(1811-1832) AND HIS TEETH

By Xavier Riaud* , FINS



Napoleon the 2nd

Napoléon François Joseph
Charles Bonaparte

Napoleon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte[1] was born on March 20 th, 1811. He was the son of Napoleon the 1 st (1769-1821) and of the archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847).

The young prince received right from his birth the title of King of Rome. The Constitution of the 2 floréal year XII (May 18 th, 1804) granted the title of Imperial Prince to the eldest son of the Emperor.

After the campaign of the Rance and the fall of Paris, Marie-Louise and his son lived in Rambouillet, then in Blois. On April 4 th, 1814, Napoleon signed an abdication act preserving the rights of his son. On April 6 th 1814, he finally had to renounce to his prerogatives for him and his line of descent. Napoleon bid adieu to his troops on April 20 th, 1814, and left for Elba Island while the “Aiglon” and his mother left to Vienna. The young boy was also Prince of Parma, but from June 10 th, 1817, he had no official powers there.

During the Hundred Days, the Emperor’s son officially became once again Imperial Prince but not King of Rome. At the end of the Hundred Days, the abdication done in the Elysée Palace on June 22 nd, 1815, indicated that “My political life is over and I proclaim my son the French Emperor under the title of Napoleon the 2 nd.” The boy, however, lived in Vienna and was in the lion’s den. A commission diligented by the government confirmed the choice of the deposed Emperor [2], but this decision was disconfirmed on July 7, 1815. Louis XVIII entered Paris the next day. Napoleon the 2 nd had only occupied his father’s functions for 15 days.

On July 22 nd, 1818, at the age of 7, he became Duke of Reichstadt. In 1830, the French people cried: “Long live Napoleon the 2 nd!” in the streets of Paris and he was supposedly going to be the King of Belgium or Poland. He died in Vienna of tuberculosis on July 22, 1832, without any alliance or descendants.


Cutting of first teeth


Napoleon met Lady of Montesquiou (1765-1835) who carried his son next to the Orangerie, in Saint-Cloud[3]. He asked her if his son was doing well. The governess answered: “Sometimes he is grumpy and cries. He probably has a toothache.” The Emperor was reported to retort: “It is ugly when a King cries.”

Back from a trip to Belgium, the Empress Marie-Louise found her son “well fortified, having four teeth but who is also thin and pale, which must be due to his dentition.”

Even though the Emperor was fully dedicated to his campaign in Russia, he found time to ask some news of his son’s health. This is what he wrote to Lady of Montesquiou: “I hope that you will soon tell me that his last four teeth grew.”

Back from Dresde, Marie-Louise went back to Saint-Cloud where her son was living and where he turned 16 months: “He has fifteen teeth but does not talk yet.”

In 1813, the Empress wrote: “My son is going really well. All his teeth grew since three months.”

Marie-Louise’s letters

Marie-Louise lived by the Emperor’s side for four years from 1810 to 1814. From 1813 to 1814, the Austrian lady wrote a series of letters to Napoleon where she accounted of her son’s oral health issues[4]. They were published by the Baron Carl-Fredrik Palmstierna in 1955. He faithfully transcribed the content of the letters in the French of the time.




On February 8 th, 1814: “He is doing quite well but he had a raging toothache this morning which made him suffer for more than three quarters of an hour. He already has two ruined teeth which depresses me[5].”

On February 25 th, 1814: “Tonight, he greatly suffered from a serious raging toothache but there is no remedy to that. It comes from a problem tooth. Dubois[6] speaks about extracting it but it will be near impossible to convince him to have this operation because when we merely suggest to put cotton on his tooth, he awfully cries out.”

On February 27 th, 1814: “He is really well tonight. He slept until 6 o’clock in the morning. He was still quite grumpy and I attributed this behaviour to his toothache which often causes him great pain.”

On February 28 th, 1814: “He is really well, he still felt pains yesterday night but that was just a matter of half an hour.”

On February 29 th 1814, there was no problem anymore.

On March 2 nd 1814: “This morning, your son still wasn’t well and he really suffers from his teeth. He has raging toothaches at every instant. I fear that his ruined teeth will still provide him with long pain.”

On March 3 rd, 1814: “Your son is well; he slept well all night and was in a good mood during the rest of the day. I think that his small indisposition is completely healed provided that his bad teeth caused him no discomfort because they had really caused him great pain for a long time.”

On March 13 th, 1814: “Your son sends his love, he had raging toothaches during the day but tonight he feels better and is happy.”

On March 14 th, 1814: “Your son is well, he sends his love, and his raging toothaches are completely over.”

On March 16 th, 1814: “He is quite well; he still suffers a bit from his teeth.”

On March 18 th, 1814: “Your son sends his love; he is well except that he said he suffered from his teeth. We found out that very often he would complain about his teeth, but when I declared that going for a stroll was incompatible with the swelling and inflammation of his gums and mouth and that we would be obliged to deprive him from this pleasure, his pains suddenly disappeared and he never complained about them tonight.”

On March 20 th, 1814: “You thought of your son and me a little and he sends his love to you, he is quite well and he has sometimes raging toothaches, but it is because of his ruined teeth that will make him suffer for a long time.”

On March 25 th, 1814: “He spoke several times about his toothaches but as he was complaining about them when laughing, I doubted about his pains because experience proved that it might have only been a pretext or even a mischievous trick.

