Celebrating Louis XVI

Accomplishments besides Marrying Poorly

Versailles Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Versailles
Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Louis XVI, king of France, was born 261 years ago on August 23, 1754, and what many seem to remember about him is his wife, Marie-Antoinette, originally of Austria, and his general ineffectiveness in leading his country—hence, its revolution in 1789 and his eventual visit to the guillotine in 1793. Yet, without the bumbleheaded Louis XVI, the American Revolution may not have succeeded, and the French one may not have been inspired.

Although funding the Americans for the wrong reasons—not because of an interest in liberty or taxation only with representation but because his enemy Britain was on the opposing team—his help was highly beneficial to the American cause, with the result that France’s fortunes, and ultimately his own, suffered. But without him, might the Republic of France have never been born?

Excess at Versailles Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Excess at Versailles
Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Of course, we will never know. What we do know is that Louis was not really raised to be king and only ascended to the top slot because his father and older brother died prematurely. Then his grandfather, Louis XV, died when Louis was just 20, an age that seems just a touch young for real leadership.

So, while Louis XVI has not been looked upon kindly by history, he, in fact, made no small contributions to democracy by providing support to a foreign revolution and then triggering one in his own country.

—Lori Tripoli

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