Louis XVII : the actual facts

From birth to July 3, 1793

Louis Charles was born in Versailles on March 27, 1785. He was the third child and second son of Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre, and Marie-Antoinette. He was christenned this very day and titled Duke of Normandy. His elder brother, born in 1781, Louis Joseph François Xavier, died in Meudon on June 4, 1789. Louis Charles became then Dauphin of France, i.e. the heir apparent to the throne of France.

He went with his family through all the main dramatic events of the French revolution until the fall of monarchy on August 10, 1792. The royal family was then put in jail in the Temple, a dreadful tower from a fortress which was build in the late XII° century in Paris: King Louis XVI, his wife Marie-Antoinette, their daughter Marie-Thérèse, who was called Madame Royale, their son Louis Charles, Dauphin of France, and a sister of the King, Madame Élisabeth. On January 21, 1793, King Louis XVI was beheaded and Louis Charles became thus the new King of France with the name of Louis XVII, although he was in prison.

He was proclaimed by his uncle in exile, the count of Provence, as well as by the royalist insurgents in Vendée and acknowledged by all foreign governments. But the revolutionary assembly in Paris, called the Convention, had proclaimed the republic and would not acknowledge Louis Charles as their King.

On July 3, 1793, 11 P.M., Louis Charles was taken away from his family as result of a decree by the Comité de Salut Public, which was then the french government.

This was the last time when one can be sure that the boy was actually Louis XVII.

From now on, one can but speak of « the boy of the Temple », whatever his real identity may be. The same day, Antoine Simon, a poor cobbler without any education, but a follower of the revolutionnary spirit, was appointed to the custody of that boy.

The « boy of the Temple » was not Louis XVII

According to the legal official statements, Louis XVII died in the Temple on june 8, 1795, and his corpse was examined the day after and buried in the Sainte Marguerite cemetary..

But this dead boy was not Louis XVII !

There are evidences .

The death on june 8, 1795

The relevant frame was unearthed in 1894 in the Sainte Marguerite cemetary and carefully scrutinized by four prominent osteologists (Dr Bilhaut, Magitot, Manouvrier, Poirier) and an odontologist (Dr Amoëdo) from Paris. They retraced all the scars corresponding to the remarks by the four physicians (Pelletan, Dumangin, Lassus, Jeanroy) who had examined the dead boy in 1795, as well as the signs of saw on the skull, and even the failed saw track that Dr Pelletan had done. Their statements are irrefutable : the boy who died in the Temple on june 8, 1795, was at least 14 years old and could thus not have been Louis XVII.

Louis XVII had two marks on his body : 1) He had been inoculated when he was about three and a half ; every physician in France did know that ; 2) He had a birth mark (naevus maternus) on the inner side of his left thigh. There is no notice of theses marks in the examination report, although the physicians who scrutinized the corpse of the dead boy could not have missed them.

The dead boy was thus obviously a substitute.

Barras’ visit in the Temple on july 28, 1794 

On july 28, 1794, as soon as Robespierre had fallen, Barras who had thus become the main leader in the Revolution rushed to the Temple at 06.00 AM. He found there a boy with extremely long arms and legs, a narrow and short chest, who suffered in his knees and wrists which revealed swellings : he looked ill from rachitis and scrofula (which is a form of slow evolving tuberculosis). This boy spoke but a few words.

The son of the late King was quite healthy and bright. Until the departure of Simon, doctor Thierry had looked after the « boy of the Temple » but for light child’s diseases (costiveness, a slight parasitism with worms, a slight injury with a stick). When Simon and his wife handed over the boy on january 19, 1794, to the commissaries of the Paris Commune (among whom was a physician, doctor Lorinet), they were given a certificate saying that the boy was in good health.

This boy could thus not be the same that Barras saw in the Temple on july 28, 1794.

He was then another substitute.

October, 1793 : two testimonies and two confrontations

As the trial of Marie-Antoinette was due to occur, Hébert, the assistant of Chaumette, the « procureur-syndic de la Commune », who was in charge of the Temple, thought he could have the boy, who was then just eight and a half, being witness against the Queen. And the boy gave indeed evidence against her on october 6, 1793, before a commitee of membres of the Commune, confirming the disgusting fictions suggested to him by Hébert.

The following day, on october 7, 1793, he sustained two successive confrontations, first with Madame Royale, and then with Madame Élisabeth. Authors said that the boy during these two following days was drunk and doped. But the evidence is that he was quite normal and quiet.

On october 26, 1793, the boy gave another evidence before the commissaries of the Commune and Simon. The writing of this testimony is quite clever : the boy says a few details on both Marie-Antoinette (who was beheaded ten days before, which that boy did not know) and Madame Élisabeth. And just as he was to sign, the boy declared he had still something to say : he added then that the Queen was indeed afraid of his sister-in-law Élisabeth who was the actual leader of the family. This scheme is too clever for a boy of eight and a half.

