As we approach the release date of The Mental Floss History of the World—our first hardcover book—we'll be highlighting some of our favorite stories here on the blog. Today's post is not for the squeamish. If you prefer body parts to stay in the body proper, well, you might want to skip this one.
Louis XVII's heart
Poor Louis-Charles led a very short, tragic life. His parents were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, after all, which would be enough tragedy for anyone. He was imprisoned just like his parents were - in a cold, dark cell with no toilet or bath. He escaped the immediate fate of his parents, but the revolutionaries were concerned that he would try to seize power or that the French aristocrats would rally on his behalf. So, they forced him into the shoe-making trade and forced him to curse the names of his parents. They didn't outright kill him, but they refused to allow him medical treatment. He died of tuberculosis, and rumor has it that his poor body was riddled with sores, tumors and scabies. The body was unceremoniously dumped in a mass grave, but not before the doctor who performed the autopsy managed to cut out Louis-Charles' heart. He hid it in a handkerchief and preserved it. The doctor eventually tried to return it to the royal family, but they didn't believe it was his and refused to take it. One of the doctor's students later stole the heart, and when he died, his widow gave it to the archbishop of Paris. Apparently it was still at risk in Paris, so it was taken to Spain. It's now back in France, though, at the Saint Denis Basilica near Paris.
Urban legend? Nope, it's probably true. According to Napoleon's servant Ali, he and a priest named Vignali removed certain bits and pieces of the Little Corporal during his 1821 autopsy. Vignali's descendants sold all of the "souvenirs" he look from Napoleon, including his little corporal which was described as "one inch long and resembling a grape". Fittingly, a urologist bought it in 1977, for the bargain-basement price of $3,000. You would think that a urologist might want to put it on display, but Dr. Lattimer's intent was really quite the opposite: he felt like Napoleon's penis was being ridiculed and he wanted to put a stop to it. Once the penis came into his possession, he refused to let anyone see it.
It's the greatest deal in the history of history books! Our first hardback, The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through History's Best Bits, hits stores later this month, and we're so excited that we've teamed up with the fine folks at Amazon.com to give you a special deal. Pre-order the book before October 27th and we'll throw in 6 FREE MONTHS of mental_floss magazine! Just click here to get the deal now.
For more about the book, check out our FAQ.