I have read that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were both buried in unmarked graves after their executions during the French Revolution. On January 18, 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, their bodies were exhumed and moved to their current location in the necropolis of French kings at the Basilica of St. Denis.

My question is, if they were buried in unmarked graves, how could their bodies be positively identified (or were they even positively identified)?


It seems that a loyalist by the name of Pierre-Louis Olivier Desclozeaux, who lived next to the plot of land where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were buried, wrote down exactly where the two graves were and then bought the plot of land when it came up for sale years later. He then offered the land and his note of where the two were buried to King Louis XVIII and this allowed their bodies to be exhumed.

I was able to find this information in the historical notes section of the book Palace of Justice: An Aristide Ravel Mystery by Susanne Alleyn:

enter image description here p.300

The fact that Desclozeaux was able to confidently state where the bodies were buried suggests that the two were not actually buried in a "mass grave" but rather in unmarked graves in a plot of land that many others were buried in as well.


What terminex9 said. The king and queen were buried in unmarked, individual graves in the cemetery, not in the mass graves that were also present. Desclozeaux's notes were proved to be very accurate; when they excavated the spot where Louis was supposedly buried, they found the remains of a coffin buried ten feet deep--far deeper than the standard grave--and covered with an extra-thick layer of quicklime to be sure that the remains decomposed as quickly as possible: all indications that the body buried in that grave was one that they really, really didn't want anyone to find, ever. What the royalists found in 1815 was probably just a few of the larger bones.

  • Sources would improve this answer... – Evargalo Sep 16 '19 at 7:53

Agree to all the aforementioned.

I’ve been to the small park on that spot & in the Chapelle Expiatoire. Climbing down from ground level, you are led to a small subterranean room that houses a stone sarcophagus, which it is said now contains earth that surrounded the remains of the king’s casket. There are also dried, long-dead floral arrangements placed in small wall niches flanking the sarcophagus. It indicates that the floral tributes were from the early 19th-century when the Chapelle was dedicated.

The Queen wasn’t provided a coffin, just thrown into the dirt. Not much physically could’ve remained of either of them, what with decomposition, the elements & the liberal use of quicklime. They said that a courtier recognized the Queen’s mouth when her head was exhumed, but that was probably wishful thinking. They said there was also a garter in the grave. Whatever-it was all scooped up & reburied at St. Denis.

They were never in mass graves, just unmarked.

  • 1
    Welcome on History.SE. You say several times "They said that..." or "They said there was...", can you please precise who are they ? – Evargalo Sep 16 '19 at 7:56

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