On August 3 rd, 1814: “I have good news about your son’s health, I received some yesterday. He never felt so well except for his recurring painful toothaches.”


Last informations


On July 1817, the baroness of Montet (1785-1866) wrote about the young prince and said that he “is from what I can see the most handsome prince; it is a shame that his teeth are so black and already hideous[8].”


Napoleon’s testament

Finally, “provision 6” of the Emperor’s testament stipulated: “I bequeath my son the golden dental kit left at the dentist’s[9].” According to Claude Rousseau (1998), it seemed that Biennais’s dental casket bequeathed to the Napoleon Foundation could correspond to the kit inherited by his son.

Napoleon’s dental casket [10]


Hypothesis about the young king of Rome’s death


There are several theories concerning the Aiglon’s death. A lot of historians declare that he had been poisoned. Some think the lethal product may have been administered by his doctor but others suggest that it came from his dental surgeon and that he “had been paid to poison the Duke by taking care of his teeth.”

A famous Parisian daily newspaper published on August 11, 1910 an account from where a dreadful rumour originated. It is the Prince Napoleon[11], King Jerome’s son who was reported to have confided this account to Lady Judith[12] who was the secretary of the “Théâtre-Français”.

“The agreement was made between the Court of Vienna and the French monarchy. Napoleon’s son was no more useful in the diplomatic plans and the news of his existence became a European danger. Metternich commanded his death. It is the great Duchess Stephanie of Bade, the cousin of Napoleon the 1 st, who reported to me the crime. She had a chambermaid whom she really liked. When she was about to get married, her mistress gave her a huge dowry in order to show her affection. Her ex-chambermaid married a famous dentist in Austria (Carabelli).

A few times later, she fell sick. When dying, she asked for the great archduchess to come to her deathbed to collect an importance confidence. And when her former mistress came to see her, she said: “You should undoubtedly know the truth about the Duke of Reichstadt’s death because he was a member of your family. You will certainly change of behaviour concerning some people after what I am about to tell you.”

“It is my husband who killed the son of the Empress Marie-Louise, he confessed it to me. He used to treat the young Duke’s teeth. One day, Prince Metternich[13] summoned him and spoke to him without witnesses around. He asked to slowly kill the son of Napoleon the 1 st by performing during at least a year regular but sufficiently separated poisonous injections on his gums. This death was meant to appear as if he had died of melancholy. This was what I had to confess to you.”


A dentist called Carabelli

Georg Carabelli von Lunkaszprie[15]
(1787 or 1788-1842)


Georg Carabelli von Lunkaszprie[14] (1787 or 1788-1842) was the first doctor to have given lectures on dentistry from 1821 in Vienna, Austria. He was a dentist at the court of the Austrian Emperor Franz and was the founder of a clinic of stomatology at the University of Vienna. In a treaty of dental anatomy that he published in 1842, he described a tuber on the palatal face of his first upper molars. He explained the description of it in a more detailed second work which was published after his death in 1844. This tuber kept the name of his discoverer.




[1] See, Napoléon II, 29/04/2007, pp. 1-6.

[2] See, Napoléon II, 29/04/2007, pp. 1-6.

[3] See Cabanès A., Légendes et curiosités de l'Histoire [Legends and curiosities of History], Albin Michel (éd.), Paris, 1953.

[4] See De Maar F. E. R., « Le mal aux dents du Roi de Rome » [The toothache of the King of Rome], in Revue de la Société française d'histoire de l'art dentaire,, 1981, pp. 25-26.

[5] See Palmstierna Carl-Fredrik, Marie-Louise et Napoléon (1813-1814), Stock (éd.), Paris, 1955, pp. 66, 109, 114, 117, 123 et 126.

The Aiglon had a strong chin, a feature peculiar to the Habsbourg family.

[6] Since the child was living in France at that time, it is Dubois-Foucou who was Napoleon’s personal dentist and not of Antoine Dubois (1756-1837), a surgeon who delivered Marie-Louise’s baby in 1811 as Palmstierna made it believed (1955, p. 305).

[7] See Palmstierna Carl-Fredrik, Marie-Louise., op. cit., 1955, pp. 153, 155, 159, 162, 165, 171 et 269.

[8] See Du Montet Alexandrine Prevost de la Boutetière de Saint-Mars, Souvenirs de la Baronne Du Montet (1785-1866) [Memories of Baroness Du Montet (1785-1866)], Plon (éd.), Paris, 4 ème édition, 1914.

[9] See Rousseau Claude, « L’instrumentation : les « outils à dents » des nécessaires de Biennais. L’énigme du nécessaire dentaire de l’empereur de la Fondation Napoléon », in Actes de la Société Française d’Histoire de l’Art Dentaire, Saint Malo, 1998, , pp. 1-7.

[10] See Fondation Napoleon, 2007.

[11] See Cabanès A., Légendes et curiosités., op. cit., 1953.

[12] See Lamendin Henri, « Napoléon II : un dentiste et l'Histoire. » [Napoleon the 2 nd : a dentist and History], in Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France, 8-15/06/2000; 988/989 : 104-108.

[13] See Cabanès A., Légendes et curiosités., op. cit., 1953.

[14] See, Georg Carabelli, 2007, p.1.

[15] See Private Collections-Reserved Rights.



(* ) DDS, PhD in History of Sciences and Techniques, Winner of the National Academy of Dental Surgery.