Born Louis-Auguste, the young prince was largely neglected by his parents, who openly preferred his older brother. Still, he was a bright young man, and he excelled in his studies as well as physical activities such as hunting. After the untimely passing of his brother, followed shortly by his parents’ deaths, Louis-August became the dauphin of France. At fourteen, he married Maria Antoinette, but the union was not well taken by the French people, who were angered by an alliance with Austria and the disastrous Seven Years’ War that resulted. Marie was seen as an unwelcome foreigner, and even Louis, afraid of his wife’s influence, acted distant toward her until several years into their marriage. After a long period of infertility, Marie gave birth to four children, though none of them would have the opportunity to rule France.
Louis officially became King of France and Navarre in 1774. By this time, the government was deeply in debt, and many resented the idea of a despotic monarchy. Louis determined to refer to public opinion on all his decisions, and he appointed several skilled consultants to assist him in his goal of financial recovery. Unfortunately, their many fiscal reforms and money-making schemes angered the nobility, and one after another, his advisors were dismissed. As the national debt skyrocketed, Louis was at last forced to give up absolute rule and consult the Estates-General in an attempt to save his country. The Estates-General had not convened since 1614, but they quickly moved into the old divisions of First, Second, and Third Estate, made up of the three classes of people, that met to discuss the future of the government. The event quickly led to talk of Revolution and the establishment of a National Assembly by the largely-excluded Third Estate. The storming of the Bastille on July 14 emphasized their determination and reflected the changing opinions of the masses. Later that year, Louis and Marie were brought from Versailles to live among the people at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The king initially retained his popularity but was soon overcome by depression, leaving his wife to reign in his stead. He was given several opportunities to escape and launch a counter-coup, but his indecisive nature ultimately failed him. He finally attempted to escape in 1791 but was unsuccessful, and upon their return the royal family was placed under house arrest. Louis was officially detained in 1792 and imprisoned in the Temple. While the Girondists were content with his arrest, other, more radical leaders, rallied for the king’s death. Accused of high treason and crimes against the State, Louis’s verdict was final: he died beneath the guillotine’s blade in January 1793, the only French king ever to be executed.
|Father died of tuberculosis|
|Mother died of tuberculosis|
|Married Marie Antoinette|
|Became King of France|
|Met with the Estates-General|
|Moved from Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris|
|Attempted to escape but was caught and placed under house arrest|
|Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria|
|Arrested and imprisoned in the Tower|
|Executed by guillotine|
|French Revolution in||France: Peeps at History by John Finnemore|
|Beginning of a Great Reign in||The Story of Old France by H. A. Guerber|
|Fishwives at Versailles in||The Story of France by Mary Macgregor|
|Louis XVI Is Executed in||The Story of France by Mary Macgregor|
|Flight of the King in||Historical Tales: French by Charles Morris|
|Flight to Varennes in||Brave Men and Brave Deeds by M. B. Synge|
The French King, Louis XVI, brought to Paris by the people
in The Hanoverians
This is not the time or place to do as you desire.'
in The Story of France
Frenchmen', he said, 'I die innocent. I pardon my enemies.'
in The Story of France
Drouet comparing the face on the assignat with the face under the round hat.
in Stories of the French Revolution
The Flight to Varennes
in Brave Men and Brave Deeds
The King's last farewell.
in The Little Dauphin
|Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.|
|Radical Doctor who became Leader of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.|
|Key figure of the French Revolution who was eventually lost his head.|
|Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.|
|Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.|