Archive for February, 2010

Here is the first autopsy report on the wolf that was killed during the hunt.

“We, Francois Boulanger, sworn Master surgeon of the town of Saugues, declare to have done the opening by order of Mr Antoine, which after having emptied it and taken out the Entrails, have found several shreds of flesh and bones, which bones we were not able to properly distinguish, except for a few mutton ribs;  the opening was done in presence of Mr Antoine, his Son, Mr de la Font, Messrs the Gamekeepers and the Inhabitants of Besset and others.  I certify the present Report sincere and true.’

This document is dated 21 September 1765 and is signed by the surgeon.

The report written by the Lieutenant of the King’s First Surgeon is more detailed.

“I, the undersigned, Charles Jaladon, Master and demonstrator in surgery, Lieutenant of the First Surgeon of the King, Surgeon-Major of the Regiment of Riom, Member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Clermont-Ferrand, certify that in virtue of the Orders of Mr de Ballainvilliers, Intendant of the Province of Auvergne, I transported myself to his Hotel in order to see and examine the ferocious Beast which had wreaked such havoc in the Gevaudan and the Mountains of Auvergne, on which I noticed the scars and wounds which will be mentioned below;  and having had it transported to my place I very carefully examined it on all parts of its body, in presence of Mr Benoit Duvernin, Doctor in Medecine and Doyen of his College, and of Messrs Francois Farghon, Master in Surgery, Prevot of the Company, Jean-Baptiste Raymond also Master and demonstrator in surgery who was kind enough to assist me in the examination and dissection of the said animal, which resulted in the following remarks:

“1.  That the animal was starting to fall into putrefaction, which was manifested by the smell, the shedding of fur and the skin;

“2.  A scar on the inside of the base of the right shoulder, which penetrated to the muscle;

“3.  Several scars on both wrists, or on the lower front part of the front legs;

“4.  Two holes situated on the back part of both thighs, which appear to have been made by a bullet;

“5.  A blow which had pierced the globe of the right eye, penetrated inside the head, and fractured the bone at the base of the skull, and had killed the animal;  which blow appears to have been made by a bullet;

“6.  A scar behind the left ear;

“7.  Another scar penetrating obliquely into the flesh on the middle back part of the right shoulder;

“8.  The skin pierced in different places by large lead pellets or shot, particularly in the left flank;

“9.  Several pellets of different sizes were found in the inside parts of this animal;

“10.  The muscles of the neck, of the lumbar region, of the back and of the lower jaw are massive and of a strength well above that of ordinary Wolves;  all of the other proportions are also more considerable than in these species of animal;

“11.  After having removed the teguments, the fat and the muscular parts already necrosed;  I dried the fleshy parts with the liqueur deemed suitable by Mr de Buffon, then with terebenthine spirit, I placed in between the muscles the powders and balms used in embalming;  the cavities were filled with perfumed powders and balsamic balms;  with antiputrid salt;  all the outside parts spread with the same powder and on top the ordinary liniment;  the whole covered by the skin;

“12.  The skin of this animal was so degraded that all of its long fur had fallen out, the part which covers the abdomen, in particular between the thighs, had had its epiderm removed, as well as a few parts of the skin, following necrosis;

13.  All the other proportions are diminished in volume by drying out, it can be seen by the following table;

“Number of teeth

“1.  On the upper jaw eighteen;  that is, six incisives, two defensives and ten molars, six on the right side and four on the left side, and ready to pierce on the same side;

“2.  On the lower jaw twenty-two:  that is, six incisives, two canines or defensives, and fourteen molars;  there are seven on each side.

“The present report is sincere and true:  in proof of which I have signed with those named below.

“At Clermont-Ferrand on twenty-seventh September 1765.

“Signed:  JALADON, Lieutenant of the King’s First Surgeon;  DUVERNIN, Docteur in Medecine and doyen of his college;  FARGHON, Master in Surgery and Prevot of the Company;  RAYMOND, also Master and demonstrator in surgery.”

They thought themselves forever rid of the Beast, and for several months, nothing was heard of it.  But, in January 1766, bloody traces were seen in the snow which covered the ground, and new bodies, all of them with special mutilations, showed that it was still alive.

Fourth part tomorrow.


The report on the expedition to kill the Gevaudan beast reads as follows:

