|Birth Day:||August 23, 1754|
|Death Date:||Jan 21, 1793 (age 38)|
|Birth Place:||Versailles, France|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
As per our current Database, Louis XVI died on Jan 21, 1793 (age 38).
He became the French Dauphin at age eleven, upon the death of his father from tuberculosis. He became King of France when he was just twenty years old and was ill-prepared for the position.
Louis-Auguste was overlooked by his parents who favored his older brother, Louis, duc de Bourgogne, who was regarded as bright and handsome but who died at the age of nine in 1761. Louis-Auguste, a strong and healthy boy but very shy, 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 play with his younger brothers, Louis-Stanislas, comte de Provence, and Charles-Philippe, comte d'Artois. From an early age, Louis-Auguste was encouraged in another of his interests, locksmithing, which was seen as a useful pursuit for a child.
When his father died of tuberculosis on 20 December 1765, the eleven-year-old Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin. His mother never recovered from the loss of her husband and died on 13 March 1767, also from tuberculosis. 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 his education, Louis-Auguste received a mixture of studies particular to religion, morality, and humanities. His instructors may have also had a good hand in shaping Louis-Auguste into the indecisive king that he became. Abbé Berthier, his instructor, taught him that timidity was a value in strong monarchs, and Abbé Soldini, his confessor, instructed him not to let people read his mind.
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 Empress Maria Theresa.
The reasons for the couple's initial failure to have children were debated at that time, and they have continued to be debated since. One suggestion is that Louis-Auguste suffered from a physiological dysfunction, most often thought to be phimosis, a suggestion first made in late 1772 by the royal doctors. Historians adhering to this view suggest that he was circumcised (a common treatment for phimosis) to relieve the condition seven years after their marriage. Louis's doctors were not in favour of the surgery – the operation was delicate and traumatic, and capable of doing "as much harm as good" to an adult male. The argument for phimosis and a resulting operation is mostly seen to originate from Stefan Zweig's 1932 biography of Marie Antoinette.
This marriage was met with hostility from the French public. France's alliance with Austria had pulled the country into the disastrous Seven Years' War, in which it was defeated by the British and the Prussians, both in Europe and in North America. By the time that Louis-Auguste and Marie-Antoinette were married, the French people generally disliked the Austrian alliance, and Marie-Antoinette was seen as an unwelcome foreigner. For the young couple, the marriage was initially amiable but distant. Louis-Auguste's shyness and, among other factors, the young age and inexperience of the newlyweds (who were near total strangers to each other: they had met only two days before their wedding) meant that the 15-year-old bridegroom failed to consummate the union with his 14-year-old bride. His fear of being manipulated by her for imperial purposes caused him to behave coldly towards her in public. Over time, the couple became closer, though while their marriage was reportedly consummated in July 1773, it did not actually happen until 1777.
When Louis XVI acceded to the throne in 1774, he was nineteen years old. He had an enormous responsibility, as the government was deeply in debt, and resentment of despotic monarchy was on the rise. He himself felt woefully unqualified to resolve the situation.
In addition to his biological children, Louis XVI also adopted six children: "Armand" Francois-Michel Gagné (c. 1771-1792), a poor orphan adopted in 1776; Jean Amilcar (c. 1781-1793), a Senegalese slave boy given to the queen as a present by Chevalier de Boufflers in 1787, but whom she instead had freed, baptized, adopted and placed in a pension; Ernestine Lambriquet (1778-1813), daughter of two servants at the palace, who was raised as the playmate of his daughter and whom he adopted after the death of her mother in 1788; and finally "Zoe" Jeanne Louise Victoire (born in 1787), who was adopted in 1790 along with her two older sisters when her parents, an usher and his wife in service of the king, had died.
Radical financial reforms by Turgot and Malesherbes angered the nobles and were blocked by the parlements who insisted that the King did not have the legal right to levy new taxes. So, in 1776, Turgot was dismissed and Malesherbes resigned, to be replaced by Jacques Necker. Necker supported the American Revolution, and he carried out a policy of taking out large international loans instead of raising taxes. He attempted to gain public favor in 1781 by publishing of the first ever accounting of the French Crown's expenses and accounts, the Compte-rendu au Roi. This misleading publication led the people of France to believe the kingdom ran a modest surplus. When this policy of hiding and ignoring the kingdom's financial woes failed miserably, Louis dismissed and replaced him in 1783 with Charles Alexandre de Calonne, who increased public spending to "buy" the country's way out of debt. Again this failed, so Louis convoked the Assembly of Notables in 1787 to discuss a revolutionary new fiscal reform proposed by Calonne. When the nobles were informed of the true extent of the debt, they were shocked and rejected the plan.
