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 A depressed King? 
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What a terrible childhood. No wonder Louis XVI was depressed. He could easily have become bitter and self centered and have attempted to use his position as king to take his revenge on life for treating him so badly when he was a child. The fact that the King never turned to bitterness is all credit to him.

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Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:44 pm
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Merteuil wrote:
What a terrible childhood. No wonder Louis XVI was depressed. He could easily have become bitter and self centered and have attempted to use his position as king to take his revenge on life for treating him so badly when he was a child. The fact that the King never turned to bitterness is all credit to him.


So true. He never took revenge upon anyone, nor was bitter, which shows a great inner maturity and self-possession, as well as a strong interior life.

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Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:11 pm
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If you can not pin the tail on the donkey call it depression. Louis was not depressed at all. He rather was in the right place at the wrong time. Sadly he trusted his Swiss Guard to much as they were small in numbers. In honesty Louis and MA had no axe to grind with the French people. I think they were as much a loss as we are as to what happened at the time.

Everyone thinks a crown is a crown and that no one else wants it. This was not the case in France or particular to them. Louis would not move the country forward as a constitutional monarchy as people could not read or wright. A simillar thing happened in Russia and china, with their monachry. He felt that people had to read and wright what was going on. That is not depression to me. Louis met everyonme and everthing face on head on and in a non violent way. He trusted his french subjects to much and his power from the spirit of God to much.


Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:24 pm
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What are you talking about? Of course he moved the country forward into a constitutional monarchy, but he was wary of the country falling into the hands of radicals. He made many concessions all the same. There are many witnesses who claim Louis was ill with melancholy, Madame Campan gives examples of his uncontrollable weeping in the queen's arms.

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Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:31 pm
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Post depression? maybe later
I agree that there is no real evidence that Louis XVI suffered from depression as a child or youth. having unhappy times as a kid is not the same as clinical depression. He certainly had those. His parents' attitude around the time of Bourgogne's illness and death always seemed to me uncaring, at least where little Louis-August was concerned - forcing him to be with his sick brother and subjecting him to the brothers' whims, then showing they preferred the dead boy to the living. and then being orphaned at a young age = 11 - doesn't make for a happy childhood. But the evidence is he was an active boy, went hunting often, studied and did well - very well on certain topics - and from my experience, clinically depressed people find it hard to function. as a king, his letters and most of the opinions show him as conscientous and pretty confident in his new found role - accepting it as god's will.
However, I agree with Therese that later, and more and more as the revolution went bad, he suffered from depression - which probably led to the lethargy many historians pointed out.
Naturally enough, there is evidence I don't remember in which book - that over the last few months that he was very unhappy, such as exclaiming that he was sorry the French never got to know her, and the famous "poor woman, she was promised a crown and it ended like this" remark - naturally. he was in prison, on trial for his life for allegedly betraying the country he loved. his wife and children were in prison and in mortal danger. how would you feel? but again, unhappy isn't clinically depressed.


Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:49 pm
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Yes, Doritmi, I think he had bouts of depression and lethargy during the Revolution but it was not a constant thing. There are many records of how he received his ministers and politicians and dealt very ably with them. He confronted the mob and won people over to his side.

Nesta Webster makes the point that from age 20 to age 34, when the Revolution broke out, he had not permitted himself any rest (except for his hunting) but had worked tirelessly night and day for the reform of the government and finances. He never had a "vacation" except when he traveled briefly to Cherbourg to inspect the navy. His son's death in 1789, combined with the famine, the eruption of violence, and the seeming deterioration of all that he had worked for, immobilized him for a time.

But he had a wife who stayed at his side and helped him to go on.

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Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:00 pm
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Locks of Louis wrote:
I remember reading in Vincent Conin's Louis and Antoinette that when he was alive Louis's older brother would read a list of his (Louis's) sins every week! That has to be a self-esteem killer.:?


I was just rereading this book today and noticed that I was incorrect, Louis's older brother would read a list of his own sins every week. But would always be sure to mention any he had corrected. Which probably didn't make Louis feel that much better.

And his brother did say that he wouldn't give up his position (even though he was dying) for Louis's heath, which probably would have made Louis feel pretty worthless.

But as others have pointed out, this doesn't necessarily mean he was depressed, but he certainly seems to have had a nervous breakdown in 1789 as a result of all the horrible events of that year. And you can't really blame him. :(

