Louis XVI Bourbon

Louis XVI (1754–1793) was king of France and Navarre of the Bourbon Dynasty between 1774 and 1792, ruling his country as an absolute monarch until 1789, when his limitless power was curtailed by the National Constituent Assembly which was formed in the first year of the French Revolution. Succeeding his grandfather Louis XV in 1774, Louis XVI was executed on the gillotine on January 21, 1793, after being acused of conspiracy and high treason by the National Convention led by Maximiliam Robespierre.

Louis XVI was born in Versailles Palace, on August 23, 1754. He was baptized Louis August de France and given the title of Duke of Berry. A strong and healthy boy, but very shy, Louis-Auguste excelled in his studies and had a strong taste for Latin, history, geography and astronomy, and became fluent in Italian and English. At the age of fifteen, he married the fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette in French). She was his second cousin and the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa. This marriage was disaproved by the French people, since France’s alliance with Austria had pulled France into the disastrous Seven Years War, in which France was defeated by the British, losing the French territories in North America. During the first seven years of marriage, Louis XVI was not able to beget children due to phimosis. Nevertheless, after he was circumcised, the Royal couple were able to have four children: Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François, Louis Charles (Heir-Apparent), Sophie-Hélène-Béatrix, who died during childhood.

When Louis XVI succeeded to the throne in 1774, he was nineteen years old. He had an enormous responsibility, as the government was deeply in debt, and resentment towards despotic monarchy was on the rise due to the influence of the Enlightment period. While none doubted Louis’s intellectual ability to rule France, it was quite clear that, although raised as the Dauphin since 1765, he lacked firmness and decisiveness. Louis XVI was beloved at first, but his indecisiveness and conservatism led some radical elements of the people of France to eventually view him as a symbol of the perceived tyranny of the Old Régime and gave him the nickname "Uncle Louis". After the abolition of the monarchy in 1792, the new republican government gave him the surname Capet, a nickname in reference to Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetian dynasty – which the revolutionaries wrongly interpreted as a family name, but in fact he belonged to the Bourbon Dynasty.

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