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Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

juin 2004

Bourbon to go
Bourbon à emporté

La Fête Nationale in July may celebrate the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison and the downfall of the monarchy in France, but 215 years later spectres of the royal Bourbon family still roam France. This month Louis XVII is once again on the move, or rather the actual heart of this dauphin will be moved, to the royal crypt in the cathedral at Saint-Denis. He will be returned there on June 8, the anniversary of his death in prison in 1795.
     You may recall that this Louis, son of Marie Antoinette and Louise XVI, was imprisoned in Paris at le Temple with his parents and sister in 1792. At the time of his reported death three years later, the attending doctor removed and embalmed his heart, taking it with him for safekeeping. This alleged royal heart has been moved again and again over the centuries, but there have been lingering questions about the identity of its owner, whether it came from the true king.
     For many years, rumors have suggested that in fact Louis Charles did not die, but rather was removed from le Temple for political reasons, and a substitute corpse took his place. Alexandre Dumas fueled this story with The Man in the Iron Mask which weaves a tale of an imprisoned young prince moved to the Chateau d’If on an island off the coast of Marseille (also made into a film, The Man in the Iron Mask with Leonardo di Caprio). If you'd like to know more about this history mystery, the History Wiz website has the fascinating details.


Young Louis Charles, the seventeenth,
 reigned only briefly after his parents were guillotined.


Was he (with his heart) imprisoned in the dungeon
 at the Chateau d'If, just off the Marseille coast,
or is that just fiction?
 



Photo by J. Mossot, from www.structurae.info

Louis Charles now officially sleeps with Bourbons
 and other kings in the Saint-Denis crypt, just outside Paris

 

    After years of speculation, DNA has provided the final word. Two separate laboratories concluded a few years ago that the child who died in prison did indeed share DNA with Marie-Antoinette, and therefore must be her son, Louis XVII.
   So in June, the heart of Louis - after a solemn memorial service at l’Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois in Paris, long the parish of the kings of France - will finally be laid to rest on the pedestal of his commemorative monument in the Bourbon family crypt in the Basilique Saint-Denis. In attendance for the ceremony will be the current duc d’Anjou, head of the Royal Bourbons today. Those Bourbons just keep on going...

 


A different sort of tour de France
Un tour de France exotique

As we approach the Tour de France season (Lance once more hopes to wear le maillot jaune, for a record sixth time), we’re reminded of another sort of “tour de France” from a few centuries ago. In 1826, Zarafa the Giraffe traveled by boat and on hoof from the heart of Africa up the Nile, across the Mediterranean to Marseille. In May of 1827, she set out to walk the 550 miles up the Rhône valley to Paris. Her finish line was the Jardin des Plantes, site of the world's first zoo, where she was presented to King Charles X on July 9, 1827. All along her journey she was cheered by thousands of roadside fans. This exotic creature became all the rage, the superhero everyone adored. Furniture, porcelain, tapestries, textiles, hairstyles were created in giraffe-form and colors and design. Bushes and trees were trimmed in giraffe patterns. There were probably not Tee shirts. A friend and fellow francophile, Barbara Be Good, brought us a delightful little book that tells the story of this voyage. Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris details the hows and whys of this journey, and it’s an incredible story worth reading.

 

 

This giraffe's true story
from deep in Africa
to the heart of Paris

 

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