Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh My Squash! Part II

We are going way back. First post on HTHS back. The hallowed-out squash allegedly containing the blood of King Louis XVI is probably a hoax. Last year, the DNA was compared with three living male relatives of Louis. The inconclusive results prompted scientists to sequence the complete genome to see if the blood could belong to Louis. The results are in, and there is a disconnect between the DNA and some of the king's signature features.

Witnesses of the king's execution in 1793 soaked up his blood with handkerchiefs after the beheading. Maximilien Bourdaloue kept his hanky, and placed the blood-soaked cloth inside a squash because, you know...because. The elaborately decorated squash has an inscription that reads, "On January 21, Maximilien Bourdaloue dipped his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation."

Louis is known for his staggering height (possibly over six feet tall) and blue eyes. The DNA in the squash carries the code of someone who was of average height of the time (approximately 5' 5") with brown eyes. The code also suggests that the person was of northern Italian heritage but only one in 16 of Louis' great great grandparents had some possible northern Italian ancestry. Most of Louis' ancestors came from Germany and Poland.

Scientists believe the squash and its contents were probably the work of an 18th century hoaxer trying to make some extra cash. Professor Carles Lalueza-Fox from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain explains, "In the French Revolution, the guillotine was working every day - and probably it was much more easy to approach the scaffold when non-important people were being beheaded."

Image source: The History Blog

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