After missing a couple weeks of this entertaining series, we’re ready to get to the exciting part of The French Revolution: when people start to die left and right over stupid reasons! Next week or so we’ll have a fabulous half essay on Robespierre and an exciting post on The Reign of Terror.
King Louis XVI, one of the most known figureheads of French History, is also one of the most unlucky leaders of his time. At first, he was popular – with the region seeing him as a young, fit new leader with divine rights. However, as the end of the Old Regime approached and the young King’s world fell apart around him, he proved to be an unfit leader and faced that fact at the guillotine in 1793. Although King Louis was a popular symbol at first, with the people being fairly happy, his overall downfall was his impact on French society overtime. While he and his wife’s own personalities didn’t help their case, with Marie Antoinette sneering “let them eat cake” when told the people had no bread, it was their popularity overtime that ended their reign.
In the year of 1789, the Estates-General was called to solve the financial crisis of France, due to foreign wars. King Louis XVI had hoped to be able to place a tax upon the second class in order to perhaps lighten the load on France’s economic foundation. However, the second class, the Nobles, did not want to lose their precious privileges. While the second class argued to keep their privileges against taxes, nobody could agree on how to vote for the issue, since the last meeting was about one hundred and seventy five years before. The third class wanted more representatives, even though it wouldn’t matter since each class had one vote to the matter, and the first and second class (the two smaller but more important parties) would have voted against it, leaving the popular vote unread. Thus, King Louis first showed that he wasn’t a good leader, and the Estates-General meeting of 1789 failed. This is when the third estate, the largest class of 97%, saw that perhaps their king wasn’t quite fit to be in charge.
Newspapers put down King Louis XVI soon afterwards, and eventually Louis had absolutely no power, giving in to the people’s every whim. They wanted something, he refused, they threatened to kill him, and he’d agree. When a group of women went to the market and saw no food or bread, they marched to Versailles and demanded the royal family move to Paris to fix it. Lots of violence ensued, and the King was told it was his responsibility to feed the people even though the people were puppeting him at this time. This, for one, changed the course of the revolution, showing everyone he really wasn’t a good leader, by compromising everything at this point and doing what women and children told him too. The people watched as their economy collapsed and financial Hell nipped at the country’s heels, and immediately blamed King Louis. As time moved on and things got worse, the country grew more and more angry with Louis and placed him in a terrible, “ugly” cassel. This is what started the final chain reaction that would lead to King Louis XVI’s eventual decapitation and death.
Radical revolutionaries and nobles began organizing resistance to the revolution, so a revolution against the revolution, due to their loss of power, and religion pursued against the country as catholics openly attacked protestants. This is when King Louis XVI grows anxious about the revolts, and sneaks out with his family to Varmes, a smaller city outside the capital of France, Paris. His main goal was to slip into Austria, a nation against France, and flee from the unstable, yet growing, revolution around him. Which is when he is seen and recognized from the national coin, and dragged back to Paris. Soon discovered that he was trying to leave France and the growing issues around him, and even worse the fact the country he planned on fleeing to was a main enemy to the French people (and even worse, their Revolution), was enough for a speedy trial. Which is when his popularity in his own country went to an all time low, and the people decided they no longer needed him as their very own monarchist puppet.
King Louis XVI, once popular and loved in the Kingdom of France, faced a serious downfall caused by economic, financial and political affairs. Many events, including the Estates-General and March to Versailles, proved to the people of the revolution that he was an unfit leader, and caved in when oppressed. King Louis’s personality had nothing to do with the downfall (even though one could say Marie Antoinette’s attitude didn’t help the situation), and his eventual downfall was lead to the issues that broke his popularity and leadership in the eyes of his people. Thus, the French Revolutionaries could destroy the symbol of power and continue fighting for their causes – which would eventually lead to Maximilien Robespierre and the Reign of Terror.
That’s it for this week. Vive La France!