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.

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