Most modern historians agree that Louis had no surgery – for instance, as late as 1777, the Prussian envoy, Baron Goltz, reported that the King of France had definitely declined the operation. Louis was frequently declared to be perfectly capable of sexual intercourse, as confirmed by Joseph II, and during the time he was supposed to have had the operation, he went out hunting almost every day, according to his journal. This would not have been possible if he had undergone a circumcision; at the very least, he would have been unable to ride to the hunt for a few weeks afterwards. The couple's sexual problems are now attributed to other factors. Antonia Fraser's biography of the queen discusses Joseph II's letter on the matter to one of his brothers after he visited Versailles in 1777. In the letter, Joseph describes in astonishingly frank detail Louis's inadequate performance in the marriage bed and Antoinette's lack of interest in conjugal activity. Joseph described the couple as "complete fumblers"; however, with his advice, Louis began to apply himself more effectively to his marital duties, and in the third week of March 1778 Marie Antoinette became pregnant.
In the spring of 1776, Vergennes, the Foreign Secretary, saw an opportunity to humiliate France's long-standing enemy, Great Britain, and to recover territory lost during the Seven Years' War, by supporting the American Revolution. In the same year Louis was persuaded by Pierre Beaumarchais to send supplies, ammunition, and guns to the rebels secretly. Early in 1778 he signed a formal Treaty of Alliance, and later that year France went to war with Britain. In deciding in favor of war, despite France's large financial problems, the King was materially influenced by alarmist reports after the Battle of Saratoga, which suggested that Britain was preparing to make huge concessions to the thirteen colonies and then, allied with them, to strike at French and Spanish possessions in the West Indies. Spain and the Netherlands soon joined the French in an anti-British coalition. After 1778, Great Britain switched its focus to the West Indies, as defending the sugar islands was considered more important than trying to recover the thirteen colonies. France and Spain planned to invade the British Isles themselves with the Armada of 1779, but the operation never went ahead.
This intervention in America was not possible without France adopting a neutral position in European affairs to avoid being drawn into a continental war which would be simply a repetition of the French policy mistakes in the Seven Years' War. Vergennes, supported by King Louis, refused to go to War to support Austria in the Bavarian Succession crisis in 1778, when Austrian Holy Roman Emperor Joseph tried to control parts of Bavaria. Vergennes and Maurepas refused to support the Austrian position, but the intervention of Marie Antoinette in favor of Austria obliged France to adopt a position more favorable to Austria, which in the treaty of Teschen was able to get in compensation a territory whose population numbered around 100,000 persons. However, this intervention was a disaster for the image of the Queen, who was named "l'Autrichienne" (a pun in French meaning "Austrian", but the "chienne" suffix can mean "bitch") on account of it.
Eventually, the royal couple became the parents of four children. According to Madame Campan, Marie Antoinette's lady-in-waiting, the queen also suffered two miscarriages. The first one, in 1779, a few months after the birth of her first child, is mentioned in a letter to her daughter, written in July by empress Maria Theresa. Madame Campan states that Louis spent an entire morning consoling his wife at her bedside, and swore to secrecy everyone who knew of the occurrence. Marie Antoinette suffered a second miscarriage on the night of 2–3 November 1783.
France's initial military assistance to the American rebels was a disappointment, with defeats at Rhode Island and Savannah. In 1780, France sent Rochambeau and Grasse to help the Americans, along with large land and naval forces. The French expeditionary force arrived in North America in July 1780. The appearance of French fleets in the Caribbean was followed by the capture of a number of the sugar islands, including Tobago and Grenada. In October 1781, the French naval blockade was instrumental in forcing a British army under Cornwallis to surrender at the Siege of Yorktown. When news of this reached London in March 1782, the government of Lord North fell and Great Britain immediately sued for peace terms; however, France delayed the end of the war until September 1783 in the hope of overrunning more British colonies in India and the West Indies.
As king, Louis XVI focused primarily on religious freedom and foreign policy. While none doubted his intellectual ability to rule France, it was quite clear that, although raised as the Dauphin since 1765, he lacked firmness and decisiveness. His 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, such as reinstating the parlements. When questioned about his decision, he said, "It may be considered politically unwise, but it seems to me to be the general wish and I want to be loved." In spite of his indecisiveness, Louis XVI was determined to be a good king, stating that he "must always consult public opinion; it is never wrong." He, therefore, appointed an experienced advisor, Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, Comte de Maurepas who, until his death in 1781, would take charge of many important ministerial functions.
