Louis XVII

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Apr 20, 2023

Table of Content


Louis XVII (French: Louis XVII, 27 March 1785 - 8 June 1795) was the youngest son of Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette of Austria. On the death of his brother Louis Joseph, he became the new dauphin (a title indicating that he was the next heir to the throne). This title lost its validity in 1791 and the new constitution simply called him "Former Royal Prince".

When his father was executed on 21 January 1793, during the middle period of the French Revolution, he was automatically succeeded as King of France as Louis XV, because the royalists and foreign powers intended to restore the monarchy. However, France was a republic at the time and Louis never took power. Some years later, however, the House of Bourbon was restored, and in the year 1814, his uncle ascended the throne and was proclaimed Louis XI.

Louis Charles was born at the Palace of Versailles, the second son and third child of the royal family. The name Charles was derived from the name of his mother's beloved sister, Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily, who was known as Carlotta in the family. His younger sister, Sophia, was born a little over a year later. He became a Dauphin after the death of his older brother, Louis Joseph, on 4 June 1789.

As is customary in royal families, Marie Antoinette appointed governesses to look after her three children. The first to take on this role for Louis Charles was Yolande Martin Gabrielle de Polastron, who left France at the urging of Louis XVI on the evening of 16-17 July 1789, at the outbreak of the Revolution. She was replaced by the Marquise Louise Elisabeth de Tourzell. In addition, the Queen chose Agat de Ramboux to be Charles' official nurse. French historian Alain Decault commented:

"Madame de Ramboux was officially responsible for the care of Delphinus from the day of his birth until 10 August 1792. In other words, for seven years. During those years, she never left him, she hugged him, cared for him, clothed him, comforted him and educated him. Many times, in fact, much more than Mary Antoinette. Indeed, she was like a true mother to him."

Some have claimed that the Swedish aristocrat Axel von Fersen the Younger, who was emotionally attached to Marie Antoinette, was the father of her son. It has even been estimated that Louis Charles was born exactly nine months after Fersen returned to the palace. However, this theory was rejected by most scholars, since they found that the time of the child's conception corresponded perfectly with the time when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had spent a lot of time together. The Queen, although she had gained a lot of weight due to her pregnancy, (and was described as "very fat" by the King of Sweden), managed to maintain the charisma of her imposing figure at her court, (where she had many admirers), and remained a loyal and strong woman, but also a strict yet loving mother.

On 6 October 1789, a Parisian crowd, consisting mainly of women, forced the royal family to move from Versailles to the Kerameikos Palace. There they spent the next three years as prisoners under the daily surveillance of the national guards, who never missed an opportunity to dream of the family. At that time, the guards did not leave Maria Antoinette alone and followed her everywhere, even to her room at night.

The family lived an isolated life. However, Marie Antoinette devoted most of her time to her two children under the daily supervision of the national guards. They held her hands behind her back and searched the entire royal family to see if there were any contraband letters hidden on them. In 1790, the Queen adopted a foster sister for her son, "Zoë" Jean Louise Victoire (born 1787) to play with. However, on 21 June 1791, the family tried to escape (Flight to Varennes), but the attempt failed because they were recognized on the road and returned to Paris. When the Kerameikos Palace was attacked by armed mobs on 10 August 1792, the royal family sought refuge in the Legislative Assembly.

On 13 August, the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple Tower. At first, their conditions were not extremely harsh. Meanwhile as prisoners they were called by the title of "Hats" by the newly arrived Republic. On December 11, at the beginning of his trial, Louis XVI was separated from his family.

1793: In the care of Antoine Simon

Immediately after the execution of Louis XVI, plans were devised for the escape of the rest of the royal family from prison by the Knight de Jargon , the Baron of Ba and the English actress Charlotte Atkins, but they were unsuccessful.

On 3 July, Louis Charles was separated from his mother and placed in the care of Antoine Simon, a shoemaker who had been appointed his guardian by the Public Safety Commission. His mission was to transform the young boy from a former prince into a fervent democratic citizen.

Rumours spread by royal supporters said that Simon and his wife were very cruel to the child. However, this has not been proven historically. However, Charles' sister, Marie Therese, wrote in her memoirs about the 'Simon monster', as did Alcide Beauchamp. In fact, Antoine Simon's wife, Marie-Jean, took great care of the young prince. The stories of the time that survived the oblivion of time said that he was encouraged to eat and drink to excess and that he learned the language of the pavement. In addition, political spies from Britain and Spain provided reports claiming that the boy was raped by prostitutes to infect himself with venereal diseases. Fabricated "evidence" against the Queen was also circulated in the region, accusing her of sexually abusing her son. However, the scenes described by Alcin Beauchamp of the physical abuse of the child were not supported by any public testimony, although at the time a large number of people had seen the Prince in person.

