Breaking

The Theft Of The Hesse Crown Jewels


In 1944, Prince Wolfgang of the House of Hesse was forced to flee his family's ancestral palace outside Frankfurt for fear of it being taken by force by Allied forces. This was a valid concern: the US military had a habit of seizing European palaces and using them as rest and health centers. However, before leaving, he ensured the safety of the family's treasure, most notably the Hesse Crown Jewels, a collection that included dozens of rings, bracelets, tiaras, necklaces and more than 500 carats of loose diamonds. After placing the jewels in a zinc-lined box, he burrowed them deep into the dirt floor of the castle's basement, poured concrete on top, then built an entire secret room around it. You can't say they didn't try.

American woman

However, she was no match for Captain Kathleen Nash of the Women's Army Corps. When the US military finally claimed Cronenberg Castle, a plain-looking woman in her early forties was put in charge of running the entertainment center. There was no reason to doubt her credibility—she had a clean service record—but then, while drinking several famous taverns at the palace's bar, she fell for Colonel Jack Durant.

Cronenberg Castle in 2007.

On November 5, 1945, Nash sent a member of his staff, Roy Carlton, to investigate a rumor he had heard from a local about treasure buried in the basement of the castle. After seeing two electric cables disappearing inside a stone wall, he hammers his way in search of the secret room. Upon further inspection, he saw a patch of concrete that appeared fresh, so he busted it and unearthed the zinc-lined box that Prince Wolfgang had buried.

Buried treasure

Nash orders Carlton to place the treasure in his private quarters for safekeeping and immediately summons Durant. Later that day, Durant asked a friend, Major David Watson, who had overheard some of the earlier telephone conversations, about the legality of keeping the valuable property left behind by the Germans, and eventually told him the whole secret. Nash, Durant and Watson give Carlton several gems to buy his silence, then he decides to remove the jewels from his setting so that he can mortgage some of them to Britain and send the rest back to America. Some 30 boxes were shipped out. In the coming weeks, mostly for Nash's sisters in Wisconsin and California, but some in the Golden State for Watson's parents and Durant's brother in Virginia.

Princess Sophie of Greece.

They got away from it for several months, but then, as Princess Sophie of Greece prepared to marry Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hanover, she asked her cousin, Prince Wolfgang, for the selection of the Hesse Crown Jewels, as she had gone downstairs. . He sent a servant to Kronberg Castle with instructions to retrieve the jewels, and upon discovering him missing, the Hesse family filed a complaint with the authorities. It didn't take long for investigators to determine who was behind the theft, and three Americans were arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison.

But where were the jewels?

Officers managed to recover three jars full of diamonds Durant had buried at his family's farm in Virginia and a 36-piece, jewel-encrusted gold flatware set that Nash's sister had for everyday meals in Wisconsin. but by the time the thieves were caught, most of the treasure was already sold. Less than half of the Hesse Crown Jewels were ever recovered.

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