Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

From World History Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Essential Question

How did King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette contribute to the French Revolution, and how did this impact the "shaping" of Europe?


History has not been nice to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The young couple was to naïve to understand how to run a country. When Louis XVI came to the throne, he was well liked and popular by the people because he wanted to help reform the government. His love for the people however did not make up for his poor decisions. He was easily influenced by others. While some had good advice, others’ led him to his death. Marie Antoinette was viewed by the public as a materialistic queen. Because of that, she was thought to be the main cause of France’s financial problems. Many rumors circulated around France that led to her downfall.

Early Life

Louis VXI

King Louis XVI

Louis XVI was born August 24, 1754 in Versailles, France. Also known as Louis-Auguste. He was the son of Louis XV and Marie Joseph. He was given the title duc de Berry. The title of Duke of Berry (duc de Berry) in the French nobility was frequently created for junior members of the French royal family. Louis XVI had a difficult childhood because his parents neglected him in favor if his brighter and handsome older brother, also named Louis. Unfortunately, he died at age 10 in 1761. The pain and sorrow his parents felt distracted them and made it difficult for them to give Louis XVI the anttention and affection he needed. However he excelled in his studies and enjoyed working on lock and hunting with his grandfather, Louis XV.

His father's death on December 20, 1765, caused by tuberculosis, made 11 year old Louis heir to the throne. It was not in his heart to become king and he never received the proper education for it. His mother, who had never fully recovered from his father's death died two years later on March 13, also from tuberculosis. Louis XVI and his four siblings were left orphaned. In 1770 he was married to Marie Antoinette, daughter of the empress Maria Theresa.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen was born November 2, 1775. She is known today by her French name as Marie Antoinette. She was the youngest daughter of Francis Stephen I and Maria Theresa, Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. She was brought up believing her destiny was to become queen of France. As there were so many other children who could be married off, Antoine was sometimes neglected by her mother; as a result, Marie Antoinette later described her relationship with her mother as one of awe-inspired fear. She also developed a mistrust of intelligent older women as a result of her mother's close relationship with her older sister, the Archduchess Maria Christina, who shared Maria Theresa's birthday and was her favorite child.The lack of supervision also resulted in an avergae education and she could barely read or write properly in her native German by the time she was twelve.


Twelve-year-old Antoine was the only potential bride left in the family for the fourteen-year-old Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, who was also her second cousin once removed after her sisters died of smallpox while one was crippled. The oldest one was already married off. They were married in Augustine Church in Vienna. Marie Antoinette left for France two days later. She crossed the border into France on May 7, 1770. On May 16, 1770, their French wedding was held at Versailles in the Chapel Royal. Her wedding dress was decorated with diamonds and pearls. After a formal dinner and the blessing of their bed by the Archbishop of Reims, Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were escorted to their bedroom. They did not complete their marriage until August 1777 according to a letter she wrote to her mother on August 30, 1777. Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI lived at Versailles in France. Marie spent a great deal of time with her children at her Petit Trianon which was a wedding gift from her husband

Marie Antoinette and her three oldest children


At first failed to produce children for several years.

Eventually Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had four children: Marie Thérèse Charlotte: Born on Decmber 19, 1778 at Versailles. She lived in exile after the death of her family. Marie married her cousin Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angouleme in 1799. She died from pneumonia on October 19, 1851 in Vienna, Austria. Marie Thérèse is buried at the Franciscan monastery in Kostanjevica, Slovenia.

Louis Joseph Xavier Francois: Born on October 22, 1781. Died at the age of seven on June 4, 1789 of consumption which is known today as tuberculosis.

Louis Charles aka Louis XVII: Born March 27, 1785. Died on June 8, 1795 while alone in prison. He had been brutalized as a prisoner.

Sophie Béatrix: Born in 1786, Sophie died as an infant just before turning one year old in 1787.