On 6 October, Jean-Nicolas Pass, Pierre Gaspar Saumet and Jacques René Ebert, as well as other people who visited the boy, managed to secure the signature of Louis Charles on charges of sexual abuse against his mother and aunt. In fact, the next day he met his older sister Maria Theresa for the last time.

1794: His illness

On 19 January 1794, the Simons left the prison after securing proof of the safe transport of their foster child (i.e. Louis Charles), who was found to be in good health. Much of the prison records from that time onwards disappeared after the restoration of the House of Bourbon, making it impossible to fully ascertain the facts. Two days after the Simons' departure, according to Restoration historians, the prince was placed in a dark room sealed as if it were a cage for a wild animal. The story goes that food was passed through the bars and given to the boy, who managed to survive despite the accumulated filth that existed in his cell.

Maximilian Robespierre visited Maria Theresa on 11 May, but according to legend, no one entered the boy's room for six months until Paul Baras visited the prison after the Thermidorian reaction (27 July 1794). Baras's accounts of his visit to the prince state that Louis Charles was much neglected, but he made no mention of a security lining in his cell. It is certain, however, that during the first half of 1794, Louis Charles was very strictly secluded. Indeed, he had no appointed guardian, but was in the charge of guards who changed from day to day.

The boy made no complaints to Baras about mistreatment. He was then washed and given new clothes. His cell was cleaned, and during the day he was visited by his new attendant, Jean-Jacques Christophe Lourin (1770-1807), a mulatto from Martinique. From 8 November onwards, Louren was assisted by a man named Goman.

Louis Charles was then briefly released to breathe fresh air and walk on the roof of the Tower (prison). From the end of October onwards, the child maintained a stubborn silence, which Louren explained as Charles' self-determination from the day he made his statement against his mother. On December 19, 1794, three commissioners from the Committee of Public Safety visited him, but they were unable to get the boy to talk.

1795: Death

On 31 March 1795, Etienne Lahn was appointed as the child's guardian in place of Lorraine. In May of that year the boy was seriously ill and was examined by a doctor, Pierre Joseph Deschaux, who had visited him seven months earlier. However, on 1 June, the doctor himself died suddenly (it was suspected that he had been poisoned), a few days before doctors Philippe-Jean Peltan and Jean-Baptiste Dumanzan

Louis Charles died on 8 June 1795. The next day an autopsy was performed by Peltan. In the report he wrote that: the child was 10 years old, and, as the Commissioners told us, was the last living son of the late "Louis Capetou" (Louis XVI), and died because of a persistent infection (mycobacterial cervical lymphadenitis), which must have existed and afflicted him for some time. 'Goiter' as 'Mycobacterial cervical lymphadenitis' used to be known, refers to chronic lymph node swelling or infection of the throat, associated with tuberculosis.

During the autopsy, Doctor Peltan was shocked to see the countless scars covering the boy's body, apparently the result of the physical abuse the child suffered while incarcerated.

Louis Charles was buried on 10 June in St Margaret's Cemetery, but no stone was erected to mark the spot. A skull was found there in 1846 and identified as his, although later re-examination in 1893 showed that it was from a teenager and therefore unlikely to be his.

Following a tradition of preserving royal hearts, Louis Charles' heart was smuggled out during the autopsy by the supervising physician Philippe-Jean Peltan. Thus, the prince's heart was not identified with the rest of the body. The doctor stored his heart in distilled wine to preserve it. However, after 8 to 10 years the wine evaporated and the heart from that moment on dried up.

After the restoration of the House of Bourbon in 1815, the doctor tried to give the heart of Louis Charles to his uncle, Louis XI. The King, however, refused to accept it because he could not believe it was his nephew's heart. As a result, Doctor Peltan donated the heart to the Archbishop of Paris, Yassent-Louis de Quillen.

After the Revolution of 1830 and the looting of the Archbishop's palace, the doctor's son found the relic among the ruins and placed it in the crystal container in which it is still preserved today. After the death of the younger Peltan in 1879, the heart passed to Edouard Dumont. He died in 1895 and the heart came into the possession of Dumont's cousin, the French historian Paul Cottan (1856-1932).

Cottan offered it to Charles of Bourbon, who was claiming the throne of Spain, and was the nephew of Maria Theresa of Austria-Esté. The offer was accepted and the relic was placed in the Castle of Frosdorf, near Vienna, Austria. In 1909, Charles' son, James, Duke of Madrid, inherited the heart and gave it to his sister, Beatrice of Spain. It later passed to James's daughter, Beatrice of Bourbon (1874-1961), wife of Prince Fabrizio Massimo (1868-1944), and in 1938, to Maria da Nevis of Portugal, the rightful heir to the throne of France.

