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Posts Tagged ‘blood’

Head of Henry IV identifies blood of Louis XVI

More than a century ago, an Italian family purchased a dried gourd of the Cucurbita moschata species (a species that includes several pumpkins and Butternut squash). This wasn’t just any old gourd. It already have a venerable history even a hundred years ago, once used as a flask for dispensing gunpowder. It was during the French Revolution that it reached its apotheosis, getting an elaborate pyrographic decoration. From top to bottom labeled portraits of revolutionary heroes like Marat, Danton, Robespierre and royalist victims like Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their son Louis-Charles were burned onto the gourd’s surface.

Around the wide circular base of the bottle gourd were burned three inscriptions of particular interest with three slogans separating each inscription. Together they told a remarkable tale. The first reads: “Maximilien Bourdaloue le 21 de Janvier de cette année imbiba son mouchoir dans le sang de Louis XVI après sa Decollation.” In English: “Maximilien Bourdaloue the 21st of January of this year soaked his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation.” A cartouche inscribed “LA NATION” (The Nation) stands between the first and second inscriptions.

The second inscription: “Tout caillé le mis dans cette courge et me la ceda contre deux assignats de dix Francs. T. Pes c.f. L.er. F. Aegnauld.” In English: “Once congealed, he put it in this gourd and gave it to me for two banknotes of ten Francs. T. Pes c.f. L.er. F. Aegnauld.” I don’t know what the initials stand for, but I’m guessing it denotes some sort of religious order since F. probably means Frère or Brother. “LA LOY” or “The Law” is between the second and third inscriptions.

The third inscription: “Je me chargea des l’ouvrager ainsi pour en faire cadeau a’ l’Aigle qui viendra m’apporter ses Cinq Cent Francs.” In English: “I took it upon myself to have it decorated so I could make a present of it to the Eagle who will bring me his Five Hundred Francs.” Who the mysterious Eagle was we can’t know, but at some point the gourd was reputedly in the possession of Napoleon Bonaparte, future emperor of France whose imperial standard was an eagle. “LE ROY N’EST PLUS” or “The king is no more” is between the third and first inscription.

In the middle is a crowned shield emblazoned with the name of the artist and the date on which he finished his extraordinary work “TERMINEE AUJOURD’HUI 18 DE 7EMBRE 1793 JEAN ROUX CITOYEN PARISIEN AUTEUR,” meaning “Finished today the 18th of September 1793 Jean Roux Citizen of Paris Artist.” A round of applause to Jean Roux of Paris and his remarkable gourd-burning talent. The date seems a little early for a Napoleon-as-eagle reference. He was in France then already making a name for himself as an able artillery captain. His political prospects also looked good, thanks to a pro-Revolutionary pamphlet he had written in July of that year which introduced him to Augustin Robespierre, Maximilien’s younger brother, who would become his friend and supporter. But he wouldn’t get his big splash until the Siege of Toulon which ended in December 1793 and made him a Brigadier General at the age of 24.

As for the handkerchief imbued with the arterial blood of the guillotined King Louis XVI, by the time the Italian family acquired the gourd, there was no hanky inside. There was dark residue, however, that could be dried blood. Wanting to know once and for all if their gourd once held the congealed blood of the benighted king, in 2011 the family contacted a geneticist at the University of Bologna and asked them to test the contents.

At first the scientists thought it was some weird joke, but the family has a letter from a French museum written about the gourd in 1900, and it’s a known fact that witnesses to the decapitations collected the blood of guillotined royalty as souvenirs and folk remedies. The researchers decided to have a go at it and see what they found.

They were able to collect five samples of the dried residue from inside the gourd on which two laboratories ran three DNA tests: one on the Y chromosome, one on the HERC2 gene for blue eyes and one on the mitochondrial DNA. The results indicated that the residue was indeed dried human blood centuries old belonging to a blue-eyed male of a genetic makeup so rare that it couldn’t be found in any genetic database. Louis XVI had blue eyes and you know how weird those old royal family genes can get.

The researchers couldn’t confirm that it was the blood of Louis XVI, however, without comparing it to the DNA of someone in his direct family line, perhaps his poor son Louis-Charles, who died in prison in 1795 at the age of 10, purportedly of tuberculosis. His heart had been cut out by the doctor who performed the autopsy and went through various hands before being interred in 1975 in the royal crypt of Saint Denis cathedral. There was much controversy at the time over whether the real Louis-Charles hadn’t died but rather had escaped and been replaced with a random boy who was promptly killed. Those theories would put to rest once and for all in 2000, when a DNA test on the remains of the heart proved that it belonged to the son of Marie Antoinette.

The researchers on the gourd blood hoped they might could get access to the heart themselves, but that was a long shot. Since the mitochondrial DNA results that identified Louis-Charles couldn’t help identify Louis XVI, the scientists went another way. They enlisted the mummified head of Henry IV, which had been identified in 2010.

