On November 15-16, Spink Smythe will present its latest Collector's Series auction featuring one of the rarest and most tragic autographs from the French Revolution: a page from the copy-book of the doomed King Louis XVII, who would die a prisoner at age 10 without ever taking his throne.
The page is signed 'Louis Charles' five times by way of calligraphy exercises, and what is already a great rarity is made unique by the addition of 'Louis' in the boy's regular hand at the bottom of the page, where he was apparently working ink out of his pen.
When revolutionary forces executed King Louis XVI in 1793, Louis-Charles became the rightful king in the eyes of royalist. But the eight-year-old was already a prisoner of the revolutionary Convention of Deputies.
He was forced to sign an affidavit accusing his mother, Marie Antoinette, of atrocities, helping lead to her execution. After her death, the young king was kept in strict seclusion until his health was destroyed, and he died of lymphatic tuberculosis in June 1795.
As he died in the hands of his enemies, theories persisted for two centuries that he had actually escaped, and for decades after his death men appeared claiming to be the 'lost Dauphin of France'.
Not until 2000 was all uncertainty removed when DNA testing showed that the dead prisoner's preserved heart was indeed that of young Louis-Charles, King Louis XVII of France.
A few other pages of Louis's copy-book are known to exist, including one in the special collections at Harvard University's Houghton Library, but we have found no record of one coming to auction in the past quarter century.
Furthermore, the present example is the only one with Louis's additional signatures at the bottom, taking it from an exceedingly rare autograph to a truly unique one.
This may well be the only opportunity in a generation or more to acquire this important autograph which is listed at $50,000.
By a fascinating coincidence, we have also acquired an example of a rare autograph belonging to a lost prince who never made it out of childhood, this being the 'Lost Prince' John.
Prince John suffered from severe epileptic seizures and was hidden from the public eye as a result. He died at the age of just 13, but his memory was revived by a multi-award winning drama by Stephen Poliakoff screened on the BBC in 2003. This has made his autograph and other memorabilia more coveted since.