Here are the evidences :

The four drafts dated 6, 7 and 26 october 1793, are duly signed by the boy. We have many writing exercices by the young Dauphin, for whom his father had appointed Abbé d’Avault as his private teacher : the young prince had already a precise, well formed, decisive hand. The boy who signed the four drafts had an wavering hand. He made mistakes in the writing of the name, as he did not know it, with missing letters. Moreover letters of the hand of the boy are not similar to these of the prince (L, C, u, s, r, p, t, e).

Beyond the drafts of the two confrontations, which had not been called in question by anybody, reveal the the boy who sustained them was quite clear-headed and calm. Moreover he spoke without beeing asked for to maintain his assertions before the two women successively and each time he made them apology for having lied. And these confrontations were held during three hours and a half, which is very long for a boy of eight and a half ! The boy was thus neither drunk nor doped. When the confrontation with Madame Royal was to be finished, his gesture has been noticed in the draft : « he said while looking at her… ». This glance is a bad one : it seems he hated these women. But Louis XVII was a loving and beloved child : this glance is not from him.

It is then obvious that the boy of the Temple was not and could not be Louis XVII.

The boy whom Simon and his wife cared for was not Louis XVII.

Louis XVII thus escaped the Temple before Simon was appointed to care the boy.

The conclusion is thus obvious : Louis XVII was in the Temple on july 3, 1793, and he was no more there the following day : Louis XVII escaped from the Temple on the evening of july 3, 1793 !

How did this happen ?

The political situation

On the eve of the 1793 summer, things went very badly for the revolution. Great French cities were in open rebellion against the Convention, i.e. against the dictatorship of the Paris populace : Lyons, Marseille, Toulon (which had called the British Navy and soldiers, hoisted the white royal flag and proclaimed Louis XVII), Bordeaux. Moreover the royalist rebels of Vendée (The Great Royal Catholic Army) fought a victorious fight against the republican armies and put the new system of government in danger. Beyond the foreign armies (Austria, Prussia, Spain) had crossed the frontiers and were on the french territory.

The only recourse : Louis XVII

All the main leaders of the new system were quite aware of the necessity to stop the revolution. Robespierre himself admonished them in many of his speeches : « If you don’t stop the revolution, it shall end with a military dictatorship ! » (the following story of the revolution makes clear that he was not wrong). He knew quite well that there was but one way to stop the revolution : to re-establish monarchy in a country where 90% of the population were still monarchists.

Danton too wanted it, but he thought about the duke of Chartres, son of Philippe Égalité, the former duke of Orleans, who voted the death of his cousin Louis XVI (excluding thus himself and the whole of his lineage for ever from any right to the throne of France). But the duke of Chartres left with general Dumouriez for Austria.

There was thus but one possibility : to put Louis XVII on his fathers’ throne.

It is nevertheless obvious that these men did not want to re-establish the old-style monarchy, but a new one. They knew that French people wanted to keep two main results of the revolution : the equality of rights and the ownership of the national estates (i.e. the estates that had been seized from the Church and from the ennemies of the people) they had purchased at very low prices.

For the leaders of the revolution there was a third prerequisite, unexpressed, but very actual : they wanted not to render account of their behaviour to anybody. This was even perhaps the main prerequisite.

And it was obvious that no account would be asked to the men who would have put young Louis XVII on the throne of France, the legitimate heir of which he was for everybody in the world..

Beyond the son of the late Louis XVI was still quite young, which means that a regency would be established for a long period of time. The regents would obviously be the very men who had re-establish Louis Charles on the throne.

The plot

Young Louis XVII was but eight years and three months : he obviously could not escape by his own means from the Temple. Somebody made him quit the jail.

As we have just observed, some leaders of the revolution kept thinking about it. The royalits too, of course. Lot of people think that the royalists helped the young king to escape and there were actually many such attempts, but all failed.

On august 10, 1792, the Commune of Paris claimed and got the custody of the royal family. And from now on, the Commune was responsible for it.

On the other side, Danton, who had been very mighty until then, was somewhat tired with politics : he had just married again with a quite young wife (after the death of the first one) and took a little away from the government. But Robespierre was already constantly ascerting his power and entertained at this time very good relations with the Commune.

A plot with Robespierre and some well chosen members of the Commune was thus the ideal team for catching hold of the young king.

The revolutionists – and not the royalists – have the young king escape from his jail (it is easier for the guardian who holds the keys to open the doors than to break them from outside).

