Anecdotes of Louis-Charles (Louis XVII)

Louis-Charles was the second son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI and a precocious, forthright, and frank child. People who knew him claimed he developed “a sort of childish fondness which charmed all who approached him.”[1] Demonstrative of this is the following anecdote. Apparently, from an early age he was attracted to the plight of orphans, and nearly every time his mother went to visit them, he accompanied her. One day his father found him counting out gold coins and placing them in a box. The King asked, “How is it Charles … that you are scraping money together like a miser?”[2] He blushed and then responded:

“‘I am scraping my money together, but it is for those poor [orphan] children. If you were to see them I am sure you too would have pity on them.’ The King embraced him, and said, ‘If that is the case … I will gladly help you to fill your box.'”[3]

Seven-year-old Louis in 1792 Portrait by Alexander Kucharsky, Louis XVII

Seven-year-old Louis in 1792 portrait by Alexander Kucharsky. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louis-Charles, who was to be the future Louis XVII, was also a loving child who frequently disarmed his mother with his caresses and disarmed others with sweet utterances. One person characterized him as never opening his mouth “but to give utterance to the most amiable naïvetés.”[4] One amiable and sweet thing he did occurred at the Tuileries Palace. His governess, marquise Louise Élisabeth de Tourzel, better known as Madame de Tourzel, encouraged the King to give Louis-Charles a plot of land to cultivate near the terrace. The King agreed and Louis-Charles “looked after his hens and ducks, cultivated his flowers, and played and worked in perfect freedom.”[5] When his flowers began to bloom, he began daily deliveries of fresh nosegays from his garden to his mother, who was known to love flowers. He would place the nosegay on her pillow, hid behind a curtain, and wait for her to wake up. His reward was always a kiss and supposedly “neither frost nor rain deprived him [of it], so long as a flower was left in the garden.”[6]

Madame de Tourzel, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Madame de Tourzel. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite a sweet and tender side, Louis-Charles was occasionally characterized as mischievous, unmanageable, and disobedient. This resulted in him finding himself in hot water with his mother on more than one occasion. When he was in trouble, his mother usually meted out strict punishments. For instance, once Louis-Charles hid a flute belonging to a page. At the time he was also attached to a small dog named Mouffet. Knowing this, and aware that he had hidden the flute, the Queen told him Mouffet was to be shut up in a dark closet: Mouffet whined, cried, and yelped, which resulted in a teary-eyed Louis-Charles running to his mother and saying:

“‘[My dog] is miserable; but he was not naughty, and he ought not be punished. Please let him out, and put me in his place.’ The change was made [and he] … remained in the closet till the Queen thought fit to release him; then, without a word, he found the flute and restored it to the page.”[7]

Marie Antoinette, Author's Collection

Marie Antoinette. Author’s collection.

Louis-Charles’s had a strong dislike for education, but his avoidance of learning was not as strong as his desires to please his mother. The story begins when he was about five and half years old. He had been so neglectful of his studies, he had not learned to read, and for this failure his mother reproved him. Her words affected the little boy to such a degree, “Mama,” he said, “I will learn to read as a New Year’s gift to you.”[8] Then intent on accomplishing his task, Louis-Charles approached Madame de Tourzel telling her:

“‘Give me two lessons every day … and I shall be able to do it.’ He kept his word, and on the appointed day, he triumphantly entered the Queen’s room, holding a book in his hand. He threw his arms round her neck, saying, ‘See, here is your New Year’s gift. I have kept my promise. I can read now.'”[9]

Louis-Charles also possessed a penchant for stretching the truth. Because of this, his mother once wrote, “He easily repeats what he has heard; and often without intending to lie, adds things according to his imagination. This is his great fault and must be corrected.”[10] The “great fault” that his mother talked about is demonstrated in the following story. As mentioned, Louis-Charles was not fond of learning (perhaps a trait he picked up from his mother, who as a child creatively managed to avoid homework by getting her tutors to do it). One day as he was studying, his mother passed by and heard him hissing during his lesson. She was about to reprove him, but he realized what was about to happen and before she could utter a word, he responded ever so sweetly, “I was saying my lesson so badly that I hissed myself.”[11]

Louis-Charles, the future Louis XVII. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

References:

  • [1] “Louis XVII,” in Morning Chronicle, 16 May 1854, p. 10.
  • [2] Tschudi, Clara, Maria Antoinette, 1902, p. 143.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] “Louis XVII,” in Morning Chronicle, 16 May 1854, p. 10. 
  • [5] Tschudi, Clara, p. 141.
  • [6] The Child of the Temple, 1860, p. 7.
  • [7] Harper’s Round Table, Vol. 14, 1893, p. 382.
  • [8] Tschudi, Clara, p. 140.
  • [9] Ibid., p. 141.
  • [10] Cadbury, Deborah, The Lost King of France, 2003, kindle.
  • [11] Harper’s Round Table, p. 382.

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1 Comment

  1. Sue Bursztynski on June 9, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Poor kid! What a way to go.

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