Louis XVI, the last king of the House of Bourbon in France and Navarre, against whom the French Revolution abolished the monarchy and declared the republican system.

He ruled from 1774 until 1792 and was executed a year later.

Birth and upbringing

Louis-Auguste, who was nicknamed Duke of Berry (Central France), was born on August 23, 1754, in Versailles, northern France.

What distinguished his upbringing and formation was that those in charge of him did not prepare him to be a king, especially since his grandfather Louis the 15th was still a king, and his father was heir to the throne (the Crown Prince), and he had two other sons older than Louis Auguste, which meant that it was unlikely Too be a king.

His father's name was also Louis, and he was the presumed heir to the throne after King Louis XV, but he died before him in 1765, and Louis Auguste is the first of his male brothers to live to adulthood.

He was famous for being lively and shy, and weak towards those around him in the court, and he was all the time either preoccupied with hunting or isolated in his library or handicraft.

The mother of Louis 16 is Marie Joseph, hails from the region of Saxony in Germany, and he has 8 brothers (4 daughters and 4 sons), some of them from a second mother, and two of them became kings later, namely Louis 18 and Charles X.

Louis Auguste became the heir to the throne of his grandfather at the age of 11 after the death of his father, despite his being the third son, as his two older brothers died at a young age, and Louis 16 took over after his grandfather Louis 15.

On May 16, 1770, in order to perpetuate the existing alliance between France and Austria, he married the Austrian Archduchess Marie Antoinette, daughter of Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I of Romania, but this marriage met with great opposition in society.

Louis XVI was the father of four children: two daughters and two sons (one of whom later became King Louis XVII), and they are:

  • Maria Theresa Charlotte (born December 19, 1778).

  • Louis Joseph Francis Xavier (born October 22, 1781, later King Louis XVII).

  • Louis Charles (born March 27, 1785).

  • Sophia Elena Beatrice (born July 9, 1786).

Louis XV succeeded by his grandson Louis Auguste (Shutterstock)

Study and scientific training

Louis-Auguste, Duke de la Vogueon (full name Antoine Paul-Jacques de Quillen de Cossade), oversaw the education of Louis-Auguste and was strict with him.

He also studied under monks, most notably the monk Preter and the monk Soldini, and brought up a Christian Catholic education at their hands.

Among the subjects he was most interested in during his studies was history, geography and languages, as he was studying Latin and Italian and was fluent in French and English.

Louis the student also loved engineering, mechanics and astronomy, and was interested in learning a number of handicrafts such as construction, mechanics and locksmithing, which he was adept at.

The young Louis-Auguste also experienced experience in the ranks of the French army, especially in the navy, as he learned and mastered archery.

His royal life and the precursors to the revolution

He assumed the throne of France on May 10, 1774, after the death of his grandfather, Louis XV. He was not yet ready to take over. He was described as neither strong in character nor firm in his decisions, which did not help him in confronting the corrupt inside the court, or even in supporting reformist ministers.

It was narrated from him that on the day that the news of his grandfather’s death and his ascension to the throne spread in the palace, he and his wife were found in their chapel praying to God, saying, “Oh God, help us, for we are too young to judge.”

At the end of 1774, Louis XVI rescinded his grandfather's decision to limit the powers of Parliament, abolished slavery and abolished taxes, including the land tax and labor tax, halted the death penalty for deserters, and ordered the promotion of tolerance for non-Catholic Christians.

These steps were a declaration of enmity with the French nobility, and they actually resisted these reforms and prevented their implementation, and stopped the tendency of Louis 16 to convert the French monarchy into a constitutional monarchy.

In that period, hunger spread among the French people (he called them the third class) due to the scarcity of basic materials such as bread and the high prices of food crops.

Louis XVI agreed to French military support for American settlers in the north for independence from Britain, and this was done in the Treaty of Paris in 1789, but the expenses and large debt that resulted from the support almost bankrupted the country.

In 1789, angry mobs stormed the Bastille prison in the capital, Paris, and the king, under the influence of escalating riots in the street, was forced to recognize the legislative power of the National Assembly (Parliament).

Louis XVI decided to impose more taxes, and a large elite of intellectuals were arrested, but the feudal gentry and the clergy monopolized money and marginalized the common people and their representatives in the National Assembly.

Imaginary scenes from the French Revolution between 1789 and 1799 (social networking sites)

The escape of the nobles

The National Assembly announced its rejection of the King's decision, and prevented the implementation of any decrees he imposed without the Assembly's approval.

During that period, the state of popular discontent with the rule and the nobles increased, and the spark of the revolution was lit to end the feudal system, a request for a just distribution of land ownership and the abolition of the privileges of the nobles.

The political crisis escalated in the country, and demonstrations spread throughout France, and the feudal palaces became the target of the peasant revolutionaries, so most of the nobles fled outside France, fearing for their lives.

The king's attention was distracted by the illness of his eldest son and then his death on June 4, 1789. He was not close to the events taking place around him, and he did not think of the need to communicate with the deputies in the National Assembly to gain their support because he considered it an insult to the dignity of the king.

On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the prison of the Bastille Castle, which was seen as a symbol of royal authority in the country, and took control of the stores of arms and ammunition inside the castle, and they killed the prison governor, Marquis de Bernard, and cut off his head and put him on a spear, and marched with him through the streets of the city.

Then the National Assembly issued the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen", which stipulated the right to freedom, security, equality for all before the law, and equal opportunities, at a time when the king failed in his attempt to establish a constitutional monarchy.

The declaration also stipulated the principle of representative government and popular sovereignty, meaning that sovereignty is for the people and not for the king. The Assembly also worked to abolish feudal privileges, approved the distribution of taxes among the people equally without class discrimination, and nationalized church funds and lands as the property of the people.

In 1791, the National Assembly issued a new constitution, guaranteeing public freedoms, distributing powers equitably, emphasizing the principle of separation of powers, and maintaining the monarchy while defining the powers of King Louis 16.

Less than a year later, chaos broke out in the ranks of the Assembly, and a conflict began between the wing supporting the constitutional monarchy and the wing that rejected the monarchy, and the matter ended with the storming of the royal palace and the arrest of the king and his family, and then the abolition of the monarchy and the proclamation of the republic.

Execution of King Louis XVI on January 21, 1793 [woodcut published 1871] (Getty Images)


In 1792, the republican regime announced the abolition of the monarchy in conjunction with the rise of the revolutionary trend, and Louis XVI was tried and convicted of conspiracy against freedom and public safety, and was sentenced to death.

The sentence was carried out on January 21, 1793 in the Place de la Revolution (present-day Place de la Concorde), and he was buried in Saint-Denis Cathedral, while Marie Antoinette was executed on October 16 of the same year.