Louis XVI

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Louis XVI in coronation regalia. Painting by Antoine-François Callet from 1779.
Ludwig's signature:
Signature of Louis XVI.svg

Louis XVI , French Louis XVI - born Prince Ludwig-August of France, Duke of Berry ; French Prince Louis-Auguste de France, duc de berry - (born August 23, 1754 in Versailles Palace ; † January 21, 1793 in Paris ) from the House of Bourbon became a Dauphin after the death of his father in 1765 and after the death of his grandfather in 1774 King of France and Navarre . He was the last king of the Ancien Régime .

Louis XVI received from his grandfather Louis XV. a difficult legacy. France was on the verge of financial ruin and under the absolutist monarchy the king could not cope with the crisis.

In the course of the French Revolution he was ousted and in 1791 forced to agree to the conversion from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy , as its head, now King of the French , he functioned. He was deposed in 1792, sentenced to death by the revolutionaries in 1793 and guillotined .

Today's view of Louis XVI. is differentiated; Historians see in him an honest person with good intentions, who, however, failed because of the difficulty of reforming the monarchy to the extent necessary and of curtailing the privileges of the upper classes of the nobility and clergy in order to avert the impending national bankruptcy. As a representative of the Ancien Régime, he was held responsible for it by the forces that were becoming more and more radical.



Louis-Auguste as heir to the throne (painted by Louis-Michel van Loo , 1769)

Louis August of France (Louis-Auguste de France) was born on August 23, 1754 in Versailles Palace . He was the fourth of a total of eight surviving descendants of the French Crown Prince ( Dauphin ) Louis Ferdinand de Bourbon and his second wife Maria Josepha of Saxony . The birth of a prince of the blood was a political event that, according to the court ceremony , took place in the presence of numerous dignitaries and representatives. With a Te Deum in the castle chapel and a fireworks display, King Louis XV. the obligatory festivities and gave his grandson the title Duke of Berry (Duc de Berry). Behind his father and older brother Louis-Joseph (* 1751), who enjoyed the special care of his parents due to his position, the newborn took third place in the line of succession .

In the first months of his life, Ludwig suffered from poor health because his wet nurse could not take care of him adequately and on the advice of the doctor Théodore Tronchin he spent a few months in Meudon . Traditionally, up to the age of six the upbringing of the "Children of France" was under the responsibility of the royal governess , in this case Marie-Louise de Rohan (Madame de Marsan), the sister of the Prince of Soubise .

The Dauphin was seen as a pious and morally strict man, who lived a withdrawn, almost " bourgeois " family life and the lavish lifestyle at the court of Louis XV. preferred. Completely excluded from political responsibility, Louis Ferdinand attached great importance to a thorough and comprehensive education for his four sons, which was characterized by the basic principles of piety , goodness , justice and firmness . The prince's traditional transition to adulthood took place at the age of six. In 1760, his father appointed the Duc de la Vauguyon, a high- ranking officer and veteran of the Seven Years' War, as a prince educator, who severely punished even minor carelessness. The private lessons were given by clergymen , including the bishops Jean-Gilles du Coëtlosquet , Jean-Baptiste du Plessis d'Argentré and the Jesuits Claude-François Lizarde de Radonvilliers and Guillaume François Berthier . His teachers described Ludwig as a conscientious student with broad abilities, who "showed himself less graceful in his gestures than his brothers, but as far as the thoroughness of judgment and the qualities of his character were concerned" was in no way inferior. However, he was characterized by great shyness and personal insecurity, which not infrequently resulted in uncontrolled brittleness. Due to the early death of his older brother on March 21, 1761, the dynastic importance of Ludwig changed. Now he moved into the center of the education and training program, the learning successes checked the father personally. In addition to learning foreign languages ( Latin , Italian , English and German ), Ludwig developed a fondness for history , geography and mathematics . As the first bourbon he was interested in the natural sciences and technical progress.

