01 carats. If its weight is small in comparison with that of most historical diamonds, nevertheless the gem deserves to be labelled 'great' on account of the career of the man after whom it is named.
The Princes of Conde were the heads of an important French branch of the House of Bourbon. Their most illustrious representative was the fourth Prince, Prince de Conde (1621-86), called 'Le Grand Conde' By the age of seventeen he was already Governor of Burgundy. Then he began to assume a major role in the Thirty Years War which culminated in the Battle of Rocroi in 1643 against Spain. This was the greatest French victory for a century and beyond question was due to Conde's personal efforts. In 1645 came another victory at Norlingen, against the Bavarians. By 1648 Cardinal Mazarin was obliged to give Conde the Flanders command and in August of the year the battle of Lens crushed the Spanish forces and secured the signing of the peace at Munster.
Recognizing Conde as an increasing rival, Mazarin had him arrested in January 1650 while they were both attending Court; he was then imprisoned for thirteen months. Conde rebelled in 1651 and entered into the service of the Spanish, undertaking various campaigns. After he had been pardoned in 1660 he returned to his seat at Chantilly, north of Paris, which became a centre for the arts and was visited by the most brilliant men in Europe. The Prince was an ardent patron as well as being an ardent womanizer - although one of his admirers remarked that his achievements on the battlefield were not matched by those in the bedroom.
Louis X111 gave the diamond to conde, probably after the Battle of Rocroi, which took place shortly before his death, in appreciation of the great services which he had rendered his country. It remained in the ownership of the Conde family until 1886 when a descendant, The Duc d'Aumale, bequeathed it to the Institut de France together with the Chateau de Chantilly. It is on display there and according to the terms of his will it must always remain there.
The sole occasion on which the diamond has left Chantilly was on the night of 11 October 1926, when it was stolen by two thieves from Alcace. It was recovered a few days later when it was found in an apple which the thieves had left in a Paris hotel room.
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