New genetic evidence casts further doubt on the authenticity of a grisly French relic: a gourd long believed to be stained with the blood of Louis XVI.
Scientists sequenced the genome from dried blood inside the 200-year-old gourd and found that it didn't match with the DNA signatures of the king's ancestry, nor did it seem to carry the code for Louis XVI's celebrated traits, like his imposing height and blue eyes.
Deposed during the French Revolution, Louis XVI was executed by guillotine in January 1793, months before his wife, Marie Antoinette, fell victim to the Reign of Terror, too. According to legend, witnesses soaked up the king's blood with handkerchiefs after his beheading. An inscription on the elaborately decorated gourd claims the vessel held one of those bloody cloths. [See Photos of Louis XVI's Embalmed Head & Gourd]
Last year, a group of scientists compared the DNA signatures from blood found in the gourd with the DNA of three modern male relatives of Louis XVI from different branches of the Bourbon line. The Y chromosomes from the three men matched one another, but not the blood. This revelation, published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, sparked a new investigation.