Louis XVI of France

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Louis XVI
Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet
King of France and Navarre
Reign 10 May 1774 – 1 October 1791
(&&&&&&&&&&&&&017.&&&&&017 years, &&&&&&&&&&&&0144.&&&&&0144 days)
Coronation 11 June 1775 (aged 20)
Predecessor Louis XV
Successor Himself as King of the French
King of the French
Reign 1 October 1791 – 21 September 1792
Predecessor Himself as King of France and Navarre
Successor Monarchy abolished
Spouse Marie Antoinette
Issue
Marie Thérèse, Queen of France
Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France
Louis XVII of France
Princess Sophie
Full name
Louis Auguste de France
House House of Bourbon
Father Louis, Dauphin of France
Mother Marie-Josèphe of Saxony
Born 23 August 1754
Palace of Versailles, France
Died 21 January 1793 (aged 38)
Paris, France
Burial 21 January 1815
Saint Denis Basilica, France
Signature
Religion Roman Catholicism

Louis XVI (August 23, 1754 - January 21, 1793) was King of France and Navarre from 1774 to 1791 and as King of the French from 1791 to 1792. Suspended and arrested during the Insurrection of 10 August 1792, he was tried by the National Convention, found guilty of treason, and executed by guillotine on 21 January 1793. He was the only king of France to be executed.

Early Life[change | edit source]

Marie Antoinette Queen of France with her three oldest children, Marie-Thérèse, Louis-Charles and Louis-Joseph. Princess Sophie Hélène Béatrix of France, was painted out after her death. By Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Louis XVI was born to Louis-Ferdinand, Dauphin of France and grandson of Louis XV and his wife, Marie-Josephe of Saxony, in 1754. His father died early in Louis's life and Louis XVI became the dauphin. His parents liked his older brother more than Louis and were upset when Louis's brother died at ten. Louis's parents turned against him and he became a shy boy. When Louis was 15, he married Marie Antoinette. At first, he and Marie did not consummate the marriage. At last, they did in 1773.

However, they failed to produce children for several years after that. This made the marriage strained.[1] The situation was made worse when obscene pamphlets called libelles were published. These libelles mocked their failure to produce children. One questioned, "Can the King do it? Can't the King do it?"[2] In the end, he and Marie had four children:

French Revolution[change | edit source]

At Versailles, King Louis XVI could scarcely believe the storming of Bastille, but the National Assembly took it in stride. It was a victory for the people, and bloodshed was natural in revolution. But this was an important turning point for France. There was no longer any possibility for reform—the movement had organically become a revolution.

On October 5, 1789, an agitated assembly of women demanding bread marched to Versailles. They surged effortlessly past the palace guards and thundered into the queen's bedroom mere minutes after she fled. The mob wanted the royal family to come with them to Paris, and the ever-faltering Louis at last acquiesced to the people's demands. With a heavy heart, Louis added his signature to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and loaded his family into the royal carriage. As they rolled somberly alongside the crowd, the heads of their dead guards bobbed mockingly beside their windows.

Exile and Escape[change | edit source]

But Louis wouldn't be content as puppet king for very long. Even though he was imprisoned by the people in the Tuileries Palace, he had allies beyond France's borders who wanted to see him regain the throne. They planned an escape and broke from the Tuileries on the night of June 21, 1791, under the guise of servants. The royal family was close to the Austrian border when its carriage was apprehended at the town of Varennes. When Louis and his family were brought back to their quarters at the Tuileries, they were kept under heavier watch. Suspicions against the royal family continued to mount, including founded or unfounded beliefs that Marie Antoinette was writing to her family about confidential military maneuvers. In an act of misguided duty to the monarchies of Europe, Prussia's Duke of Brunswick wrote “ We will destroy Paris into the ground if anything happens to our royal majesty, the king and queen.”

Arrest and Execution[change | edit source]

Louis' cousin, the Duke of Orleans was the one responsible for spreading rumors about Louis' wife which caused people to get very angry. Louis was officially arrested on 13 August and sent to the Temple, an ancient Paris fortress used as a prison. On September 21, the National Assembly declared France to be a republic and abolished the monarchy.

Execution of Louis Capet

Louis was made to go on trial as an ordinary citizen, and he was quickly proclaimed guilty. Louis Capet had no allies in the Convention, but the Girondins at least wanted to spare his life. The Jacobins wouldn't hear of it; Louis must die. Robespierre convinced the people that the monarch must die for the republic to live. For the last time, he was reunited to his family and promised to come back the next morning but he did not. On his way to the guillotine, Louis Capet ominously prophesied, "I trust that my death will be for the happiness of my people, but I grieve for France, and I fear that she may suffer the anger of the Lord" but his speech was drowned out by a roll of drums. On January 20, 1793, the man they had once called “King” was no more. Marie Antoinette, the Queen, was executed months later.

Legacy[change | edit source]

Louisville, Kentucky is named for Louis XVI. In 1780, the Virginia General Assembly present this name in honor of the French king, whose soldiers were aiding the American side in the American Revolution. The Virginia General Assembly saw the King as a noble man, but many other continental delegates disagreed.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Fraser, Antonia, Marie Antoinette, pp.166-167
  2. Fraser, Antonia, Marie Antoinette, p.164

Other websites[change | edit source]

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