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


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.


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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.

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Correspondence to Els Jehaes.

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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).

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

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