Great Britain recognized the independence of the thirteen colonies as the United States of America, and the French war ministry rebuilt its army. However, the British defeated the main French fleet in 1782 and successfully defended Jamaica and Gibraltar. France gained little from the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the war, except the colonies of Tobago and Senegal. Louis XVI was wholly disappointed in his aims of recovering Canada, India, and other islands in the West Indies from Britain, as they were too well defended and the Royal Navy made any attempted invasion of mainland Britain impossible. The war cost 1,066 million livres, financed by new loans at high interest (with no new taxes). Necker concealed the crisis from the public by explaining only that ordinary revenues exceeded ordinary expenses, and not mentioning the loans. After he was forced from office in 1781, new taxes were levied.
Louis XVI hoped to use the American Revolutionary War as an opportunity to expel the British from India. In 1782, he sealed an alliance with the Peshwa Madhu Rao Narayan. As a consequence, Bussy moved his troops to the Isle de France (now Mauritius) and later contributed to the French effort in India in 1783. Suffren became the ally of Hyder Ali in the Second Anglo-Mysore War against British rule in India, in 1782–1783, fighting the British fleet along the coasts of India and Ceylon.
Louis XVI also encouraged major voyages of exploration. In 1785, he appointed La Pérouse to lead a sailing expedition around the world. (La Pérouse and his fleet disappeared after leaving Botany Bay in March 1788. Louis is recorded as having asked, on the morning of his execution, "Any news of La Pérouse?".)
Among the major events of Louis XVI's reign was his signing of the Edict of Versailles, also known as the Edict of Tolerance, on 7 November 1787, which was registered in the parlement on 29 January 1788. Granting non-Roman Catholics – Huguenots and Lutherans, as well as Jews – civil and legal status in France and the legal right to practice their faiths, this edict effectively nullified the Edict of Fontainebleau that had been law for 102 years. The Edict of Versailles did not legally proclaim freedom of religion in France – this took two more years, with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789 – however, it was an important step in eliminating religious tensions and it officially ended religious persecution within his realm.
After this, Louis XVI and his new Controller-General des finances, Étienne-Charles de Loménie de Brienne, tried to simply force the Parlement de Paris to register the new laws and fiscal reforms. Upon the refusal of the members of the Parlement, Louis XVI tried to use his absolute power to subjugate them by every means: enforcing in many occasions the registration of his reforms (6 August 1787, 19 November 1787, and 8 May 1788), exiling all Parlement magistrates to Troyes as a punishment on 15 August 1787, prohibiting six members from attending parliamentary sessions on 19 November, arresting two very important members of the Parlement, who opposed his reforms, on 6 May 1788, and even dissolving and depriving of all power the "Parlement," replacing it with a plenary court, on 8 May 1788. The failure of these measures and displays of royal power is attributable to three decisive factors. First, the majority of the population stood in favor of the Parlement against the King, and thus continuously rebelled against him. Second, the royal treasury was financially destitute to a crippling degree, leaving it incapable of sustaining its own imposed reforms. Third, although the King enjoyed as much absolute power as his predecessors, he lacked the personal authority crucial for absolutism to function properly. Now unpopular to both the commoners and the aristocracy, Louis XVI was therefore only very briefly able to impose his decisions and reforms, for periods ranging from 2 to 4 months, before having to revoke them.
As authority dissipated from him and reforms were clearly becoming unavoidable, 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 on 1 May 1789. With the convocation of the Estates-General, as in many other instances during his reign, Louis XVI placed his reputation and public image in the hands of those who were perhaps not as sensitive to the desires of the French population 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 traditions which had been the norm in 1614 and prior convocations of the Estates-General, but which were intolerable to a Third Estate buoyed by 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 XVI would likely have not condoned. He seemed to regard the deputies of the Estates-General with 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.
This convocation was one of the events that transformed the general economic and political malaise of the country into the French Revolution. In June 1789, the Third Estate unilaterally declared itself the National Assembly. Louis XVI's attempts to control it resulted in the Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume), on 20 June, the declaration of the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and eventually to the storming of the Bastille on 14 July, which started the French Revolution. Within three short months, the majority of the king's executive authority had been transferred to the elected representatives of the Nation.
Louis XVI's time in his previous palace came to an end on 5 October 1789, when an angry mob of Parisian working men and women was incited by revolutionaries and marched on the Palace of Versailles, where the royal family lived. At dawn, they infiltrated the palace and attempted to kill the queen, who was associated with a frivolous lifestyle that symbolized much that was despised about the Ancien Régime. After the situation had been defused by Lafayette, head of the Garde nationale, the king and his family were brought by the crowd to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the reasoning being that the king would be more accountable to the people if he lived among them in Paris.
