Squash Contains Louis XVI's Blood

Doomed monarch

(Image credit: Joseph Siffred-Duplessis | Wikimedia Commons)

King Louis XVI had a troubled reign as France's absolute monarch from 1774 to 1789.

Bloody end

louis xvi statute

(Image credit: Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock.com)

Popular discontent with the royals ousted them from power and Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were eventually executed during the French Revolution in 1793.

Historic squash


(Image credit: Davide Pettener)

Legend had it that at the execution, witnesses dipped their handkerchiefs in the decapitated monarch's blood, and one person apparently put a bloody handkerchief in a decorative gourd as a souvenir.

Long-lost relative

(Image credit: Frans Pourbus the younger | Wikimedia Commons)

Though the handkerchief has long-since disintegrated, the blood remained. To identify it, researchers used samples from a head believed to belong to King Henry IV, Louis XVI's direct descendant. "Good King Henry" lived about 200 years before the executed king.

Embalmed head

henry iv's embalmed head

(Image credit: Philippe Charlier)

During the French revolution, angry crowds sacked the royal tombs and cut off the embalmed head of Henry IV. It was held privately until 2010.

Royal reconstruction

Facial reconstruction

(Image credit: Phillippe Carlier | British Medical Journal)

A 2010 facial reconstruction strongly suggested that the head belonged to French King Henry IV, but initial DNA samples were too badly decomposed for analysis.

Direct relations

Henry IV of Navarre

(Image credit: Thomas Gun | Wikimedia Commons)

A forensic scientist managed to get DNA from Henry's head, and compared it to the blood believed to be Louis XVI's in the decorative gourd. The analysis confirmed the two samples came from related men. The results authenticated that both the head and the blood came from the long-dead French monarchs.

Tia Ghose
Managing Editor

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.