Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Death of the Lost King of France

Louis Charles (the second son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette) had followed his parents when they were taken from Versailles to Paris by an angry mob in October 1789. When Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793, Louis Charles had become King Louis XVII automatically. At this time he was just eight years old. So far the little boy had stayed from his mother and his aunt but this was to change.

Louis Charles in 1792
On July 3, 1793 Louis Charles was suddenly removed from his mother and taken to a windowless room in the Temple prison. Antoine Simon was appointed care-taker of the precious prisoner. Antoine Simon was determined to raise the child in such a manner that he would forget his royal inheritance and in this way not want to take the throne. During his imprisonment the little King was pressured on several occasions until he finally told his interrogators what they wanted to hear: that his mother, Marie Antoinette, had molested him sexually. These accusations were used against the dethroned Queen at her trial - of course the accusations were not true. But his mother was send to the guillotine nonetheless and Louis Charles had become an orphan.

His prison cell (still barricaded) was filthy and as a consequence hereof Louis Charles fell ill. Louis Charles was alone for most of the time until a man with the name of Barras entered the cell on July 27, 1794. Barras would report that he had found the child severely neglected but Louis Charles himself never said anything about his treatment; it is quite possible that he was too afraid to do so. In 1795 (on June 8) he died of tuberculosis - alone in his dark cell.When the Bourbon dynasty was restored a lot of the documents of the Temple prison was destroyed which mean that we have very little written evidence of what actually happened to Louis Charles while he was imprisoned on his own.
Originally, the body of the ten-year old King of France was buried in the cemetery of Ste. Marguerite. Recent research has revealed that the little boy who was reburied in Saint-Denis was indeed the son of Marie Antoinette; the identification was made with DNA from the child's heart.

Depictions of Louis Charles' imprisonment

The heart of Louis Charles - it was from here
that DNA was taken
Interrogation of Louis Charles 
"The Dauphin in the Temple"
Louis Charles and Marie Thérèse (probably their last meeting)

1 comment:

  1. This poor, poor child! I cannot even begin to imagine the level of trauma he must have suffered, both physically and emotionally.

    For me, this leaves such a huge stain upon France's supposed wonderful history! Sorry, but this brutality and mistreatment of a child was utterly inexcusable!!!!!