Louis XVII remains identification
Louis XVII remains identification (Forensic Science)
Louis XVII, known for most of his life as Louis-Charles, was the second son of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette of France. He was born on March 27, 1785, and became heir apparent upon the death of his older brother in 1789. As the French Revolution was beginning (1789), the royal family was imprisoned. With the execution of Louis XVI on January 21, 1793, the young boy became the titular King Louis XVII at the age of eight. Consequently, he was a threat to the revolutionaries should the royalists attempt to reestablish the monarchy. The boy was separated from the rest of his family and imprisoned. He was beaten and malnourished by his jailers, and he died of tuberculosis on June 8, 1795, in the Temple Prison, Paris. After his body was autopsied, the physician Philippe-Jean Pelletan smuggled the boy’s heart out of the prison and preserved it in wine alcohol.
Rumors were widespread that young Louis XVII had been smuggled out of prison and another boy substituted in his place. When the monarchy was restored nineteen years later, many young men came forward claiming to be Louis XVII. The most famous among them was Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, who died in Delft, the Netherlands, in 1845. His gravestone lists him as Louis Charles, Duc de Normandie, Louis XVII. In 1950, Naundorff’s coffin was reopened, and the right humerus (the long bone of the upper arm) was removed so that tests could be performed to determine whether Naundorff had been...
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Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Cadbury, Deborah. The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Jehaes, Els, et al. “Mitochondrial DNA Analysis of the Putative Heart of Louis XVII, Son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.” European Journal of Human Genetics 9 (2001): 185-190.
Meyer, Anna. Hunting the Double Helix: How DNA Is Solving Puzzles of the Past. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005.
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