On December 20, 1765 Louis Ferdinand died of tuberculosis and the eleven-year-old Ludwig became the new heir to the throne as "Monseigneur le Dauphin" in accordance with the Primogenitur regulations . From now on the lessons should prepare for the future role as ruler and give him the consciousness to administer an office entrusted by God as king ( divine right ). The educational novel The Adventures of Telemach by François Fénelon formed the starting point for instruction in politics , morality and religion . This demanded virtue from a monarch , a sense of responsibility towards God, love for his subjects and commitment to their happiness. The later self-image of Ludwig as monarch was shaped by this in the sense of a patriarchal kingship , but the reality of life of the population in the isolation of the royal residences remained alien to him. Contemporaries mentioned Ludwig's not very advantageous appearance, who tended to move awkwardly due to his clumsy build. However, people were far more positive about him after he became the new heir to the throne. This is z. B. from the diary of the Duchess of Northumberland , who wrote: “I imagined him horrible, but on the contrary, I liked his appearance very much. He is tall and slender, has an interesting face and clever eyes that look very large with his rather pale complexion. The blonde hair looks very good on him. "


Portrait of Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun : Marie-Therese and Louis Joseph, 1784
Louis XVI 1775
Louis XVI 1777

Ludwig's predecessor as king was his grandfather, Louis XV. When his eldest brother died, Louis XVI. at the age of six to become the next heir to the throne after his father. When this also died, Louis XVI. the rightful successor. On May 16, 1770, the 15-year-old crown prince married the Habsburg princess Marie Antoinette , a year younger , daughter of the imperial couple Franz I Stephan and Maria Theresa, to strengthen the Franco-Austrian alliance .

The four children came from the marriage:


Ancien Regime

When his grandfather Louis XV. died on May 10, 1774, Louis XVI. King at the age of 19. First he was looking for a mentor and decided on the 73-year-old former State Secretary Count von Maurepas . The coronation of the king took place on June 11, 1775 in Reims . The people greeted him on his accession to the throne with the surname le désiré , which means the desired, but Louis XVI. refused this name out of modesty.

France's main problem was the high level of national debt . The radical reforms of Turgot and Malesherbes met resistance from the nobility; Turgot was dismissed, Malesherbes resigned in 1776 and was replaced by Jacques Necker .

Ludwig managed to strengthen France's position as a sea ​​power again by immensely expanding the navy . This could now again compete with that of Great Britain . France was able to assert itself against the English in the American War of Independence , which Necker also advocated. In 1777 the independence of the United States was recognized, a year later France entered the war on the side of the United States. The fierce sea war that followed had its focal points in the West and East Indies .

Through Ludwig's military intervention, France helped the Americans gain independence and in 1783 mediated the peace of Paris on the victorious side . But the War of Independence had torn a huge hole in the state finances, while for France, by and large, it only ended with the previous acquis. Jacques Necker was dismissed in 1781 and replaced by Calonne .

Louis XVI showed little interest in supporting the politics of his ally Austria. On March 14, 1778, Joseph II asked the king to mediate in the face of an impending Austro-Prussian war and asked whether he would be prepared to provide troops in the event of Prussian aggression, as stipulated in the treaty of 1756. On March 30th, Ludwig replied that the role of mediator was beyond his role and that in the event of Prussian aggression he could not take any position other than neutrality. Even when Friedrich II invaded Bohemia on July 7, 1778, Ludwig did not declare himself in favor of Austria. When war threatened between Austria and the Netherlands in 1784, he warned of the unpredictable consequences and offered to mediate. After the peace agreement, he even concluded an alliance with Holland in 1785. He also hesitated, despite Marie Antoinette's urging, to agree to the emperor's plan to swap the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria.

During the first nine years of his reign, the king was very popular with his people. Ludwig insisted that his popularity would guarantee the functioning of the kingship, and so it happened that on the one hand he gave in to the demands placed on him, for example the re-establishment of parliaments, in the opinion that this would promote the best of his people, on the other hand himself none of the parties, which were fighting against each other with increasing bitterness, did not join and gave her the victory through his reputation.

He was the only king who managed to win a war against England in the 18th century. But it was precisely this victory that turned out to be one of the causes of its downfall, because the costs of the war increased the national debt immeasurably. On the other hand, the soldiers deployed in America brought the ideas of the American Revolution to the French people. In addition, the nobles, especially the Duke of Orléans, known as Philippe Égalité , and the parliaments recalled by Ludwig in 1774, pursued a tough opposition policy against the monarchy. Added to this was the increasing unpopularity of the queen among the people, who fell into disrepute among other things due to the collar affair (1785). The sensational process showed a self-confident parliament for the first time. There were also adverse conditions such as two poor harvests and a hard winter with supply problems for the population. All of these factors culminated in the events of 1789.

