The Lost King of France


featured in Macworld, one of the 5
best history sites on the web

Bookstore | Exhibits | HistoryWiz | Primary Source Archives | Search

The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA by Deborah Cadbury

paperback
   buy

hardcover
   buy

Book Description

Royalty, revolution, and scientific mystery---the dramatic true account of the fate of Louis XVII, son of Marie Antoinette, and an extraordinary detective story that spans more than two hundred years.

Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie, 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.

In 1793, when Marie Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting a throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared Louis XVII dead. No grave was dug, no monument built to mark his passing.

Immediately, rumors spread that the prince had, in fact, escaped from prison and was still alive. Others believed that he had been murdered, his heart cut out and preserved as a relic. As with the tragedies of England's princes in the Tower and the Romanov archduchess Anastasia, countless "brothers" soon approached Louis-Charles's older sister, Marie-Therese, who survived the revolution. They claimed not only the dauphin's name, but also his inheritance. Several "princes" were plausible, but which, if any, was the real heir to the French throne?
The Lost King of France is a moving and dramatic tale that interweaves a pivotal moment in France's history with a compelling detective story that involves pretenders to the crown, royalist plots and palace intrigue, bizarre legal battles, and modern science. The quest for the truth continued into the twenty-first century, when, thanks to DNA testing, the strange odyssey of a stolen heart found within the royal tombs brought an exciting conclusion to the two-hundred-year-old mystery of the lost king of France.

Reviews   Excerpt From Book   Book Description   Author   Buy

Editorial Review

French Revolution Books  

The French Revolution

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: The French Revolution exhibit

The Mystery of Louis XVII

From Publishers Weekly
British writer Cadbury (Terrible Lizard: The First Dinosaur Hunters and the Birth of a New Science) sets out to unravel a historical mystery in this winning, highly readable account of the French Revolution and the fate of the dauphin, the son of the executed King Louis XVI. Cadbury dramatically relates how the French monarchy moved inexorably toward the abyss of 1789; she describes the seizure of the Bastille, the royal family's imprisonment in the Temple and the execution of the king and queen.

But what became of their son? According to the official account, Louis XVII remained in solitary confinement in a filthy, vermin-infested prison cell, where he contracted tuberculosis and died at age 10 in June 1795; bizarrely, the physician who performed the autopsy literally, and fortuitously, stole the boy's heart. Yet millions believed that the prince had escaped, and over the years, hundreds came forward claiming to be the dauphin.

Not until two centuries later, with advances in forensic science, was the mystery of Louis XVII's fate finally solved... Cadbury does an exemplary job describing the history, the mystery and the tragic fate of Louis XVII. 8 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review
"A first-class read--informative, entertaining, and a great, grand adventure. Most noteworthy." (Margaret George, bestselling author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and The Memoirs of Cleopatra)

"A fascinating and well told story that reads with great interest and pleasure." --Ian Dunlop, acclaimed biographer

"Unputdownable...I cannot recommend this too highly." --Maureen Waller, popular historian

"[A] fascinating account of a child victim of revolutionary brutality...Authoritative, lucid and utterly absorbing." --Anne Somerset, author of the bestselling biography Elizabeth I

"An absorbing tale, combining sound history and modern science." --John Hardman, author of Robespierre and Louis XVI

About the Author

Deborah Cadbury is an award-winning journalist specializing in the fundamental issues of science and history and their effects on today's society. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed books Terrible Lizard and The Estrogen Effect. She has produced science programs for BBC television and has won numerous international science film awards, including an Emmy. She lives in London.

Contact Us