“The year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, the nineteenth day of the present month of September, We, Francois Antoine (de Beauterne, Knight of the Royal and military Order of Saint Louis, King’s Arquebus Bearer, Lieutenant of His Majesty’s Hunts) having by his Orders gone to the two Generalities of Auvergne and Gevaudan in order to destroy the ferocious beast which was there devouring the Inhabitants, We being transported with Mr de la Coste, General Gamekeeper, Pelissier and Begnault and Dumoulin, Gamekeepers of the Royal Captainery of Saint-Germain, Messrs Lacour and Reinehard, Horseguards of His Serene Highness My Lord the Duke of Orleans, first Prince of the blood;  Mr Lesteur, Lamoncy and Bonnet, Gamekeepers of His Serene Highness My Lord the Duke of Penthievre, to the Royal Abbey of the Chazes in Auvergne, having been informed that the Wolves were there wreaking a lot of havoc, which made Us send on the eighteenth Messrs Pelissier and Lacour, Gamekeepers with their Bloodhounds and La Feuille, whipper-in of the Bloodhounds of the King’s Wolfhunters to scout the Woods of the Reserve of the Ladies of the Royal Abbey of the Chazes; and the next day the nineteenth of the said month, they sent to avert Us by Mr Bonnet, that they had seen a very big Wolf and that they had good information also in the said Wood of a She-wolf with fairly big Cubs, which made Us immediately leave to pass the night at the said place of the Chazes in Auvergne, distant from Besset by nearly three leagues, and the next day twentieth of the said month, the said three Bloodhound Whippers-in and the Hound Whipper-in named Berry having reported that they had turned the big Wolf, the She-wolf and the Cubs into the Pommieres Woods dependant of the said reserve, We transported ourself with all the Gamekeepers and forty shooters Inhabitants of the town of Langeac and from the nearby Parishes, where after being placed so as to surround the said Wood, the said Bloodhound Whippers-in and the Wolfhunter hounds having started to walk the said Wood, We, Francois Antoine (and above-mentioned names) being placed in a passage, there came to Us by a track at a distance of fifty paces, this big Wolf presenting its right side and turning its head to look at me and immediately I fired from behind with my Duck gun, charged with five lots of powder, thirty-five Wolf pellets and a calibre bullet of which the effort of the shot pushed me back two paces;  but the said Wolf fell immediately having received the bullet in its right eye, and all of the said pellets in the right side close to the shoulder, and as I was calling the slaughter, it got up again and came in my direction in turning and without giving me the time to recharge my said arm, I called for help to Mr Reinehard, placed near me, who found it stopped ten paces from me and fired at his rear with his carabine, which made it run away about twenty-five full paces where it fell completely dead.

“We, Francois Antoine (and the above-mentioned names) and we Jacques de la Font, with all the Gamekeepers above-mentioned declared, having examined this Wolf to have recognized that it was thirty-two inches high after death, five feet seven and a half inches long, that the thickness of its body was three feet and that the teeth, the two jaws and the paws of this animal appeared most extraordinary;  the said Wolf weighed 130 pounds.

“We declare by the present Report, signed by our hand, to have never seen any other Wolf which could compare with this animal, which is why We have judged that it could well be the cruel Beast, or devouring Wolf, which has so much wreaked havoc and so as to be able to let it be better known, We have had the said Wolf opened by Mr Boulanger, Expert Surgeon of the town of Saugues who has made his report in presence of Messrs Antoine Father and Son, Mr de la Font, all of the undersigned Gamekeepers, the two Bloodhound Whippers-in from the King’s Wolfhunters, Mr Torrent, priest of Ventuejol, Mr Jean-Joseph Vernet and his Brother of the town of Saugues, Mr Torrent, of Laveze, parish of Ventuejol, and Mr Mouton, of the parish of Greze, and on this, Mr Torrent, Priest of the parish of Ventuejol and Guillaume Gavier, Consul of the said Parish, firstly presented themselves to us, bringing Jean-Pierre Lourd, aged fifteen years, and Marie Trincard, aged eleven years, who both declared to us after having examined the said Wolf, that it was the same beast which had attacked them and wounded the said Marie Trincard, on 21 June last, as it is declared by the present Report made by Us, consequently and neither of them knowing how to write, Father Torrent and Mr Gavier, Consul, signed for them at the bottom of the present Report;  secondly, Mr Bertrand-Louis Dumont, Priest of the Parish of Paulhac and Mr Ducros, Consul of the said Parish, brought to Us Marie-Jeanne Valex and Therese Valex, her sister, who declared that they had been attacked on 11 August last by the said Beast, following this and as it is declared by the Report consequently made, these two sisters after having well examined the said Wolf have declared that it was the same Beast which had attacked them and have recognized the Bayonette cut shown to them and that the Beast had received on the right shoulder, to which interrogation she answered that she could not declare where she had wounded it;  also presented were Guillaume Bergounhoux and his Brother Jean Bergounhoux the eldest, aged seventeen and eighteen years, and his Younger brother of fifteen years who both declared to have been attacked by the said Beast, on 9 August last and aided by Pierre Mercier, Sworn Keeper of Baron du Besset, all of whom after also carefully examining the said Wolf, have declared to have well and totally recognized it as the same beast which had attacked them, as well as Marie-Jeanne Mercier, aged eleven years, also attacked at the same time and who was defended by Pierre Vidal, who has declared that the said Wolf is the same Beast which had attacked the said Marie-Jeanne Mercier, all of them not knowing how to write, the said Mr Dumont, Priest and the said Mr Ducros, have signed at the bottom of the present Report;  which examination made as well as time permitted.  We have judged that it was proper to send the said Wolf in a post vehicule by Mr Antoine de Beauterne, our son accompanied by Mr Lacoste, General Gamekeeper to Mr de Ballainvilliers, Intendant of the Province of Auvergne, to dispose of it as he will judge necessary.

“And having left Mr Lachenay, Keeper of My Lord the Duke of Penthievre, Prince of the Blood, at Besset, to inform us of what would happen in this canton, after the information given to him by Mr de la Font, who had been willing to do it, he must be included in the service of the King, as if he had been present on the hunt which took place at the Wood of the Reserve of the Ladies of the Royal Abbey of the Chazes in Auvergne;  as a supplement the Priest of Ventuejol presented to me Marie-Anne Camifolle, aged about twenty years, Jean Fontanier aged abour fifteen years and Jacques Ollier aged twelve years his Parishioners, from Combret, who said all unanimously that they recognized this Beast as the same as the one which appeared the 21 June last;  and have also declared that they do not know how to sign, and We affirm as true the present Report the days and years as above.



That Mr de Beauterne is a hunter, not a writer, seems rather obvious from this long and laborious report.

Tomorrow, we shall have a look at the autopsy reports, mercifully shorter, before continuing with the exploits of the Beast, who was still very much alive.