During the Revolution

Louis XVI became king of France in 1774 and he was 20 years old.. On his accession, France was poverty-stricken and burdened with debts, and heavy taxation had resulted in widespread misery among the French people. The French Revolution was a time in French and Europe ubderwent alot of changes and in the end was overthown by the French people. The reason for the changes were because of the high and unfair taxes which only the third estate had to pay,and the lack of participation of the king and queen. Immediately after he was crowned, Louis decreased some of the most oppressive taxes and instituted financial and judicial reforms. Calonne was appointed finance minister in 1783. He borrowed money form the court until 1786, when the borrowing limit was reached. The French people, angered by the taxes and the excessive spending of the court, recalled Necker, who, however, could not prevent bankruptcy of the government. With no other choice, Louis XVI was forced to call a meeting of the Estates-General in Versailles on May 5, 1789. In 1789 a mob gathered at the palace at Versailles and demanded the royal family to move to the Tuilerie palace inside Paris. From there on they were prisoners in their own palace. Antoinete sought help from other European rulers including her bother, the Austrian Emperor, and her sister Queen of Naples. On June 27, Louis XVI gave into the National Assembly and ordered the members of the Estates General to join the new National Assembly. This is the date at which the French Revolution started After the National Assembly completed the Constitution of 1791, which set up a limited monacrchy in place of absolute monarchy, Marie Antoinette and others had been urging the king to escape the humiliation. One night in June the same year, the king disguised as a servant and the queen was disguised as a governess and her children were the royal children. They were travelling on a coach from Paris that was going toward the border. Their attempt to escape failed when they were uncovered by a person who held up a piece of currency with the king's face on it. Soliders escorted the royal family back to Paris. Many people viewed him as a traitor to the revoultion.

Condemnation to Death

King Louis XVI


At first the king seemed inclined to work with the revolution and to try to solve the problems. But the influence of the queen and of the courtiers were too strong. He was encouraged by them to disregard all promises he had made and sought to flee from France in order to obtain aid against the revolution from Austria. His disregard of his promises to abide by the constitution led to the storming of the royal palace of the Tuileries on Aug. 10, 1792. The king and his family escaped before the mob arrived and took refuge in the hall of the Legislative Assembly. The assembly declared that the king was suspended from office and ordered that he and his family should be imprisoned. They then called a new assembly, the Convention, to decide whether France should continue to be a monarchy. The Convention brought Louis XVI to trial on the charge of conspiring with foreign countries for the invasion of France. He was declared guilty and was sentenced to death. He was executed by the guillotine on January 21, 1793 at the age of 38. The evening before he died, Louis had a final farewell dinner with Marie and their children. His execution had important consequences for France, because it brought about ideas in other countries against the French Revolution.

Marie Antoinette

The result of King Louis XVI death was that the "Widow Capet", as the former queen was called after the death of her husband, plunged into deep mourning; she refused to eat or take any exercise. Her health rapidly deteriorated in the following months. By this time she suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer, which caused her to hemorrhage frequently.

Despite her health, she was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on October 14. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defense, the queen's trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given less than one day. Most people believe it was this way because she was a woman. Among the things she was accused, which of most, if not all, the accusations were untrue and were probably rumors, orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the duc d'Orléans, declaring her son to be the new king of France, orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792 and the most serious charge, was that she sexually abused her son. This was according to Louis Charles, who, through his coaching by Hébert and his guardian, accused his mother. The accusation caused Marie Antoinette to protest so emotionally that the women present in the courtroom, which were the same market women who had stormed the palace 1789,ironically also began to support her. However the outcome of the trial was already decided. She was executed by the guillotine on October 16, 1793. Marie Antoinette was just a couple weeks short of being 38 years old when she died.

Timeline of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

1754 August 23 - Louis XVI (d.1793), King of France during the French Revolution who met his fate at the guillotine, was born. He ruled as king from 1774-1792. He was the grandson of Louis XV and married Marie Antoinette.

1755 November 2 - Marie Antoinette (d.1793), Queen of France, was born. She was the daughter of Maria Theresa and Francis I; and wife of Louis XVI in 1770 and thus Queen of France. She was arrested by the Revolutionary Tribunal and beheaded on October 15.

1760's - Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour built the La Petit Trianon at Versailles as a retreat. She died before it was finished. Louis XVI later gave it to Marie Antoinette.

1770 May 16 - Marie Antoinette, age 14, married the future King Louis XVI of France, who was 15.

1774 May 10 - King Louis XV died and was succeeded by his grandson Louis XVI.

1774 September 13 - Tugot, the new controller of finances, urged the king of France to restore the free circulation of grain in the kingdom.

1777 August 16 - France declared a state of bankruptcy.

1777 December 17 - France recognized American independence.

1778 July 10 - In support of the American Revolution, Louis XVI declared war on England.

1779 August 10 - Louis XVI freed last remaining serfs on royal land.

1780 August 24 - King Louis XVI abolished torture as a means to get suspects to confess.

1787 July 30 - The French Parliament refused to approve a more equitable land tax.

1787 September 4 - Louis XVI of France recalled Parliament.

1787 November 29 - Louis XVI promulgated an edict of tolerance, granting civil status to Protestants.

1788 July 6 - Ten thousand troops were called out in Paris as unrest mounted in the poorer districts over poverty and lack of food.

