Feature Christmas 2010: History

Multidisciplinary medical identification of a French king’s head (Henri IV)

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c6805 (Published 15 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6805

Re: Multidisciplinary medical identification of a French king’s head (Henri IV)

Dear Editor,

In 2010, the article entitled “Multidisciplinary medical identification of a French king's head (Henri IV)” [1] was published in your Journal. Results of the genetic comparison of the mummified head and the presumptive blood from Louis XVI were published earlier this year [2]. Robust scientific arguments recently published negate the conclusions of the studies carried out by Charlier et al. Many historical facts calling into question the identification have been detailed by the French historian Philippe Delorme [3]. He highlighted, in particular, the absence of craniotomy, a consistent finding for Kings and Princes who died in the same period, and also the lack of traceability of that head, that anonymously emerged in 1919 [3]. A second major argument was the genetic analysis [4] which led to the conclusion that the analyzed samples in the study published this year [2] were not from the French Kings.

Consequently, on the basis of the above information, the retraction of the article [1] is now justified, as a rigorous scientific anthropological study should have excluded the hypothesis (and the findings) that the head belonged to Henri IV.

References

[1] Charlier P et al. Multidisciplinary medical identification of a French king's head (Henri IV). BMJ. 2010 Dec 14;341:c6805.
[2] Charlier P et al. Genetic comparison of the head of Henri IV and the presumptive blood from Louis XVI (both Kings of France). Forensic Sci Int. 2013 Mar 10;226(1-3):38-40.
[3] Delorme P. “La mauvaise tête de Henri IV. Contre-enquête sur une prétendue découverte, F. Aimard /Y. Briend Editeur, 2013.”
[4] Larmuseau MH et al. Genetic genealogy reveals true Y haplogroup of House of Bourbon contradicting recent identification of the presumed remains of two French Kings. Eur J Hum Genet. 2013 Oct 9. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2013.211.

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 October 2013
Geoffroy Lorin de la Grandmaison
Forensic Pathologist
Philippe Delorme, Jean-Jacques Cassiman, Leslie Eisenberg
Raymond Poincaré Hospital
104 Boulevard Raymond Poincaré, 92380 Garches, France
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