Death of the Sun King Louis XIV dies in 1715. The government coffers (treasury or money that the government has) were depleted by Louis XIV. The death of Louis XIV brought about Louis XV. Louis XV is a lot like Louis XIV, and really does not change the way he governs France. So for our purpose we will skip a head to Louis XVI. When Louis XV dies, in 1774, Louis XVI takes over as King of France.
Enter King Louis XVI In 1774 King Louis XVI came to power. Louis XVI was born on August 23 1754 and died on January 21, 1793 He failed miserably to bring about economic reform, and social justices. He continued to rule like King Louis XV Louis XVI was ill-prepared to be the leader of France during this tumultuous time. He also had very little interest in being King of France, and thus left many decisions to other Aristocrats
Louis XVI Louis XVI did little to improve conditions with his fellow citizens and to change to create any sort of harmony or unification. Louis would not spend anytime studying the problems and trying to create solutions that the country needed. He hardly paid any attention to the concerns of the bourgeoisie and the peasants. In fact he would even blow off appointments with some aristocrats. The worst thing you can do as a politician is upset the middle class (the bourgeoisie). All that Louis XVI had to do was sit down and talk with the middle class and come up with some sort of a solution to their frustrations – but he chose not to listen to them.
Louis XVI One of the main reason Louis XVI should have taken the time to talk to the middle class was because they were educated, they were the economic levers that drove the country. The middle class would have welcomed some sort of change to help move their country in the right direction. As an example - Louis the XVI did nothing to change the laws around taxes and tolls –the same taxes and tolls that been around during Louis XIV reign. The middle class, especially the businesses, were infuriated with having to pay taxes to get from one side of France to the other.
Louis XVI In France, depending on where you lived, you abided by different rules and laws. Some parts of the country relied on laws that were based on ancient Roman Laws when France had been part of the Roman Empire; While other parts of the country, like in Paris, had laws that were created based on local customs.
Louis XVI Finally, another problem was the country had many different languages, not everyone spoke French. Some spoke Breton, or German or had some other form and dialect of French. Overall, all Louis XVI had to do was sit down and talk with a few people to create some sort of change… something that would make living conditions in France better. He chose to do very little.
Marie Antoinette The one smart thing that Louis XVI did was marry Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette was an Austrian. Louis XVI thought that if he had married an Austrian Princess it would mitigate all the wars that had occurred between France and Austria. While on the big picture it was a good thing to do, on a the local scene in France it was a bad choice as the citizens of France hated Austria, and thus loathed Marie Antoinette and as a result the thought that King Louis XVI was more a traitor than anything else.
Marie Antoinette Marie Antoinette did no favours for King Louis XVI as well – as she made it her job to upset the aristocrats by mocking traditional French manners and courtesies. (She also fired a bunch of Aristocrats from government positions) Marie Antoinette was not to shy from buying extravagant items and loved to spend a lot of money on clothing, jewellery and land. She went so far as to buy a Diamond Necklace’s that amounted to be worth more than the entire income of the country of France.
Marie Antoinette This lavish spending brought about a huge crisis as French Citizens were extremely offended that she would spend a fortune on necklaces while many citizens lived in poverty, and often unable to feed their children. Not only was the new Queen spending away all of the governments money, but many of the bourgeoisie knew of the debts that King Louis XIV had created, and now Antoinette was just adding to it.
Marie Antoinette Finally, she – like her husband – did a good job at alienating the aristocrats. She made poor choices in selecting aristocrats to government positions without actually knowing what the position entailed. As such she would often fire people – people who actually were doing a good job – because she did not fully understand what the job was all about. The firing of aristocrats on a regular basis got many of them more and more upset.
New Ideas Philosophers– are people who met to discuss society, politics and to create solutions to social problems in life. Philosophers came to be the bane of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, as these philosophers created ideas that became the catalyst for the French Revolution. Most philosophers rejected the idea of an absolute monarchism and favoured a democracy instead (one similar to what was in G.B.) They also believed in science and scientific reasoning to explain the world – as opposed to the Catholic Church and the bible.
New Ideas - Women New Ideas were not created solely by men either, women played a huge role in spreading these new ideas. Women held salons where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged among other women. These women became an integral part to the French Revolution as they showed that it wasn’t only the men who were frustrated with Louis XVI and Antoinette, but women had had enough as well.
The Enlightenment The Enlightenment (or AKA the Age of Reason) - was a cultural movement of intellectuals that began in the late 17th and early 18th century. They emphasized reason and individualism over tradition. Their purpose was to reform society using reason, rather than faith and tradition, and advance knowledge through scientific methods. Ultimately, it meant that science and human intelligence were of the highest importance, rather than tradition and the church. If an idea could not stand up to reason – through experimentation – than it had to be discarded.
The Enlightenment To many philosophers in France, they believed that the Church and its reason could not stand up to be proven and thus had to be discredited. The Church was a strong supporter of the monarchy and the monarchy was a strong supporter of the Church. Thus a conflict was arising, the philosophers (mostly made up of bourgeoisie) educated the peasants (whom agreed with the bourgeoisie) and as a result we had Peasants and Bourgeoisie vs Aristocrats and the Monarchy (and the Church).
Three main philosophers Montesquieu Rousseau Voltaire Three philosophies dominated Europe before the French Revolution: Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu.
Voltaire Votaire– he was the most famous philosopher. He was against the Church and in favour of freedom of thoughts. He believed that the monarchy was for the most part, good for society. But in order for the monarchy to be effective, it needed to embrace free thought and free thinkers and most of all, change.
Montesquieu Montesquieu– He to believed in free thought. But he had higher goals than Voltaire. He suggested that the monarchy work hand in hand with an elected parliament (like in G.B.) Most monarchies hated this idea because they did not want to share power with the common people.
Rousseau Rousseau– believed that society needed a social contract – an agreement – in which everyone in society agreed to that was abided by specific rules. He stated that each citizen had to agree with what the majority wanted – no matter how good or bad the idea. Ultimately, he thought that good people would find a way to ensure that good ideas would be meet via the majority.
These ideas and what they did European’s started to listen much more closely to these philosophers. These philosopher’s were middle class citizens with money to spend on making books, travelling and discussing their ideas. Citizens across Europe would listen and follow. Their ideas became so problematic for King’s and Queen’s that a lot of them had warrants for arrest and imprisonment. They tended to flee from country to country leaving behind ideas that citizens would hold onto – ideas that sparked A REVOLUTION.