What a pain in the derrière: how Louis XV shot his horse

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The Independent Online

How King Louis XV came to shoot his own horse in the bottom is described, by the monarch himself, in a batch of royal letters to be auctioned in Paris today.

The hunting accident took place near Versailles in September 1766 and appears to have caused the 18th-century equivalent of banner headlines all over the country.

In a laconic note to his cousin, the Duc de Penthièvre, the king reports that his "adventure" has been "certainly exaggerated".

"The wild boar, which was very large, charged at me... My rifle misfired when I saw him and I didn't have the time to turn him aside... [the bullet] wounded my horse in the buttock," he wrote.

The collection of 344 rare letters written by French kings and princes and their wives and courtiers is expected to fetch €150,000 (£127,000) when it goes under the auctioneer's hammer at Sotheby's in Paris. The letters once belonged to the last king of France, Louis-Philippe, who was forced to abdicate in 1848 and died in exile in England two years later.

Sotheby's said they had been "forgotten in old boxes" for years. The identity of the vendor has not been revealed but it is assumed to be one of the many competing, impoverished branches of the French royal family.

The collection includes several banal letters on subjects of day-to-day family business written by King Louis XVI in the years before the revolution which led to his execution.

The most intriguing letter of all is a jumbled note written by his father when he was four years old.

The then "Dauphin", or heir to the throne, wrote in block capitals to his aunt the Comtesse de Toulouse, who had apparently given him a writing desk. The 10-word note is expected to fetch at least €4,000. It says: "I love my writing desk and infinitely my amiable countess. The Dauphin."