Louis XVII Heir to Louis XVI (1785-1795)

Louis-Charles de France, ‘Louis XVII’, was born at Versailles in 1785, just a few short years before the outbreak of the French Revolution. He was locked up along with his family in the Temple prison in 1792, and would never be freed. Louis XVII never ruled; he died in his prison cell at the age of ten, far from the sumptuous luxury of his early years.

As the second son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and brother of Madame Royale, Louis-Charles de France spent his childhood at the Palace of Versailles with his parents, surrounded by valets and watched over by his Governess. He became heir to the throne in 1789, following the untimely death of his elder brother. The young Louis-Charles thus became Dauphin just as the kingdom was being throw into chaos by the onset of the French Revolution. 

ANECDOTE

Louis XVII was left under the care of his mother Marie Antoinette, then taken away from her shortly before her own execution and entrusted to shoemaker Antoine Simon. The cobbler was responsible for the prince’s education in the Temple, with one clear objective: to make him renounce his royal origins. He manipulated the young Dauphin into testifying against his own mother at her trial. Based on the testimony of her son, Marie Antoinette was accused of incest and died at the guillotine. 

 

After the storming of the Tuileries Palace on 10 August 1792, the young Louis-Charles de France was transferred to the Temple prison. On 21 January 1793 his father was executed. The Dauphin automatically assumed the regnal title of Louis XVII, recognised and respected by the royalist party and Europe’s other political powers. He was left under the care of his mother Marie‑Antoinette, then taken away from her shortly before her own execution and entrusted to shoemaker Antoine Simon. The cobbler was responsible for the prince’s education in the Temple, with one clear objective: to make him renounce his royal origins. He manipulated the young Dauphin into testifying against his own mother at her trial. Based on the testimony of her son, Marie‑Antoinette was accused of incest and died at the guillotine.

The young Louis XVII, just eight years old, remained in jail under the supervision of his new tutor. Confined in filthy conditions, he soon fell seriously ill. In 1795, just as the revolutionaries were considering using him as a bargaining chip with the Austrian army along with his sister Madame Royale, Louis XVII died of tuberculosis. His heart, preserved by coroner Philippe-Jean Pelletan, was transferred to the royal crypt at Saint-Denis in 1975. Recent analyses have confirmed that the child who died in the Temple prison was indeed the son of Marie-Antoinette, definitively dispelling rumours of a body double.