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Imprisoned Louis XVI and His Family

Imprisoned Louis XVI and His Family Famous Historical Events Famous People Social Studies Trials World History Tragedies and Triumphs

"Louis XVI and his Family in the Chateau du Temple," by Edgar Melville Ward, is a lithograph of the King of France as he neared the end of his life. It is an artist's interpretation of the royal family while they were confined at the Temple Prison in Paris. 

Among other places, Ward's illustration was included in Hutchinson’s History of the Nations, published in 1915.

Life at the royal court—which Louis XVI had known all his life—was much different than the life he and his family lived while they were imprisoned in Paris. Curators at the Palace of Versailles tell us more about the normal court life of a French king and, in particular, that of Louis XVI:

During the 18th century, French kings dedicated increasingly more time to their personal lives to the detriment of their official role as the incarnation of state power.

Louis XVI kept his subjects at quite a distance in his exercise of royal sovereignty. On some evenings he would order almost official suppers in the dining room of his Petit Appartement. About sixty guests, including the queen, the members of the royal family, ministers and courtiers would be received here. But the court was smaller and less brilliant than under Louis XIV and Paris supplanted Versailles as the country’s cultural centre.

Louis XVI was the third son of his parents, so he never planned to be king. Then ... when his two older brothers died ... he found himself in different circumstances.

Although he was a learned man, he was not educated in the ways of a French King. Versailles’ curators tell us more about this issue (which may have led to Louis’ downfall):

Louis XVI developed his taste for the applied sciences and the technical and mechanical curiosities he collected in the cabinets and laboratories he had built for him close to his apartments.

He had workshops for experimenting in physics, mechanics, chemistry, joinery, timepieces and locks, as well as a forge and an electricity gallery. Louis XVI showed keen interest in naval technology and the preparation of exploratory expeditions to new countries.

In the 1780s, he chose the navigator Jean-François de Lapérouse to sail around the world. In 1783, the king attended the first aeronautical experiments carried out at Versailles: on 14 September, Etienne de Montgolfier launched a balloon filled with hydrogen and carrying animals in the gondola over the rooftops of Versailles.

On 21 November, Pilâtre de Rozier set off from Versailles and completed his first trip by air which lasted 25 minutes.

These feats, while trend-setting and fun, were not related to running the country which, by the time of the French Revolution, was deeply in debt.

Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were blamed for all manner of problems endured by the French people. They both paid for the grievances, alleged against them, with their lives.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Nov 15, 2016


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

 

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