|Dauphin of France|
Portrait aged 7 by Alexander Kucharsky, 1792
|Born||27 March 1785|
Palace of Versailles, France
|Died||8 June 1795 (aged 10)|
Paris Temple, France
|Burial||Saint Denis Basilica, France (His heart only)|
|Father||Louis XVI of France|
He was at birth given the title Duke of Normandy. His older brother, Louis Joseph, died in June 1789, a little over a month before the start of the French Revolution. At his brother's death he became the heir-apparent to the throne and the Dauphin of France, a title he would hold until 1791, when the new constitution accorded the heir apparent the style of Prince Royal of France.
When his father was executed on 21 January 1793, during the middle-period of the French Revolution, he became "King of France" in the eyes of the royalists. However, since France was by then a republic, and Louis XVII had been imprisoned from August 1792 until his death from illness in 1795 at the age of 10, he never actually governed. His title stems from monarchist theory, whereby there is always a monarch; on the death of one monarch, the heir apparent or failing that the heir presumptive are immediately monarch. His title was the reason why on his death his uncle took the regnal name of Louis XVIII of France rather than Louis XVII, retaining it upon the Bourbon Restoration in 1814.
Louis-Charles de France was born at the Palace of Versailles, the second son and third child of his parents, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. He was named after his father and his mother's favourite sister Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily, who was known as Charlotte in the family, Charles being the masculine version of her name. His younger sister, Sophie, was born a little over a year later. He became the Dauphin on the death of his elder brother, Louis-Joseph, on 4 June 1789.
As customary in royal families, Louis-Charles was cared for by multiple people. Queen Marie Antoinette appointed governesses to look after all three of her children. Louis-Charles' original governess was Yolande de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac, who left France on the night of 16–17 July 1789, at the outbreak of the Revolution, at the urging of Louis XVI. She was replaced by the marquise Louise Élisabeth de Tourzel. Additionally, the queen selected Agathe de Rambaud to be the official nurse of Louis-Charles. Alain Decaux wrote:
"Madame de Rambaud was officially in charge of the care of the Dauphin from the day of his birth until 10 August 1792; in other words, for seven years. During these seven years, she never left him, she cradled him, took care of him, dressed him, comforted him, and scolded him. Many times, more than Marie Antoinette, she was a true mother for him".
Some have suggested that Axel von Fersen, who was romantically linked with Marie Antoinette, was the father of her son. The fact that Louis Charles was born exactly nine months after he returned to court was noted, but this theory was debunked by most scholars, who reject it, observing that the time of his conception corresponded perfectly in the time that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had spent a lot of time together. Marie Antoinette, who gained massive weight because of her pregnancies, including this one (she was described as "very fat" by the king of Sweden), retained her charisma with an imposing figure in her court, where she had lot of admirers, but she remained a faithful, strong-willed wife and a stern but loving mother.
On 6 October 1789, the royal family was forced by a Parisian mob mostly composed of women to move from Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, where they spent the next three years as prisoners under the daily surveillance of the national guards who did not spare any humiliation to the royal family; at that time Marie Antoinette was always surrounded by guards, even in her bedroom at night and these guards were present when the Queen was allowed to see her children.
The family lived a secluded life, and Marie Antoinette dedicated most of her time to her two children under the daily surveillance of the national guards who kept her hands behind her back and searched everybody from the Queen to the children to see if any letters were smuggled to the royal prisoner. On 21 June 1791, the family tried to escape in what is known as the Flight to Varennes, but the attempt failed. After the family was recognized, they were brought back to Paris. When the Tuileries Palace was stormed by an armed mob on 10 August 1792, the royal family sought refuge at the Legislative Assembly.
On 13 August, the royal family was imprisoned in the tower of the Temple. At first, their conditions were not extremely harsh, but they were prisoners and were re-styled as "Capets" by the newborn Republic. On 11 December, at the beginning of his trial, Louis XVI was separated from his family.
At his birth, Louis-Charles, a Fils de France ("Son of France"), was given the title of Duke of Normandy, and, on 4 June 1789, when Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France, his elder brother, died, the four-year-old became Dauphin of France, title he held until September 1791, when France became a constitutional monarchy. Under the new constitution, the heir-apparent to the throne of France, formerly "Dauphin", was restyled Prince Royal. Louis-Charles held that title until the fall of the monarchy on 21 September 1792. At the death of his father on 21 January 1793, royalists and foreign powers intent on restoring the monarchy held him to be the new king of France, with the title of Louis XVII. From his exile in Hamm, in today's North Rhine-Westphalia, his uncle, the Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who had emigrated on 21 June 1791, appointed himself Regent for the young imprisoned king.
