Guide XVI

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Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May , he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September , when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September The first part of his reign was marked by attempts to reform the French government in accordance with Enlightenment ideas. Louis implemented deregulation of the grain market, advocated by his economic liberal minister Turgot , but it resulted in an increase in bread prices.

In periods of bad harvests, it would lead to food scarcity which would prompt the masses to revolt. This led to the convening of the Estates-General of Discontent among the members of France's middle and lower classes resulted in strengthened opposition to the French aristocracy and to the absolute monarchy , of which Louis and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette , were viewed as representatives. Increasing tensions and violence were marked by events such as the storming of the Bastille , during which riots in Paris forced Louis to definitively recognize the legislative authority of the National Assembly.

Louis XVI was initiated [ when? His disastrous flight to Varennes in June , four months before the constitutional monarchy was declared, seemed to justify the rumors that the king tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign intervention.

Louis XVI of France

The credibility of the king was deeply undermined, and the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever-increasing possibility. In a context of civil and international war , Louis XVI was suspended and arrested at the time of the Insurrection of 10 August ; one month later, the absolute monarchy was abolished; the First French Republic was proclaimed on 21 September He was tried by the National Convention self-instituted as a tribunal for the occasion , found guilty of high treason , and executed by guillotine on 21 January , as a desacralized French citizen under the name of "Citizen Louis Capet," in reference to Hugh Capet , the founder of the Capetian dynasty — which the revolutionaries interpreted as Louis' surname.

Louis XVI was the only King of France ever to be executed, and his death brought an end to more than a thousand years of continuous French monarchy. Both of his sons died in childhood, before the Bourbon Restoration ; his only child to reach adulthood, Marie Therese , was given over to the Austrians in exchange for French prisoners of war, eventually dying childless in 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 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 , 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 , also from tuberculosis. Throughout his education, Louis-Auguste received a mixture of studies particular to religion, morality, and humanities. 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. 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 year-old bridegroom failed to consummate the union with his year-old bride. His fear of being manipulated by her for imperial purposes caused him to behave coldly towards her in public.

The couple's failure to produce any children for several years placed a strain upon their marriage, [13] exacerbated by the publication of obscene pamphlets libelles mocking their infertility. One questioned, "Can the King do it? Can't the King do it? The reasons for the couple's initial failure to have children were debated at that time, and they have continued to be debated since.

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One suggestion is that Louis-Auguste suffered from a physiological dysfunction, [15] most often thought to be phimosis , a suggestion first made in late by the royal doctors. 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.

Attempt to flee the country

The argument for phimosis and a resulting operation is mostly seen to originate from Stefan Zweig 's biography of Marie Antoinette. Most modern historians agree that Louis had no surgery [18] [19] [20] — for instance, as late as , the Prussian envoy, Baron Goltz, reported that the King of France had definitely declined the operation.

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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 In the letter, Joseph describes in astonishingly frank detail Louis' 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 Marie Antoinette became pregnant.

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 , 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 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.

When Louis XVI acceded to the throne in , 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. 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 , 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. 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 , which was registered in the parlement on 29 January 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 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 — however, it was an important step in eliminating religious tensions and it officially ended religious persecution within his realm. 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 , Turgot was dismissed and Malesherbes resigned, to be replaced by Jacques Necker.

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  7. 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 when he had published the first ever statement of the French Crown's expenses and accounts, the Compte-rendu au Roi. This allowed the people of France to view the king's accounts in modest surplus. Again this failed, so Louis convoked the Assembly of Notables in to discuss a revolutionary new fiscal reform proposed by Calonne.

    When the nobles were informed of the extent of the debt, they were shocked into rejecting the plan. Upon the denial 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 , 19 November , and 8 May , exiling all Parlement magistrates to Troyes as a punishment on 15 August , 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 , and even dissolving and depriving of all power the "Parlement," replacing it with a plenary court, on 8 May 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.

    Louis XVI | Biography, Reign, Execution, & Facts |

    Second, the royal treasury suffered crippling financial destitution, in which it was 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. Having become unpopular to both the commoners and the aristocracy, Louis XVI was, therefore, able to impose his decisions and reforms only for very short periods of time, ranging from 2 to 4 months, before revoking them.

    As authority drifted from him and reforms were becoming necessary, there were increasingly loud calls for him to convoke the Estates-General , which had not met since , 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 , setting the date of their opening on 1 May 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. 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 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.

    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 led 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. Britain's victories had seen them capture most of France's colonial territories.

    While some were returned to France at the Treaty of Paris , a vast swath of North America was ceded to the British. This had led to a strategy amongst the French leadership of seeking to rebuild the French military in order to fight a war of revenge against Britain, in which it was hoped the lost colonies could be recovered.

    France still maintained a strong influence in the West Indies, and in India maintained five trading posts, leaving opportunities for disputes and power-play with Great Britain.

    Battle of Britain

    In the spring of , 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 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.

    After , 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 , but the operation never went ahead. France's initial military assistance to the American rebels was a disappointment, with defeats at Rhode Island and Savannah. In , 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 The appearance of French fleets in the Caribbean was followed by the capture of a number of the sugar islands, including Tobago and Grenada.

    Great Britain recognised 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 and successfully defended Jamaica and Gibraltar. France gained little from the 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 Britain impossible. 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 , new taxes were levied.

    This intervention in America was not possible without France adopting a neutral position in European affairs in order not to be drawn into a continental war which would be simply a repetition of the French policy mistakes in the Seven Years' War.