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Den försvunne prinsen : Franska revolutionen och sökandet efter Ludvig XVII

av Deborah Cadbury

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
4161160,408 (4.06)19
A true story of royalty, revolution and mystery - the detective story of the brief life and many possible deaths of Louis XVII, the son of Marie Antoinette. Louis-Charles Bourbon enjoyed a charmed early childhood in the gilded palace of Versailles. At the age of four, he became the Dauphin, heir to the most powerful throne in Europe. Yet within five years, he was to lose everything. Drawn into the horror of the French Revolution, his family was incarcerated and their fate thrust into the hands of the revolutionaries who wished to destroy the Monarchy.… (mer)
  1. 10
    The Black Tower av Louis Bayard (TheoClarke)
    TheoClarke: Deborah Cadbury's book was a key reference for Louis Bayard when writing his novel.
  2. 00
    Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter av Susan Nagel (Fourpawz2)
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This fascinating and gripping books tells of the short life and fate of the son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who after his father's removal from power and execution became in the eyes of royalists King Louis XVII (though he never of course ruled in any sense), until his tragic and degrading death in the Temple Prison aged 10 in 1795. Even more, this is the story of the numerous pretenders who claimed to be him during the first half of the 18th century. There were an astonishing one hundred such claimants, some more plausible than others. Dozens of them wrote letters to their pretended sister Marie Therese, the only surviving member of the young Dauphin's immediate family, cruelly exploiting her misery and grief at the murders of all her close family. The most serious and persistent of them was Karl Wilhelm Naundorf, who not only vigorously pursued the claim until his death in 1845, but his descendants were still pursuing it 150 years later. The careful comparison of DNA from Naundorf and from surviving hairs from Marie Antoinette's sisters, and with the shrivelled heart of Louis XVII, finally proved in 1999 beyond reasonable doubt that Naundorf could not have been the Dauphin (the story of the survival of the small heart would make a fascinating thriller in and of itself). This gave some closure to the sad story of the poor boy. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the French Revolution, the tragic fate of this poor boy, a hapless pawn of all sides, separated from his family and kept in degrading and insanitary darkness, is deeply upsetting. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 27, 2023 |
Before starting this, I suspected to read the usual history of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, with the odd reference to their son, the uncrowned Louis XVII. Yet once we pass Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s executions – or murders, as I consider them – we have much more focus on their unfortunate son.

The treatment this little boy endured during Revolutionary France was the stuff nightmares are made of. Imagine being nine or ten years old, locked in a small room with no toys, books, or any form of occupation; with no visitors, except for rats attracted to the smell of human waste; imagine living in that room among that human waste for eight months and you have an idea of that little boy’s never-ending horror.

The narrative continues after poor Louis XVII’s death. His sister did survive the Reign of Terror, but for the rest of her life she endured the mental torture of men claiming to be her brother – claiming they escaped and that the boy who died was an imposter.

Over 100 pretenders came forward, some of whom were convincing, one in particular. I won’t delve any further here to avoid spoilers, but it makes for fascinating reading.

The DNA angle comes in towards the end of the book. I’m not a lover of forensic science, but the material here is fascinating and easy to follow. The results were revealed to the public several years ago, but I knew nothing of this, so reading about it was highly intriguing.

I’ve read a lot about Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and a couple of books on their daughter, but knew virtually nothing about Louis XVII, which made this an engrossing read for me. ( )
1 rösta PhilSyphe | Mar 20, 2019 |
Author Deborah Cadbury is a science journalist, but The Lost King of France doesn’t have any of the flaws I usually associate with science journalism; no interviews, no attempts to “tell both sides of the story”, no obligatory references to global warming. Instead this is a nice, well-told, straightforward history of the short life and long postmortem adventures of Louis-Charles, second son and third child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Louis-Charles was seven years old when he and his family were rounded up and imprisoned by the Revolution; eight when his father and mother were guillotined and he became Louis XVII; and ten when he died in a prison cell, mute, verminous, and terrified. Doctor Pellatan, performing the autopsy, did something a little odd; while the guards weren’t looking, he extracted the heart, wrapped it in a handkerchief, and put it in his pocket. The body was sewed up and buried in an unmarked grave.


