- NAME: Louis XVI
- OCCUPATION: King
- BIRTH DATE: August 23, 1754
- DEATH DATE: January 21, 1793
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Versailles, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
- Full Name: Louis-Auguste de France
- AKA: Louis XVI
- Nickname: "Citizen Capet"
- AKA: Louis Auguste de France
- AKA: Louis XVI of France
- Nickname: "Citoyen Louis Capet"
- AKA: Louis Capet
- AKA: Louis, Duke of Berry (Duc de Berry)
- AKA: Louis, Dauphin of France
- AKA: King Louis XVI
Best Known For
Louis XVI was the last king of France (1774–92) in the line of Bourbon monarchs preceding the French Revolution of 1789. He was executed for treason by guillotine in 1793.
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Louis XVI became the heir to the throne and the last Bourbon king of France upon his father's death in 1765. In 1770, he married Austrian archduchess Marie-Antoinette, the daughter of Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. After a slew of governing missteps, Louis XVI brought the French Revolution crashing down upon himself, and in 1793 he was executed. His wife, Marie-Antoinette, was executed nine months later.
"Every time I create an appointment, I create a hundred malcontents and one ingrate."
"Has God forgotten all I have done for Him?"
Louis XVI was born on August 23, 1754, in the Palace of Versailles. Named Louis Auguste de France, he was given the title Du de Berry signifying his junior status in the French Court. He was the third son of Louis, Dauphin of France and grandson of Louis XV of France. His mother, Marie-Josephe of Saxony, was the daughter of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, also the King of Poland.
Louis Auguste grew up strong and healthy, though very shy. He was tutored by French noblemen and studied religion, morality, and humanities. He excelled in Latin, history, geography, and astronomy and achieved fluency in Italian and English. With his good health, he enjoyed physical activities such as hunting and wrestling and from an early age he enjoyed locksmithing, which became a life-long hobby.
Louis's parents paid little attention to him, instead focusing on his older brother, the heir apparent, Louis duc de Bourgogne, who died at age 9 in 1761. Then, on December 20, 1765, his father died of tuberculosis, and Louis Auguste became Dauphin at age 11. His mother never recovered from the family tragedies and also succumbed to tuberculosis on March 13, 1767. Louis Auguste was ill prepared for the throne he was soon to inherit. Following the death of his parents, Louis's tutors provided him with poor interpersonal skills. They exacerbated is shyness by teaching him that austerity was a sign of a strong character in monarchs. As a result, he presented himself as being very indecisive.
At age 15 (in May 1770), Louis married the 14 year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette), his second cousin once removed, in an arranged marriage. She was the youngest daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Teresa. The marriage was met with some skepticism by members of the French court, as they remembered a previous alliance with the Habsburgs pulled France into the Seven Years War. Though initially charmed by her personality, the French people eventually came to loathe her, accusing her of being promiscuous and sympathetic to French enemies.
The first few years of marriage for Louis and Marie were amicable but distant. His shyness kept him distant from her in private and his fear of her manipulation made him cold to her in public. It is believed the couple did not consummate their marriage for some time, having their first child eight years after their wedding. Historians debate the cause, but most likely, Louis suffered from a physiological dysfunction that took time to rectify. Eventually, the couple had four children, all of whom but one died in childhood.
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Whether by sword, axe or guillotine, death by beheading was historically considered the most humane form of death sentence—as long as the executioner was swift, strong and good at hitting his mark. While the practice was never legally supported in the United States, we do give the method a nod in this country whenever we use the term "capital punishment"; the word "capital" is derived from the Latin "capitalis," which translates to "of the head." Here are some of the most famous victims of this gruesome form of execution.
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