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Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution
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Famous Faces

His Royal Hesitancy: Louis XVI

His Royal Hesitancy: Louis XVI Louis XVI was born Louis-Auguste at Versailles on August 23, 1754. Following the death of his grandfather Louis XV, he ruled as King of France. 

Although introverted and apparently not very interested either in governing or his wife Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI enjoyed a political honeymoon due to public disaffection with the oversexed Louis XV in the final years of long reign.

However, the twenty-year-old king inherited a government deeply in debt, and a society in which entrenched privilege made it difficult if not impossible to effect the social, economic, and political reforms that were necessary both to solve the monarchy's financial problems and to keep up with a rapidly changing society and economy.  In 1789 he convened the Estates-General for the the first time in almost 200 years to address these problems. 

But when the representatives of France's traditional three estates (the clergy, the nobility, and everybody else) gathered in Versailles that spring, they proved unwilling or unable to agree even upon how the deliberations should take place and votes should be counted.  Out of the ruins of the Estates General the representatives of theThird Estate claimed power as the National Assembly,  forced the King to order the other representatives to join them, and the French Revolution had begun.

Louis XVI reluctantly agreed to much of the revolutionaries' agenda, hoping in this way to retain his throne in a constitutional monarchy, not unlike that of England across the Channel.  But  over  time the Revolution became more militant and the King, urged on by the Queen and  her  family in Austria, less  accommodating.  Eventually the King, who was known formally simply as "France," was at odds with that other France, the citizens and their representatives.  Once France was declared a republic in 1792, "France" had lost all claims to represent the people whose will he had embodied for the previous 18 years.

Along with the rest of the royal family, Louis XVI was forced to leave Versailles in October 1789, under escort of a crowd of Parisian women and men who led them in triumph to the Tuileries Palace in the heart of Paris.  After a failed escape attempt to Austria in June 1791, the royal family was returned to Tuileries and placed under house arrest.  In August 1792, the King was suspended, and the following month, the monarchy itself was abolished when France was declared a republic. Found guilty of treason by the National Convention, he was executed on January 21, 1793.

Famous Faces

Rumors and RevolutionThe Teen Queen: Marie AntoinetteHis Royal Hesitancy: Louis XVIThe Iron Fist: Maria TheresaSwede on the Side: Axel von FersenThe Queen's Crony: Princesse de LamballeMonsieur Moneybags: Jacques NeckerPass the Buck Chuck: Charles-Alexandre de CalonneMad Max: Maximilien RobespierreThe Warmonger: Jacques Pierre BrissotDear Abbe: Emmanuel Joseph SieyèsCrooked Cardinal: Cardinal de RohanAmerica's Sweetheart: Marquis de Lafayette
Explore Versailles Queen's Chamber

Fall of a Monarchy
Explore the events leading to King Louis XVI's downfall.

The King's Chambers
Explore the King's Apartments in Versailles.

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