Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A New Biography of Louis XVI

The life and contributions of Louis XVI have been reassessed by an American author, Alison Johnson.
Over two centuries have passed since King Louis XVI (1754-1793) was executed by guillotine.  He is the only French King to die by execution.  Ironically, Louis XVI did not want to be the king, writes Johnson.  Rather, he preferred a quiet life in pursuit of his interests in locksmithing, carpentry and geography.  When he accepted the throne, his work was dedicated to the welfare of his people until his government became engulfed in the violence of the French Revolution.

Regrettably, his reputation as being a "weak king", were the result very bad historical timing.  Nevertheless, his personal courage was undeniable.  For example, she describes an account when Louis XVI met with insurgents, who led street mobs who had murdered two of his personal officials and paraded their heads through the streets of Paris on pikes.  Just a few days later, Louis XVI rode from his palace in Versailles to Paris with no protection to meet the insurgents.

Her book's last biographical chapters are based on accounts written in the journal kept by the king's valet.  A poignant record of the King's calmness in the face of death is described.  His valet recorded that when he awakened the king on the morning of his execution by guillotine, the King told him that he had slept very well.  "That's the mark of a man absolutely secure in his conscience and religious faith," says Johnson. (Read entire article.)


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