• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

A Hollowed-Out Gourd Contains the Blood of Louis XVI. Or Does it?


Sep 29, 2022

Whereas it’s not what I’d do, legend has it that when King Louis XVI was beheaded in 1793, onlookers in Paris rushed to the scene to dip their handkerchiefs within the useless king’s blood. Years later, certainly one of these ugly souvenirs made headlines when an Italian household despatched it off for genetic testing to see if the relic was the true deal.

A hollowed-out gourd had been within the household for over a century inscribed with the next phrase: “On January 21, Maximilien Bourdaloue dipped his handkerchief within the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation.” Adorned with etched portraits of heroes from the French Revolution , it appeared to have been filled with one of many blood-soaked handkerchiefs.

The adorned gourd mentioned to include a handkerchief dipped within the blood of King Louis XVI. (Davide Pettener / CC BY 3.0 )

In 2009 the household employed Carles Lalueza-Fox, a world-renowned paleogenomicist recognized for decoding historic DNA and creator of Genes, Kings and Imposters , to attempt to determine if the artifact was a faux. Whereas it sounds fairly simple, it’s something however. The truth is, discovering a DNA pattern from the House of Bourbon with which to match the supposedly-royal blood isn’t any simple feat and ensuing research led to heated educational debate.

The mummified coronary heart of Louis XVI’s son was out of the query, as scientists had been unable to extract the Y-chromosome, which passes from father to son. Lalueza-Fox due to this fact used a pattern from a mummified head believed to belong to Henri IV . Embalmed when he died in 1610, his head went lacking when his grave was ransacked through the revolution, solely to resurface once more within the 1900s throughout an public sale.

The supposed blood of Louis XVI was in contrast with the doubtful head of Henri IV, seen right here with Joseph-Émile Bourdais who purchased the relic in 1919. ( Public domain )

These two doubtful stays turned the topic of in-depth DNA testing . In a research revealed in Forensic Science International consultants concluded that the 2 had been associated. The forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier went as far as to state that “one can say that there’s completely little doubt anymore,” reported the Daily Mail .

Others remained unimpressed. A 2013 report added evaluation of blood from three residing descendants of Henri IV into the combination and claimed that the mummified head and blood didn’t belong to their respective monarchs. “For the blood, I’m one hundred pc sure it isn’t authentic,” said one geneticist in Archaeology. “For the pinnacle, the DNA that has been analyzed will not be of Henry IV.”

Up to date accounts described King Louis XVI as being exceptionally tall and blue-eyed, as depicted by Antoine-François Callet. ( Public domain )

However that wasn’t the tip of it. Scientists sequenced the complete genome from the bloody handkerchief and concluded in Scientific Reports that it was “most likely” a faux. Though up to date accounts described Louis as an exceptionally tall, blue-eyed king of German and Polish ancestry, the blood pattern got here from a brief particular person with brown eyes of French-Italian heritage. Additionally they discovered that the gourd truly contained the DNA of not less than three different individuals.

In the long run, the gourd and its blood-soaked handkerchief had been probably the brainchild of an 18th century swindler. Alternatively, the dearth of a match may have been brought on by some unknown royal infidelity. Oh la la!

Prime picture: Element of political cartoon depicting the Duc d’Orléans on the scaffold holding the severed head of Louis XVI as much as the group. Supply: Bodleian Library / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

By Cecilia Bogaard

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