Finally, two granddaughters of Charles of Madrid offered the heart to the Duke of Beaufremont, and president of the Royal Monument of St. Dionysius in Paris. In turn, he placed the crystal container with the heart in the Royal Cemetery of the Kings of France, the burial place of Louis Charles' parents and other members of the French royal family.

There it lay unnoticed until December 1999, when public notaries witnessed the removal of a section of the heart's aortic muscle and its transfer to a sealed envelope, and then the opening of the same sealed envelope in the laboratory to be tested.

In 2000, historian Philip DeLorme organised a DNA test between the prince's heart and a bone sample from one of the many historical claimants to the identity of Louis Charles, in fact a German watchmaker called Carl Wilhelm Naudorf. Specifically, Ernest Brinkmann of the University of Münster and Belgian genetics professor Jean-Jacques Cassimann of the Catholic University of Leuven, carried out mitochondrial DNA tests using a strand of the prince's mother's hair, Marie Antoinette, as well as samples from two of the Queen's sisters, (Maria Jeanne Gabriella and Maria Josephine) , and their mother (Empress Maria Theresa). In addition, they sampled two living descendants from Mary Theresa's maternal line, namely Anne, Queen of Romania, and her brother, Michael of Bourbon. Tests proved that Naudorf was not the real Dauphin after all, but the heart was indeed that of Louis Charles.

Based on these results, the historian Jean Tillard wrote: "This heart is... very probably Louis XV's. We can never be 100% sure, but we certainly have a very good chance ahead of us."

In the light of this conclusion, the French Nomists organised the official burial of the heart at the Royal Monument of Saint Dionysius in Paris on 8 June 2004. The burial took place in front of an audience and during the ceremony, 12-year-old Prince Amory of Bourbon-Paris carried the heart and placed it in a place next to the graves of Louis XVIII's parents. It was the first time in a century that a royal ceremony was held in France, complete with the standard "fleur-de-lis" and a royal crown.

The legend of the "Lost Delphinus" was created when rumours at the time claimed that the body buried was not that of Louis Charles, because he had been taken alive by his countrymen. Therefore, when the Bourbon monarchy was restored in 1814, hundreds of people claimed the throne. Would-be royal heirs continued to appear across Europe for decades afterwards, and some of their descendants still had small but loyal squads of followers.

Carl Wilhelm Naudorf was a German watchmaker whose story was based on a series of intricate intrigues. According to him, Paul Bara decided to save the young prince to please Josephine, the future empress, having conceived the idea of using the existence of Delphinus as a means of dominating the Count of Provence (Louis XI) during the restoration of the monarchy. Louis Charles hid on the fourth floor of the Tower, with a wooden figure replacing him. To protect himself from the consequences of the replacement, Lourin replaced the wooden figure with a deaf and dumb child, as well as the elements on the death certificate. But then the deaf and dumb child also went into hiding in prison. The prince eventually managed to escape from the prison in the coffin, and was later released by his friends before he reached the cemetery.

Naudorf arrived in Berlin in 1810, with documents under the name Karl Wilhelm Naudorf. He said that he escaped persecution and settled in Spandau in 1812 as a watchmaker and married Johanna Einer in 1818. In 1822 he moved to Havel, Brandenburg, and in 1828 to Crossen, near Frankfurt. He was imprisoned from 1825 to 1828 for fraud, although apparently due to insufficient evidence he was released. In 1833 he came to exercise his claims in Paris, where he was identified as a Dauphin by many people associated with the court of Louis XVI. He was expelled from France in 1836, the day after he brought a claim against Maria Theresa Carlotta for the restitution of her brother's private property. He then lived in exile until his death at Delft on 10 August 1845, and on his tomb inscription read "Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre, Duke of Normandy". The Dutch authorities, who had written the name of Louis Charles on his death certificate, allowed his son to bear the title of House of Bourbon. When the Naudorf family appealed in 1850-51, and then again in 1874, for the restoration of their political rights as heirs of Louis XVI, the politician Jules Favre supported their cause.

However, DNA tests carried out in 1993 proved that Naudorf was not the young Dauphin.

The story of the Baron of Rimini as Louis XIV was based mainly on the figure of Jean Simone, who was really attached to him and smuggled him into a basket. His version was simple and perhaps more believable and did not completely invalidate the deaf and dumb kid story. But in this case Louren was deceived from the start. So the elements of the story were completely at odds with each other

However, Rismann, under the pseudonym Henri-Ethelbert-Louis-Louis-Ectore-Ebert, began to promote his claims in Paris in 1828. He died in 1853.

