Louis XVI King of France 1842
- Born: 23 Aug 1754, Versailles, Île-de-France, France 1842
- Marriage: Marie Antoinette Queen of France on 16 May 1770 in Versailles, Île-de-France, France 1842
- Died: 21 Jan 1793, Paris, Rhône-Alpes, France at age 38 1842
- Buried: Saint Denis Basilique (Saint Denis, Centre, France) 1839
Louis XVI (August 23, 1754, Versailles - January 21, 1793, Paris) was King of France and Navarre from 1774 until 1791, and then King of the French from 1791 to 1793. Suspended and arrested during the Insurrection of the 10th of August, he was tried by the National Convention, found guilty of treason, and executed on January 21, 1793. His execution signaled the end of the absolutist monarchy in France and would eventually bring about the rise of Napoleon.
Beloved by the people at first, his indecisiveness and conservatism led the people to reject and persecute him for the perceived tyranny of the former kings of France. During the French Revolution, he was given the family name Capet (a faulty reference to Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetian dynasty), and was called Louis Capet in an attempt to desecrate his status as king. He was also informally nicknamed Louis le Dernier ("Louis the Last"), a derisive use of the traditional nicknaming of French kings.
Louis was preceded as king by his grandfather, Louis XV. Louis' father was the king's only son, the Dauphin de France (1729-1765), who died young and never ascended the throne. Louis' mother was Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, second wife of the Dauphin, and the daughter of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
On May 16, 1770, he married Marie Antoinette, daughter of Francis I of Austria and Empress Maria Theresa, a Hapsburg. They had four children:
> Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (December 20, 1778 - October 19, 1851);
> Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François (October 22, 1781 - June 4, 1789);
> Louis-Charles (March 27, 1785 - June 8, 1795);
> Sophie-Beatrix (July 9, 1786 - June 19, 1787).
The government was deeply in debt. The radical reforms of Turgot and Malesherbes disaffected the nobles (parlements), and Turgot was dismissed and Malesherbes resigned in 1776 to be replaced by Jacques Necker. Louis supported the American Revolution in 1778, but in the Treaty of Paris (1783), the French gained little except an addition to the country's enormous debt. Necker had resigned in 1781 to be replaced by Calonne and Brienne, before being restored in 1788.
In 1789, Louis ordered the first election of the Estates-General since 1614 in order to have the monetary reforms approved. The election was one of the events that transformed the general malaise into the French Revolution, which began in June 1789. The Third Estate had declared itself the National Assembly; Louis' attempts to control it resulted in the Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume, June 20), the declaration of the National Constituent Assembly on July 9, and the storming of the Bastille on July 14. In October, the royal family was forced to move from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
Louis himself at this time was very unpopular because of his indecisiveness and conservatism which lead to the social, political, and economic reforms of the Revolution. Recent scholarship has concluded that Louis suffered from clinical depression, which left him prone to bouts of severe indecisiveness, during which times his wife, the unpopular Queen Marie Antoinette, assumed effective responsibility for acting for the Crown. Her most known remark at this time was "Let them eat cake", in response to a request to lower the price of bread. The revolution's principles of popular sovereignty, though central to democratic principles of later eras, marked a decisive break from the absolute monarchical principle of throne and altar that was at the heart of contemporary governance. As a result, the revolution was opposed by almost all of the previous governing elite in France and by practically all the governments of Europe. Leading figures in the initial revolutionary movement themselves were questioning the principles of popular control of government. Some, notably Honoré Mirabeau, secretly plotted to restore the power of the Crown in a new form.
However, Mirabeau's sudden death, and Louis's depression fatally weakened developments in that area. Louis was nowhere near as reactionary as his right-wing brothers, the comte d'Artois and the comte de Provence, and he sent repeated messages publicly and privately calling on them to halt their attempts to launch counter-coups (often through his secretly nominated regent, former minister de Brienne). However, he was alienated from the new government both by its challenging of the traditional role of the monarch and in its treatment of him and his family. He was particularly irked by being kept effective prisoner in the Tuileries, where his wife was forced humiliatingly to have revolutionary soldiers in her private bedroom watching her as she slept, and by the refusal of the new regime to allow him to have Catholic confessors and priests of his choice rather than 'constitutional priests' created by the revolution.
End of Reign
On June 21, 1791, Louis attempted to flee secretly from Paris to modern-day Belgium (then part of the Austrian Empire) with his family in the hope of forcing a moderate swing in the revolution than was deemed possible in radical Paris. However, flaws in the escape plan caused sufficient delays to enable them to be recognized and captured at Varennes. Supposedly Louis was captured while trying to make a purchase at a store, where the clerk recognized his face on the coinage. He was returned to Paris, where he remained nominally as constitutional king, though under effective house-arrest until 1792.
On July 25, 1792, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, commander of the Prussian forces, issued a manifesto (the so-called Brunswick Manifesto) threatening the inhabitants of Paris with exemplary vengeance if the Royal family was harmed and threatening the French public with exemplary punishment if they resisted the Imperial and Prussian armies or the forced reinstatement of the monarchy. The manifesto was taken to be the final proof of a collusion between Louis and foreign powers in a conspiracy against his own country. Louis was officially arrested on August 13, 1792. On September 21, 1792, the National Assembly declared France to be a republic.
Louis was tried (from December 11, 1792) and convicted of high treason before the Legislative Assembly. He was sentenced to death (January 21, 1793) by guillotine by 361 votes to 288, with 72 effective abstentions.
Stripped of all titles and honorifics by the egalitarian, Republican government, Citizen Louis Capet was guillotined in front of a cheering crowd on January 21, 1793. On his death, his eight-year-old son, Louis-Charles, automatically became to royalists and some international states the de jure King Louis XVII of France, despite France having been declared a Republic. 1842
1. Acceded: King of France, 10 May 1774-21 Sep 1792. 1842
2. Acceded: Titular King of France, 21 Sep 1792-21 Jan 1793. 1842
Louis married Marie Antoinette Queen of France on 16 May 1770 in Versailles, Île-de-France, France.1842 (Marie Antoinette Queen of France was born on 2 Nov 1755 in Vienna, Wien, Austria,1842 died on 16 Oct 1793 1842 and was buried in Saint Denis Basilique (Saint Denis, Centre, France) 1839.). The cause of her death was Guillotined.