1788 July 15 - Louis XVI jailed 12 deputies who protest new judicial reforms.

1788 September 23 - Louis XVI of France declared the Parliament restored.

1788 September 24 - After having been dissolved, the French Parliament of Paris reassembled in triumph.

1789 June 17 - The Third Estate in France declared itself a national assembly, and undertook to frame a constitution.

1789 July 9 - In Versailles, the French National Assembly declared itself the Constituent Assembly and began to prepare a French Constitution.

1789 July 15 - The electors of Paris set up a "Commune" to live without the authority of the government.

1789 August 26 - The Constituent Assembly in Versailles, France, approved the final version of the Declaration of Human Rights.

1789 October 10 - In Versailles, France, Joseph Guillotine said the most humane way of carrying out a death sentence is decapitation by a single blow of a blade.

1789 December 13 - The National Guard was created in France.

1789 - The Marquis de Lafayette wrote the original version of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. He was appalled by the excesses of the revolution and fled to Austria where he was imprisoned for 5 years.

1790 Jan 21 - Joseph Guillotine proposed a new, more humane method of execution: a machine designed to cut off the condemned person's head as painlessly as possible.

1790 July 12 - The French Assembly approved a Civil Constitution providing for the election of priests and bishops.

1790 July 26 - An attempt at a counter-revolution in France was put down by the National Guard at Lyons.

1791 April 18 - National Guardsmen prevented Louis XVI and his family from leaving Paris.

1791 June 20 - King Louis XVI of France attempted to flee the country in the so-called Flight to Varennes, but was caught.

1791 June 21 - The French royal family was arrested in Varennes.

1791 July 16 - Louis XVI was suspended from office until he agreed to ratify the constitution.

1791 July 17 - National Guard troops opened fire in Paris on a crowd of demonstrators calling for the deposition of the king.

1791 September 14 - Louis XVI solemnly swore his allegiance to the French Constitution.

1791 October 1 - In Paris, the National Legislative Assembly held its first meeting.

1792 March 20 - In Paris, the Legislative Assembly approved the use of the guillotine.

1792 August 11 - A revolutionary commune was formed in Paris, France.

1792 September 21 - The French National Convention voted to abolish the monarchy.

1792 September 22 - The French Republic was proclaimed.

1792 December 11 - France's King Louis XVI went before the Convention to face charges of treason. Louis was convicted and executed the following month.

1793 January 21 - In France the Great Terror continued. Louis XVI, condemned for treason, was executed on the guillotine. The vote for execution in the National Convention won by a margin of one vote.

1793 October 16 - Marie Antoinette was beheaded. Madame Tussaud used her severed head as a model for her wax bust death mask.

1794 May 10 - Elizabeth, the sister of King Louis XVI, was beheaded


At first King Louis XVI contributed to the revolution by trying to help reform. He even had the country list their grievances. However, rumors began to spread and many the French believed he was a traitor. Marie Antoinette contributed to the French Revoultion by deficit spending. She redecorated her chambers and loved extravagant things. They were the last royal rulers of France. Monarchy was abolished before they were even dead and a republic was formed. France was going through hard times and was at war with much of Europe. Napoleon, a war hero aquired enough power to assume the title Emperor of the French. Their actions shaped Europe as a whole by influencing others to seek equality and liberty.


The last royal ruling couple of France were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. They were to young to undertand what to do. Marie preferred her hobbies and living in luxa than ruling a country that was'nt even her own. Louis XVI was not prepared to rule are easily influenced. When the French people didnt want to deal with any more mess, they overthrew the government. The king and queen were put on trial and later guillotined. It was the end to absolute monarchy and a republic was formed.



Angelfire. Louis XVI [1]

Geocites. Marie Antoinette [2]

Geocites.Timeline of King Louis XVI [3]

Infoplease.Louis XVI, king of France [4]

Lucidcafe:Library. Marie Antoinette [5]

Eyewitness to History. "The Execution of Louis XVI, 1793" [6]

Wikipedia. Louis XVI of France [7]

Wikipedia. Marie Antoinette [8]

Wikipedia. Pictures [9]


Erickson, Carolly. The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette.

    Macmillian, 2006

Furneaux, Rupert. Last Days of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.

    Dorsett Press, 1990

Lever, Evelyn, Catherine Temerson. Marie Antoinette, the Last Queen of France.

   Macmillian, 2001

McPhee, Peter. The French Revolution, 1789-1799.

   Oxford University Press, 2002

Plain, Nancy. Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the French Revolution.

   Benchmark Books, 2002

Price, Munro. The Road from Versailles: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Fall French Monarchy.

   Macmillian, 2003