Royal heart entombed in Paris

The preserved heart of the 10 year-old dauphin was brought to the Saint-Denis Basilica in a hearse brimming with lilies, the floral symbol of the French crown.

Encased in a crystal vase, draped by a purple veil, the heart was placed in a royal crypt alongside the remains of Louis XVII’s parents, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.

European artistocrats, including pretender to the French throne Duc d’Anjou Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon, were among the 2,500 people who witnessed the requiem Mass performed by Cardinal Jean Honore.

The ceremony closes more than two hundred years of speculation about the fate of the young king.

Louis XVII had been locked in Paris’ notorious Temple prison after revolutionaries guillotined his parents in 1793.

Isolated in a dark and fetid cell, Louis XVII died of tuberculosis in 1795.

However, rumours soon circulated that the boy had been smuggled to freedom and a commoner’s body was left in his place.

The small body was dumped in a common grave, but not before the doctor who performed the autopsy secretly cut out the heart, in keeping with a royal tradition.

It then passed from person to person until it was given into the keeping of the Spanish branch of the Bourbon family and eventually returned to France in 1975.

Many doubted that the royal heart could have survived 200 years in uncertain conditions.

DNA testing was conducted in 2000 which established a genetic link using a strand of Marie-Antoinette’s hair.

A few lingering sceptics have rejected the results, insisting that the heart could be that of Louis XVII’s brother who died in 1789.

Historians have responded claiming that the heart is unlikely to be that of anyone other than Louis XVII because it had been removed and preserved accordance with strict royal tradition.

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