Why is Louis XVI. Important
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
A marriage that is supposed to end an arch enmity
Louis XVI von France is born in Versailles in 1754 - in a castle that symbolizes the claim to power and the extravagance of the French monarchy. A single person rules a monarchy. The right to rule is passed on within the family.
King at that time was Ludwig's grandfather, Louis XV. An energetic man who demonstratively enjoys his life: He celebrates a lot, likes to eat, surrounds himself with pomp and splendor. It goes without saying that he has affairs with so-called mistresses, such as the famous Madame Pompadour.
His son Louis Ferdinand, the father of little Ludwig, rejects this way of life, however: he brings up his children in a strictly religious manner. Ludwig is considered shy and shy.
Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna was born in 1755, the 15th child of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. She is obviously a cheerful girl, loves music and dance. The energy and severity of her mother, who knows how to assert herself in the power poker of the European rulers, seems to be missing.
France and Austria had been enemies for generations. But shortly after Maria was born, the two countries join forces against Prussia. The ruling houses want to fill this new alliance with life as soon as possible - for example by marrying, as was customary at the time.
It is a double coincidence that Ludwig and Maria, of all people, are made for each other. He only becomes heir to the throne because his older brother dies as a child; she only his fiancée because her older sister is surprisingly forgiven elsewhere.
At the age of 14, Maria was handed over to the ambassadors of her future husband on an island on the Rhine near Strasbourg like goods. In a specially built pavilion in the middle of the island, she has to completely undress, she is not allowed to keep anything.
Then she, who is now called Marie Antoinette, is given to her new lady-in-waiting. The power of the French monarchy is everything, even as a married Austrian she is nothing: this is what Marie Antoinette wants to be conveyed to as early as possible.
Let them eat cake!
The expectations of the future king and his wife are great. First of all, offspring should be brought in as quickly as possible. But that's easier said than done - even years after the wedding, the two have not had a child.
This is especially a problem for the young princess. It is whispered and mocked about at court and on the streets of Paris.
Above all, however, her mother sits behind her neck, the strict Maria Theresa. In her letters, Austria's Empress regularly demands more erotic persuasiveness from her daughter on the one hand, and diplomatic skill on the other. Marie should influence her husband in the sense of Austria - that is, serve her new country with offspring and at the same time not forget her old homeland.
But Marie Antoinette is hardly interested in politics. On the other hand, contemporaries consider her to be admirably stylish and apparently hardly averse to pleasure.
Together with her tailor and her hairdresser, she designs daring and expensive creations: one and a half meter high hairstyle towers, for example, which are decorated with bird nests or miniature furniture and coated with thick layers of powder. This does not go down well with the starving people.
She has many envious people at court. You probably also started a rumor that persists to this day. Marie Antoinette is said to have responded when she heard of an uprising by starving subjects with the incomprehensible sentence: "If you have no bread, you should eat cake." It is not certain whether this statement really came from her. Well-meaning contemporaries describe her as generous and kind.
For the French public, however, Marie Antoinette is and remains the aloof lady from hostile Austria, while her colorless husband was adored by many French until the revolution.
A procrastinator on the throne
In 1774 the aging Louis XV dies. from the smallpox. Since his son Louis Ferdinand is already dead, the crown goes to his grandson. In Reims, Louis is crowned Louis XVI, King of France.
For the rest of his life he will find the office a burden. At least his first child was finally born in 1778: Marie Thérèse Charlotte. In 1781 Louis Joseph was born, the long-awaited heir to the throne. Ludwig and Marie Antoinette have a total of four children.
Louis XVI has taken over the country in a difficult state. The coffers are empty, the people are dissatisfied, protests against the king are loud. The ideas of the Enlightenment spread among the educated: Reason should be the basis of all action, not the teachings of the church or the orders of a king.
It is a situation that needs a strong ruler. But Louis XVI. is insecure, a hesitant and hesitant who sometimes falls asleep and snores loudly during important meetings.
In addition, he had to cope with a severe blow of fate in 1789 of all places - when the French Revolution began: his son Louis Joseph, who suffers from rickets, dies at the age of only seven. But the events do not give the king a break, the revolutionaries do not want to take his personal situation into account. "Are there no fathers in the Third Estate?" He comments bitterly.
Father of the country or enemy of the people? The king and the revolution
At the same time, Louis XVI tries to be conciliatory, to approach the revolutionaries - even if it is only in his demeanor and choice of words. When the Estates General was convened in the spring of 1789, he called himself the "first friend of the people".
But the people don't believe him. On October 5th, 1789, hundreds of Parisian market women move to Versailles and demand that the royal family move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Here Ludwig should be closer to the needs of ordinary people, here they should be able to better control that his family does not live too lavishly.
In fact, Ludwig is relocating. In 1790, on the first anniversary of the Bastille storm, he swore allegiance to the nation and the law.
For the time being, this appeases the French. Marie Antoinette, however, is increasingly becoming a figure of hatred. During the march of the market women to Versailles, some insurgents stormed into the queen's bedroom. She can escape at the last second via a secret staircase. Your bed will be pierced by spikes.
But leaving her husband in the lurch and returning to Austria is out of the question for Marie Antoinette. In the meantime she no longer feels like an Austrian, but rather a French woman, the wife of the current king and mother of the future king.
Escape, imprisonment, execution
Nevertheless, with Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette's fear that the revolutionaries might capture and depose them - and they decide to flee. On the night of June 20, 1791, the royal family got into the carriage of a baroness friend, disguised as their valet and governess.
The horses have to be changed shortly before the national border; A postmaster noticed that the passenger clearly resembled the king, whose portrait adorns the recently issued paper money. The escape fails, the royal family has to return to Paris.
The new constitution sees Louis XVI. as a monarch, but the mood of the people is turning against him. When the so-called "Braunschweiger Manifest" became public in the summer of 1792, his fate was sealed. In it, the Duke of Brunswick swears bloody vengeance to all residents of Paris if they should harm the king.
Many French take this as evidence that Louis XVI. allied with the monarchs of Europe against his own people. On August 10, 1792, an angry crowd storms the Tuileries. The royal family is arrested and taken to a medieval tower. The kingship is abolished.
In a process before the National Convention, Louis XVI. Sentenced to death and executed on January 21, 1793. With the man who never wanted to become king, the French monarchy died for the time being.
And Marie Antoinette? Had she had the choice, she, too, would probably have stayed away from power. During her life she was just another plaything: her mother wanted to make politics with her marriage; her courtiers expected her influence and wealth; the French public made them a scapegoat for everything that was despised about the monarchy.
Marie Antoinette accepts her death sentence with proud equanimity. It was carried out on October 16, 1793 - by guillotine.
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