That was in 1795. The first impostor showed up in 1797. However the bumper crop didn’t really come in until after the Napoleonic Wars. Over 100 people eventually claimed to be Louis XVII. There stories were usually similar; they had been smuggled out of captivity by Royalists; either the Royalists smuggled in a sickly deaf-mute to replace them or the Revolutionaries, embarrassed at having lost their prize chess piece, substituted one. They then went into hiding – often in America – until ready to return and claim the throne, or at least the wealth that went with it. Some were quite convincing, supposedly knowing things about Versailles that only a genuine Dauphin would know. The authorities generally let them be; now and then when one became too obstreperous they were put on trial for fraud; in one case a Dauphin in the dock was interrupted by a man who marched into the courtroom and announced “You’re not the Dauphin! I’m the Dauphin!” Not having seen Spartacus, the rest of the courtroom missed the opportunity to jump up and shout “No! I am the Dauphin!”. Mark Twain was amused enough to include “The Duke and the Dauphin” chapter in Huckleberry Finn; some time later Baroness Orczy had the Scarlett Pimpernel rescue the Dauphin and smuggle him off to Holland. One of the strangest Dauphin candidates was Karl Wilhelm Naundorff, a Leipzig clockmaker who couldn’t even speak French. Despite this, he was convincing enough that several members of the nobility who had known the actual Dauphin believed in him (although none of the remaining royal family did). He made his way to France, then England (where he was imprisoned for debt), then Holland, where he became ill and died in 1845. For some unknown reason the Dutch authorities had bought his story – Cadbury suspects they wanted to ruffle French feathers - thus his death certificate read “Charles-Louis de Bourbon, born Versailles 1785”. This allowed Naundorff’s descendants to argue for years that their claim was officially recognized.


The Dauphin’s heart has an equally strange story. As mentioned, it was last seen in the pocket of Dr. Pellatan. He brought it home and put it in a jar of alcohol on a shelf. The alcohol eventually evaporated and the heart dried up; Pellatan kept it in his desk drawer. A student stole it; when he died some years later he made a deathbed confession and the heart was returned to Pellatan. He tried to present it to King Louis XVIII, who turned it down; then to the Dauphin’s sister, who also turned it down (Cadbury doesn’t speculate why; I assume she was getting so tired of fraudulent brothers showing up she didn’t want any part of one). Pellatan took the heart back home; when he was old and ill he persuaded the Archbishop of Paris to accept it – just in time for the Archbishop’s palace to be ransacked in the 1830 Revolution. Dr. Pellatan’s son searched the palace ruins, found the heart, and stashed it away. When he died in 1879 his executor once again attempted to return it to the Bourbon family, who once again declined it. It went through the hands of several Pellatan relatives until Don Carlos de Bourbon, Duke of Madrid, finally agreed to take it off their hands in 1895. It was deposited amidst other family relics in the Chateau de Frohsdorf in Austria, where it rested in peace until 1945 – when it encountered the Red Army and was thought to be lost again. However, it turned out it had been rescued from the advancing Reds at the last minute by Princess Marie-de-Neiges Massimo, from the Spanish Bourbons, who eventually returned it to France in 1975, and it ended up with other French royal remains at St. Denis.


In 2000, it was decided the heart would be a suitable target for DNA testing. Various locks of hair and other bits and pieces from the Hapsburgs and Karl Wilhelm Naundorff were available (since they were doing mitochondrial DNA, only Marie-Antoinette’s side of the family was relevant). The testing was done by two independent labs – neither in France, to avoid charges of bias – and it turned out that yes, within the limits of probability, this was the heart of a son of Marie Antoinette – and Karl Wilhelm Naundorff was not. The Naundorff family hasn’t given up yet, of course, but everybody else is convinced.


A good story, well told. Could maybe use some illustrations, and the index was sparse. ( )
2 rösta setnahkt | Dec 26, 2017 |
A gift from a fellow LTer this book was sent to me as she knew I was, and remain, a francophile. I am not an avid historian nor am I especially knowledgeable with regards to 18th century France. However this book captivated me and was hard to put down. At times reading rather like a detective story whilst at others social history this was a fascinating account of the life and troubled times of Louis XVI and his family. From the 18th century the reader is led on a journey to the present day when the mystery of the Dauphin or the prince in the tower is to some extent resolved through scientific avenues.
Deborah Cadbury has thoroughly researched this whole story and has compiled copious notes on her sources for each chapter. Yet she writes without pretence or academic superiority and so the story is accessible and the reader is drawn into the life and times of the ill fated son of Louis XVI. Once again the reader is witness to man's inhumanity to man as he lays claim to wealth and power - this time that inhumanity is directed at a young boy and his sister amongst others yet the author does not dwell ghoulishly upon these aspects of the period. Rather the reader is left to ponder the violence of the period and reflect upon the motivation that drove men to such barbarous acts. Overall an excellent and highly recommended read. ( )
  juliette07 | Aug 2, 2010 |
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From the portrait by Alexandre Kucharski, Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie looks out confidently on the world with large blue eyes in a sensitive face framed by fair hair; the perfect storybook prince.
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A true story of royalty, revolution and mystery - the detective story of the brief life and many possible deaths of Louis XVII, the son of Marie Antoinette. Louis-Charles Bourbon enjoyed a charmed early childhood in the gilded palace of Versailles. At the age of four, he became the Dauphin, heir to the most powerful throne in Europe. Yet within five years, he was to lose everything. Drawn into the horror of the French Revolution, his family was incarcerated and their fate thrust into the hands of the revolutionaries who wished to destroy the Monarchy.

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