French Revolution: King Louis XVI of France

Louis Auguste de France, was born on the 23rd August 1754 at the Palace of Versailles, to parents, Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie – Josephe of Saxony, daughter of Frederick Augustus II and King of Poland.

Louis life was to fall apart, as his older brother and heir apparent, Louis duc de Bourgogne, died in 1761.  This was followed up on the 20th December 1765, with the death of his father, and his mother on the 13th March 1767.

In May 1770 Louis Auguste de France, took the fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette) as his bride, in an arranged marriage.  She being the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Teresa.

The couple were blessed with four children; Marie-Therese, Louis-Joseph, Louis-Charles and Sophie Beatrix, of which only Marie-Therese lived beyond childhood.

On the 10th May 1774, Louis Auguste became Louis XVI of France, with the death of his grandfather; Louis XV.

Louis was never expected to be king of France, he lacked self confidence and strength of character to rule a country.

When Louis came to the throne, the royal coffers were empty, the country was in debt, and his citizens showed little respect towards the monarchy.

In the early part of his reign, he supported American colonies desire for Independence, against France’s enemy; Great Britain.  Of course was has to be paid for, which meant taking out international loans.  As much as he was advised by his finance minister’s to raise or impose taxes upon his citizens, it was never passed.  Nobility and his Queen had forced him to dismiss such an idea.

By June of 1789, the Third Estate declared itself as the National Assembly, and aligned itself with the Bourgeoisie, and proposed to set out a new constitution.

Louis XVI resisted such changes, declaring the Assembly was void, and called out the army to restore order.  Public dissension grew, and a national guard was created to resist the use of the army against its people.

In July of 1789, Louis XVI had no choice, and had to acknowledge the National Assembly’s authority.

On the 14th July 1789, riots broke out across Paris, and the Bastille Prison was attacked in a show of defiance, towards the King.

Louis believed the Revolution would burn itself out.  Publicly he stood up, promising reforms he had no intention in keeping, and accepting his post as the constitutional monarch.  He resisted changes, on bad advice from hard line nobles and his Queen; Marie Antoinette.

On the 6th October 1789, Louis and his family were removed by force from Versailles Palace to Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Louis and his family attempted to escape from Paris for the eastern frontier in the June of 1791, under the cover of darkness, but the alarm was raised.  They were captured at Varennes and brought back to Paris as prisoners.

War broke out with Austria in the April of 1792, and Louis hoped for defeat, paving the way for the restoration of his authority.

Suspicions of treason, against France led to the suspension of the King’s powers, and on the 21st September 1792, Louis and his family were charged with treason.

King Louis XVI was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy with foreign powers in the January of 1793.  He was found guilty by the National Assembly and sentenced to death.

On the 21st January 1793, King Louis XVI walked to the guillotine, and was executed in the Palace de la Revolution in Paris.

On the 13th July 1793, Louis-Charles was taken from his mother, and imprisoned, where he is believed to have died.

Some nine months later, Queen Marie Antoinette was convicted of treason by a tribunal, and executed by guillotine on the 16th October 1793.

Marie-Therese was released from prison in December of 1795, into the custody of her mother’s family in Austria.

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