They sent a fiberscope through Henry IV’s trachea and collected a tissue sample from inside the head. They were able to retrieve mitochondrial DNA sequences and a partial profile of the Y-chromosome. The latter contained multiple alleles from the extremely rare haplotype that was found in the blood residue in the gourd. This is strong evidence that the two men were related in the paternal line and provides a DNA boost to the authenticity both of the mummified head and of the blood.

“This study shows that [the remains] share a genetic heritage passed on through the paternal line,” forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier told AFP. “They have a direct link to one another through their fathers. One could say that there is absolutely no doubt any more.”

“It is about 250 times more likely that [Henri's] head and [Louis'] blood are paternally related, than unrelated,” co-author Carles Lalueza-Fox of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva in Barcelona told the agency.

It would be “extremely surprising” if the remains did not belong to the two assassinated monarchs, he added.


Oetzi has World’s Oldest known Red Blood Cells

As red blood cells degrade quickly, they’re hard to find in most of the targets archaeologists dig. However Oetzi, whose 5,300 year old body was found preserved in an Alpine glacier, has provided the world with the oldest ones we have. Since Oetzi was found science has probed his body to discover how he lived and how he died – he appears to have been killed by his wounds – and now scientists have found red blood cells around those wounds. If you want to probe more into the science, the BBC has an explanation, but I should warn you they also have a picture of Oetzi as he is now, and some people don’t like that sort of thing.

“With Blood the ground is dyed”

This posting concludes Ebenezer Stiles’s “Story of the Battle of Concord and Lexinton and Revear’s ride Twenty years ago”, a poetic narration of the Battle of Lexington and Concord from 1795.

Yesterday’s installment left off as Patriot militiamen were massing above the North Bridge in Concord.

The British troops with victory flushed
In wars by sea and land
Scorned their foe the often crushed
Deemed naught could them withstand
They’d fain repet to their farmer foe
The lesson taught that morn
That George’s vengeance is never slow
To who treat his laws with scorn

The Patriots gathered from Hill and Dale
They come from cottage and farm
By Highway and Stream from Hamlet and Vale
Each bringing his polished arm
They formed in companys on the hill
Where the plough was latly used
The vandals troops are lacking still
The scene new courage infused

With steady step and scowling brow
Each man his rifle grasped
And down the hill to meet the foe
Five hundred patriots passed
With five hundred guns and powder horns
To brave great Britains power
Her trained Brutes her statemens scorn
And the threatened trators dower

They marched with firm determined tread
As did ever greek or Trojen
And scorned to think of fear or dread
The steel of the British legion
One volley from their guns they fired
With true and steady aim
Duble quick the troops retired
And left the bridge to them

On we pushed across the stream
The Redcoats before us flew
As though they waked from horred dream
Retreat their bugles blew
Their Flag that never knew defeat
Tho oft in Foregne wars tried
Is trampled now beneath our feet
With Blood the ground is dyed

They tried to rally—scatered, fled
With panic stricken feer
The ground is covered with their dead
No reinforcements near
For every tree contains a gun
Behind each fence a foe
The Wiley fox’s race is run
The Tyrant’s got to go

And the poem ends there. Perhaps Stiles felt that the Americans’ (“us”) victory at the North Bridge provided a good narrative ending by tying up the fatal fight at Lexington in the first part of his poem. Or perhaps he planned to go on and narrate the rest of the battle in further, unpreserved verses. In any event, he made his political positions perfectly clear.

Equating tribal citizenship with blood quantum

Almost all American Indian tribes make their citizenship decisions today based on family descent and a required amount of Indian blood, or what is called blood quantum.

Throughout their history, few tribes used such requirements in determining who could be contributing members of tribal societies. My own tribe, the Eastern Shawnee, captured and adopted a 7 year old American boy named by the tribe Bluejacket. When he grew up he became a famous war chief. Many people in my tribe today have the last name Bluejacket and are ostensibly his descendants.

But, as suggested and perhaps as imposed by the federal government, most tribes today think in terms of blood quantum and all Indians are often asked the question “how much Indian are you?”

Tribes are dealing with this issue and how much Indian blood to require for enrollment in a tribe.

It is my opinion that tribal governments will have to slowly change that thinking and will have to move to some other form of citizenship test and requirements in the future.

As an example of these kinds of decisions, it has been a little over a year since the Otoe-Missouria tribal citizens voted to lower the enrollment requirements from ¼ degree of Otoe-Missouria blood to 1/8. Since then, the tribe has seen an 88% increase in citizenship.

Chairman John Shotton says the motivation for changing the requirements was simple—a shrinking tribal membership.

“At the time we started this initiative, we had about 1,400 members,” Shotton says. “Many of those on the role were less than 1/2 Otoe-Missouria. This was due to a number of reasons, primarily intermarriage between other tribes and non-Indians. Something had to be done to address the issue, if enrollment requirements stayed unchanged, we would be facing a rapidly dwindling enrollment over the next 20 years or so.”