Immediately following Louis XVI's execution, plots were hatched for the escape of the prisoners from the Temple, the chief of which were engineered by the Chevalier de Jarjayes, the Baron de Batz, and Lady Atkyns. All came to nothing.
On 3 July, Louis-Charles was separated from his mother and father and put in the care of Antoine Simon, a cobbler who had been named his guardian by the Committee of Public Safety and tasked to transform the former young prince into a staunch republican citizen.
The tales told by royalist writers of the cruelty inflicted by Simon and his wife on the child are not proven. Louis Charles' sister, Marie Therese, wrote in her memoires about the "monster Simon", as did Alcide Beauchesne. Antoine Simon's wife Marie-Jeanne, in fact, took great care of the child's person. Stories survive narrating how he was encouraged to eat and drink to excess and learned the language of the gutter. The foreign secretaries of England and Spain also heard accounts from their spies that the boy was raped by prostitutes in order to infect him with venereal diseases to supply the Commune with manufactured "evidence" against the Queen. However, the scenes related by Alcide de Beauchesne of the physical martyrdom of the child are not supported by any testimony, though he was at this time seen by a great number of people.
On 6 October, Pache, Chaumette, Jacques Hébert and others visited him and secured his signature to charges of sexual molestation against his mother and his aunt. The next day he met with his elder sister Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte for the last time.
On 19 January 1794, the Simons left the Temple, after securing a receipt for the safe transfer of their ward, who was declared to be in good health. A large part of the Temple records from that time onward disappeared under the Bourbon Restoration, making knowledge of the facts impossible. Two days after the departure of the Simons, Louis-Charles is said by the Restoration historians to have been put in a dark room which was barricaded like the cage of a wild animal. The story runs that food was passed through the bars to the boy, who survived despite the accumulated filth of his surroundings.
Robespierre visited Marie-Thérèse on 11 May, but no one, according to the legend, entered the dauphin's room for six months until Barras visited the prison after the 9th Thermidor (27 July 1794). Barras's account of the visit describes the child as suffering from extreme neglect, but conveys no idea of the alleged walling in. It is nevertheless certain that during the first half of 1794 Louis-Charles was very strictly secluded; he had no special guardian, but was under the charge of guards who changed from day to day.
The boy made no complaint to Barras of any ill treatment. He was then cleaned and re-clothed. His room was cleaned, and during the day he was visited by his new attendant, Jean Jacques Christophe Laurent (1770–1807), a creole from Martinique. From 8 November onward, Laurent had assistance from a man named Gomin.
Louis-Charles was then taken out for fresh air and walks on the roof of the Tower. From about the time of Gomin's arrival, he was inspected, not by delegates of the Commune, but by representatives of the civil committee of the 48 sections of Paris. The rare recurrence of the same inspectors would obviously facilitate fraud, if any such was intended. From the end of October onward, the child maintained an obstinate silence, explained by Laurent as a determination taken on the day he made his deposition against his mother. On 19 December 1794 he was visited by three commissioners from the Committee of Public Safety — J. B. Harmand de la Meuse, J. B. C. Mathieu and J. Reverchon — who extracted no word from him.
On 31 March 1795, Étienne Lasne was appointed to be the child's guardian in replacement of Laurent. In May 1795, the boy was seriously ill, and a doctor, P. J. Desault, who had visited him seven months earlier, was summoned. However, on 1 June, Desault died suddenly, not without suspicion of poison, and it was some days before doctors Philippe-Jean Pelletan and Dumangin were called.
Louis-Charles died on 8 June 1795. The next day an autopsy was conducted by Pelletan, at which it was stated that a child apparently about ten years of age, "which the commissioners told us was the late Louis Capet's son", had died of a scrofulous infection of long standing. "Scrofula" as it was previously known, is nowadays called Tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis referring to a lymphadenitis (chronic lymph node swelling or infection) of the neck (cervical lymph nodes) lymph nodes associated with tuberculosis.
During the autopsy, the physician Dr. Pelletan was shocked to see the countless scars which covered the body of Louis-Charles. The scars were the result of the physical abuse the child suffered while imprisoned in the Temple.
Louis-Charles was buried on 10 June in the Sainte Marguerite cemetery, but no stone was erected to mark the spot. A skull was found there in 1846 and identified as his, though later re-examination in 1893 showed it to be from a teenager and therefore unlikely to be his.
Following a tradition of preserving royal hearts, Louis-Charles's heart was removed and smuggled out during the autopsy by the overseeing physician, Philippe-Jean Pelletan. Thus, the heart of Louis-Charles was not interred with the rest of the body. Dr. Pelletan stored the smuggled heart in distilled wine in order to preserve the heart. However, after 8 to 10 years the distilled wine had evaporated, and the heart was further kept dry.
