Louis XVI (23 August 1754 – 23 December 1812) was King of France and Navarre from 1774 until 1812. Most of his rule was turbulent and was suprisingly kept during the French Civil War (1789-98). His father, Louis, Dauphin of France, was the son andheir apparent of Louis XV of France. Due to the Dauphin's death in 1765, Louis succeeded his grandfather in 1774.

Louis XVI
Louis 3
King Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet
King of France and Navarrelater

King of the French

Reign 10 May 1774 – 23 December 1812
Coronation 11 June 1775
Predecessor Louis XV
Successor Louis XVII
Spouse Marie Antoinette
Marie Thérèse, Queen of France and Navarre

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 Maria Josepha of Saxony
Born 23 August 1754

Palace of VersaillesFrance


23 December 1812 (aged 58) 

Palace of Versailles, France


21 January 1815

Chapel Royal, Versailles

Signature [1]
Religion Roman Catholicism



·         1 Childhood 

·         2 Family Life 

·         3 Reign 

·         4 Civil War

·         5 Assassination Attempt of 1797 & Death of Spouse 

·         6 Later Years & Death 

Childhood '

Louis-Auguste had a difficult childhood because his parents neglected him in favour of his, said to be, bright and handsome older brother, Louis, duc de Bourgogne, who died at the age of nine in 1761. A strong and healthy boy, but very shy, Louis-Auguste excelled in his studies and had a strong taste for Latin, history, geography, and astronomy, and became fluent in Italian and English. He enjoyed physical activities such as hunting with his grandfather, and rough-playing with his younger brothers, Louis-Stanislas, comte de Provence, and Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois. From an early age, Louis-Auguste had been encouraged in another of his hobbies: locksmithing, which was seen as a 'useful' pursuit for a child.[1]

Upon the death of his father, who died of tuberculosis on 20 December 1765, the eleven-year-old Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin. His mother, who had never recovered from the loss of her husband, died on 13 March 1767, also from tuberculosis.[2] The strict and conservative education he received from the Duc de La Vauguyon, "gouverneur des Enfants de France" (governor of the Children of France), from 1760 until his marriage in 1770, did not prepare him for the throne that he was to inherit in 1774 after the death of his grandfather, Louis XV. Throughout Louis's education he received a mixture of studies particular to religion, morality, and humanities.[3]

Family Life '

On 16 May 1770, at the age of fifteen, Louis-Auguste married the fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia (better known by the French form of her name, Marie Antoinette), his second cousin once removed and the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife, the formidable Empress Maria Theresa.

This marriage was met with some hostility by the French public. France's alliance with Austria had pulled France into the disastrous Seven Years' War, in which France was defeated by the British, both in Europe and in North America. By the time that Louis-Auguste and Marie-Antoinette were married, the people of France generally regarded the Austrian alliance with dislike, and Marie-Antoinette was seen as an unwelcome foreigner.[5] For the young couple, the marriage was initially amiable but distant – Louis-Auguste's shyness meant that he failed to consummate the union, much to his wife's distress, while his fear of being manipulated by her for Imperial purposes caused him to behave coldly towards her in public.[6] Over time, the couple became closer, though while their marriage was reportedly consummated in July 1773, it was not in fact really so until 1777.[7]

Nevertheless, the royal couple failed to produce any children for several years after this, placing a strain upon their marriage,[8] whilst the situation was worsened by the publication of obscene pamphlets (libelles) which mocked the infertility of the pair.

In the long run, and in spite of all their earlier difficulty, the Royal couple became the parents of four children:

§  Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851)

§  Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François, the Dauphin (22 October 1781 – 4 June 1789)

§  King Louis XVII of France (27 March 1785 – 18 October 1873)

§  Sophie-Hélène-Béatrix, who died in infancy (9 July 1786 – 19 June 1787)

Reign '

When Louis XVI succeeded to the throne in 1774, he was 19 years old. He had an enormous responsibility, as the government was deeply in debt, and resentment to 'despotic' monarchy was on the rise. Louis also felt woefully unqualified for the job. 

As King, Louis focused primarily on religious uniformity and foreign policy. His concentration on religious uniformity, and pressure from the heavilyJansenist Parlement, ultimately resulted in his decision to expel Jesuits from France.[19] He aimed to earn the love of his people by reinstating theparlements. While none doubted Louis's intellectual ability to rule France, it was quite clear that, although raised as the Dauphin since 1765, he lacked firmness and decisiveness. Louis's desire to be loved by his people is evident in the prefaces of many of his edicts that would often explain the nature and good intention of his actions as benefiting the people. When questioned about his decision to recall Parlement Louis made a comment that, "It may be considered politically unwise, but it seems to me to be the general wish and I want to be loved."[20] In spite of his indecisiveness, Louis was determined to be a good king, stating that he "must always consult public opinion; it is never wrong."[21] 

