Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

I Am Not Making This Up: That Time the French King was Cannibalized

Written By: Tracy - Nov• 08•14

The King who outlived everyone.

I’ve been known to make up bizarre stories on occasion, but I couldn’t make this one up.  It takes the cake.  Probably the cake that Marie Antoinette wanted the peasants to eat when they ran out of bread.

It starts with Louis the XIV.  He’s not the one who got his head cut off.  That one is a few Louis later.  This King Louis was the Sun King.  And quite possibly people called him “the immortal” behind his back, given his penchant for outliving most of his heirs. But that’s just my speculation.

Anyway, when Louis died the French removed his heart, preserved it and buried it in it’s own special tomb.  No, they weren’t trying to make sure that he wouldn’t rise from his grave to stalk the night.  The French just liked to stage separate elaborate funerals and burials for the internal organs of their monarchs. As you do.

Skip forward in time a few Louis, and you have the revolution.  The one where most everyone in France got their heads cut off.  In all that chaos, who was going to miss one king’s heart?  Money probably changed hands, and by the Victorian era the heart was in England. In the hands of Lord Harcourt. Who’s name is perfect for this story.

I wonder how he acquired the heart.  It’s not like you stroll into a garage sale, see a little silver casket with a heart in it and offer the lady with the cigarette box of money a quarter for it.

Shouldn’t he have returned it to France, or something? Isn’t there some kind of treaty that states that you can’t keep the remains of a rival nation’s ruler?  “Thou shalt not keep royal hearts in boxes on thine mantel.” Or something like that?

Instead, he kept this little cracked-dot-com article waiting to happen and passed it around at dinner parties. Because? Reasons.  Maybe the Victorians liked looking at mummified royal hearts while eating.

There are several versions of what happened next.  My favorite is the version in which the heart gets passed to William Buckland.  Probably at a dinner party, but maybe Lord Harcourt was just showing it off In a trophy room or something.  And then it gets passed to William Buckland.

Record scratch.  Back up. Let’s talk about Buckland a bit.

The thing is, Buckland shouldn’t have been anywhere in a two mile radius of the heart. Everyone knew he was crazycakes.  He liked to do things like go fossil hunting in his academic robes, and he wanted to eat one of every animal type in the world.  He served his guests field mice on toast.  And puppies.  Because everything is awful.

Does it move?  I'll eat it. Possibly with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Does it move? I’ll eat it. Possibly with fava beans and a nice chianti.

That second fact should have been reason enough for people to give him the side-eye as he reached for the king’s heart.  But maybe Harcourt was one of those curious types who likes to throw rocks at a hornet’s nest just to see what happens.  One version of the story even suggests that Harcourt asked Buckland to taste it.  After all, if Buckland will eat a puppy, maybe he’ll eat a 100 year old mumified heart.  Kind of like a Victorian aristocrat’s version of licking a flagpole in winter.  Then he no doubt double-dog-dared him.

And you can’t back down from a double dog dare.  So of course, he eats it.  Maybe accidentally.  Probably not. After all, he ate puppies.

Anyway,  legend goes that after eating the heart Buckland said “I have eaten a lot of strange things, but I’ve never eaten the heart of a king.”

At which point, if there was a Lady Harcourt (and I don’t know if there was or not), she probably said: see! This is why we can’t have nice things! Why did we even invite him?

Is this story true?  Who knows.  My source is a fellow writer and storyteller named Augustus Hare.  And we all know that Storytellers love to make things up.




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