French Revolution

Louis XVI 1786
Parliamentary session on November 19, 1787 ( Musée de la Révolution française ).

When the public debates of the Notable Assembly on solving the state deficit did not bring any result and seemed to result in a restriction of royal power, Ludwig decided on May 25, 1787 to dissolve it. At the suggestion of Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne , he also called on the night of August 14th to 15th Parliament to withdraw to Troyes . With this event began the personal attacks against the king, especially since he suddenly fell asleep during the session and snored loudly. On August 26th, he appointed Brienne as chief minister, a title he had never bestowed on anyone. The reform policy of the new government included the Edict of Versailles , which contained the first steps towards religious tolerance.

Brienne tried to persuade the reluctant king to convene the Estates-General to solve the pressing financial problems. At a solemn parliamentary session on November 19, 1787, several speakers urged that the Estates General be convened as early as 1788 or 1789. When the king replied evasively, the Duke of Orléans accused him of being unlawful. Thereupon Ludwig had his cousin banished to his castle, and he also banished two other parliamentarians.

In 1788, at the insistence of Marie Antoinette Necker, Ludwig reappointed finance minister, who at the same time enforced Brienne's resignation. Since the king no longer appointed a leading minister, Necker was practically in that position from now on. At that time there were more and more discussions about how the country should be governed in the future.

In order to pass financial reforms, the king convened the Estates General in 1789, which had not met since 1614 . The celebrations began on 4th / 5th. May, although the king, when he appeared three hours late, was greeted with no particular expression of joy. During the subsequent service in the Saint-Louis church, he nodded off. The next day he appeared around noon for the opening of the Estates General. In his short address he only mentioned the problem of national debt and warned against an exaggerated desire for innovation.

On June 17, the third estate deputies declared themselves to be the National Assembly . The king was staying in Marly at this time and could not make up his mind to follow Necker's suggestion and meet the demands of the Third Estate. His efforts culminated on June 20 in the Ballhaus Oath . On June 21st, in a demonstrative absence from Necker, the king gave a speech to the Estates General. The deliberations of the Third Estate are void, illegal and contrary to the principles of the kingdom. On the other hand, he declared himself ready to recognize individual freedom, freedom of the press and the voting of the Estates General by head instead of by class.

On his return to Versailles he found Necker's declaration of resignation. At the same time, an angry crowd appeared in front of the castle for the first time and poured into courtyards and halls. At the urgent request of the king, Necker was compelled to reverse his resignation, and on June 27 the king wrote a letter to the clergy and the nobility to join the Third Estate. On the same day, however, he also gave the order to gather troops on the outskirts of the capital. The regiments rallied around Paris, and on June 30th Louis appointed Victor-François de Broglie as general marshal of the troops. On July 10th, at the request of the assembly, Ludwig declared that the troops were there to protect him. On July 11th he dismissed Necker, on July 13th he set up a new cabinet together with de Broglie as Minister of War. On the afternoon of July 13th, the King and Queen inspected foreign regiments that had recently arrived.

On July 14th the storm on the Bastille took place in Paris . A little later the king appeared unexpectedly at the National Assembly and announced that he would withdraw his troops. Many relieved MPs then escorted him to the castle and shouted: "Long live the king!" Notwithstanding this, on July 16, a meeting of the State Council discussed the plan to leave Versailles and take up the fight against the revolution far from the capital. The king decided to stay and again called Necker back. As a token of his goodwill, he drove to the capital on July 17th to approve the innovations.

On July 29th, Necker, who had heard of his recall in Basel , arrived in Versailles. When he was greeted by the king, he said that his position required zeal for the king, but that he owed no gratitude. On August 25, the day of St. Ludwig, the city's aldermen, officers and market women came to Versailles as usual to deliver their congratulations, but this time accompanied by the National Guard and the magistrate.

Since the king hesitated to sign the resolutions of the National Assembly and on September 14th moved the Régiment de Flandre to Versailles, distrust grew again. On September 21, Mirabeau asked the King, on behalf of the National Assembly, to explain why he had called the troops. On September 23, the regiment arrived at Versailles with 1,100 infantrymen. On October 1, the 600-strong bodyguard of the king organized a banquet with 210 place settings for the "Régiment de Flandre", with the king's approval, at which the royal family also appeared. On October 3rd and 4th there were again banquets for the Flanders regiment.