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Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:37 am
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I want to make it clear that I am adding this comment in the light of reading principally centred on MA, but nevertheless I have my opinion and would be interested in reactions. I feel that Louis XVI was particularly depressed in later life, but as a child and adolescent he was more "withdrawn" and somewhat secretive. Look at his first reaction to MA upon her arrival at the court. They were children it's true but so were Louis XIV's boys (especially the dauphin) when their wives arrived on the scene and the latter could hardly wait to have a go at his new wife!! It's a question of character and Louis XVI seemed happier blackening his fingers making keys and locks under the rafters of versailles or accompanying the workers repairing the roof than being around his new young wife. He seems a naturally good natured man and the kind of man open to change and reform, so I feel that he became depressed when faced with the extremist views of those plotting against him. He was a natural patriot I am sure and couldn't believe the people turning against him. Whereas some men would have reacted angrily he went more and more into his shell; this is not to say that he didn't have any spark, he did, and he knew what he wanted in life, a family, children and a relationship with one woman. He rejected angrily one nobleman's offer to take an actress as a lover, saying that these were the morals of that particular nobleman's father! I feel that in a sense Louis XVI was "immobilisé par sa déception" , but of course this immobility came at the wrong time and made him feel even guiltier because he felt he was letting MA and the children down. His behaviour during the varennes flight was particularly bizarre, showing himself far too obviously from the carriage window or talking to people en route as if he wanted to be caught!! But what is even stranger is how the MA/Louis XVI couple was firmed up in diversity. This was probably helped by the shared ordeal of the dauphin's death, and then by the common will to save the children, but MA and Louis XVI finished on a genuine high note. This love strengthened Louis XVI when facing death but things may have been so different perhaps if MA had been able to show him this earlier in their life together and maybe if there had never been a Fersen...question...do readers here think that Louis XVI was aware of Fersen's feelings for the Queen and of her possible feelings for him? I know that certain of you feel that it was no more than a friendship but I feel that it was it more than that, even if they were probably never lovers.

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Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:13 pm
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Yes, I agree. Except that it must be remembered that on the flight to Montmedy, Louis WANTED people to recognize him. He hoped that the people in the provinces would rally to his side. I some areas they would have, but not in that particular place.

The closer they got to the end, the more Louis seemed to place total trust in his wife. He even expresses this in his Last Will and Testament. She had never given him any reason not to trust her. He gave no indication of suspecting that she had any affection for Fersen (if indeed she had any deep feeling for him at all) and he also showed that he trusted and respected Fersen.

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Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:22 pm
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Post No Depression
We talk of depression as though it has been arond since these times. Depression is a modern day vortex that people of that time had neither the time or money to uphold. Depression in the twenty first centuary we can not afford and has nothing to do with Louis.

Louis was at a loss as to why the people had turned against him. I dont think he ever understood the reason why. He trusted people to much with the duke of Orleans and the Duke of Provence doing just what they wanted to do, by with holding bread and turning print after print in the cellars of versailles. Oh yes lets blame MA. The whole thing went out of control.

The man was very coherent and to nice and kind for his own good. Louis XVI was a humble king never did any harm to anyone. He loved his people and as king put them before anyone. So what, they mangled his neck in pain at the guillotine. What ever, we say about him he never had chance to speak his truth and never had made any one suffer like he did. Is that depression ???


Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:50 pm
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Post No Depression
We talk of depression as though it has been arond since these times. Depression is a modern day vortex that people of that time had neither the time or money to uphold. Depression in the twenty first centuary we can not afford and has nothing to do with Louis.

Louis was at a loss as to why the people had turned against him. I dont think he ever understood the reason why. He trusted people to much with the duke of Orleans and the Duke of Provence doing just what they wanted to do, by with holding bread and turning print after print in the cellars of versailles. Oh yes lets blame MA. The whole thing went out of control.

The man was very coherent and to nice and kind for his own good. Louis XVI was a humble king never did any harm to anyone. He loved his people and as king put them before anyone. So what, they mangled his neck in pain at the guillotine. What ever, we say about him he never had chance to speak his truth and never had made any one suffer like he did. Is that depression ???


Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:50 pm
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In the eighteenth century, they called depression "melancholy." Melancholy has been around for a long time. Even Aristotle talked about it. St Teresa of Avila discussed it in detail in her works from the 16th century.

There are different degrees of melancholy/ depression that can seize a person, especially in time of a calamity. The loss of a beloved child can cause parents to experience depression/melancholy. I agree with Nesta Webster that Louis XVI struggled with bouts of melancholy/depression after his son's death and with the onset of the Revolution. This is not a criticism or sign of weakness in him; he could not help being overwhelmed. He behaved with courage, dignity, and benevolence in spite of the almost debilitating spell he labored under at different times.

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Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:02 pm
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I fully agree with you Thérèse. Depression is what we call this state now, but many words/terms have changed over time, however the feelings have remained the same. Look at Hamlet as described by Shakespeare, written well before this period. A Prince struggling with a dilemna, surrounded by plotters, and cursing his own inaction. An imaginary prince but a real writer describing these very real emotions. I think that fundamentally man has changed very little in his basic emotions, but these are faceted by his changing surroundings and evolving culture to a certain extent. But we are still born naked and die alone....

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Sat Mar 17, 2007 9:37 pm
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Post and other royals
and Louis XVI wasn't the only royal to sink into debilitating depression, the kind of depression that really damaged his functioning; Mary Stuart of Scotland was also prone to it.
I think Hardman makes a very strong case for Louis XVI's falling into depression around 1787 (whether or not you agree with the causal reasons) by pointing to the change in Louis' behavior - increase in drinking, passivity and inaction that were not there before, reacting instead of acting, where the Louis XVI of the first 13 years of the reign had very clear ideals and ideas and pursued them, although he kept running into obstacles.


Sat Mar 17, 2007 11:29 pm
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Indeed starting from 1787-1788 Louis XVI had more and more depressions, because he felt that he did not control anything any more, that the people did not like him any more, and he did not understand why, because he loved really his people. :?
This is why Marie-Antoinette dealt also more with policy :wink:

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