Portrait of Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet (Wikimedia Commons)
It's been more than 200 years since King Louis XVI was beheaded by French revolutionaries, but a team of scientists believes a recently discovered gourd contains traces of his blood.
According to the BBC, the scientists say a dried, hollowed-out squash that had been kept by an Italian family as a souvenir contains a handkerchief that was dipped in the king's blood by a spectator.
A message on the outside of the calabash reads: "On January 21, Maximilien Bourdaloue dipped his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation."
According to the findings published in Forensic Science International, analysis of DNA taken from the blood revealed it to be similar to DNA from a mummified head believed to belong to Henri IV, Louis' 16th-century predecessor.
Results of a 2010 test on the gourd were inconclusive, but the genetic connection to Henri's remains led the scientists to conclude the blood found inside the gourd is indeed that of the king's.
"This study shows that [the remains] share a genetic heritage passed on through the paternal line,” forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier told Agence France-Presse. "They have a direct link to one another through their fathers. One could say that there is absolutely no doubt any more."
Louis XVI was killed by guillotine on Jan. 21, 1793; Henri IV was killed in 1610.
- Science, Social Science, & Humanities
- King Louis XVI