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Louis XVI



Last monarch of Versailles (1754-1793)

The reign of Louis XVI was marked by the outbreak of the French Revolution. In the 1770s, the court began to live its last years in Versailles. In 1774 Louis XVI inherited a kingdom in grave difficulty. In 1789, to solve a major financial crisis, he summoned an exceptional Assembly to meet at the Château. In the same year, under pressure from the people, he left Versailles with Marie-Antoinette and was guillotined in 1793.

Louis XVI, grandson of Louis XV, became Dauphin in 1765 and king in 1774 at the age of 20. His tutor, the duc de Vauguyon, gave him a very complete education but did not prepare him in a practical way for the exercise of power as he was only the third son of the royal family. He became heir to the throne after the death of his two elder brothers. Louis XVI studied history, geography, science, law, Latin and Greek as well as modern languages. His political thinking was influenced by Fénelon and the Enlightenment philosophers who demonstrated that the nation is distinct from the King, an idea opposed to the traditional conception of the French monarchy. When he became king, Louis XVI did not keep the political team of his grandfather Louis XV. But in a context of financial difficulties, the ministers who succeeded each other, Turgot, Necker and Calonne, did not receive the full support of the king on the need to eliminate fiscal privileges. So the reforms did not go through and the king had to summon the Etats Généraux of the kingdom to Versailles in 1789. During this extraordinary assembly, 1,200 deputies represented the three orders or “estates” of the nation: the nobility, the clergy and commoners. The French Revolution had started.

The royal family
In 1770, the Dauphin Louis, future Louis XVI, married Marie-Antoinette of Lorraine, archduchess of Austria. Four children were born to them. Only the eldest, Madame Royale, born in 1778, and the Dauphin, born in 1785, were still alive when the French Revolution broke out. At the court, the king was surrounded by his brothers, the comte d’Artois and the comte de Provence, their wives, as well as his sister Madame Elisabeth.

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