Marie Mancini (1639-1715) was the niece of Cardinal Mazarin, the prime minister to King Louis XIV of France. When she fell in love with the young king some spied ambition in the infatuation, but Louis returned her love.
Anne of Austria, Queen Mother of France, violently opposed the romance. Her son’s marriage was political; the ideal fiancée was the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain, which had long been at war with France. Louis and Marie fought to pursue their love, but in 1659 Marie was forced into exile. Weeks before, Louis bought a string of pearls from his aunt, the Queen of England, who was living in exile in Paris. This was all he could offer the woman he had wished to give his crown.
Marie later married the Italian Prince Colonna, abandoning Louis XIV for good. When leaving France, she took an important collection of jewelry and gems with her. Even while pushing her out, Anne showed Marie great generosity. It was perhaps from Anne that Marie received two enormous pear-shaped pearls weighing approximately 200 grains each. The pearls were passed down through Marie’s descendants for over three centuries, before their sale at Christie’s in Geneva in 1969.