Dried squash holds headless French king's blood, study finds

A memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette is pictured outside Paris, on October 7, 2010
A memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette is pictured in the basilica of Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on October 7, 2010. Two centuries after the French people beheaded the king and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, scientists believe they have authenticated the remains of one such rag kept as a revolutionary souvenir.

Two centuries after the French people beheaded Louis XVI and dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, scientists believe they have authenticated the remains of one such rag kept as a revolutionary souvenir.

Researchers have been trying for years to verify a claim imprinted on an ornately decorated calabash that it contains a sample of the blood of the French king guillotined in Paris on January 21, 1793.

The dried, hollowed squash is adorned with portraits of revolutionary heroes and the text: "On January 21, Maximilien Bourdaloue dipped his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation".

He is then believed to have placed the fabric in the gourd, and had it embellished.

The sinister souvenir has been in the private hands of an Italian family for more than a century, said the team of experts from Spain and France which published its findings in the journal .

Two years ago, analysis of DNA taken from blood traces found inside the ornate vegetable revealed a likely match for someone of Louis' description, including his blue eyes.

But not having the DNA of any kingly relation, researchers could not prove beyond doubt that the blood belonged to Louis.

Until now.

Using the genetic material, the team managed to draw a link to another gruesome artefact—a mummified head believed to belong to Louis' 16th century predecessor, Henri IV.

In so doing, they provided evidence for authenticating both sets of remains—uncovering a rare shared by two men separated by seven generations.

"This study shows that (the owners of the remains) share a passed on through the paternal line. They have a direct link to one another through their fathers," French Philippe Charlier told AFP.

The revolution in which Louis and queen Marie-Antoinette lost their heads in public executions also saw mobs ransack the royal chapel at Saint-Denis, north of Paris—hauling ancient monarchs like Henri from their tombs and mutilating the remains which they tossed into pits.

An individual was recorded to have rescued a severed head from the chaos.

Long thought to belong to Henri, assassinated at the age of 57 by a Catholic fanatic in 1610, the head changed hands several times over the next two centuries, bought and sold at auction or kept in secretive private collections.

Scientists in 2010 said they found proof that the head was indeed Henri's, citing physical features that matched 16th century portraits of the king, as well as radiocarbon dating, 3D scanning and X-rays.

The 2010 study, however, found no DNA and its findings have been contested by some.

With the new evidence, "it is about 250 times more likely that the (owners of the) head and the are paternally related, than unrelated," co-author Carles Lalueza Fox of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva in Barcelona told AFP by email.

Taken together with all the physical and forensic evidence, historical records and folklore, it would be "extremely surprising" if the remains did not belong to the two assassinated monarchs, he added.

"One can say that there is absolutely no doubt anymore," about the authenticity of the mummified head, added Charlier.

The DNA data obtained from Louis XVI could now be used to decipher the genetic code of France's last absolute monarch and his living relatives.


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Royal head: Scientists identify murdered French king

Journal information: Forensic Science International

(c) 2012 AFP

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Dec 31, 2012
The sad thing is that prior to the famines, the king had been pushing for the people to grow potatoes because they were hardier, but the people refused to change their traditions. So a few years later, whenever France was in famines from crop failures, other parts of Europe were thriving. Then the people blamed the royal family for all their troubles and had them killed.

Ironically, if the people had taken the royal family's advice, they probably would not have suffered from the famines, certainly not as badly.

King: "Everybody, I want to help! We should raise potatoes!"

People: "No, we like our traditions, even if they don't work!"

A few years later!

People: "It's the kings' fault we're all starving!"

King: "But I tried to warn you!"

People: "Lies!"

So much for Greenspan's naive belief that people always do what's in their own best interest.

I don't know where he picked up that lie, but he must have been the most sheltered fool who ever lived.

Dec 31, 2012
I don't know where he picked up that lie, but he must have been the most sheltered fool who ever lived.

He got it from Ayn Rand, his mentor.

Dec 31, 2012
Ironically, if the people had taken the royal family's advice, they probably would not have suffered from the famines, certainly not as badly.
-Except that when the potato famine was introduced the results would have been essentially the same.

"In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852"

-Only worse, as a plentiful food supply enables the population to grow that much further beyond the point of stability.

Jan 03, 2013
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Jan 04, 2013

"So much for Greenspan's naive belief that people always do what's in their own best interest. I don't know where he picked up that lie, but he must have been the most sheltered fool who ever lived." - Lurker

Greenspan was the chief disciple of Ayn Rand.

It is part of the fundamental ideology of Randism, and Libertarianism, and which is now epidemic in TeaTardism and to a lesser extent in free market Conservatism.

It is also a simplifying assumption in economic theory that has been elevated to "truth" in the Austrian school of economics.

Know the enemy.

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