As power drifted from him, there were increasingly loud calls for him to convoke the Estates-General, which had not met since 1614, at the beginning of the reign of Louis XIII. As a last-ditch attempt to get new monetary reforms approved, Louis XVI convoked the Estates-General on 8 August 1788, setting the date of their opening at 1 May 1789. With the convocation of the Estates-General, as in many other instances during his reign, Louis placed his reputation and public image in the hands of those who were perhaps not as sensitive to the desires of the French public as he was. Because it had been so long since the Estates-General had been convened, there was some debate as to which procedures should be followed. Ultimately, the parlement de Paris agreed that "all traditional observances should be carefully maintained to avoid the impression that the Estates-General could make things up as it went along." Under this decision, the King agreed to retain many of the divisionary customs which had been the norm in 1614, but which were intolerable to a Third Estate buoyed by the recent proclamations of equality. For example, the First and Second Estates proceeded into the assembly wearing their finest garments, while the Third Estate was required to wear plain, oppressively somber black, an act of alienation that Louis would likely have not condoned. He seemed to regard the deputies of the Estates-General with at least respect: in a wave of self-important patriotism, members of the Estates refused to remove their hats in the King's presence, so Louis removed his to them.[25]

This convocation was one of the events that transformed the general economic and political malaise of the country into the French Revolution, which began in June 1789, when the Third Estateunilaterally declared itself the National Assembly. Louis's attempts to control it resulted in the Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume), on 20 June, and the declaration of the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July. Within three short months, the majority of the king's executive authority had been transferred to the elected representatives of the people's nation. The storming of the Bastille on 14 July served to reinforce and emphasize this radical change in the mind of the masses.

Civil War'

In the days and weeks that followed, many of the most conservative, reactionary royalists, including the comte d'Artois and the duchesse de Polignac, fled France for fear of assassination. Marie Antoinette, whose life was the most in danger, stayed behind in order to help the king promote stability, even as his power was gradually being taken away by the National Constituent Assembly, which was now ruling Paris and conscripting men to serve in the Garde Nationale.[102]

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (La Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen) was adopted, which officially created the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in France.[103] Despite this, the king was still required to perform certain court ceremonies, even as the situation in Paris became worse due to a bread shortage in September. On 5 October, a mob from Paris descended upon Versailles and forced the royal family, along with the comte de Provence, his wife and Madame Elisabeth, to flee. During the early hours of 6 October, King Louis XVI his wife and children decided they would flee Versailles and escaped the mob out of a side gate. The couple left at 3:00 in the morning leaving the side gate open, as a result the mob found the gate and started going through the private gardens and the palace. At around 5 or 6 o'clock that morning the mob soon understood they were gone and left back to Paris. [104] Marie Antoinette and her children drove in one carriage and Louis was taken into another while roughly 20 other carriages carried 120 armed guards. It was not until the next morning that they arrived at the city of Metz. During this time no one not even the nobility knew the whereabouts of the royal family, and many people thought the mob literally killed the couple. The couple were not excepted into the fortress by the guard and the 120 armed guards convinced the guards at the fortress of Metz to open the gate. The guard's of Metz however, absolutely hated the royal family and would turn on them any chance they could; however, there was only 50-60 guards that worked at Metz. 

On 7 October news spread that the royals were at Metz. A large militia started marching from Paris to Metz but marched very slowly. That day the king fired all of the guards working at Metz, which made most of the guards loyal to the crown uneasy, and some willing to be anti-loyalist. 

King Louis XVI gave the orders on 6 August 1790 to invade Paris. Two days later, Maximilien Robespierre became the Governor of the State of the Republic of France, and was elected by members of the National Third Estate Assembly. The National Third Estate also agreed on the term limit of the office of Governor to a limit of five years and the Governor was given no right to declare a re-election unless no other candidate was willing to challenge him. The Governor also could resign but was only allowed to resign on the first week of August of any year in their term. 

The invasion occurred on 14 August 1790 just days after the Governor of the State of Republic-France was declared to be Robespierre. Paris was evacuated two days before the invasion to avoid large lose of life. The Siege of Paris went on for seven months. Governor Robespierre, who managed headquarters at the city of Rouen, was given no other opition but to surrendor Paris in March of 1791. This was a huge blow to the revolution and caused many to grow angry at their Governor. Despite all of the preparation that was involved, it was no use and the lose of Paris tarnished the Governor's reputation for the rest of his life. 

The invasion of Rouen happened on 16 January 1792, almost a year after King Louis XVI took Paris back. By now the family moved into the Tullieries Palace in Paris. Versailles was, oddly, still under rebel control and was not safe for them to go back. The Siege of Rouen lasted a little less than the Siege of Paris. The main issue with the Siege was the fact that the Governor along with government officals were still in the city along with some citizens who refused to leave their homes. King Louis surrendored and retreated back to Paris with his troops failing to capture of Governor. 

