The Lost King of France: Revolution, Revenge and the Search for Louis XVII

Deborah Cadbury

A true story of royalty, revolution and mystery – the fascinating detective story of the brief life and many possible deaths of Louis XVII, the son of Marie-Antoinette.

Louis-Charles Bourbon enjoyed a charmed early childhood in the gilded palace of Versailles. At the age of four, he became the Dauphin, heir to the most powerful throne in Europe. Yet within five years, he was to lose everything. Drawn into the horror of the French Revolution, his family was incarcerated and their fate thrust into the hands of the revolutionaries who wished to destroy the Monarchy.

In 1793, when his mother was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting a throne, the orphaned boy-King had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the Revolutionary leaders declared Louis XVII was dead. No grave was dug, no monument built to mark his passing.

Immediately, rumours spread that the Prince had, in fact, escaped from prison and was still alive. Others believed that he had been murdered, his heart cut out and preserved as a relic. In time, his older sister, Marie-Therese, who survived the Revolution, was approached by countless ‘brothers’ who claimed not only his name, but also his inheritance. Several ‘princes’ were plausible, but which, if any, was the real Louis-Charles?

Deborah Cadbury’s ‘The Lost King of France’ is a moving and dramatic story. Interweaving a pivotal moment in France’s history with a compelling detective story involving pretenders to the crown, royalist plots and bizarre legal battles. The quest for the truth finally runs to the present day. Using modern DNA testing, the strange odyssey of a stolen heart found within the royal tombs was to lead to an exciting conclusion to the two hundred-year-old mystery of the Lost King of France.

Reviews of The Lost King of France: Revolution, Revenge and the Search for Louis XVII

    • ‘Outstanding. In providing such a vivid biography of Louis Charles’s life, the author has set a fine standard of scholarship. The action races forward with sumptuously judged pace equal to that of any top rate thriller.’ George Lucas, Financial Times
    • ‘Beautifully structured and sympathetically narrated, Cadbury’s book benefits from having a subject that successfully brings together science, suspense and sentiment. Something for everyone, then.’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times
    • ‘This tale reads like a Gothic novel of gloomy castles, dark deeds and false claimants and a cliffhanger ending with science as an added bonus. Gripping from start to finish.’ New Scientist
    • ‘In this riveting book Deborah Cadbury delivers a fable for our times which combines the grisly panache of Stuwwelpeter with the concentrated pathos of John Everett Millais’s “The Princes in the Tower”.’ Daily Telegraph
    • Praise for ‘The Lost King of France’:
    • ‘Absolutely stupendous…This is history as it should be. I can’t praise it highly enough. It is stunningly written, I could not put it down. This is the best account of the French Revolution I have ever read.’ Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII, King and court
    • ‘Unputdownable. For sheer escapism and some fascinating insights into history, I cannot recommend this too highly.’ Maureen Waller, author of ‘1700: Scenes from London Life’
    • ‘A fascinating story…extremely well told.’ Ian Dunlop, author of ‘Louis XIV’
    • ‘A first-class read – informative, entertaining, and a great, grand adventure. Most noteworthy.’ Margaret George, author of ‘The Autobiography of Henry VIII’