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Louis XVI Blood Mystery Solved

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Louis XVI Blood Mystery Solved

Post  Bunnies on Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:18 pm

From an article by David Blair:

When King Louis XVI went to the guillotine after the French Revolution, Parisians jostled to acquire a gruesome relic of regicide by dipping garments in his blood.

For years, researchers have been trying to establish whether a genuine memento of this momentous execution in the Place de la Revolution survives today. A new DNA analysis has solved a mystery that has lasted for almost 220 years, finding that an ornate gourd almost certainly carries the bloodstains of the fallen king.

On Jan 21 1793, a Parisian called Maximilien Bourdaloue witnessed Louis's public decapitation as the postrevolutionary "Terreur" took hold. Afterwards, he joined many others in dipping a handkerchief in the pool of blood left at the foot of the guillotine.

Bourdaloue then secreted this garment inside a calabash, now in the possession of an Italian family. The rag itself has long since decomposed, but the container still carries crimson stains and an inscription recording how the souvenir was collected after the king's "decapitation".

But there was no conclusive proof that the blood really belonged to Louis. A DNA sample could not solve the riddle unless it was compared with another drawn from a relative of the king.

A new study in the current issue of "Forensic Science International" has filled in the missing link. The breakthrough came when scientists took a DNA sample from the mummified head of one of Louis's most illustrious ancestors: King Henri IV, who ruled France from 1589 until 1610.

This analysis established that Henri possessed a rare partial "Y" chromosome. Louis was one of his direct male-line descendants, separated by seven generations. The stains on the calabash also contained the "Y" chromosome, along with other matches, leading experts to conclude that the container almost certainly holds the blood of the executed king.
"Taking into consideration that the partial Y-chromosome profile is extremely rare in modern human databases, we concluded that both males could be paternally related," read the study.

"Historically speaking, this forensic DNA data would confirm the identity of the previous Louis XVI sample."

The study found "with 95 per cent confidence" that it was 246 times more likely that the owner of the mummified head and the provider of the bloodstain were related than unrelated. Both Henri and Louis came to a violent end at the hands of their subjects – and relics of both survive to this day.

How exactly Louis met his death was also something of a mystery. According to some accounts, Louis was so terrified that he had to be forced to mount the scaffold at gunpoint. Other witnesses suggested that the execution was botched and the first blow of the guillotine failed to remove his head.

The record was set straight as recently as 2006 when a letter from Charles Henri Sanson, the "chief executioner" of Paris and the man who personally beheaded the king, was finally discovered.

This described how Louis went bravely to his end after mounting the scaffold. Although he was denied the chance to address the crowd, he "exclaimed very loudly: 'People, I die innocent'."

Turning towards Sanson and the other executioners, Louis is recorded as saying: "Gentlemen, I am innocent of everything of which I am accused. I wish that my blood may be able to cement the happiness of the French".

Sanson wrote: "He [Louis] withstood all that with a composure and a steadiness that astonished us all. I remain very convinced that he had drawn this steadiness from the principles of religion, of which none appeared more deeply affected and persuaded than he."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/9773174/Louis-XVI-blood-mystery-solved.html
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Re: Louis XVI Blood Mystery Solved

Post  Elena on Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:34 pm

Another article: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-01/03/louis-xvi-blood-compared-with-mummified-head?page=all

A "dark and dried substance" found within this gourd was scraped off and biochemical analysis confirmed it was indeed blood. DNA studies then determined the sex when the Y-chromosome was identified, and the presence of the mutated HERC2 gene suggested the owner had blue eyes (paintings of Louis often recorded what is referred to as his identifying "bulging blue eyes"). Furthermore, the Y-chromosone was identified as being from the haplogroup G2a, a haplogroup so rare among modern Eurasians it was concluded the sample must be from a royal line.

[....]

The results of the comparison showed that, despite the scarcity of markers retrieved from the mummified head, five out of the six alleles matched five rare alleles identified in Louis' DNA.

"By chance, some of the alleles are so rare in modern Europeans that we found no one with the sample profile among a database of more than 40,000 living people," Lalueza-Fox told Wired.co.uk. "The discrepant allele is just one mutational step apart from the Louis XVI profile, and this is not so rare considering we are dealing with two samples potentially separated by seven generations.

"The crucial point is again the fact that the remaining five alleles that perfectly match are so rare in modern Europeans. Even with the discrepant allele, it is 250 times more probable that the two samples are paternally related than unrelated."

Lalueza-Fox plans to continue his research and is currently analysing the blood sample. He hopes to sequence the king's complete genome in a matter of weeks.

If the team were to be granted permission to analyse the shrivelled and dried heart of the king's son Louis XVII (they have so far been refused), further confirmation could exponentially be sped up. The identity of the boy, who died of cancer aged ten, has already been confirmed after a mitochondrial DNA (inherited from mothers) comparison using a locket of Marie Antoinette's hair.

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Re: Louis XVI Blood Mystery Solved

Post  Julygirl on Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:37 pm

It seems that royal blood is different. queen
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Re: Louis XVI Blood Mystery Solved

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Thu Aug 07, 2014 5:57 pm

Interesting! I wonder why some accounts say Louis' execution was botched. Probably just Revolutionary propaganda.  scratch 

Most accounts say there were no problems and the guillotine was specifically designed so that there would be no mishaps.
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Re: Louis XVI Blood Mystery Solved

Post  Bunnies on Thu Aug 14, 2014 7:09 pm

Gosh darnit I'm a stone-cold liar: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27145411 Apparently scientists have reanalyzed the blood and have come to the conclusion that it's unlikely to belong to Louis XVI.

It's worth noting that this reopens the other historical mystery: Just who was the Man in the Iron Mask? For awhile there was some controversy regarding whether Louis XIV was really the son of Louis XIII. Alexandre Dumas - or someone, I'm not really savvy on this myth - suspected that his real father was Dumas, and that the efforts to hide this led to the imprisonment of the true heir, etc. etc. This myth was initially discredited with the announcement of Louis XVI's blood analysis: After all, if Louis XVI was a descendent of Henry IV, who they compared the blood sample to, then he must've come from Louis XIV! Logic, right?

But since the blood didn't belong to Louis XVI, apparently - or anyone of the royal family - the theory can no longer be absolutely discredited. Although it is unlikely.

Interesting! I wonder why some accounts say Louis' execution was botched. Probably just Revolutionary propaganda.

I doubt that's Revolutionary propaganda. Considering that they valued the efficiency of their guillotine, an implication otherwise would have been perceived as a slight against their execution via equality deal they had going on. That particular theory has the whiff of a Reactionary - if, indeed, it has any contemporary grounding at all beyond misunderstandings. Revolutionary propaganda is more likely to say, "Louis XVI was a coward on his way to execution" which is also nonsense. But it's a different breed of nonsense, if you follow.

The Parisian guillotine was a sturdy construction and I can't think, offhand, of any botches on its end. It was the guillotines in the provinces - which were made out of flimsier, lighter material to be conducive to travel - that tended to have mishaps. See: Chalier.
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