Louis XVII of France (March 27, 1785 - June 8, 1795) also known as Louis-Charles, Duke of Normandy (1785-1789), Louis-Charles, Dauphin of Viennois (1789-1791), and Louis-Charles, Prince Royal of France (1791-1793), was the son of King Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette. The image shown here is a photo of a portrait painted of the young dauphin in 1789 by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun.
During the French Revolution, Prince Louis was imprisoned with his parents. As the eldest living son of King Louis XVI, he was proclaimed king of France on January 28, 1793 by the declaration of his uncle, "Monsieur" (Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, the Comte de Provence) issued in exile in the city of Hamm, near Düsseldorf, Westphalia, a territory of the Archbishop of Cologne. The legalities of this are unclear, since France was at that time a republic. However, later the country accepted Louis-Stanislas-Xavier as Louis XVIII of France, thereby recognizing Louis XVII's reign through the numbering of kings.
Cruelly taken from his mother, the innocent child was held at the forbidding Temple Prison to prevent any monarchist bid to free him. He was ironically called a "Capet," the family name that the revolutionaries attributed to the French royals, following their refusal of nobility titles; Hugh Capet was the founder of the ruling dynasty. The little boy was forced into hard work as a cobbler's assistant and was taught to curse his parents. He was officially reported to have died in the prison from what is today recognized to have been tuberculosis. An autopsy was carried out on the child's frail body at the prison and as tradition dictated, his heart was removed by the chief doctor. Reports, however, quickly spread that the body was not that of Louis XVII and that he had been spirited away alive by sympathizers with another child's body left in his place.
Would-be royal heirs popped up across Europe for decades, and some of their descendants still have small but loyal retinues of followers today.
The heart changed hands many times; in 1975, it was finally placed at the royal crypt in the Saint Denis Basilica outside Paris, burial place of his parents and many other members of France's royal families.