Reverend Eleazer Williams was a Protestant missionary from Wisconsin of Mohawk Native American descent. While at the home of Francis Vinton, Williams began to tremble violently when he saw a portrait of Antoine Simon, a member of the sans-culottes , saying of the portrait that it "haunted him, day and night, as far back as he could remember". According to rumours, Simon physically abused Dauphin while he was imprisoned. Francis Vinton was convinced by the missionary's reaction that he was Louis Charles. Williams claimed that he had no recollection of how he escaped from prison or of his early years in France.

Eleazer Williams claimed that he was a Native American missionary when Ferdinand Philip of Orleans, son of Louis Philippe of France, met him, and after some conversation he asked him to sign a written waiver of his rights to defend Louis Philippe. In return he would become, the Dauphin (aka Eleazer Williams), and receive the Prince's private inheritance. William refused to do so. The story of Eleazer Williams is considered largely false. However, some but evidence published on the matter in 1897 gave at the time the benefit of the doubt.

The remains of Louis XI were not accompanied by a ceremony. At seven o'clock in the evening the police committee ordered the body to be taken to the cemetery. It was a period when the days were getting longer and the nights were getting later. Therefore, the burial was not done in secrecy at night as some misinformed narrators have written. Unlike it took place in broad daylight and attracted a large gathering of people in front of the palace gates. In addition, the funeral took place in St. Margaret's cemetery, but not from the church, as some reports claim, but from the old cemetery gate. The interment took place in the left-hand corner, within eight or nine feet of the cemetery fence, and equidistant from a small house, which afterwards served as a school. The grave was filled with earth, but no mark remains to indicate the exact location of the burial! The police commissioner and the community withdrew, and entered the house opposite the church to draw up the burial declaration."

For some odd reason, the reports of the replacement in prison have deceived royals and Republicans. The English actress Charlotte Atkins was trying by every possible means to get Delphinus out of jail at a time when he might have been in safe hands. They did deliver to her agents a child, but he was deaf and dumb. No doubt there was an elaborate fraud on the guardians of Louis Charles as some writers from 1850 onwards have claimed. When followers of Rismann or Naudorf come to record the details of their post-prison course, their claims become in most cases so implausible that there was no chance of them being convincing.

By 1900, there were over 100 claimants who presented themselves as "lost Dauphinites". The popularity of the false Dolphins peaked after the 1830 Revolution and waned over the course of the century. Unlike the deaths of his parents, which were a national spectacle, the death of Louis XIV was a matter of administrative and medical record, and thus easier to disavow. The myth of replacing Louis Charles before death was propagated and encouraged by Jean-Joseph Renéau Varin's hugely popular 1800 novel Le Cimetière de la Madeleine (The Madeleine Cemetery). The claimants increased in number after the accession of Louis XI during the restoration of the House of Bourbon. After the Revolution of 1830, a claimant's claims were treated with increased seriousness in France because of their ability to serve as criticisms of Louis Philippe. The possibility of the existence of a Bourbon claimant, who would challenge Louis Philippe's princely legitimacy, was certainly a valid reason for seeking such individuals within the palace.

On the other hand, the supporters of the monarchy managed, through the case of Louis XV, to reverse the allegations of child abuse that the Revolution had used to accuse Marie Antoinette of immorality during her trial. In doing so, they proved that the Revolution itself was the main cause of Louis Charles' unjust harm and death.


Books in which the character of Louis XV appears:


Films in which the character of Louis XV appears:


Music inspired by Louis XIV:

From 29 June to 1 October 2018, the Museum of the French Revolution presented an exhibition on Louis XV.


  1. Louis XVII
  2. Λουδοβίκος ΙΖ΄ της Γαλλίας
  3. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Bryant, Margaret (1911). "Louis XVII. of France". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 45.
  4. ^ a b Lever, Evelyne: Marie-Antoinette, Fayard, Paris, 1991, p. 480
  5. ^ Frasier 2001, pp. 180–200, 305–313
  6. ^ Frasier 2001, pp. 350–360
  7. ^ Philippe Huisman, Marguerite Jallut: Marie Antoinette, Stephens, 1971
  8. Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μπριτάνικα
  9. Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μπριτάνικα
  10. dont Alain Decaux écrit "Madame de Rambaud [1] a été placée auprès du Dauphin depuis le jour de sa naissance jusqu'au 10 août 1792, soit pendant sept ans. Durant ces sept ans, elle ne l'a pas quitté, elle l’a bercé, elle l’a soigné, elle l’a vêtu, elle l’a consolé, elle l’a grondé. Dix fois, cent fois plus que Marie-Antoinette, elle a été pour lui, une véritable mère." (Louis XVII retrouvé, p. 306).
  11. Après le 14 juillet 1789, remplaçant madame de Polignac partie en émigration au lendemain de la prise.
  12. de 1785 à 1792.
  13. ^ Philippe Conrad, Louis XVII: l'énigme du roi perdu, Du May, 1988, p. 14

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