The reports of these feasts sparked outrage in Paris, where hungry people were lining up in front of the bakeries. On October 4th, speakers like Marat and Danton called the people to arms. On October 5th, however, the king set out to hunt in the woods of Meudon . Numerous angry citizens, including many women ( Poissards ) and national guardsmen, flocked to Versailles. The king came back around three in the afternoon and discussed what should be done with his ministers. He received a delegation of women who were shouting for bread, sent them to the kitchen and promised that there would be no shortage of bread. Mounier asked the king to sign the declaration of human and civil rights now , but the king was undecided. When he ordered the carriages to be harnessed, the crowd rushed onto the wagons, cut the harness, and led the horses away. The king felt compelled to sign the decrees. The angry people seemed reassured, and the king spent another night in the castle.

In the early morning of October 6th, before dawn, a horde armed with pikes and knives entered the castle. When the crowd called for the king, La Fayette persuaded him to show himself to the people. The royal family appeared on the balcony while La Fayette spoke to the crowd. This called: “To Paris! To Paris! ”Indeed, the king was forced to move to the Palais des Tuileries in Paris with his family . The royal family sat there, surrounded by a packed crowd, in a carriage to which the heads of two dead bodyguards were carried. At nine o'clock in the evening the king arrived at the town hall and appeared with his family to a cheering crowd on the balcony, at ten o'clock he arrived in the Tuileries.

At this initial stage of the revolution, on October 10, 1789, when discussing the way to proclaim laws , the National Assembly enacted Louis' new formula: Louis, par la grâce de Dieu, et la loi constitutionnelle de l'État, Roi des Français ("Ludwig, by the grace of God and the constitutional law of the state, King of the French"). From this point onwards, Ludwig carried the title Roi des Français . Between "Roi des Français" and "Roi de France" there is not just a grammatical, but a fundamental difference in meaning and status: As the "Roi de France", the French owe him loyalty and belong to him, while he is called the "Roi des Français". belongs to the French and owes them allegiance.

Ludwig himself was popular for a long time and was initially open to the reforms of the revolution. He had already announced this with the abolition of torture , and he also created public jobs by, for example, draining swamps for people in need who were supposed to work for a fair wage. But the popular sovereignty required in the revolution was a clear break with the principles of the monarchy valid at the time. Accordingly, the revolution was rejected by the French ruling elite and other European rulers.

End of rule

"The free signature". French caricature from 1792. Emperor Leopold II .: “What are you doing there, brother-in-law?” Ludwig XVI. (in the cage): "I sign."

Little by little, furniture and other objects were brought from Versailles to the Tuileries, which had previously been largely empty. There were no more balls, hunts, theater and concerts here. On February 4, 1790, Ludwig solemnly announced in front of the National Assembly that he and the Queen would accept the constitution in full. On June 6, 1790, the royal family was allowed to travel to Saint-Cloud with the permission of the National Assembly . The king again went on long hunting parties, played comedies, gave concerts and went for walks. On July 14th, he returned to Paris to attend the Federation Festival on the Champ de Mars . The king looked ill-tempered, he swore by nation and law, but not as requested at the fatherland altar in the middle of the square. Back in Saint-Cloud, he accepted Necker's resignation once more, who had not been able to resolve the financial crisis, and formed a new cabinet of supporters of La Fayette. At the end of October the royal couple returned to Paris, where they received an icy welcome. On November 13th the mob moved to the Tuileries and the king fled to the attic, but the National Guard posted was able to push the crowd away. On February 28, 1791, however, nobles armed with swords, hunting knives and pistols went to the Tuileries to protect the royal couple from attacks. La Fayette disarmed them in the presence of the king.

Although the royal family had been given permission to spend a few days in Saint-Cloud over Easter, the National Guard, with bayonets attached, prevented them from driving for more than two hours in their carriage and abused them by an angry crowd. The king eventually returned to the castle.

