Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the putative heart of Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

Abstract

According to official historiography, the 10-year-old Louis XVII died in the Temple of Paris on June 8, 1795. However, public rumour spread the theory that Louis XVII escaped and that his descendants would be alive today. One such putative ‘Louis XVII’ was Carl Wilhelm Naundorff, who died in 1845 in Delft (the Netherlands). Comparative mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis gave evidence that his remains could not be identified as those of Louis XVII. In the present study, mtDNA analysis was performed on the heart of the young boy who died in the prison of Paris in 1795. In order to obtain the strongest evidence possible, two laboratories independently analysed the heart. The results showed that the consensus mtDNA sequence of the heart was identical to that of the maternal relatives of Louis XVII.

References

  1. 1

    Jehaes E, Decorte R, Peneau A et al. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of a putative son of Louis XVI, King of France and Marie-Antoinette. Eur J Hum Genet 1998 6: 383–395.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Delorme P: . Louis XVII, La verité: Sa mort au Temple confirmée par la science. Pygmalion, Paris 2000

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Carracedo A, Bär W, Lincoln P, Mayr W et al. DNA commission of the international society for forensic genetics guidelines for mitochondrial typing. Forensic Sci Int 2000 110: 79–85.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Sanger F, Nickle S, Coulson AR . DNA sequencing with chain-terminating inhibitors. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1977 74: 5463–5467.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Decorte R, Gilissen A, Jehaes E, Cassiman J-J . Determination of the mtDNA content in a human hair by using a quantitative PCR assay; in Olaisen B, Brinkmann B, Lincoln PJ (eds): Progress in Forensic Genetics 7. Elsevier Science BV 1998 pp 9–11.

  6. 6

    Sambrook J, Fritsch EF, Maniatis T: . Molecular cloning. A new laboratory manual. Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbour New York 1989

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Waye JS, Presley LA, Budowle B, Shutler GG, Fourney RM . A simple and sensitive method for quantifying human genomic DNA in forensic specimen extracts. Biotechniques 1989 7: 852–855.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Holland MM, Fisher DL, Roby RK, Ruderman J, Bryson C, Weed VW . Mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis of human remains. Crime Lab Digest 1995 22: 109–115.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Pfeiffer H, Brinkmann B, Hühne J et al. Expanding the Forensic German mitochondrial DNA control region database: genetic diversity as a function of sample size and microgeography. Int J Legal Med 1999 112: 291–298.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Pfeiffer H, Forster P, Ortmann C, Brinkmann B . The results of an mtDNA study of 1200 inhabitants of a German village in comparison to other Caucasian databases and its relevance for forensic casework. Int J Legal Med 2000 in press.

  11. 11

    Gill P, Ivanov PL, Kimpton C et al. Identification of the remains of the Romanov family by DNA analysis. Nat Genet 1994 6: 130–135.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Parsons TJ, Muniec DS, Sullivan K et al. A high observed substitution rate in the human mitochondrial DNA control region. Nat Genet 1997 15: 363–368.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Piercy R, Sullivan KM, Benson N, Gill P . The application of mitochondrial DNA typing to the study of white caucasian identification. Int J Legal Med 1993 106: 85–90.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Calafell F, Underhill P, Tolun A, Angelicheva D, Kalaydjie L . From Asia to Europe: mitochondrial DNA sequence variability in Bulgarians and Turks. Ann Hum Genet 1996 60: 35–49.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Rousselet F, Mangin P . Mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms: a study of 50 French Caucasian individuals and application to forensic casework. Int J Legal Med 1998 111: 292–298.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Parson W, Parsons TJ, Scheithauer R, Holland MM . Population data for 101 Austrian Caucasian mitochondrial DNA d-loop sequences: Application of mtDNA sequence analysis to a forensic case. Int J Legal Med 1998 111: 124–132.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Baasner A, Schafer C, Junge A, Madea B . Polymorphic sites in human mitochondrial DNA control region sequences: population data and maternal inheritance. Forensic Sci Int 1998 98: 169–178.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Lutz S, Weisser HJ, Heizmann J, Pollak S . Location and frequency of polymorphic positions in the mtDNA control region of individuals from Germany. Int J Legal Med 1998 111: 67–77.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Dimo-Simonin N, Grange F, Taroni F, Brandt-Casadevall C, Mangin P . Forensic evaluation of mtDNA in a population from south west Switzerland. Int J Legal Med 2000 113: 89–97.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Anderson S, Bankier AT, Barrel BG et al. Sequence and organization of the human mitochondrial genome. Nature 1981 290: 457–465.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The contribution of Ph. Delorme, French historian, in making this investigation possible by acting as coordinator and by providing the historic background of this mystery is gratefully acknowledged. We are also grateful to the Duc de Bauffremont for authorizing this study and to H. Petrie, Dutch historian, for giving us the clue about the existence of the heart. This work was supported by a grant G.0286.00 of the FWO Vlaanderen.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Els Jehaes.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jehaes, E., Pfeiffer, H., Toprak, K. et al. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the putative heart of Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Eur J Hum Genet 9, 185–190 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejhg.5200602

Download citation

Keywords

  • Louis XVII
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • ancient DNA
  • genetic identification

Further reading

Search

Quick links