After the Restoration in 1815, Dr. Pelletan attempted to give the heart to Louis-Charles's uncle, Louis XVIII, however he refused because he could not bring himself to believe that was the heart of his nephew. Dr. Pelletan then donated the heart to the Archbishop of Paris, Hyacinthe-Louis de Quélen.
Following the Revolution of 1830, and the plundering of the palace, the son of Pelletan found the relic in the remnants of the palace and placed it in the crystal urn, in which it still resides today. After his death in 1879, Eduard Dumont received the heart.
In 1895, the nephew of the Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria-Este, Don Carlos de Bourbon, a pretender to the throne of Spain accepted the relic from a friend of Eduart Dumont, Paul Cottin. The relic was held near Vienna, Austria at the castle of Frohsdorf. The son of Carlos, Jaime, Duke of Madrid, in 1909 inherited the heart, and gave it to his sister, Beatriz.
Finally two granddaughters of Don Carlos offered the heart to the president of the Memorial of Saint-Denis in Paris, Duc de Bauffremont, where he put the heart and its crystal urn in the necropolis of the Kings of France, the burial place of Louis-Charles's parents and other members of the French royal family.
In December 1999, public notaries witnessed a section of the heart muscle of the aorta removed from the rest of the heart, and the transfer of the samples into a sealed envelope, and then the opening of the sealed envelope in the laboratory to be tested. Scientists using DNA samples from Queen Anne of Romania, and her brother Andre de Bourbon-Parme, maternal relatives of Louis XVII, thus proved the young royal's identity.
French Legitimists organized the heart's burial in the Basilica on 8 June 2004, next to the remains of Louis's parents. For the first time in over a century a royal ceremony took place in France, complete with the fleur-de-lis standard and a royal crown.
As rumors quickly spread that the body buried was not that of Louis-Charles and that he had been spirited away alive by sympathizers, the legend of the "Lost Dauphin" was born. When the Bourbon monarchy was restored in 1814, some one hundred claimants came forward. Would-be royal heirs continued to appear across Europe for decades afterward and some of their descendants still have small but loyal retinues of followers today. Popular candidates for the Lost Dauphin included John James Audubon, the naturalist; Eleazer Williams, a missionary from Wisconsin of Mohawk Native American descent; and Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, a German clockmaker. However, DNA testing conducted in 1993 proved that Naundorff was not the Dauphin.
Karl Wilhelm Naundorff's story rested on a series of complicated intrigues. According to him, Barras determined to save the dauphin in order to please Joséphine de Beauharnais, the future empress, having conceived the idea of using the dauphin's existence as a means of dominating the comte de Provence in the event of a restoration. The dauphin was concealed in the fourth storey of the Tower, a wooden figure being substituted for him. Laurent, to protect himself from the consequences of the substitution, replaced the wooden figure with a deaf mute, who was presently exchanged for the scrofulous child of the death certificate. The deaf mute was also concealed in the Temple. It was not the dead child, but the dauphin who left the prison in the coffin, to be retrieved by friends before it reached the cemetery.
Naundorff arrived in Berlin in 1810, with papers giving the name Karl Wilhelm Naundorff. He said he was escaping persecution and settled at Spandau in 1812 as a clockmaker, marrying Johanna Einert in 1818. In 1822 he removed to Brandenburg an der Havel, and in 1828 to Crossen, near Frankfurt (Oder). He was imprisoned from 1825 to 1828 for coining, though apparently on insufficient evidence, and in 1833 came to push his claims in Paris, where he was recognised as the dauphin by many persons formerly connected with the court of Louis XVI. Expelled from France in 1836, the day after bringing a suit against the duchess of Angoulême for the restitution of the dauphin's private property, he lived in exile until his death at Delft on 10 August 1845, and his tomb was inscribed "Louis XVII., roi de France et de Navarre (Charles Louis, duc de Normandie)". The Dutch authorities who had inscribed on his death certificate the name of Charles Louis de Bourbon, duc de Normandie (Louis XVII) permitted his son to bear the name de Bourbon, and when the family appealed in 1850–51, and again in 1874, for the restitution of their civil rights as heirs of Louis XVI, no less an advocate than Jules Favre pled their cause.
Baron de Richemont's tale that Jeanne Simon, who was genuinely attached to him, smuggled him out in a basket, is simple and more credible, and does not necessarily invalidate the story of the subsequent operations with the deaf mute and the scrofulous patient, Laurent in that case being deceived from the beginning, but it renders them extremely unlikely.
Richemont, alias Henri Éthelbert-Louis-Hector Hébert, was in prison in Milan for seven years and began to put forward his claims in Paris in 1828. In 1833, he was again arrested, was brought to trial in the following year and condemned to twelve years' imprisonment. He escaped after a few months and left the country, to return in 1840. He died at Gleizé on 10 August 1853, the name of Louis Charles de France being inscribed on his tomb until the government ordered its removal.
