Full name: Louis Auguste de France
Born: 23rd August, 1754 at Versailles
Son of Louis Dauphin of France and Maria Josepha of Saxony
Reigned: 10th May 1774 – 10th August 1793 (executed 21st January 1793)
This post is late…I know, I’ve had a very busy week, so therefore I’m making this one a bit different by writing about the French Monarchy rather than the British.
I’ve always been really intrigued about Louis XVI, as he was the last Bourbon King and his death drastically changed life in France, providing the people with a voice which culminated in the French Revolution.
Louis’ early life was fairly short, owing to the fact that he died at the age of 39. Like a lot of kings, Louis was ill prepared for the throne as he was not expected to be king. Within a five year period, his father (the heir) and his brother (the next in line) were dead. He became his grandfather’s heir. As child, Louis had shown intellectual promise, and was good at history and latin. However he was very introverted and shy.
In 1770 at the age of 15, he was wed to his distant cousin, Marie Antoinette. It was not deemed a successful marriage at first owing to the rumour or assumption that it had not been consummated. This was thought the case owing to the fact their first child was born eight years after they married. Their marriage was considered to be distant. Marie was unpopular owing to her family history, as the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor whom encouraged France to join the Seven Years War, there were concerns that this may happen again.
Louis became King of France at the age of 20. He was a weak king though, to give him credit he tried to be a good one. Initially there was hope, he implemented a religious policy which supported non Catholics in France and his foreign policy was popular in backing the Americans against the hated British during the Wars of Independence. However, his main failure was his inability to address the issues in the country, particularly fiscal policies, which resulted in serious economic issues across the nation. The country was organised by social standing into Three Estates. The First was Clergy and the Church which made up 1% of the population. The second was the nobility which was also only about 1% of the population. The third was everyone else. The Ancien régime, which was the political and social system that had been in place in France since the middle ages. Under this system everyone was a subject of the king. The King had the power to call the Estates General to discuss the issues within the country.
In 1789 the meeting took place at Versailles, and the representatives of the Third estate were angry over their forced poverty. This set in pace the events of the French revolution. It was the suppression of the people and the clear divide between the king and his subjects that caused the fall of the monarchy. In August 1792 Louis’ title was removed. By September France was declared a republic. He was executed in January 1793 in Paris.
Louis’ reign could be viewed as a disaster. I personally feel he was really just unlucky. His reign was simply the final straw for many. Having inherited the throne during a time of instability with huge debts owing to previous wars, the country needed change. Louis was not suited to be a ruler, and really should not have been king. The French Revolution shows (like the Russian one) that systems need to be updated, and possibly more importantly, The People whom these rulers are often ignorantly unaware of, will ultimately have their say.