The Insider! Lost Royals!
The Mystery of Louis XVII!
During the French Revolution, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, died at the guillotine. The fate of their 10-year-old son, Louis Charles, however, remains a mystery.
The uncrowned King of France, Louis XVII was imprisoned with his sister and mother until July 3, 1793, when guards removed the eight-year-old Louis in the dead of night. The official record states that the boy died from tuberculosis in the Temple prison two years later. However, the public soon began to question the report, believing that the Committee of Public Safety (the radical governing body of the revolution) had murdered the child. Later speculators favored the theory that Louis had escaped. In 1814, a historian of the restored French monarchy announced that Louis Charles was still alive, but would not reveal his location.
In the years since, at least a hundred men have claimed to be the exiled prince. The most intriguing and famous candidate was naturalist John James Audubon, who was the same age as Louis and had been adopted just after his disappearance. Eleazer Williams, a man raised by the Mohawk Indians who became an Episcopal minister and a founder of Greenbay, Wisconsin, claimed until his death that he was Louis Charles. In 1947 anthropologists exhumed his skull and concluded that Williams did have Native American ancestry; he could not have been Louis Charles. German clockmaker Karl Wilhelm Naundorff managed to convince the prince's childhood nurse, who questioned him at great length about childhood memories. He spent his final years in The Netherlands, which recognized him as Louis Charles and allowed him to take the name Bourbon. In 1950 a bone taken from his grave was tested for DNA, but did not match that of Marie Antoinette and other members of her family. He, too, was an imposter.
In early 2000, scientists did DNA tests on the heart of a boy, presumed to be the prince, who had died of tuberculosis in Temple prison. A sample from the heart was compared with a lock of Marie Antoinette's hair. Tests confirmed that the owner of the heart and the queen shared DNA, but scientists could not establish that the heart belonged to Louis VII or that the heart's owner and Marie Antoinette were mother and son. Because the DNA tests were not conclusive, speculation continues until today about the fate of Louis XVII.
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