Of these, only Armand, Ernestine and Zoe actually lived with the royal family: Jean Amilcar, along with the elder siblings of Zoe and Armand who were also formally foster children of the royal couple, simply lived on the queen's expense until her imprisonment, which proved fatal for at least Amilcar, as he was evicted from the boarding school when the fee was no longer paid, and reportedly starved to death on the street. Armand and Zoe had a position which was more similar to that of Ernestine: Armand lived at court with the king and queen until he left them at the outbreak of the revolution because of his republican sympathies, and Zoe was chosen to be the playmate of the Dauphin, just as Ernestine had once been selected as the playmate of Marie-Therese, and sent away to her sisters in a convent boarding school before the Flight to Varennes in 1791.
Beginning in 1791, Montmorin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, started to organize covert resistance to the revolutionary forces. Thus, the funds of the Liste Civile, voted annually by the National Assembly, were partially assigned to secret expenses in order to preserve the monarchy. Arnault Laporte, who was in charge of the Civil list, collaborated with both Montmorin and Mirabeau. After the sudden death of Mirabeau, Maximilien Radix de Sainte-Foix, a noted financier, took his place. In effect, he headed a secret council of advisers to Louis XVI, which tried to preserve the monarchy; these schemes proved unsuccessful, and were exposed later when the armoire de fer was discovered. Regarding the financial difficulties facing France, the Assembly created the Comité des Finances, and while Louis XVI attempted to declare his concern and interest in remedying the economic situations, inclusively offering to melt crown silver as a dramatic measure, it appeared to the public that the king did not understand that such statements no longer held the same meaning as they did before and that doing such a thing could not restore the economy of a country.
On 21 June 1791, Louis XVI attempted to flee secretly with his family from Paris to the royalist fortress town of Montmédy on the northeastern border of France, where he would join the émigrés and be protected by Austria. The voyage was planned by the Swedish nobleman, and often assumed secret lover of Queen Marie-Antoinette, Axel von Fersen.
In the end, the Legislative Assembly, supported by Louis XVI, declared war on Austria ("the King of Bohemia and Hungary") first, voting for war on 20 April 1792, after a long list of grievances was presented to it by the foreign minister, Charles François Dumouriez. Dumouriez prepared an immediate invasion of the Austrian Netherlands, where he expected the local population to rise against Austrian rule. However, the Revolution had thoroughly disorganised the army, and the forces raised were insufficient for the invasion. The soldiers fled at the first sign of battle and, in one case, on 28 April 1792, murdered their general, Irish-born comte Théobald de Dillon, whom they accused of treason.
Louis was officially arrested on 13 August 1792 and sent to the Temple, an ancient fortress in Paris that was used as a prison. On 21 September, the National Assembly declared France to be a Republic, and abolished the monarchy. Louis was stripped of all of his titles and honors, and from this date was known as Citoyen Louis Capet.
Two events led up to the trial for Louis XVI. First, after the Battle of Valmy on 22 September 1792, General Dumouriez negotiated with the Prussians who evacuated France. Louis could no longer be considered a hostage or as leverage in negotiations with the invading forces. Second, in November 1792, the armoire de fer (iron chest) incident took place at the Tuileries Palace, when the existence of the hidden safe in the king's bedroom containing compromising documents and correspondence, was revealed by François Gamain, the Versailles locksmith who had installed it. Gaiman went to Paris on 20 November and told Jean-Marie Roland, Girondinist Minister of the Interior, who ordered it opened. The resulting scandal served to discredit the king. Following these two events the Girondins could no longer keep the king from trial.
The 19th-century historian Jules Michelet attributed the restoration of the French monarchy to the sympathy that had been engendered by the execution of Louis XVI. Michelet's Histoire de la Révolution Française and Alphonse de Lamartine's Histoire des Girondins, in particular, showed the marks of the feelings aroused by the revolution's regicide. The two writers did not share the same sociopolitical vision, but they agreed that, even though the monarchy was rightly ended in 1792, the lives of the royal family should have been spared. Lack of compassion at that moment contributed to a radicalization of revolutionary violence and to greater divisiveness among Frenchmen. For the 20th century novelist Albert Camus the execution signaled the end of the role of God in history, for which he mourned. For the 20th century philosopher Jean-François Lyotard the regicide was the starting point of all French thought, the memory of which acts as a reminder that French modernity began under the sign of a crime.
