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 The king 

How do you consider the king Louis XVI?
awkward and influenced by the queen but with good purposes (victime) 22%  22%  [ 10 ]
a person who couldn't care less as regards the need of his people (guilty) 2%  2%  [ 1 ]
good and generous, ready to sacrifice his life for his people (he was called Louis the good man for his simplicity!!) 76%  76%  [ 34 ]
Total votes : 45

 The king 
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I see Louis XVI as a fundamentally honest individual, a dutiful King who genuinely wished to improve the condition of the country ("his peoples", as he thought of his subjects). He was indeed very intelligent and highly educated. I also believe he had a certain nobility of character.
His great qualities were unfortunately not enough to make a strong ruler: besides lacking the superficial qualities that people tend to admire in a leader (appearance, matery of impressive speech, etc),
the King also had a tendency to indecisiveness and lacked self confidence. Louis could be easily weakened when pressure was applied by close family members. His brothers Provence and Artois seem to have often taken advantage of that character trait.

It is also very important to note here that Louis didn't benefit from favourable circumstances: Reforms that he attempted early in the reign alienated a huge part of the Nobility, his two brothers had very different views to his, his cousin had his eye on the crown...to sum it up, the King didn't have much support to rely on.

France's structures were obsolete by 1774, the financial situation was already impossible, there were a series of very bad agricultural years: in our modern words, we would call that "a disaster waiting to happen".
Much has been said about what would have happened had the King been firmer. I'm not sure that would have changed anything. The clock had started ticking for the Old Regime long before Louis became king.

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Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:37 am
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I totally agree Merteuil ! The circumstaces were so horrible, all of that debt built up from previous reigns just fell on him !

It made me remember something i read in a few biographies about Louis MA and the revolution. When you said that he lacked the outward appearance, maybe it was because of his portraits, but its said that his appearance actually did him good - for most of his reign at least as he had a very benevolent face and all. Also, a description of him from when he first spoke publicly, and also when he appeared on trial said that he sopke in a very dignified manner, in a firm sonorous voice, and like he had been public speaking his entire life. :) It was admitted though that he was no where near as flashy and flamboyant in his speeches as other men of the time. Has anyone else read these things?

I was wondering, also at something that i read- that was said by Miromesnil ( i think about Louis XVI) . He said that he had never seen anyone whos outer appearance betrayed their inner self so much . Louis XVI was kind hearted and gentle, but when answering things with his ministers, especially about touching or tragic events, his manner was often brusque and his answers hard. Does anyone know why he responded in this way , so contrary to nature ?


Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:44 pm
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oceane wrote:
I totally agree Merteuil ! The circumstaces were so horrible, all of that debt built up from previous reigns just fell on him !

It made me remember something i read in a few biographies about Louis MA and the revolution. When you said that he lacked the outward appearance, maybe it was because of his portraits, but its said that his appearance actually did him good - for most of his reign at least as he had a very benevolent face and all. Also, a description of him from when he first spoke publicly, and also when he appeared on trial said that he sopke in a very dignified manner, in a firm sonorous voice, and like he had been public speaking his entire life. :) It was admitted though that he was no where near as flashy and flamboyant in his speeches as other men of the time. Has anyone else read these things?

I was wondering, also at something that i read- that was said by Miromesnil ( i think about Louis XVI) . He said that he had never seen anyone whos outer appearance betrayed their inner self so much . Louis XVI was kind hearted and gentle, but when answering things with his ministers, especially about touching or tragic events, his manner was often brusque and his answers hard. Does anyone know why he responded in this way , so contrary to nature ?


Yes, oceane, I have often heard the same thing. Louis possessed the common touch that often worked very well for him in dealing with people. Many poor people loved him for this. The reason that Louis XVI and his family were not killed in 1789, but hung on for four years, was the fact that Louis and Antoinette each had a presence. When confronted directly with enemies they were able to change hearts. Antoinette radiated majesty and sweetness so that Barnave said that many of the common people referred to her as "Marie, pleine de grace."

Louis had an earthy, blunt manner that made people feel comfortable and he emanated goodness. I think he was brusque to hide his emotions. My impression of Louis is that he had very strong feelings and that he hid them because he was afraid of losing control.

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Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:58 pm
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That has been my impression from all that I have read of him too - that he WAS an essentially good man, that he did wish to do good for the people, that he was grieved that his reign should not have been 'successful' in this respect. I have also had the impression that he could be weak and could succumb to a desire to please people, however.

Certainly, he appears to have been very different from his grandfather.

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Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:06 pm
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What people did he try to please? Certainly not his wife, when it came to politics. Louis XVI very much kept his own council. Yes, he was indeed quite liberal in serving the people of France. Nesta Webster says that he should have hung Orleans right away in 1789 but Louis hated bloodshed.

When the revolution began, it must be understood that Louis XVI was having a nervous breakdown, following his son's death. He continued to have collapses of health for the next four years.

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Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:24 pm
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I had the IMPRESSION that he tried to please Antoinette in some things. He offered to buy the diamond necklace for her, for one thing .. though that might have been an attempt at appeasment because he didn't want her to be involved in political decisions.

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Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:52 pm
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Yes, of course, but he did not give into her in politics. To try to please one's spouse is not weakness.

