Tuesday, 16 September 2014

"The king rotted on his throne": The Death of Louis XVIII

Louis XVIII (Louis Stanislas Xavier; Versailles, France, 17th November 1755 – Paris, France, 16th September 1824)


Louis XVIII in Coronation Robes by Robert Lefèvre, 1822
Louis XVIII in Coronation Robes by Robert Lefèvre, 1822
On this day we mark the anniversary of the death of another king of the house of Bourbon. The last French monarch to die on the throne, Louis XVIII's reign was not even a decade in length and he spent more than twenty years in exile as his wife lived life at her own pace. 

As 1824 dawned, it was apparent to all those who knew Louis XVIII that the king was likely not long for this world. His weight had ballooned out of control and he suffered agonising pain from gangrene that had started in his foot and progressed into his spine, whilst his extremities were afflicted by painful gout. Barely conscious at times he struggled on nevertheless, battling his own deteriorating health in an effort to carry out his monarchical duties with some shred of dignity.

For long months Louis struggled on until, on 12th September, word was spread that theatres and business should close in expectation that the king was about to die. Still Louis would not accept his inevitable fate until Zoé Talon, comtesse du Cayla and the king's companion, prevailed upon him to receive the last rites. As the days drew on, a crowd of citizens gathered before the Tuileries to await word of their monarch's death whilst inside, courtiers and officials crowded into the king's private room where they were confronted by an almighty stench from the dying man's extensive gangrene.

Finally, mid-afternoon on 16th September 1824, Louis XVIII died. His exhausted, already partially rotted body was embalmed, dressed in fine garb and put on display. For a month the corpse of the king lay in state and before it was interred in the Basilica of St Denis, Louis XVIII's roaming finally at an end.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
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Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

12 comments:

  1. My goodness! Your account of these events is always intriguing but today's grabbed me with its graphic image of a natikn preparing to grieve and the pungency of that stench from the gangrenous Louis XVIII. Thanks for that... :)

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  2. Such a sad story! I can imagine he was concerned when Napoleon escaped.

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    1. Louis XVIII hesitated a long time before fleeing Paris and France to Belgium in 1815. He toyed with the idea of staying in the Tuileries Palace along with the elected assemblies and confront Napoleon upon his arrival in the capital. Maybe he feared retirement more than he feared Napoléon: Maybe the allies would not appoint him again in case Napoléon was defeated a second time. He was, and they did.

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  3. Good Lord. What a gruesome story, Catherine!

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  4. Eww.... not nice. Mind, you wonder how many elderly people are in a similar state one way or another now!!!

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    1. I have seen pictures of terrible gangrene in people's feet and hands, usually from diabetics. Sometimes the fingers and hands fall of by themselves (yucky, yuck yuck). I see them on an Instagram account from a Patologist's Assistant called @mrs_angemi. See at your own risk - though totally interesting.

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