On 15 January 1793, the convention, composed of 721 deputies, voted on the verdict. Given the overwhelming evidence of Louis's collusion with the invaders, the verdict was a foregone conclusion – with 693 deputies voting guilty, none for acquittal, with 23 abstaining. The next day, a roll-call vote was carried out to decide upon the fate of the former king, and the result was uncomfortably close for such a dramatic decision. 288 of the deputies voted against death and for some other alternative, mainly some means of imprisonment or exile. 72 of the deputies voted for the death penalty, but subject to several delaying conditions and reservations. The voting took a total of 36 hours. 361 of the deputies voted for Louis's immediate execution. Louis was condemned to death by a majority of one vote. Philippe Égalité, formerly the Duke of Orléans and Louis's cousin, voted for Louis's execution, a cause of much future bitterness among French monarchists; he would himself be guillotined on the same scaffold, Place de la Révolution, before the end of the same year, on 6 November 1793.
Louis's daughter, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the future Duchess of Angoulême, survived the French Revolution, and she lobbied in Rome energetically for the canonization of her father as a saint of the Catholic Church. Despite his signing of the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy", Louis had been described as a martyr by Pope Pius VI in 1793. In 1820, however, a memorandum of the Congregation of Rites in Rome, declaring the impossibility of proving that Louis had been executed for religious rather than political reasons, put an end to hopes of canonization.
Immediately after his execution, Louis XVI's corpse was transported in a cart to the nearby Madeleine cemetery, located rue d'Anjou, where those guillotined at the Place de la Révolution were buried in mass graves. Before his burial, a short religious service was held in the Madeleine church (destroyed in 1799) by two priests who had sworn allegiance to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Afterward, Louis XVI, his severed head placed between his feet, was buried in an unmarked grave, with quicklime spread over his body. The Madeleine cemetery was closed in 1794. In 1815 Louis XVIII had the remains of his brother Louis XVI and of his sister-in-law, Marie-Antoinette transferred and buried in the Basilica of St Denis, the Royal necropolis of the Kings and Queens of France. Between 1816 and 1826, a commemorative monument, the Chapelle expiatoire, was erected at the location of the former cemetery and church.
Louis XVI has been the subject of novels as well, including two of the alternate histories anthologized in If It Had Happened Otherwise (1931): "If Drouet's Cart Had Stuck" by Hilaire Belloc and "If Louis XVI Had Had an Atom of Firmness" by André Maurois, which tell very different stories but both imagine Louis surviving and still reigning in the early 19th century. Louis appears in the children's book Ben and Me by Robert Lawson but does not appear in the 1953 animated short film based on the same book.
King Louis XVI has been portrayed in numerous films. In Captain of the Guard (1930), he is played by Stuart Holmes. In Marie Antoinette (1938), he was played by Robert Morley. Jean-François Balmer portrayed him in the 1989 two-part miniseries La Révolution française. More recently, he was depicted in the 2006 film Marie Antoinette by Jason Schwartzman. In Sacha Guitry's Si Versailles m'était conté, Louis was portrayed by one of the film's producers, Gilbert Bokanowski, using the alias Gilbert Boka. Several portrayals have upheld the image of a bumbling, almost foolish king, such as that by Jacques Morel in the 1956 French film Marie-Antoinette reine de France and that by Terence Budd in the Lady Oscar live action film. In Start the Revolution Without Me, Louis XVI is portrayed by Hugh Griffith as a laughable cuckold. Mel Brooks played a comic version of Louis XVI in The History of the World Part 1, portraying him as a libertine who has such distaste for the peasantry he uses them as targets in skeet shooting. In the 1996 film Ridicule; Urbain Cancelier plays Louis.
While Louis's blood dripped to the ground, several onlookers ran forward to dip their handkerchiefs in it. This account was proven true in 2012 after a DNA comparison linked blood thought to be from Louis XVI's beheading to DNA taken from tissue samples originating from what was long thought to be the mummified head of his ancestor, Henry IV of France. The blood sample was taken from a squash gourd carved to commemorate the heroes of the French Revolution that had, according to legend, been used to house one of the handkerchiefs dipped in Louis's blood.
Louis was the grandson of King Louis XV of France, and he married his cousin, Marie Antoinette (the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor and Empress). Louis and Marie Antoinette became parents to two daughters and two sons between 1778 and 1786.
|#3||Marie Thérèse of France||Daughter||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#4||Sophie of France||Daughter||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#5||Louis, Dauphin of France||Father||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#6||Louis XV||Grandfather||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||64||King|
|#8||Maria Josepha of Saxony, Dauphine of France||Mother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#9||Élisabeth of France||Sister||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#10||Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France||Son||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#12||Marie Antoinette||Spouse||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||37||Queen|
|#13||Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Currently, Louis XVI is 267 years, 1 months and 26 days old. Louis XVI will celebrate 268th birthday on a Tuesday 23rd of August 2022. Below we countdown to Louis XVI upcoming birthday.