French royalists staged a pageant-filled funeral yesterday for a tiny, rock-hard relic they hailed as the heart cut from Louis XVII, who died of tuberculosis at 10 in a filthy revolutionary prison.
A hearse brimming with lilies – the symbol of the French crown – delivered a crystal vase containing the heart to the Saint-Denis Basilica. There, it was placed in a royal crypt containing the remains of Louis XVII’s parents, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI.
After 200 years of mystery surrounding the boy’s fate, DNA tests have convinced many historians that the relic passed secretly from person to person is truly the royal heart.
A faction of royalists seized on the DNA tests to press the government to allow the funeral at the Gothic basilica north of Paris, the resting place of France’s kings.
Trumpets sounded and incense wafted in the air as a small boy marched up the aisle with the vase draped by a purple veil. Outside, a crowd of royal-watchers followed the Roman Catholic Mass on a big screen.
Afterward, cries of “Long live the king!” greeted the Duke of Anjou, Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon, one of several pretenders to the French throne. To this day, the Bourbons dispute the rights of succession with the Orleans dynasty that followed.0