Louis XVI Auguste, King of France

BORN 23 Aug 1754, Versailles, Yvelines - DIED 21 Jan 1793, Paris: Place de la Révolution (now: Place de la Concorde)
CAUSE OF DEATH executed by beheading by guillotine
GRAVE LOCATION Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis: Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis (in the center of the crypt)

Louis XVI was son of Louis, Dauphin of France (1729-1765), the son of king Louis XV. His mother was Maria Josepha of Saxony (1731-1767). After the death of his older brother in 1761 and his father's death in 1765 he became the new Dauphin. In 1770 he married the Habsburg princess Maria Antonia, afterwards known as Marie-Antoinette. But the French people disliked the alliance of France with Austria and the marriage was unpopular. Almost certainly the marriage was only consummated in 1777. By that time Louis was king, after the death of his grandfather in 1774.

Louis and Marie-Antoinette had four children. The eldest was Marie Thérèse Charlotte (1778-1851). Their son Louis Joseph Xavier was born in 1781 and his death in 1789 made their second son Louis Charles (1785-1795) the new Dauphin. Their daughter Sophie Hélene Béatrix (1786-1787) died in her first year.

As king he wanted to be popular with the people, but he had trouble forming firm opinions and taking decisions. Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux took charge of many affairs until he died in 1781. On 7 November 1787 Louis signed the Edict of Versailles, that granted rights to non-Catholics. Over the years the king had to deal with the difficult financial position of the French State and his nobles blocking new taxes. Under his reign France supported the Americans in their War of Independence.

In 1789 a mob of working people marched to his palace in Versailles. They brought the king and his family to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, based on the idea that he would be more accountable if he lived among the people in Paris. In 1791 he tried to flee from Paris with his family to Montmédy near the northeastern border, where the Austrians could protect them. But he was recognised by Jean Baptiste Drouet and the family was arrested at Varennes-en-Argonne and taken back to Paris.

The Legislative Assembly of France declared war on Austria in April 1792 with the support of Louis XVI. An invasion of the Austrian Netherlands failed before the battle had really started. Austria and Prussia sent troops to Koblenz on the Rhine and they stated that they wanted to restore the king to his full powers. This was interpreted as a cooperation of the king with foreign powers and further undermined the position of Louis. He was arrested on 13 August 1792 and imprisoned in the Temple in Paris. On 21 September the National Assembly abolished the monarchy.

The Girondins wanted to keep Louis as a hostage but the more radical forces wanted him to be executed as soon as possible. He was tried for high treason and crimes against the State. In the first vote he was consiered to be guilty by 693 deputies. No deputy voted 'not guilty' and 23 abstinated from voting. The second vote determined the sentence and with a majority of one vote he was sentenced to execution on 16 January 1793. Among those who voted in favour of his death was Philippe Égalité, the former Duke of Orléans. Louis was dignified before his execution. He declared himself innocent and he probably wanted to say more when a drum roll prevented him from talking to the public. After that he was quickly executed.

His body was moved to the Madeleine Cemetery where he was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1794 the Madeleine Cemetery was closed. After the restoration Louis XVIII had his remains and those of Marie-Antoinette tranported to the Basilica of Saint Denis. At the former cemetery the Chapelle expiatoire was erected as a monument between 1816 and 1826.

• Wife: Marie Antoinette, queen of France (1770-1793)

Related persons
• employed Cléry, Jean-Baptiste
• was executed by Sanson, Charles Henri
• employed Sèze, Raymond de

2/4/1766Large party in Vienna in honour of the marriage of Marie Antoinette. At the time Maria Antoinia, the future Marie Antoinette, was only eleven years old and would marry the future Louis XVI in 1770. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
16/4/1770Festive audience at the Hofburg because of the marriage of Marie Antoinette. It was kind of an initial ceremony, in which a French delegation formally asked for the hand of princess Maria Antonia in the name of Monsieur le Dauphin, the future king Louis XVI. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
14/5/1770Marie Antoinette meets the future Louis XVI at Compiègne. The woods of Compiègne were chosen as the meeting location. In later years Napoleon would also meet Marie Louise there. In 1918 the armastice was signed at Compiègne and the capitulation of 1940 was signed there as well. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
30/5/1777Joseph II says goodbye to Marie Antoinette in France. He had visited her and told her that she shouldn't behave in a frivolous way. He also commented on 'dubious friends'. He also made clear to Louis XVI that he fell short as a husband, since the marriage was still not consummated. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
30/8/1777Marie Antoinette writes to her mother that her marriage was thoroughly consummated. It was rumoured that Louis XVI had to undergo and operation before they finally could have sex. [Maria Theresia, Erzherzogin von Österreich][Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
27/4/1784Premiere of Beaumarchais' "Le Mariage de Figaro" at the Théâtre François in Paris. It had been read at the Comédie-Française in 1781 and it was privately performed on 23 September 1783. It has been banned by Louis XVI but queen Marie-Antoinette liked it and in 1784 Louis XVI lifted the ban. Louise Contat played Suzanne. [Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de][Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
10/8/1792The Tuileries Palace in Paris is attacked. The Royal family is arrested and members of the Swiss Guard of Louis XVI are killed [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
13/8/1792The French royal family is locked up in the Temple prison in Paris [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
29/9/1792Louis XVI is separated from his wife Marie Antoinette. He was locked up in a different part of the Temple prison. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
20/1/1793Last meeting between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Louis XVI was sentenced to death because of contact with the enemy and support for an invasion. He would die under the guillotine the next day. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]
20/1/1815The remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette are transferred to Saint Denis. Like many victims of the guillotine he was buried in an anonymous grave at the Madeline Cemetery. It was closed on 25 March 1794. In 1802 the land where the bodies lay was bought by Pierre Louis Olivier Desclozeaux, who sold it to Louis XVIII on 11 January 1811. The bodie were exhumed on 18 and 19 January and moved to the Saint Denis Basilica on 20 January, where they were reburied on 21 January. The remains of Marie Antoinette were identified by a garter and a jaw. [Marie Antoinette, queen of France]


The grave of Louis XVI at the Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris.
Picture by Androom (20 Feb 2016)


The monument for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette at the Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris.
Picture by Androom (20 Feb 2016)


• Belloc, Hilaire, Marie Antoinette, Het Spectrum, Utrecht
• Hearsey, John, Marie Antoinette, Sphere Books, London, 1974
• McGuigan, Dorothy Gies, Familie Habsburg, Molden Taschenbuch Verlag, 1976
Louis XVI - Wikipedia
Madeleine cemetery - Wikipedia

Louise Henriëtte, Countess of Nassau

Published: 06 May 2023
Last update: 06 May 2023