Execution of Louis XVI. (Engraving from 1793)
Louis XVI on copper coin from 1791
Reverse of the coin Ludwig of the year 1791

When the pressure on Ludwig and his family grew, he fled to Varennes in the Austrian Netherlands on the night of June 20-21, 1791 . The escape ended prematurely in the small town of Varennes after Ludwig had been recognized by the son of a postmaster from his portrait on a coin. The royal family was then returned to Paris by members of the National Guard and the king was temporarily suspended from his offices. Ludwig was now effectively in captivity, even if he could still enjoy some of his privileges. In a questioning by three MPs on June 25th regarding his escape, he was treated gently, especially since he affirmed his attachment to the constitution. At the same time he made contact with the European royal courts again. On July 13, the commission to investigate the “kidnapping” of Ludwig announced that the king could not be blamed for anything. The result of the commission was accepted and the king declared inviolable. Since they saw no alternative to the planned introduction of the constitutional monarchy at that time, the members of the National Assembly agreed to pass the attempted escape as a "kidnapping" and left Ludwig in office. Thereupon the king's opponents revolted, and on July 17, 1791 the massacre took place on the Marsfeld .

On August 27, Emperor Leopold II and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia declared in the Pillnitz Declaration their goal “to enable the King of France to establish, in complete freedom, the basis of a form of government that would support the rights of the Sovereign and corresponds to the welfare of France. "

Pressed by external forces, the king "accepted" the constitution of September 3, 1791 . On September 14th, the king swore allegiance to the new constitution in the Reithalle, the meeting place of the National Assembly. France became a constitutional monarchy . The king was no longer regarded as a ruler by the grace of God , but rather as the first representative of the people. He had to give legal force to the laws of the National Assembly with his signature; if necessary, he could postpone their entry into force with his suspensive veto . The constitution also changed the dauphin's title to prince royal ("royal prince").

The king took part in the celebrations of September 18th with a cheerful expression. In the evening, the royal couple drove in an open carriage over the Champs-Élysées , and at times the call rang out: “Long live the King!” Ludwig had shaken most of the MPs' trust in his goodwill after his attempt to escape. The event gave a strong boost to Republican groups in the National Assembly. When the king vetoed two decrees at the end of 1791, distrust increased.

In response, a new cabinet was installed on March 24, 1792 ( First Cabinet of the Gironde ), trying to take more moderate forces than the steadily growing Mountain Party into government.

On April 20, 1792, he submitted a declaration of war against Austria to the National Assembly. However, he secretly sent the journalist Jacques Mallet-du-Pan to the Kaiser and the German princes and let them know that he wanted to use the conflict as an opportunity to restore his power.

Soon there were severe setbacks in Belgium, where troops believed their noble officers were in league with the enemy and refused to obey them. On May 18, the assembled generals summoned the king in Valenciennes to ask for peace as soon as possible. The latter, however, again vetoed two decrees, dismissed his Girondist ministers on June 12 and appointed a moderate ministry. On June 20, an armed crowd broke into the palace and asked the king to withdraw his veto. Instead, he told the angry crowd for hours, the Jacobin cap on his head, that he would not lose sight of his decisions. One veto was directed against the decree to set up a camp for 20,000 National Guard men to protect the capital, the other against the decision to deport all priests who are denounced by the citizens. Around ten o'clock in the evening the courtyards and parks gradually emptied.

Grave of King Louis XVI. in Saint-Denis

On July 11th, the National Assembly declared “the fatherland in danger”. On July 14th, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, the king swore the oath on the constitution again at the altar of the fatherland. On July 25, 1792, Duke Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand von Braunschweig published a manifesto in which he threatened the city of Paris and its residents with "an unprecedented and forever memorable revenge" should they harm Ludwig or his family. This manifesto was used by the revolutionaries as evidence of a collaboration between Louis XVI. understood with the enemies of France. Ludwig's declaration that he would do anything to ensure that France won the war was no longer convincing. When the National Assembly refused to discuss the removal of the king, the sections of the capital decided to heed the Jacobin call and forcibly overthrow the monarchy.

Tomb of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette in the Cathedral of Saint-Denis

After the assault on the Tuileries on August 10, 1792, the king and his family were arrested on August 13, 1792 in the monastery of the Feuillanten and imprisoned in the Temple . During the two-hour transfer, the royal family sat in a courtyard carriage drawn by just two horses and accompanied by national guards, while verses of mockery and insults rang out from all sides. Since he was no longer king, from now on he was only addressed to citizen Louis Capet (referring to Hugo Capet , the ancestor of the French ruling family).

On the occasion of the first session of the National Convention on September 21, 1792, the republic was proclaimed (l'an 1 de la République française) and the king officially dethroned (la royauté est abolie en France) . When the relevant decree was read to Ludwig, he did not show it. The next day he learned that the French troops had stopped the Prussian advance on Paris in the cannonade of Valmy .