Another pretender was Reverend Eleazar Williams, a Mohawk-born Protestant missionary, and an advocate for land rights of Native Americans. While at the house Francis Vinton, William began shaking and trembling upon seeing a portrait of Antoine Simon, a member of the sans-culottes, claiming the portrait has "haunted me, day, and night, as long as I can remember." Simon was rumored to have physically abused the dauphin while he was imprisoned at the Temple. Francis Vinton was convinced by Eleazar William's reaction, that Williams was Louis-Charles. Williams claims he has no recollection of how he escaped his imprisonment at the Temple, or his early years in France.
He was a missionary to Native Americans when the prince de Joinville, son of Louis-Philippe, met him, and after some conversation asked him to sign a document abdicating his rights in favour of Louis-Philippe, in return for which he, the dauphin (alias Eleazar Williams), was to receive the private inheritance which was his. This Eleazar Williams refused. Williams's story is generally regarded as false.
Louis XVII's remains were not interred with ceremony. "At seven o'clock the police commissary ordered the body to be taken up, and that they should proceed to the cemetery. It was the season of the longest days, and therefore the interment did not take place in secrecy and at night, as some misinformed narrators have said or written; it took place in broad daylight, and attracted a great concourse of people before the gates of the Temple palace." Added, "The funeral entered the cemetery of Ste. Marguerite, not by the church, as some accounts assert, but by the old gate of the cemetery. The interment was made in the corner, on the left, at a distance of eight or nine feet from the enclosure wall, and at an equal distance from a small house, which subsequently served as a school. The grave was filled up,—no mound marked its place, and not even a trace remained of the interment! Not till then did the commissaries of police and the municipality withdraw, and enter the house opposite the church to draw up the declaration of interment."
Strangely, the account of the substitution in the Temple deceived royalists and republicans alike. Lady Atkyns was trying by every possible means to get the dauphin out of his prison when he may already have been in safe hands. A child was in fact delivered to her agents, but he was a deaf mute. That there was a complicated fraud on the guardians of the dauphin was considered by a succession of writers from 1850 onwards, and more recently by Frédéric Barbey, who wisely attempts no ultimate solution. When the partisans of Richemont or Naundorff come to the post-Temple careers of their heroes, they become in most cases so uncritical as to be unconvincing.
By 1900, there were over 100 pretenders who had presented themselves to be the "lost-dauphin". The popularity of the false-dauphins peaked in the wake of the 1830 Revolution, and waned over the course of the century. Unlike the deaths of his parents which were a national spectacle, the dauphin's death was a matter of administrative and medical record, consequently easier to repudiate. The myth of the substition before the death of Louis-Charles was popularized and encouraged by Jean-Joseph Regnault Warin's immense popular novel Le Cimetière de la Madeleine in 1800. Pretenders increased in regularity after the accession of King Louis XVIII in the Bourbon Restoration. Following the Revolution of 1830 pretender claims were treated with heightened seriousness in France because of their ability to serve as critiques of the King Louis XVIII. The premise of a Bourbon claimant challenging the legitimacy of Louis-Phillppe's legitimacy, certainly served as the reason for the aggression of which the pretenders were pursued in the courts.
To his mourners and his impersonators, Louis-Charles offered the opportunity of a transformative and mythical future, beyond the problems of the present. The royalists were able to reverse the child abuse claims with which the revolution charged Marie-Antoinette during her trial, directing them at the revolution itself, for harming Louis-Charles.
In 2000, Philippe Delorme arranged for DNA testing of the heart as well as bone samples from Karl Wilhelm Naundorff. Ernst Brinkmann of Münster University and Belgian genetics professor Jean-Jacques Cassiman of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, conducted mitochondrial DNA tests in 2000 using samples from Marie-Antoinette, her sisters Maria Johanna Gabriela and Maria Josepha, their mother, Maria Theresa, and two living direct descendants in strict maternal line of Maria Theresa, Queen Anne of Romania and her brother, Prince André de Bourbon Parme. The tests proved that Naundorff was not the dauphin, and the heart was that of Louis-Charles.
In 2004, the heart of Louis XVII was transferred to the Saint-Denis basilica, the traditional burial place for France's kings and queens. At the Mass, 12-year-old Prince Amaury de Bourbon-Parme carried the heart and placed in a niche beside the tombs of his parents, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
|Ancestors of Louis XVII of France|
Louis XVII of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynastyBorn: 27 March 1785 Died: 8 June 1795
| Dauphin of France
4 June 1789 – 1 October 1791
|Titles in pretence|
|— TITULAR —
King of France
21 January 1793 – 8 June 1795
Reason for succession failure:
Monarchy abolished in 1792