In the autumn of 1764, the inhabitants of the region of Gevaudan, in the southern part of the French province of Auvergne, between Margeride and Aubrac, were beginning to panic.  Frightfully mutilated bodies were being found all over the countryside.  It had started in July.

Decapitated, shredded, dismembered, the bodies seemed to have been attacked by a strong, wily, supernatural, bloodthirsty creature.  For more than two years, this “Gevaudan Beast” would terrorise the region, killing over one hundred people.  But did the beast really exist?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Professor Puech of Montpellier looked into the story, which was still well-remembered in the region where it happened.  While on holiday, one summer, in a village of Lozere, he heard it mentioned frequently, accompanied by retrospective shudderings of horror.

Songs and images have passed down the story.  One engraving at the French National Library carries an explanatory text, which I have translated:

“It is written in a letter, dated 1 November 1764, and sent from Marvejols, in the province of Gevaudan, that for the last two months, it appears that a ferocious beast has been spreading consternation all over the countryside around Langogne and the Menoire forest.  It has already devoured about twenty people, above all children and particularly girls.  Hardly a day goes by without being marked by some new disasters.  The fear that it inspires is stopping the woodsmen from going into the forests, which is making wood rare and very expensive.

“It was only eight days ago that this frightening animal was actually seen.  It is a lot taller than a wolf:  its front is low and its paws are armed with claws.  It has reddish fur, a very big, long head ending in a greyhound muzzle, the ears are small and straight like horns; the breast wide and slightly grey; the back striped with black and an enormous mouth, armed with teeth so sharp that it has separated several heads from their bodies like a razor would.  It walks rather slowly and runs in bounds.  It is extremely agile and fast;  in a very short space of time, it is two or three leagues away.  It stands on its hind legs and throws itself on its prey, which it always attacks at the neck, from behind or on the side.  It is afraid of cattle, which make it flee.

“Alarm is universal in the canton;  public prayers have just been offered up;  four hundred peasants were assembled to give chase to this ferocious animal;  but it hasn’t yet been caught.”

The first appearance of the beast had been noted the preceding June.  A shepherd girl, who had been guarding her herd during the day in the countryside near Langogne, returned at night with her blouse all torn;  she said that she had been attacked by a monstrous animal, which had made her dogs run away in fright, and from which her cattle had luckily saved her.  It was generally believed to have been a wolf, and the girl’s apparent exaggeration was put down to her terror.

Several weeks passed with nothing happening, then suddenly, reports of its activity came from everywhere at once.  Horribly mutilated bodies, mainly women, little girls and young boys, were discovered in the fields.

The local peasants organized hunts.  Prodded by public opinion, the government sent a detachment of dragoons, which camped at, and around, Saint-Chely.

The peasants had their lords leading them, and the best hunters of the region joined in.  Wolf hunters from as far away as Normandy rushed to hunt the beast.  But it defied bullets and poisons, and appeared to be invulnerable.  Its victims were multiplying, while it remained elusive and seemed to be in several places at once.

One day, they thought that they had wounded it.   It ran away limping, but they couldn’t find it again.  Another time, at dusk, they had tracked it into a wood, where they fired on it from all sides.  They thought that it must have been mortally wounded, as it limped into a thicket, and were sure that they would find it the next day.  The search, executed at dawn by two hundred men, came up empty.

Terrified, no-one wanted to venture outside.  Field work was suspended.

As human efforts had been of no avail, people demanded God’s intervention.  The Bishop of Meude ordered that special prayers be said all over his diocese.  Nothing happened.

The situation was brought to the king’s attention.  Compassionate, and possibly a bit miffed that an animal had eluded nearly twenty thousand men who were out to get it, the king gave the order to his First Bearer of the Arquebus, Antoine de Beauterne, to leave immediately for Gevaudan, with his gamekeepers, his whippers-in and his bloodhounds, and to bring the animal’s body back to Paris, without fail.

It must be pointed out that the failure of the peasants was not due to their incompetence, but to their lack of means.  Guns, which were rare and expensive, belonged to the lord.  Most peasants had none.  On top of this, they were forbidden to kill animals themselves.  Wolves could only be killed by wolf hunters.  Therefore, it is easier to understand why the king sent his best troups.

After several scouting forays, the little troup managed to track down the fantastic beast and the First Bearer of the Arquebus gave it the coup de grace.  Some children, who had had contact with it, said that they recognized it.  It was stuffed at Clermont and sent to Fontainebleau.

In 1912, Dr Cabanes brought to light the report of the expedition.  We shall examine it tomorrow, because this is not the end of the story.

The burial took place at night.  The official minutes place this event the day after the autopsy, but the official enquiry ordered by Count Angles in 1817, places it three days after the autopsy.

The child’s body was put into in a whitewood coffin, and the convoy left by the main Temple gate at half past eight, on its way to Sainte Marguerite Cemetary.  Exactly where was he buried?

The commissionaries Simon and Petit claimed that the coffin had been buried in the common grave.  The widow of the gravedigger Bertrancourt said that it had later been removed from there.  Dusset, Voisin and Lasne all agree that it was buried in a separate grave.  However, it has never been possible to find agreement on the exact spot.

In 1816, the Restoration Government wanted to undertake a search for the Dauphin’s body.  The search was called off before it began.

In November 1846, workmen digging in the old Sainte Marguerite Cemetary, found a lead coffin at a shallow depth, at the left pillar of the side door of the little church.