But the Queen would never have consented to this type of monarchy. The plan needed thus a first step : to separate the young king from his family.

The young king escapes

An attempt of escape was tried in the night from june 21 to 22, 1793, by baron de Batz. This man was a royalist agent who kept many contacts with revolutionists. He called about 30 royalists, wearing the uniform of the garde nationale (this military local formation was in charge of the custody of the Temple). They all got within the building, when unexpectedly Simon asked for a second roll-call : he is said to have received advice of a plot, but no proof of it was ever found. Nevertheless the 30 false gardes nationaux, including baron de Batz, got out of the Temple undisturbed. The attempt had missed.

But it was not useless.

It was a good ostensible reason to ask for the young king beeing separated from his family. In fact, such an event was a matter for the keeper of the jail ; i.e. the Commune. But this structure was clever enough for not being involved itself in the following decision : it had it taken by the Comité de Salut Public, which was the government of France at this time. Late in the evening of july 1, 1793, this Comité decreed that « the young Louis, son of Capet, shall be separated from his mother and housed in another flat, which must have the best defence in the whole Temple building ».

Such a wording needs some remarks :

The Comité speaks of the separation of the son from his mother, not from the rest of his family.

As a consequence, the Comité does not consider as necessary a special keeper for the boy.

The boy must be kept under severe custody.

How did the Commune comply with this decree ?

The boy was separated from the whole of his family.

Antoine Simon, who was unable to bring up any child (and who did ever have any), was appointed as teacher of the boy.

As long as he stood under the custody of Simon, the boy had quite free movements in the Temple, far more than he had ever before. Everyone in the tower could see and hear him playing, singing and laughing, which means that the boy was in good health during all this period.

It can thus be said to resume that from now on any escape attempt from inside could happen !

The decision of separation happened in very curious conditions.

The decision of the Comité de Salut Public was dated july 1, 1793. But the commissaries of the Commune waited until july 3, 1793, in the night to comply with this decision. The revolutionists dealed generaly far more quickly with their tasks.

Louis XVII was still quite young (8 _) and got to bed very soon in the evening. When he was separated from his father on december 11, 1792, the commissaries went and took him away on 11 AM. One thus wonders why they complied with this décision on 10 PM : as this decision was taken two days before, they could have waited till the next morning. They were no more in a hurry.

The Queen opposed this decision, arguing during a whole hour with the commissaries who threatened her to have the guard coming up (which however they did not call although there was a post two stories underneath). In her memoirs Madame Royale, the sister of Louis XVII, wrote that their mother negociated with the commissaries. But what was to be dealt with ? Not the separation itself : the comité, i.e. the government, had so decided. But the further fate of her son could possibly be discussed. And Madame Royale wrote : that the Queen determined finally to give up her son.

The young king was then got up and dressed. This occurrence is a nonsense. What was the matter indeed ? At 10 PM, when the commissaries went in the room, the boy was asleep. He had to be taken from his bed on the third floor to be installed immediately in another bed of the second floor : a healthy man could easily have taken him in his arms and brought him just underneath. But he was dressed in his daily clothes as if he was to go out.

The Paris Commune had the custody of the royal family. The Commune was represented in the Temple by its executive officer, the procureur-syndic de la Commune, Chaumette, who was there an absolute master. Chaumette had an assistant, Hébert. The separation of Louis XVII from his mother was a very important occurrence in the Temple. It was obviously their duty to lead this proceeding. But we have nevertheless not the slightest evidence of their presence in the Temple in the evening of july 3, 1793, which is actually unbelievable.

Acknowledgment of the substituted boy as Louis XVII

During the three first days Simon kept the boy inside the tower. The guard started then growling, wondering whether there was still a boy in the tower, which is a proof that it was accustomed to see him almost daily. In order to stop this muttering, an inspection was called in the Temple : the Comité de Sûreté Général sent a mission on that purpose.

It must be explained in that purpose that after the fall of monarchy France was managed by different comities that had each to deal with some kind of problems. The two main comities were the Comité de Salut Public (which decided the separation between Louis XVII and his mother), i.e. the government itself, and the Comité de Sûreté Générale, i.e. the police. These two main comities did not agree on lots of cases and were jealous of each other.

It was thus very clever from the Commune to have both these two comities to be tied with the case of Louis XVII at different times, while the Commune itself was not involved in any decision about the boy.

Most historians insist that Drouet was a member sent to the Temple by the Comité de Sûreté Générale, meaning that was a proof that the boy whom the commission saw was actually the son of the late king. Drouet was indeed the man who stopped the escape of Louis XVI and his family in Varennes. But a careful study of this occurrence reveals that Drouet did not come near the prince, who was still the Dauphin, at any time during this awful journey. Drouet thus did not know Louis XVII and his presence is no evidence at all.

