Welcome to the Illustrated history!
Today, I want to write and illustrate about the last King of France – Louis XVI (seize).
Poor Louis was not only shy in nature but due to his phimosis he was also, in his own eyes, not manly enough which added to his shyness. He barley talked or made effort to engange in any conversation. In fact, he hated it and most likely feard speaking in front of others. But the burden that was his fate, made him king of France. He loved the simple life and he would have been happier as a farmer.
King Louis is often described as clumsy, short sighted (literally – this made him trip over his own feet or sword an added to his nervousness during public events) and as a silent man.
He came accros as not very bright and slow. He feared people that were talkative and fast in speech. But underneath all this, Louis XVI was actually not stupid. He loved to read, he was reliable when it comes to his duties and he was loyal.
He was married to Marie Antoinette, the famous Queen of France. Given the description I just wrote about Louis XVI its no wonder that Queen Marie Antoinette was so admired. The was everything King Louis was not. Outspoken, cheeky, happy and carefree. Simply a happy spirited person who had the world at her feet. The first few years of marriage, Louis didn’t „complete“ his marriage. Which means, may I say it directly, he did not make love to his wife. This went on for many years and both were made fun of by the royal court and france. Marie Antoinette was mostly blamed not to make her own husband „hungry“ enough. And given the fact, that she was from another country, a country which was once frances worst enemy, didn’t make it easier for her.
Louis knew perfectly well what was wrong. He had a phimosis and feared the short operation that was needed. So he simply ignored the problem until it became unbearable. I have symphathy for Marie Antoinette. Imagine your job is to give birth to an heir but your husband refuses to do the deed. More likely, imagine him trying over the time frame of 9 years and be left unfinished and unsatisfied. I can’t blame Marie Antoinette for going on expensive shopping sprees and gambling her worries away. King Louis felt so guilty, he just let her do whatever she wanted.
After he finally had his operation, an heir was born. A girl! And the lethargy King Louis for once was so excited by this public held birth, he personally opend the windows of versailles so his Queen would have fresh air after she fainted. After this public birth (yes it means giving birth to a baby while everyone is watching) King Louis declared that never again should a queen give birth in a „showroom“ and that she should be with only a few people.
They went on to have four children. Two girls and two boys. But only the eldest would survive the french revolution. One boy died after the revolution due to neglect and the other two died before the revolution while they were little. (Back in the day children often didn’t survive childhood, so it was almost expected)
King Louis went on to live his life the way he wanted. He was mostly happy, when he didn’t had to take care of his royal duties. He was easy manipulated by the ministers who did knew well, that they could do whatever they wanted basically. Queen Marie Antoinette wasn’t interested in politics at all, so it was easy for them.
By the time the roar in france began, it was already to late. Too many things went wrong for too long. Any after the royal family tried to flee the country they were arrested and put into custody.
King Louis himself was already defeated and accepted his fate like he did in all those years with no contradiction. He probably didn’t fight for his life, like Marie Antoinette did. She was the one, that would come to her mind during the court hearings and she grew incredibly from experience. But it was all too late.
King Louis was sent to be beheaded by the guillotine on January 21st 1793 on the place de la concorde. He took this verdict very calmly and with dignity. Shortly before his life was taken, he declared once more, that he was innocent.
written by Monia Schendel
Stefan Zweig – Marie Antoinette – ISBN-10: 9783596222209
Wikipedia – Louis XVI