Father Haumet, priest of Sainte Marguerite’s, had organized the work.  The workmen were digging  foundations for an outhouse, which the priest said was necessary for casting a bell.  However, the priest later confided to one of his fellow priests, Father Bossuet, that the construction of the outhouse was only a cover for much more secret diggings.

Father Haumet called another of his friends, Dr Milcent, in whose presence the coffin was opened.  It contained a child’s skeleton.  Having carefully examined it, Dr Milcent wrote a report saying that all of the bones of this skeleton were weak and delicate.  From which, he appears to have concluded that the skeleton could only be that of the Dauphin.

Dr Milcent’s original report has never been found.  However, a report by Dr Recamier, also called to examine the remains found by Father Haumet, can be substituted for it.  It was countersigned by Dr Milcent.  In this report, it is said that “the bones of the arms and legs, and the teeth, seem to belong to a subject roughly fifteen or sixteen years of age at most”.

The skeleton was also examined by Dr Bayle who, after looking at the skull, estimated that “the subject must have been fifteen or sixteen at most”.  Professors Lallemand and Andral were of the opinion that he was twenty years old because of the wisdom teeth.

It appears evident that the Sainte Marguerite Cemetary bones were not those of a ten year old child, although there are still people who think that it was Louis XVII.  The proof that it wasn’t, turned up half a century later.

On Tuesday, 5 June, 1894, Maitre Laguerre, armed with all of the necessary authorisations, was supervising a dig in Sainte Marguerite Cemetary, when he found the coffin which had been reburied after the examinations of 1846.

Doctors de Backer and Bilhaut, later assisted by Doctors Manouvrier and Magitot, examined the bones.  This took place inside a cellar built in 1846, on a wobbly table.  The worm-eaten coffin bore the inscription L….XVII.  The conclusions were the following:

“The result of the detailed examination which we have just practised is:

“1.  That we are in presence of a subject of masculine sex (shown by the particular state of the iliac bones)

“2.  The subject had reached fourteen years old – and could have been older.  The state of the epiphyses, the humeri, the femurs, the tibiae, as well as the examinaton of the skull, permit us to conclude this.  The state of the maxillae, their development and their spacing, the dental system all corroborate this assertion.

“3.  Certain modifications in the direction of some of the bones, show a special weakness, which has resulted in a slight scoliosis, a slowing of the development of the thorax and a slight degree of genu vulgum on the left.”

This was signed by Doctors de Backer and Bilhaut.

Doctors Magitot and Manouvrier of the School of Anthropology then gave their opinion, which mostly concerned the teeth.  There was a complete absence of milk teeth and the last milk tooth usually falls around the twelfth year.  The two experts resumed their findings like this:  “The skeleton that we have examined is that of a subject, probably masculine, with the height of roughly 1.63 metres, and certainly aged between 18 and 20 years.  Our observations relate in no way to a child like the historical skeleton which would have been aged ten years and two months at his death and inhumation.”

One last proof that the  child who died at the Temple was not the Dauphin, comes from his hair.  The hair taken by Damont was eventually tracked down and analyzed.  The results were compared to those made on a lock of the Dauphin’s hair cut by Marie-Antoinette before she was separated from her son.  Louis XVII’s hair has a particularity:  the medullary canal is not in the middle, but on the side;  on the other hand, the hair kept by Damont did not possess this characteristic.

Other strange details are that the Dauphin’s sister, who was in the cell next-door, was not called to identify her brother’s body.  Madame Royale, having become the Duchess of Angouleme, always avoided speaking of her brother.  Louis XVIII never wanted to accept the heart of Louis XVII when Pelletan tried to give it to him, and suspected its authenticity.

In light of all of this, we can fairly safely conclude that the child who died in the Temple Prison was not Louis XVII.

The autopsy document merits a few comments.

Firstly, the tumours on the right knee and the left wrist corroborate the observation made by Barras, as well as by Harmand and Meuse on 27 February 1795, and have been used as proof that it was indeed the Dauphin who died in the Temple.

However, Barras said only that the “knees and the ankles were swollen”.  As for Harmand, he wrote:  “I had the idea of trying a direct order, I did this by placing myself close to the prince’s right and saying to him:  “Sir, please give me your hand”;  he did and I felt, by feeling his arm up to the shoulder, that there was a tumour on the left wrist and another one at the elbow;  It is possible that these tumours were not painful, because the prince did not show any.

“”The other hand, Sir.”  There was nothing.  “Allow me, Sir, to also touch your legs and knees.”  He rose.  I found the same growths on both knees underneath the back of the joint.”

There seems to be a contradiction here with the autopsy report, which mentions a tumour on the left wrist.  Harmand, too, says that there is one on the left wrist but, if he had been on the child’s right, it would seem logical that he would have been given his right hand, not his left.  In any case, Harmand wrote his account nineteen years after his visit, which could explain a few discrepancies.

Harmand also said that the child had “growths on both knees underneath the back of the joint”.  The autopsy mentions only one on the inside of the right knee.  However, a tumour can appear, then disappear, be absorbed, then reappear.

The child seen by Harmand was certainly not the Dauphin because the genetic antecedents of the prince did not make it likely that he would suffer from a generalized phthisis, which was the illness suffered by the child in the Temple.  Neither Louis XVI, nor Marie-Antoinette had shown any symptoms of tuberculosis, and the early death of the first Dauphin, the elder brother of Louis XVII, cannot be counted, as it was his nurse who had innoculated him with this terrible disease.

The body on which the autopsy had been carried out had arrived at the final stage of tuberculous cachexia.  It was attributed to a scrofulous vice which had existed for a long time.  This could in no way be the case with the Dauphin.

