How Napoleon’s heir won the battle to get back his fiancée’s R18m ring
The prince was hot on the trail of a thief who pilfered the jewel that came from the crown of France's last empress
French police have recovered a million-euro heirloom ring stolen from the fiancée of Prince Jean-Christophe Napoléon, a descendant of Napoléon Bonaparte and a pretender to the throne of France.
The ring, set with a 40-carat diamond taken from the crown of France’s last empress, Eugénie, was found partly thanks to the investigative efforts of the prince and his fiancée, Countess Olympia von Arco-Zinneberg.
It was stolen from the countess’s bag, which had been left in the couple’s unlocked car outside a Paris hotel. They parked their Mercedes GL last Monday afternoon in a street beside the five-star Hotel d’Aubusson in Paris’s plush 6th arrondissement, where they were meeting their parents. The car was unlocked but they claimed to have kept an eye on it. When they came to pick up the bag minutes later, however, it had vanished.
None of the hotel’s CCTV cameras showed the car, but after reporting the theft to police, the couple checked the countess’s bank accounts and found one of her credit cards had been used minutes earlier at a sushi restaurant. They phoned the restaurant, only to be told that the man who had paid with the card had just left. They then saw that he had used it to book himself into a nearby hotel, where police obtained an image of the suspect from CCTV. They tracked him down and arrested him at his home at the weekend and recovered the heirloom.
The suspect was described as a 30-year-old Egyptian, previously known to police for theft. A source close to the case said: “He apparently didn’t realise the value of the ring. The investigators did a great job. It was a race against the clock as he could have disposed of it at any time.”Jean-Christophe, 32, who works as an investment banker in London, gave the ring to his German-born fiancée on their engagement last month. She is the daughter of Count Riprand of Arco-Zinneberg and Archduchess Maria Beatrice of Austria-Este. The young couple are both descended from royalty, notably King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and Louis Philippe I of France.The theft of the ring, valued at about £1m (about R18m), according to French media, was the latest high-profile jewellery heist in the French capital. Kim Kardashian West, the American reality TV star, was held at gunpoint and robbed of £8m worth of jewellery in her Paris hotel room in 2016. The jewellery has not been recovered.
The diamonds in the countess’s ring formed part of the diadem of Eugénie, the wife of Emperor Napoléon III, France’s last monarch. Jean-Christophe is his direct descendant. He is also a great-great-great-great nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte himself, who reigned as Emperor Napoléon I in the 19th century. Bonapartists consider him to be the head of the former Imperial House of France.
Pretenders to the defunct French throne from the rival Houses of Orléans and Bourbon are engaged in a bitter succession battle, but Napoléon tries to stay out of the public eye. “I want to be a man of my time,” he has said. “Above all, I want to build my own life and prove my merit through my work.” But he appears in public every year on May 5 at Les Invalides in Paris, which houses the tomb of Napoléon Bonaparte, to commemorate the emperor’s death.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)