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.

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