The doctors who wrote the autopsy report have been criticised for not having insisted more on the identity of the dead child.  It could be thought that they were sure of his identity, but doubt shows in the sentence:  “We found in the bed, the dead body of a child […] which the commissionaries told us was that of the dead Louis Capet, and which two of us recognized as being the child whom they had treated over the last few days.”.

It is curious that identification had not been asked of doctors Thierry and Soupe who had treated the Dauphin at the beginning of his imprisonment and who could have definitely recognized him.  Another, more serious, reproach would be that a certain number of marks which appear to have existed on the Dauphin’s body, were not mentioned by the doctors who wrote the autopsy report.  Why?  Apparently, because they weren’t on the body of the child who had taken his place.

The real Louis XVII had diverse marks on his body.  Some were natural, like a sort of strawberry excrescence on his right breast;  the sign of the Holy Spirit, formed by small veins and representing a kind of pigeon, upside down, with its wings spread, an unique mark, on his thigh;  the two incisives of the lower jaw like “rabbit teeth” and which Madame Royale also had, but in her upper jaw;  finally, certain neck folds, which had so impressed Madame de Rambaud, that she always said that they would be for her the infallible proof of identity, if ever Louis XVII reappeared.

The royal child also had other marks, coming from operations practised on him, or from accidents.  Such as the marks of innoculation in form of a triangle, the base at the bottom, operation practised on the left arm, in front of the queen, by Dr Jouberthon, the innoculator of the children of the House of France, accompanied by the doctors Brunier and Loustonneau;  the scar on his top lip, in the form of a broken chevron, from the bite of a little white rabbit, held too tightly in the child’s arms;  the trace, near the eye, of a blow given by Simon via a towel; and, under his chin, a scar corresponding to the corner of a chair, which the child had hit, when pushed away by Simon.

One thing seems clear:  the child autopsied by the doctors at the Temple, was not the Dauphin.  However, there is an objection to this statement, which needs to be addressed before going any further.

It has been said that the doctor who practised the autopsy was perfectly convinced of the royal identity of the body because he stole the heart.  Would he have done this, if he had not been sure?  This act was probably a deliberate calculation on the doctor’s part.  If there were to be a restoration of the monarchy, he wanted to possess something which would give him honours, and what could be more touching than Louis XVII’s heart? 

If, on the other hand, Dr Pelletan was really convinced that he possessed the Dauphin’s heart, he was subsequently unable to get his conviction shared by members of the royal family.  Louis XVIII, the Duchess of Angouleme, the Count of Chambord and Charles X, to whom the “Dauphin’s heart” was successively presented, all refused to accept the relic.

Damont, civil commissionary of the Northern Section, on duty at the Temple, and witnessing the autopsy as part of his job, begged Pelletan to give him a handful of hair which the doctor had just cut off to facilitate his operation.  This hair was kept preciously by Damont and, when offered to the Duchess of Angouleme, was refused by her.

It must be concluded then, that the Dauphin’s death in the Temple was not accepted by the Bourbons, that they knew the secret of the existence of the son of Louis XVI, and that they were probably conscious of usurping the legitimate heir’s rights.

Ninth part tomorrow.

The copy of the autopsy report which was filed in the Archives, was not consultable until 1891.  However, it had already been published in the Moniteur and in the Journal de Perlet.  The original and the copy had both been among the official documents before 1816.  On 27 September that year, the archivist from the General Police Ministry gave the original to Count Decazes and, from then on, it was lost.

In 1873, an article which appeared in Le Figaro, caused a bit of a stir.  In it, one of their subscribers claimed to have had the document in his possession.  He said that the Convention had received only a copy of this document, which all of the Revolution historians had been unable to find, and which was hidden in a place which he felt he had to keep secret.  He said that the document was signed by the four doctors appointed by the Convention, and that at the end of one of the signatures, a blood stain was visible.

His explanation of how this document had disappeared was that a gentleman, to save his head and to earn enough money to live, had, under a false name, served as secretary to an illiterate police chief.  Having gained his employer’s confidence, the gentleman was allowed to class all of the papers presented in justice.  At the death of Robespierre, he took advantage of the general confusion, and removed the cardboard box which contained the document and went overseas.

At the time of the article’s publication, he was said to have been dead for twenty years, and his papers had all been dispersed.

The gentleman’s name was Jean-Francois Roland de Bussy.  He was Deputy Mayor of Algiers, where he died on 21 June 1858, in his ninety-second year.  Some said that he had been Robespierre’s secretary; others said that he had been secretary of the commission which had executed the Duke of Enghien.  What is certain, is that, under the Empire, he had been head of the division of the 1st arrondissement of the General Police Ministry.  However, whatever he may have been or done, none of it had anything to do with the autopsy document which had come into his possession.

The document had been written out five times, and it is the one written by Dumangin that Bussy said he possessed.  Apparently the doctor himself had given it to him.  In 1869, he is said to have offered it to Field Marshal MacMahon who was then Governor General of Algeria.  It was only much later, on 21 July 1891, that the dossier was given to Deputy Guichard, at the Public Instruction Ministry, who had it put into the Archives, where it was entered on 25 July 1891.  As for the blood stain, there is no trace of it on the document.

Now that the historical considerations are over, let us look at the contents of the dossier.  After the date, the place and the time (11:30 am) there is the list of all the signatories with their titles, as well as the list of all of the signatories to the order of autopsy with its date.