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Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:58 pm
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Yes, Therese, most of what I have read shows that Louis XVI was not influenced by M.A. when it came to politics. Desmond Seward's "Marie Antoinette" suggests the opposite, though, which I found surprising! I think that this was part of the rumours of the time that were spread to denounce the Queen...that she influenced and had total control over the King! I think it is truer to say that Marie Antoinette had little interest in politics and may have only had some influence on occassion, perhaps more so when Louis XVI was in a nervous condition or when trying to save their lives near the end... :?: As far as my opinion of Louis XVI, I am as great a fan of him as I am of Marie Antoinette! :D


Sat Mar 03, 2007 6:59 pm
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When the Revolution started, MA had to take over because of Louis's health. But even then, she left the final decisions to him. Yes, I am a fan of Louis', too!!

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Sat Mar 03, 2007 7:08 pm
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Yes me three. I think that he was essentially a good person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:49 pm
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Post the king's trial
Ok, there isn't a thread on the king's trial, so I'm using this one to raise a non-related issue:
during the king's trial, he was charged with acts of cruelty. the convention voted first on his guilt. he was found GUILTY with a unanimous vote.
OK, you can accuse Louis XVI of being a royalist with conviction - he was, after all, the king; you can accuse him of supporting the foreign armies with semi-conviction. but of acts of cruelty? Louis XVI? opposed to shedding the blood of the french, even when it cost him? what were they thinking?
again, you can say it was a political trial, and you'd be right. but even though all former royalists were expelled from the convention, there were many people in the convention who did not want the king executed, especially the girondins. why vote him guilty, then? what's the logic?
any thoughts?


Wed Mar 21, 2007 6:51 pm
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The deciding vote for the king's death was cast by Orleans, his own cousin, who, of course, was hoping to become king someday.

Yes, it was ridiculous to accuse Louis XVI of cruelty when he had sacrificed his own family in order to avoid bloodshed.

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Wed Mar 21, 2007 6:56 pm
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Post Louis XVI's mistake
Ok, everything I wanted to say has been said so well, about the king's abilities, I will add one negative thing. Since Louis XVI really and sincerely wanted to reform the French system, I think his one gigantic mistake, the one that ruined his reign, was calling back the parlements that Louis XV disbanded exactly to prevent the kind of reactionary resistance they gave his grandson throughout the reign. I think if he hadn't recalled them he would have been able to pass the reforms he wanted and change the french regime so there wouldn't be need of a revolution.
He was very young when he made that decision, but it was still a serious mistake (for which, to a large extent, Maurepas should be blamed).


Wed Mar 21, 2007 7:07 pm
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Dorit you are probably right about that. But it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

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Wed Mar 21, 2007 8:27 pm
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I tend to agree with Dorit in as far as I don't think that, despite his clear initial good intentions, his strong moral fibre and his clear qualities as a husband and a father, Louis XVI was the man for the job in hand. In order for the Royal family to survive, in other words for royalty to survive in general, a strong communicator was needed, and a man with the vision to bring in change and impose this change. I believe that Louis XVI had the traits of character necessary to save the Royal family (he was a moderate and listened) but that he didn't know how to communicate this to the people. And at the essential moment he showed too much hesitation which was taken to be "double thinking" or Januskopf behaviour (two faced), for or against the constitution, for or against, one moment he's for, next moment he's against. The job in hand was extremely difficult. Firstly as the King and sovereign he had to accept that the days of the all powerful monarch were over, in other words that these would die with his reign, secondly he could see that the country was changing all around him, an exploding population near to 28.00.000 with an infrastructure of roads, thanks partially to the unpopular royal "corvée" decree under Louis XV, which meant that news travelled fast to all corners of France, including the salacious pamphlets and libel about the Queen. He could have used this same communication network to pass the right message to his subjects, who were suffering, through no direct fault of the King from the hardship of food shortages, and also, it has to said, an unfair feodal taxation system. His depression certainly didn't help this situation, as it handicapped his ability to size up the situation which was moving quicker than anyone could have imagined. Likewise he had in MA a traditionalist, love her as we might, who had been brought up in a different monarchy than this already fairly unstable French monarchy (look at the glad reactions to the death of Louis XV) and really didn't see the need for anything else than a loving King and sovereign. Her influence, although not decisive, was certainly to push the King to hold out where maybe further concessions were needed. She never believed that the constitutional monarchy was really a good thing for the country, this shows up throughout her correspondence. Indeed the compromising documents found in the "armoire de fer" written by Louis XVI to Mirabeau and others show that he himself was not convinced. The influence of generations of inbred thinking does not evaporate as easy as that, even though it is clear that certain injustices such as the fiscal priviliges of the nobility had to be addressed. What a shame because in Louis XVI the country had a leader capable to give unselfishly of his time for the good of his people within a new and fairer system. The dramatic speed of events caught up with him, and the mindless and scandalous violence of the manipulated sans culottes forced the Royal family to withdraw into an injured and oppressed sense of mutism that finally caused them to sign their own death warrant through their tractations with foreign powers whom they finally saw as their only hope against what they now perceived as their brutal oppressors.

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Tue Mar 27, 2007 2:11 pm
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