Royal crypt to hold heart of Louis XVII

8th December 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 6 (AFP) - After 200 years of controversy, the desiccated heart of Louis XVII, son of France's King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, will finally make its way to what many believe is its proper home in the royal crypt.

PARIS, Dec 6 (AFP) - After 200 years of controversy, the desiccated heart of Louis XVII, son of France's King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, will finally make its way to what many believe is its proper home in the royal crypt.

The special delivery, at a yet to be determined date, to the Saint Denis Basilica just outside Paris will bring the mystery of the "Temple Child" to a close, legitimising both his tragic life and obscure death.

As history has it, the youngest child of the guillotined king was held in Paris' Temple Prison in 1792. On June 8, 1795, a child died there of tuberculosis and a doctor by the name of Pelletan who participated in the autopsy made off with the youngster's heart, conserving it under the assumption it was in fact that of the dauphin, the eldest son of the French king.

Since that time, controversy has surrounded the idea of whether that child, which lived in isolation, was truly the son of King Louis XVI, or if he was actually an imposter, the real prince having died earlier or escaped.

Historians have also posed the question of whether the heart itself was actually that of the young prince.

According to historian Phillippe Delorme, quoted by the French newspaper Le Figaro, there is "no doubt" the heart is that of Louis XVII, born in 1785.

The royal family's hearts were all embalmed, whereas the one that Pelletan stowed away was preserved in alcohol, according to Delorme.

In the last piece to the puzzle, science came to history's aid in April 2000 when DNA analysis of the heart conducted by two separate laboratories concluded that the child was definitely a Hapsburg like his mother, Marie-Antoinette.

The results being irrefutable, the heart, which has been conserved in a crystal vase on display in one of the basilica's chapels, will finally join France's royal corpses.

The non-beating organ, however, will remain in post-mortem isolation from the bodies of Louis's parents, which were placed in a mass grave during the French Revolution and never re-identified.

The Institute of the House of Bourbon, an organization aimed at promoting the French royal tradition, had asked the French culture ministry for the authorization to give the dauphin's heart a definitive burial place in the crypt.

An agreement granting the burial was reached last October, but no precise date for the ceremony has been set, the ministry said.

© AFP

                                                                Subject: French news

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