This is followed by the arrival of the doctors at the outside gate of the Temple, their reception by the commissionaries, and their arrival on the second floor, where, in an apartment, they find the dead body of a child on a bed in the second room.  The child appeared to them to be around ten years old and they were told by the commissionaries that it was the body of the son of the dead Louis Capet.

Two of them recognized the body to be that of a child whom they had treated over the last few days.  They were told by the commissionaries that the child had died the day before.  The doctors then proceeded to verify that the boy was really dead, and there is a list of all the significant signs, including the beginning of the putrefaction of the lower abdomen, the scrotum and the inner sides of the thighs.

Having confirmed that the child was indeed dead, they then got down to the actual autopsy.  First of all, they remarked on the general emaciated state of the body, and that “the lower abdomen was excessively hard and meteorised.  On the inside of the right knee, we noticed a tumour with no change of colour on the skin, and another, smaller tumour on the radius bone, near the left side of the wrist.  The knee tumour contained about two ounces of a grey, puriform, lymphatic matter, situated between the periosteum and the muscles; the wrist tumour contained the same sort of matter, but thicker.

“Upon opening the lower abdomen, more than a pint of purulent serous fluid, yellowish and very fetid, flowed out.  The intestines were meteorised, pale, adhering to each other, as well as to the sides of this cavity; they were strewn with a great quantity of tubercles of diverse sizes which, when opened, contained the same matter as the external deposits of the knee and the wrist.

“Opened over all of their length, the intestines were very healthy inside and contained only a small amount of bilious matter.  The stomach was in the same state, it adhered to all the surrounding parts, pale outside, strewn with small lymphatic tubercles, similar to those on the surface of the intestines;  its internal membrane was healthy, as were the pylorus and the oseophagus.  The liver adhered by its convexity to the diaphragm, and by its concavity to the viscera which it covers;  its substance was healthy, its volume ordinary, the gall bladder partly filled with dark green bile.  The spleen, the pancreas, the kidneys and the bladder were healthy.  The epiploon* and the mesentere* without fat, were filled with lymphatic tubercles similar to those already mentioned.  The same type of tumours were spread inside the thickness of the peritoneum, covering the interior face of the diaphragm;  this muscle was healthy.

“The lungs adhered over all of their surface to the pleura, to the diaphragm and to the pericardium.  Their substance was healthy and without tubercles:  there were only a few near the trachea and the oseophagus.  The pericardium contained the ordinary quantity of serous fluid;  the heart was pale, but in a natural state.

“The brain and its dependants were in the most perfect state of integrity.

“All of the disorders which we have detailed are of course the result of a scrofulous vice existing for a long time, and to which the death of the child must be attributed.”

This report was signed by the four doctors, and we shall comment on it in the eighth part tomorrow.

* I apologize for not translating the two words in italics;  I do not have a medical dictionary.  However, the Petit Larousse defines epiploon – and I translate – as “each of two folds of the peritoneum, the grand epiploon joining the stomach to the transverse colon, and the petit epiploon, the liver to the stomach”.  The same dictionary defines mesentere as “fold of the peritoneum joining the loops of the small intestine to the back lining of the abdomen”.  If anyone can give me the names of these three folds in English, I shall be able to do away with this very uninteresting paragraph.

On 8 June, the young Temple prisoner was dead.

Immediately, a rumour started to circulate about a plate of spinach containing a slow poison.  It is true that an illness that had evolved so rapidly, with symptoms such as violent colics, vomitting and cold sweating, looked suspiciously like poisoning.

People remembered that Representative Mailhe, in the name of the Legislation Committee, had ended his report on the trial of Louis XVI with these menacing words:  “This child is not yet guilty;  he hasn’t yet had time to share the iniquities of the Bourbons.  You have to weigh his destiny with the interests of the Republic.  You will have to make up your minds on the question raised by Montesquieu: “In the States which value liberty the most, there are laws which violate it… and I admit that the customs of the most liberal peoples on Earth, lead me to believe that there are situations when liberty should be veiled, the way we once veiled the statues of the Gods.””

It was also remembered that on 1 August 1793, Barere, in a report on the attitude of Europe toward France, had cried out:  “Is it our indifference toward the Capet family which has deceived our enemies like this?  Well!  It is time to extirpate all of the royal offspring… ”

Chabot had said loudly at the Convention:  “It is the pharmacist’s job to deliver France from the Capet son”.  And, a few months before the death of the young king, Brival, a Convention colleague of Chabot, had said in a speech:  “I think that, after having cut down the tree, we must dig up its roots, which can only bear poisoned fruit, and I am surprised that, in the middle of so many useless crimes committed, we have spared the remains of a race… ”

On top of this, the death of the Dauphin helped the negotiations with Spain, which was demanding the child in exchange for peace.  As soon as he was dead, the treaty was rapidly signed.

However, the Commune, which had several times obtained poison – a pharmacist having received one hundred thousand ecus for the secret of a slow, efficient poison – was not necessarily responsible for an actual poisoning .

Public rumour spread the poisoning story.  The Commune and the committees were sufficiently shaken to order an autopsy, as much to quieten the rumour as to prove their own innocence.

The operation was carried out by the doctors and surgeons Pelletan, Dumangin, Lassus and Jeanroy.  All of these names were highly respected at the time.  Pelletan and Dumangin were hospital doctors.  Lassus had been part of the Health Service of Mesdames de France, aunts of Louis XVI.  Jeanroy had been attached to the House of Lorraine.

It was said that the last two had been purposely chosen by the Convention, because they had known the Dauphin as a small child.  As far as we know, Lassus had never claimed to have seen him.  Jeanroy admitted that he had only rarely seen him.  When he was shown the portrait of the young prince, he is said to have exclaimed, while dissolving into tears:  “You cannot be mistaken, it is he, and you cannot mistake him.”