The referendum to lower the blood quantum requirement passed in June 2009 and has had a dramatic impact on the citizenship of the tribe. Prior to the change there were 1,363 enrolled citizens of which only 129 were below the age of 18. Today there are 2,560 total citizens and 479 of them are minors.

Chairman Shotton says these new members mean the future of the tribe is more secure both physically and financially. He notes that a majority of the departments and services offered through the tribe are funded by grants. The higher the number of tribal members served by the grants means that the grant funding is generally higher as well.

Yet, here’s another example of one tribe increasing its Indian blood requirement. The Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota just changed its requirement for tribal enrollment to require more Indian blood. Tribal citizens voted last week to allow only those with at least one-eighth degree Hidatsa, Mandan or Arikara blood to become enrolled citizens.

The move ends its practice of lineal descendency, which required only that a tribal citizen be a descendant of an enrolled citizen.

About 57 percent of voters favored the change. Sixty-three percent also approved a separate amendment that requires candidates for tribal business council and tribal chairman to have a minimum one-fourth Indian blood.

Old Blood and Guts

The George S. Patton Collection at Fort Knox

As was discussed in the previous post from our History Trip, Fort Knox, Kentucky is not only home to the gold depository but also the Patton Museum, home of one of the largest collections of historic tanks and the largest collection of artifacts relating to the life of General George Smith Patton, the famed WWII commander of the 7th, 3rd, and 15th Armies of that conflict. Born in San Gabriel, California on November 11, 1885, Patton was accepted at the Virginia Military Institute and then West Point. He was infamous for his aggressive behavior and tactics throughout his career. His younger days in the Army were with General John Pershing in the campaign to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. It was there in Mexico where Patton was in his first gunfight and killed his first man. During WWI, he served on Pershing’s staff and later as a tank commander in France.

As many of you may know, Patton came from a celebrated military tradition. Several of his family members attended the Virginia Military Institute. These Civil War artifacts belonged to the original George S. Patton, a colonel in the 22nd Virginia Infantry. He was killed on September 20, 1864 in one of the many battles for Winchester, Virginia. Patton’s great uncle, Waller Tazewell Patton, was killed in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg while in the 7th VA Infantry. The brothers George and Waller share a common grave in Winchester’s Stonewall Confederate Cemetery. Waller was played by mogul Ted Turner in Gettysburg. It was on this saddle that George Patton III (the WWII general) would learn to ride. The military career did not end with his death, however. George S. Patton IV served as a general in the Vietnam War and lived until 2004.

This somewhat freaky-looking 1901 Remington Target Pistol was Patton’s first pistol. To the right is one of his childhood toys amongst other artifacts from his youth. Guns and toy dolls compliment each other, right?

On December 9, 1945, Patton and General “Hap” Gay were driving back from pheasant hunting when a large Army supply truck collided with the front of this Cadillac. Patton was the only one in the car who was injured…

…His head smashed into the metal partition dividing the front seats and passenger seats. He had severe spinal injury and was paralyzed. Having trouble breathing, he died from an embolism four days before Christmas 1945. He is buried in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg with many of his men. To survive two world wars and several gunfights only to die from a Cadillac crash is indeed a sad irony. As you can see, the car has been refurbished and still probably gets four miles to the gallon.

And this is the famous leather coat and helmet he wore during the Battle of the Bulge, which I consider perhaps his finest hour. The photo below the coat shows Patton decorating Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe for his defense of Bastogne, Belgium with the 101st Airborne. The coat, actually an Army Air Corps jacket, was made world famous due to the above photo. Now with four stars on it, Patton had the old insignia unstitched and replaced with four evenly spaced stars when promoted. (He was always concerned about appearances.)

His four star helmet from the 3rd Army and his holster.

And then of course there are his famous ivory-handled pistols. Some staff and high command (except maybe Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery) tried to discourage Patton from wearing these for fear that he would make a better target for Nazis. Never one for subtlety or to wince from danger, Patton sported these Colt pistols throughout the entire war. Click to enlarge.

Understandably, Patton always had a taste for the romantic cavalier image. In this photo you can see his early fencing equipment as well as some interesting “in action” poses he made for the camera.

This small flag flew from Patton’s car. He signed it as a souvenir for the 6th Army in 1945.

Here is an interior shot of Patton’s field headquarters – the granddaddy of the RV I suppose you could call it. Inside was a sink, a changing area, a map table/wall, a desk, and a comfy-looking chair tucked in the corner. On that chair are his “riding” gloves and riding crop. In front are his briefcases with his name inscribed on them.

An exterior view of Patton’s field headquarters truck.

Pardon the poor photo quality, but this is the dog tag of Willie Whiffle…Patton’s dog.

This video is a segment from the TV series Patton 360…when the History Channel still produced historical programming. The remainder of this episode can be found on YouTube.