To resume

We can then recall how Louis XVII escaped from the Temple.

A plot had been formed to get hold on the young king. The leader was necessarily a man of great power : such a move was indeed very dangerous. At that time two such men only could be considered : Danton, who was then a member of the Comité de Salut Public (the government, which took the decision of separation) from the beginning and was eliminated on july 10, 1793, and Robespierre, who was not yet a member of the comity (he was chosen on july 27, 1793). Danton and Robespierre hated each other.

It seems then obvious that the leader was Robespierre who got, without probably much difficulty, the abetting of Chaumette and his assistant Hébert. The members of this plot were very few : Simon, perhaps the commisaries of the Commune in charge of the Temple on the evening of july 3, 1973. Simon, who was very poor, got a huge salary from this evening on (6.000 livres a year for him, plus 3.000 livres a year for his wife). Marie-Jeanne Simon, the wife of Antoine Simon, was not in the Temple before july 6, 1793, and she did not know the prince : she thus always believed that she had been in charge of the young king.

The conspirators operated probably as follows :

As soon as the escape attempt by baron de Batz had failed, the conspirators decided to take advantage of this occurrence to get hold of the young king.

One wonders whether this failure of this escape attempt was not thought of in advance as all members of this particular conspiracy escaped undisturbed. This attempt looks then as an incentive.

They had chosen a boy who was a double of the young king : healthy, alert, clever.

Two days were nevertheless necessary to have him available (perhaps he did not live in Paris).

The commissaries were in charge to persuade the Queen to give up her son without disturbance. It was not indeed so easy, but they managed to succeed.

Louis XVII disappeared with them. He was then probably handed to Chaumette who conducted him till the door near the stable, which stood not under custody. Outside was probably a cab with Robespierre inside : the king was then taken away.

The subsitute was a boy looking like the young king. We know nevertheless from the Mémoires of Marie Thérèse Charlotte de France (the sister of Louis XVII) that this boy was not taller, but fatter than the king. The conspirators made then the Comité de Sûreté Génrale to delegate four of its members to come and check the case. Among them was Drouet, who cannot be in any case a witness for us, but who was then very famous for his dealing with the arrest of the royal family in Varennes in june 1791.

The weather was fine when the delegation left the tower. From that moment onward who on earth would dare to say that the subsituted boy was not the young king ?

Hébert, who hated the Queen, took advantage of some habits of that boy to have her soiled by her presumed son. He organized the declaration of the boy against the Queen on october 6, 1793. The trial of Marie-Antoinette was then to be done quickly (it occured on october 14 and 15, 1793, and the Queen was beheaded on octobre 16, 1793).

With this occurrence, Chaumette, the procureur-syndic of the Commune, had a stroke of genius : why not have this boy being recognised as the young king by the royal family itself ? The next day, october 7, 1793, he organised the double confrontation of the boy with Marie-Thérèse and Élisabeth, sister and aunt of Louis XVII.

These two women did know of course that boy was not Louis XVII ! But what could they say ? Nothing. No contestation of hers would have been heard by anybody, which they knew, and could have put their brother and nephew in danger.

Nobody then would ever claim that this boy was not Louis XVII…

The members of the plot disappeared quickly : Robespierre was beheaded on thermidor 10 (july 28, 1794), Simon too, as well as lots of members of the Commune of Paris. Hébert had been already beheaded on march 24, 1794, Danton on april 5, 1794, Chaumette on april 13, 1794, all three on behalf of Robespierre.

Nobody gave ever any testimony on the escape of Louis XVII from the Temple. Many authors take advantage of this silence to affirm that nothing actually occured. This reasonning is stupid : the members of the plot were dead and did not want to say anything before their death ; furthermore speaking about a presumed escape of Louis XVII was very dangerous. This silence is a void, an void never proved anything else than beeing void. This silence thus does not prove anything else than silence.

Where went Louis XVII on escaping from the Temple late in the night of july 3, 1793 ? We do not know. But his further life proved that he received a complete education, knowing French of course, but Latin too, German, Italian, physics and chemistry, was proficient in dealing with clocks and a fine mechanician. Learning all this took many quiet years. It seems then obvious than at a time when Europe was under fire and sword he lived a quiet life in some quiet places where he was kept hidden.

Louis XVII, the only son of the late Louis XVI, was the legitimate heir to the throne of France. But when the french empire collapsed, the Allies did not want to reinstall in France the legitimate monarchy because they feared that thus France would become again as strong as it was before the revolution. The Allies took then advantage of the ravenous ambition – which everyone knew - of the count of Provence to install him on the throne of France. Louis XVII was thus officially abandonned and the situation kept unchanged from that time till now.