However, the year of his death, the child, or the one who had replaced him, had arrived at such a degree of emaciation, that it was impossible to recognize in this skeletic body, the pretty Dauphin whom Jeanroy may have glimpsed.  It seems evident that the exclamation attributed to this doctor, aged over eighty, has been invented to advance the cause.

The same could be said of Pelletan.  Here is what the Duchess of Tourzel wrote about it:

“This statement was supported by that of Pelletan who, called to my home in consultation a few years after the death of Jeanroy, had been struck with the resemblance of a bust of the dear little prince, which he saw on my chimney and, although there was no sign by which he could have recognized him, he exclaimed when he saw it:  “It is the Dauphin; ah!  It so resembles him!”  and he repeated the words of Jeanroy:  “The shades of death had not altered the beauty of his face.”  He added that he had not seen him very much, that he was dying, unconscious to everything, except to the treatment he was being given, for which he was still grateful.

“It was impossible for me to have the least doubt about the statements of two such respectable people.  The only thing left for me to do was to mourn the loss of my dear little prince.”

Pelletan’s behaviour is rather ambiguous.  He will steal the heart of the child, which leads us to believe that he thought him to be the Dauphin.  On the other hand, he will be rebuked by Napoleon for having been indiscrete enough to talk about the evasion of Louis XVII, about which he appears to have had pertinent knowledge.

Seventh part tomorrow.

Let us return to the Temple Prison in November 1794.

This is the time when the guardian Gomin took up his function.  He had never seen the Dauphin, so was therefore unable to show any surprise when a child in the last stages of cachexia was presented to him.

This child was unable to walk or move around because of the tumours which he had on both knees, and he didn’t speak either.  This was noted by the three delegates from the General Security Committee, sent to inform their colleagues about the Dauphin.

The deputies’ report is, at the least, ambiguous.  The prisoner remained absolutely silent at every question put to him.  It is tempting to conclude that it was not the son of Louis XVI and of Marie-Antoinette, but a rachitic, mute child that had been substituted for him, whom the deputies Harmand, Reverchon and Mathieu saw.

On 29 March 1795, a few weeks after this visit, the guardian Laurent left the Temple Tower for his native home of Santo Domingo.

The day after that, the new guardian, Lasne, took up his function.  He could only take note of the bad state of health of the child.  At this point, Dr Desault of Hotel Dieu was called in.

Desault had already been called to the Temple the day after Barras’ visit.  At this time, the child prisoner was in bad health and, if we accept the evasion date as being the Simons’ departure, the young boy visited by Barras, then by Desault, was not the Dauphin.

The doctor’s prescription does not reveal a serious illness, but rather a need for stimulants and tonics.  He prescribed wine, chocolate, meat and lettuce.  For medecine, the patient was given a decoction of hops and an antiscorbutic syrup.

On 29 May, Desault stopped coming to the Temple.  He had become seriously ill and was unable to continue his visits to the prisoner.  On 2 June, Commissioner Bidault, upon arriving at the Temple, cried out:  “Don’t wait any more for the doctor, he died yesterday”.

This sudden death was thought to be suspicious.  People refused to accept that such a rapid demise had had a natural cause.  All of the Memoires of the time support the rumour of premeditated poisoning.

Had the doctor realised, while examining the prisoner, that the child was not the Dauphin?  In the eyes of Dr Abeille, Desault’s pupil, of Dr Adouls, his former protector, of Madame Calmet, his niece, there was no doubt that he had been poisoned.

In a declaration made by Madame Calmet on 5 May 1845, she claimed to have often heard her aunt Madame Desault say that her husband, Dr Desault, chief surgeon at Hotel Dieu, had been called to visit the “Capet child” who was imprisoned in the Temple.  She said that when he made his visit, he was presented with a child whom he did not recognize as being the Dauphin.  He had seen the Dauphin on several occasions before the arrest of the royal family.

Madame Calmet also declared that she had heard the doctor’s wife say that, on the day that Desault presented his report (after having made a few enquiries to try to find out what had happened to the son of Louis XVI, since another child had been shown to him instead) some Convention members invited him to dinner.  After this dinner, upon arriving home, the doctor started to vomit, and died shortly afterward.  This led his wife to believe that he had been poisoned.

Louis XVI’s former valet, Jacques Boillaut, also claimed that Madame Desault had told him that her husband had been poisoned, and another suspicious circumstance is that Desault’s report on the royal prisoner’s health was never published.

Six days after Desault’s death, the surgeon Chopart died too.  He had been a very close friend of Desault.  Doctor Doublet, who had been called in for a consultation at the Temple, also met a very rapid end.

These successive deaths immediately appeared suspicious.  So, it was thought that they were all caused by poison.

Firstly, for Desault, according to the documention on his autopsy, it appears evident that he died from either typhoid fever or cerebro-spinal meningitis.  Chopart stayed with his friend during his illness and was with him when he died.  Chopart had suffered from different infirmities for a long time and was prematurely aged, so his death, too, could have been from natural causes.  As for Doublet, nothing in particular suggests that he may have been murdered.  It was all just presumption.

Doctor Pelletan was named to replace Desault as doctor to the child in the Temple.  He was called to see the young patient in the afternoon of 5 June.  The illness does not appear to have been serious;  the remedies prescribed were powdered rhubarb, quinine extract and a tea made from hops.