On September 29th, Ludwig was brought to the large defense tower, where three weeks later the other family members were billeted. The conditions of detention were continuously tightened, and finally a box containing a lot of incriminating material was discovered with the king. These papers revealed that the king had been in contact with emigrants, secretly negotiated with Austria and bribed revolutionary politicians.

On December 3, the Convention adopted a decree summoning the king. He was tried on December 11th before the National Convention in the Salle du Manège . Robespierre emphasized before the convention: "If the king is not guilty, then it is they who have deposed him". Thus, according to Robespierre's account, the convention, which was prosecutor and judge in one person, could not acquit the king at all, since this would have amounted to a self-accusation.

The vote dragged on for more than 24 hours from January 16-17, 1793. A request by the Girondins to let the people vote on the guilt or innocence of the former king was rejected with 426: 278 votes. With 387: 334 votes, the Convention found him guilty of the " conspiracy against public freedom and the security of the entire state" (la conspiration contre la liberté publique et la sûreté générale de l'État) . A suspension of the death penalty was rejected by 380-310 votes.

On the morning of January 21, 1793, Ludwig was beheaded with a guillotine by the executioner Charles-Henri Sanson on the Place de la Révolution (Revolution Square) - today Place de la Concorde .

On October 16, 1793, after a short trial, his wife Marie-Antoinette was also guillotined on Revolution Square. His surviving son Louis Charles died in Temple Prison at the age of ten .

Ludwig was first buried in the cemetery de la Madeleine and transferred to the Saint-Denis basilica in 1815 .


Ludwig was 38 years old. The period from coronation to death is 19 years. So the revolutionary years are only a fraction of his life. Youth and upbringing had a great influence on his personality. The traumatic experiences in his youth with the illness and the death of his older brother Bourgogne, the reluctance behind his older brother, his own illnesses and the early death of his parents should not go unmentioned.

Ludwig was not a power man who aspired to the throne. He found the role of king onerous, but accepted the responsibility. From his behavior it can be concluded that education and moral behavior were more important to him than courtly representation. This is probably one of the reasons why there were conflicts with court society, his reactionary brothers and his wife.

He was more of a middle-class character and preferred to do manual work. He forged, built and repaired clocks, drew maps of forests, Versailles and templates for various technical fittings without taking court etiquette into account. While he strictly refrained from any kind of debauchery and costly amusements, he indulged his wife and the royal princes with an expense which was all the less in order as the state of the finances worsened with every passing year.

He was interested in history, seafaring and geography, understood English (he had English newspapers sent to him), German and Spanish. Hunting was one of his passions. He loved statistics and kept a precise diary of the daily hunting results. Here are two examples that can lead to irritation: In the hunting diary after the wedding night there was the laconic remark: "Rien" ("Nothing"). This did not refer to the non-performance of the marriage obligation that night, as was to be assumed. On the day of the storm on the Bastille, he also noted “Rien”, which did not mean that he had not taken note of the event. The marriage of Ludwig and Marie Antoinette suffered from the contrast of their characters. It took the young couple seven years to expect offspring - which, however, does not mean that the couple did not make any attempt during this period. Because attempts are clearly evident from Marie Antoinette's letters. She wrote on July 17, 1773 after returning from Compiègne : “This circumstance probably gave rise to the rumor that he kissed me publicly, although that is not correct; yet my faithful mom is very mistaken in believing that he has not done so since my arrival; on the contrary, everyone has long noticed his affection for me. I can trust you, my faithful Mama, and you alone, that my affairs have developed well since we have been here (Versailles) and that I consider the marriage to be consummated; if not enough to be pregnant. For this reason alone, Mr. Dauphin does not want anyone to know. How lucky if I had a child in May! As for my period, I still have it strong and good, and believe me, I am not riding at this time. "

His high conception of his royal position and also his religious conscience brought him into conflict with the revolution. He could not come to terms with the role of a constitutional monarch, which was intended for him in the new constitution of September 3, 1791.

No political death sentence was pronounced during his reign. Louis XVI was not an oppressor, but the most liberal of all Bourbon kings. He carried out many reforms, but the financial reform failed because of the resistance of the privileged classes.

Ludwig learned of his death sentence on January 17, 1793. He responded with serenity, praying, and comforting his family. Even when he was executed on January 21, 1793, the king was granted sovereignty. In a final short address he again emphasized his innocence.


