Marie-Antoinette gave birth to her second son on 27 March 1785.
In the morning, the queen felt the first contractions. Around 6 pm, she entered the final stage, and an hour later, gave birth to a healthy, well-formed, very strong prince.
The baby was baptised the same day, and given the name Louis-Charles. The king conferred the title of Duke of Normandy on him. He became heir to the throne, with the title of Dauphin, after the death of his brother in 1789.
He appears to have been a healthy child, suffering only an occasional convulsion, attributed to intestinal worms, and one or two passing indispositions. He was in no way the rachitic, scrofulous child in the second stage of strumous cachexia, that some historians have depicted.
In 1789, he was a very healthy child. One comment from Madame Campan illustrates this: “The brilliant health and likeability of the Duke of Normandy contrasted with his sickly-looking, melancholy, elder brother.”
Marie-Antoinette described him to Madame de Tourzel on 24 July 1789: “My son is four years, four months minus two days; I won’t mention his height or his appearance, you only have to look at him; his health has always been good, but we noticed when he was a baby that his nerves were delicate, and that the slightest noise a little out of the ordinary affected him. […] The delicate state of his nerves means that any noise to which he has not become accustomed always frightens him; he is afraid of dogs because he heard one bark close to him. I have never forced him to see any because I believe that, as he grows older, his fears will go away; he is, like all strong, healthy children, very thoughtless, very quick and violent in his anger, but he is a good child, very tender and cuddly even, when his thoughtlessness doesn’t take over; he has oversized self-estime which, if properly directed, could one day turn to his advantage; until he is comfortable with someone, he knows how to control himself and even to curb his impatience and anger and appear gentle and likeable; he is very faithful when he promises something, but he is very indiscrete, he easily repeats what he has heard, and often, without meaning to lie, he adds things that his imagination has made him see, it is his biggest fault, which will need to be corrected.”
The future Louis XVII received medical care only from his habitual doctor, Brunier, who was given this role on 19 October 1785. Brunier had the queen’s confidence. She only complained that he was “too familiar, joked and gossiped”.
When, for the first time, the child fell ill at the Temple with a bad whooping-cough and temperature, he was not visited by Brunier, but by Le Monnier, who, although he had been Louis XVI’s doctor, was chosen by the Commune for the dignity of his life-style and the severity of his unattackable morality. However, the General Council of the Commune had allowed Marie-Antoinette to call Dr Brunier to treat her daughter who had a wound on her leg, and this was how Dr Brunier first visited the Temple Prison on 17 January 1793.
In May the following year, the Dauphin complained of a pain in his side and the queen asked for Dr Brunier. Her request was denied and she had to make do with Dr Thierry, who was imposed by the Commune. Thierry had the tact to concert with Dr Brunier beforehand.
The child had a temperature which lasted twenty-one days. Shortly afterward, he hurt himself “riding” a stick, but the resulting bruise to his left testicule disappeared completely after three or four weeks of treatment.
So, the Dauphin had suffered from no serious illness. This is important in view of what will follow.
Second part tomorrow.