A Siege of Versailles was conducted and started in early May of 1793 when Marie Antoinette decided she wanted to feel safe again and could only feel safe at Versailles. They negotiated a deal that they could have the palace while the rebels could still have the precious gardens that were now looking dead and dried out due to four years of neglect. 

Three months later the Second Siege of Rouen occurred and this time government officals left along with Governor Robespierre. Robespierre left and fled to the safety of Nantes. After taking Rouen the army of France and the Holy Roman Empire were starting to weaken. 

After a full year of recovering and paying off debt, the Holy Roman Empire went back into the war and on 21 March 1795 Robespierre was captured. He was then taken to Versailles and his trial started in June of that same year. Robespierre was executed on the palace's front yard on 21 June 1795 after a short three day long trial. 

Since no law was set for a replacement Governor in the event that the Governor died during his term, the National Third Estate Assembly abolished the Governmental rule and granted themselves the power. 

Assassination Attempt of 1797 & Death of Spouse '

Marie Antoinette's health started failing shortly after her thirty-seven birthday. Issues occurred when a bulge on her left breast was found in 1795 after the execution of the Governor of the State of Republic-France. Surgery was needed to cure it, although the royal family refused the surgery in fear that it would kill her. It wasn't until a year later that she approved of getting the surgery. The surgery was successful in removing the cancerous tumor forming in her breast, but Marie Antoinette was never the same after the unbareably painful procedure. 

During the Siege of Nantes, the last city of the Republic of France, rebels stormed the palace wanting Marie Antoinette and her husband dead. Marie Antoinette was found in her bed sleeping, when a man stabbed her with a small 3 inch blade that punctured her just below her left rib cage. She managed to escape, however the mob killed Madame Elisabeth, the sister of King Louis. The royal family was then taken to the Tullieries Palace. When they were at the Tullieries Palace they received word that the remaining members of the National Third Estate Assembly were all captured at Nantes. A trial started in July 1797 very close to the Tullieries Palace but the trials lasted until November until they were conducted at Lyon for another nine months. All of the National Third Estate Assembly members were found guilty of all charges against them and executed between 6-12 October, 1798. The State of the Republic-France was declared no longer an independent state on 14 October 1798. 

The assassination attempt happened on 29 September 1797 when the royal family made a balcony appearence. A woman who was not loyal to the crown took a gun and pointed it at Marie Antoinette and her family. Louis, Marie, and their two children named Marie, 18 and Louis-Charles, 12 also were at the balcony. Two shots were fired before guards pinned her down and killed the unidentified woman straight away. The first shot fired missed but the second shot that was fired hit King Louis in the forearm. The bullet was quickly removed and he had a fast recovery. 

In June 1798, while trials on the members of the National Third Estate Assembly were on going, Marie Antoinette complained constantly about a large stabbing sensation in her stomach region most likely from ovarian cysts uterine cancer. She could no longer walk without an increasing amount of pain around February of 1799. 

It was annonced that on 10 of July 1799, Marie Antoinette died in her sleep after long months of a great deal of pain. King Louis along with their children never recovered from her death. She was given a proper funeral and was buried at Versailles. Shortly after her death, King Louis XVI declared Versailles, once again, the offical royal residence because he knew that is what Marie would have wanted. 

Later Years & Death '

In 1802, his daughter Marie Therese married and later in that same year his son Louis-Charles became elgible to marry. 

In the late months of 1802 King Louis XVI tried finding a wife for his son the Dauphin of France. Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom was only two years older than Louis-Charles, and would be a great match with the United Kingdom. However, aftter a long rivalery during the American Revolution, the public protested against the marriage. An offical Ambassoder was sent to King George III's court in 1803 to settle a betrothal with Amelia. He accepted the betrothal but later declined it after seeing how much the public did not want the marriage. 

Marie Ludovica, aged 12 was betrothed to Louis-Charles in August 1804. She was born in Austria, and cemented the further growing alliance with France and Austria. 

Louis-Charles was then married to Marie on 24 April 1807. He was aged 22 while she was just 16 years old. The marriage proceeded normally but the marriage was strictly political with the couple hardly ever being romantic with one another. 

During a trip to Paris, King Louis fell ill and abruptly departed for Versailles, most likely from stomach ulcers. In June 1812 America declared war on Britain and both Britain and America asked for France's help at the exact same time making the king stressed out about what he should do. King Louis XVI knew he was not going to live much longer and made a Law of Succession Bill to make sure there was no doubt his son would rule after him. 

France managed to stay neutral in the War of 1812, until Louis' death on 23 December 1812 from a mix of depression, stomach ulcers, and possibly (although unlikely) stomach cancer.

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