The next day, the illness was worse and Pelletan, judging the situation to be very serious, asked to be joined by one of his colleagues, Dr Dumangin.  After consultation, the two doctors asked for the help of two more colleagues.  The doctors Jeanroy and Lassus were appointed by the Convention, although it is also said that these last two doctors were only called in for the autopsy.

Sixth part tomorrow.

The Duchess of Angouleme wrote in her Recit:  “At the end of October, at one o’clock in the morning, I was asleep when someone knocked on my door;  I rose hastily and I opened all trembling with fear, I saw two men with Laurent;  they looked at me and left without saying anything.”

These lines are not very significant, and nothing suggests that the evasion occurred that night.  That there was an evasion would not appear to be in question.  However, it is not possible to fix the exact date with certainty.

According to Madame Simon, it was when she and her husband left the Temple that it occurred.  She claimed to have taken advantage of the move, to hide the Dauphin in a cart of clothing.  But what happened to him afterwards?

The only thing certain is that, for the rest of her life, after the death of her husband, Widow Simon told the same story, in spite of pressure to change it, and of it being in her own interest to do so.  She continually stated that the Dauphin had been taken from the Temple.

It has been said that her mental faculties had declined at the end of her life.  A medical certificate, five declarations from different people, the clear, not at all incoherent answers she gave to the questions put to her, and to the interrogations to which she was submitted, prove that her mind was functioning perfectly well.

In spite of threats from the police, Widow Simon continued to tell anyone who would listen, that the Dauphin did not die at the Temple.  She said this right in the middle of the reign of Louis XVIII, at a time when such lack of control over her tongue could have caused her serious trouble.

At the moment when these revelations were made public, Widow Simon was at the Hospice des Incurables.  She had entered it on 12 April 1796.  She was in the deepest poverty, having lost the little that she had owned, including her husband’s possessions valued at 70 pounds, which she had inherited.

Widow Simon’s declarations were causing some worry to Louis XVIII’s police.  They even threatened to have her declared insane and locked away.  Some policemen tried to throw suspicion on her declarations by imagining the presence of another Madame Simon in Toulon, and accusing the widow of imposture.  This attempt did not succeed because, by this time, public opinion knew too much.

So, how was the Dauphin’s evasion carried out?  According to Madame Simon, “a hamper which was put on a cart of dirty linen” was used, as well as a cardboard support.  In the official papers, in particular those which she signed, Widow Simon puts the evasion at the moment when the death of Louis XVII was announced, in June 1795.

In these official papers, she says that she did not, herself, organize or help with the evasion, but that she only heard about it.  On the other hand, she appears to have declared to a nun who was caring for her at the Hospice des Incurables:  “They brought in several pieces of furniture in a carriage, a wicker hamper with a double bottom, a cardboard support;  the child that was substituted for the prince was taken out and the prince was put into the carriage with the hamper…  When it was time to leave, the guards wanted to inspect the carriage but I made a big fuss, pushing them, screaming that it was his dirty linen, and to let me pass.”

Therefore, some reserves must be made about the statements of Widow Simon, particularly because the date of 1795 is not possible.  The substitution must have occurred in 1794 when the surveillance teams were changed.  The new guardians had never seen the Dauphin and therefore were not able to denounce the deception.

On top of that, why would the Simons have taken a cart, when they had very few personal goods?  Also, the child visited by Barras was in very bad health, but he was in good health during the custody of the Simons.

The Count of Frotte, famous Vendeen chief, is supposed to have taken the royal child out of Paris and facilitated his flight.  Unless the Dauphin died in prison, and was replaced for political reasons.

Fifth part tomorrow.

Around 6 am, the day after the fall of Robespierre, his successor, Barras, arrived at the Temple Prison.  He saw the young prince lying in a sort of cradle for a bed.  His knees and ankles were swollen, and his room was in a state of repulsive dirtiness.

Barras asked the child to get up, but his request was ignored;  “then he told the municipal officer and the service officer to raise the child with precaution, and to place him on the ground so that he could see him walk.  The child reluctantly complied with the efforts to place him upright.  He was no sooner on his feet than he wanted to lie down again in his cradle where he threw himself head-first.  Barras ordered that he be put on his feet again by holding him underneath his arms;  but, at the first step, he appeared to feel such vivid pain that he was instantly made to sit down.  He was wearing a waistcoat and trousers of grey broadcloth;  the trousers were tight and seemed to hurt him.  Barras, to see what was wrong, had the trousers cut on both sides, from bottom to top, above the knees, which he found to be extemely swollen and of a livid colour.  He learned that the child neither slept nor ate” (Account dictated by Barras to Lombard de Langres).

Barras made his report to the Committee, which decided that doctors would be asked to examine the prisoner.  The prisoners were given into the keeping of one of Barras’ creatures, a gentleman by the name of Laurent, a young creole whom Josephine had recommended as being a safe and devoted man.

Five weeks after Laurent took up his duties, on 31 August 1794, the powder magazine at Grenelle blew up:  the rumour immediately ran through Paris that the Temple prisoners had escaped during a royalist plot.  Their guardian Laurent was accused of having relaxed his surveillance.  “We didn’t know if we were guarding stones or anything else”, wrote a service aide, who probably never saw the prisoners.

In October, Laurent had to reply to insinuations made about him by citizens via several official complaints to different committees.

On 8 November 1794, the General Security Committee decided to choose Citizen Gomin to assist Laurent as Temple guardian.  Gomin had never seen the Dauphin, and said so to Laurent.  It probably didn’t matter as, it was said at the time, the Dauphin had already left the prison.

Fourth part tomorrow.

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