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It is a story worthy of The Pink Panther, the 1963 movie that introduced the world to the hapless Inspector Jacques Clouseau, who bungled his way through Europe’s jet-set society, on the trail of a sophisticated diamond burglar, played by David Niven. Except this really happened.

In the movie the fictional diamond was called the Pink Panther, and it was said to a gift of the Maharajah of the so-called Kingdom of Lugash to his daughter, Princess Dala. The stone in our story was a 40-carat diamond taken from the crown of France’s last empress, Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III, and set in a ring.

The heroes of our tale are Prince Jean-Christophe Napoléon, the 31-year old descendant of Napoléon Bonaparte and a pretender to the throne of France, and his 30-year old fiancée, Countess Olympia von Arco-Zinneburg, the daughter of Count Riprand of Arco-Zinneburg and Archduchess Maria Beatrice of Austria-Este, descendants of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and Louis Philippe I of France.


The saga begins with a simple theft, with the countess’ bag being taken from the couple’s unlocked Mercedes GL, which was parked outside the five-star Hotel d’Aubusson in Paris’ swanky 6th arrondissement. 

The couple asked to examine the hotel’s CCTV cameras, but they revealed nothing. Nonetheless, after reporting the theft to the police, the countess checked her bank accounts and discovered that one of her credit cards had just been used a few minutes earlier at a sushi restaurant.

They couple phoned the restaurant and were told that an individual who had used the card was no longer there. But they then saw he had booked himself into a nearby hotel. The police were notified, and they obtained an image of the suspect from the second hotel’s CCTV.

The police tracked the alleged thief his home, where he was arrested, and the diamond recovered.  “He apparently didn’t realize the value of the ring,” a police spokesperson was quoted by Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “The investigators did a great job. It was a race against the clock as he could have disposed of it at any time.”

Amateur sleuth Prince Jean-Christophe Napoléon, great-great-great-great nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and the man many Bonapartists consider him to be the head of the former Imperial House of France    

France’s last empress, Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III, the original owner of the ring.


It was a rare case of a high-profile Parisian jewelry robbery being solved. In 2016, Kim Kardashian, the American reality TV star, was held at gunpoint in her Paris hotel room and robbed of more than $10 million worth of jewelry. To date that has never been recovered.

But credit for the solving of the crime goes the aristocratic couple, and coverage of the incident has sparked renewed interest in France’s imperial family. Jean-Christophe is the great-great-great-great nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte himself, and 

Bonapartists consider him to be the head of the former Imperial House of France.

While there are competing pretenders to the once glorious French throne, they claim to be decedents the rival Houses of Orléans and Bourbon, which predate the Napoleonic period, dating back to the French kings whose rule came to end with the French Revolution in 1789.

For his part Jean-Christophe has stayed out of the public eye although he does appear in public every year on May 5 at Les Invalides in Paris, where the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte can be found, to commemorate the emperor’s death. 

Despite the recent political unrest in France and general sense of disillusionment the public has in the political system, it unlikely that Jean-Christophe will ever ascend Napoleon’s throne. Be that as it maty, he nonetheless still is in possession of Empress Eugénie’s diamond.