The Controversial Reign of Louis XVI

Louis XVI Genealogy

After his grandfather’s death, Louis-Auguste inherited a kingdom in debt and with a rising wave of societal issues. He attempted to abolish serfdom and remove the taille and corvee, but his reforms were met with hostility.

A gourd believed to contain blood from the king was recently analyzed by scientists. The DNA signatures from the gourd matched those of three living male relatives of the Bourbons.


Louis XVI was born 23 August 1754 in the Palace of Versailles. He was the son of Louis, Dauphin of France and his consort, Marie-Josephe of Saxony. He was baptised with preliminary rites the same day. He was given the title Duc de Berry at birth.

At the age of nine, following his older brother’s death, Louis became the new Dauphin and heir apparent to the French throne. He was tutored by French noblemen and studied religion, morality and humanities as well as subjects such as Latin, history and astronomy. He also became fluent in English and Italian.

Louis XVI was a shy boy but strong and healthy. He was also a natural leader. He successfully abolished serfdom and the taille (land tax) and corvee (labor tax). But his attempt to deregulate the grain market caused bread shortages. He backed the French Revolutionaries, but when they turned violent, he was captured and executed. He is buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.


Louis-Auguste was born at Versailles in August 1754 as the second son of Louis, Dauphin of France, and his German wife Maria-Josepha of Saxony. He was third in line to the throne but his elder brother’s death and his grandfather’s illness put him at the forefront of succession. Despite his well-rounded education, including history, geography, science, Latin, and Greek as well as several modern languages, he was not fully prepared for the concrete challenges of ruling.

He was a mediocre king, relying heavily on ministers and rarely consulting his ancestors for advice or guidance. He was also insecure and austere. Due to his shyness, he was not at ease with public relations or his new wife. He also suffered from a physical problem that, it is thought, prevented him from consummating his marriage to Marie Antoinette. This was later remedied through surgery.


Louis was shy as a child, which may have been partly due to the fact that his older brother died at age nine, making him heir apparent. He was tutored by French noblemen, studied religion and morality and reached fluency in Latin, history and astronomy.

But he lacked the self-confidence and strong will that would make him a king. His innate indecisiveness made it difficult for him to resist the pressure of court factions and stand up against his own ministers who were implementing reforms.

He and Marie Antoinette never had any natural children, but their four adopted daughters survived the revolution. Two were girls, including Marie Therese of France, Duchess of Angoulême and Sophie, Princess Royal. The remaining two were boys, both of whom died at young ages, during the first wave of the French Revolution. Recently, DNA analyses of the heart from the gourd allegedly belonging to the king and hair cut from Marie Antoinette revealed that the children were indeed theirs.


The youngest son of Louis, Dauphin of France, and Marie-Josephe of Saxony (the daughter of Frederick Augustus II, King of Poland), the future King Louis XVI was born in Versailles on 23 August 1754. From an early age, he was educated by French noblemen in subjects such as Latin, history, geography and astronomy. He also became proficient in English and Italian. He enjoyed physical activities such as hunting and rough play with his younger brothers.

At the age of 15, he married the 14-year-old Habsburg archduchess Maria Antonia, his second cousin once removed, in an arranged marriage designed to strengthen ties between France and Austria. They had four children.

The King had to contend with the financial problems he inherited from his predecessors. He attempted to reform the tax system but was blocked by members of the nobility who wanted to protect their privileges. He also lost the popular support he needed to maintain his absolute monarchy.

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