Ancestors of Louis XVI.

Louis de Bourbon, dauphin de Viennois (1661–1711)
⚭ 1680
Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria (1660–1690)

Viktor Amadeus II of Savoy (1666–1732)
⚭ 1684
Anne Marie d'Orléans (1669–1728)

Rafał Leszczyński (1650–1703)
⚭ 1676
Anna Jabłonowska (1660–1727)

Jan Karol Opalińsk (1642–1695)
⚭ 1678
Zofia Czarnkowska (1660–1701)

Johann Georg III. von Sachsen (1647–1691)
⚭ 1666
Anna Sophie of Denmark (1647–1717)

Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705)
⚭ 1676
Eleonore Magdalene von Pfalz-Neuburg (1655–1720)

Johann Friedrich von Braunschweig (1625–1679)
⚭ 1668
Benedicta Henriette von der Pfalz (1652–1730)

Great grandparents

Louis de Bourbon, duc de Bourgogne (1682–1712)
⚭ 1697
Maria Adelaide of Savoy (1685–1712)

Stanislaus I. Leszczyński (1677–1766)
⚭ 1698
Katharina Opalińska (1680–1747)

August II of Poland (1670–1733)
⚭ 1693
Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1671–1727)

Emperor Joseph I (1678–1711)
⚭ 1699
Wilhelmine Amalie von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1673–1742)


Royal crown of the Bourbons
King Louis XV (1710–1774)
⚭ 1725
Maria Leszczyńska (1703–1768)

August III. of Poland, Elector of Saxony (1696–1763)
⚭ 1719
Maria Josepha of Austria (1699–1757)


Louis Ferdinand de Bourbon, dauphin de Viennois (1729–1765)
⚭ 1747
Maria Josepha of Saxony (1731–1767)

Royal crown of the Bourbons
King Louis XVI (1754–1793)



  • Vincent Cronin: Louis XVI. and Marie-Antoinette. A biography . Claassen, Düsseldorf 1975, ISBN 3-546-41968-5 .
  • Bernard Fay: Louis XVI. - The fall of the French monarchy . Wilhelm Heyne, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-453-03033-8 .
  • John Hardman: The Life of Louis XVI. Yale University Press, New Haven 2016.
  • Peter Klaus Hartmann: Ludwig XVI. 1774-1789 / 92. In: Peter Klaus Hartmann (ed.): French kings and emperors of the modern age. From Louis XII. until Napoleon III. 1498-1870. 2nd Edition. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54740-0 , pp. 272-307.
  • David P. Jordan: The King's Trial. The French Revolution vs. Louis XVI University of California Press, Berkeley 1979, ISBN 0-520-03684-0 .
  • Evelyne Lever: Louis XVI. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-608-93102-3 .
  • Angela Taeger: Ludwig XVI. (1754-1793). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-018475-X .
  • Evelyne Lever: Marie Antoinette. A biography. Weltbild Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3-89350-948-8 .

Web links

Commons : Louis XVI.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Uwe Schultz : The king and his judge: Ludwig XVI. and Robespierre . Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-62924-2 . P. 12 ff.
  2. Uwe Schultz : The king and his judge: Ludwig XVI. and Robespierre . Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-62924-2 . P. 14.
  3. Uwe Schultz : The king and his judge: Ludwig XVI. and Robespierre . Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-62924-2 . P. 19.
  4. ^ Evelyne Lever: Biographies on the French Revolution, Louis XVI. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1988.
  5. Ludwig . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 10, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, p. 971.
  6. a b c Brockhaus Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon, Volume 2. Leipzig 1838, pp. 776-777.
  7. see also: List of epithets during the French Revolution
  8. Peter Cl. Hartmann: The French kings and emperors of the modern age 1498-1870. Louis XVI CH Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54740-0 , page number is missing.
  9. Albert Soboul : The Great French Revolution. An outline of their history (1789–1799) . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1983, p. 249.
  10. Hans-Ulrich Thamer: The French Revolution. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-50847-2 . Page number is missing.
  11. Vincent Cronin: Louis XVI. and Marie-Antoinette - A biography . Claassen, Düsseldorf 1974, p. 550, paragraphs 18-29.
predecessor Office successor
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King of France and Navarre
1774–1791 / 92
(Office suspended)
Constitutional monarchy
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Absolutist monarchy
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King of the French
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Napoleon I.
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