France’s Despair: King Louis XVI’s Selfishness France was in a long state of despair due to King Louis XVI’s abuse of power. To provide some context, King Louis XVI was born on August 23, 1754, in Versailles, France. He was the final king of France before the start of the French Revolution in 1789. In 1765 Louis XVI became heir to the throne after his father’s death. Later on in his life he married Marie-Antoinette, the Austrian archduchess, daughter to Maria Theresa and Holy Roman emperor Francis I. Louis XVI finally succeeded his grandfather Louis XV in 1774 as the king of France at the young age of 19, even though he lacked the knowledge, confidence and maturity to rule France. Since Louis XVI was young and inexperienced he lacked the qualities needed to become a worthy king, these traits caused him to become easily persuaded into surrendering to revolutionary figures in court and failing to enact a functional constitutional monarchy. Knowing the situation at hand Louis XVI decided the best idea for him to remain in power was to cut off communication with the officials at Versailles and indulge in his extravagant lifestyle and spending, while the rest of the people (mainly the third estate) in France lived in poverty. Eventually the citizens of France grew tired of his ignorance and they stormed the Bastille prison once news broke out that Jacques Necker (Louis XVI’s finance minister) was discharged in July 1789, forcing Louis to yield to the National Assembly (Popkin/Goodwin, 2017). In turn King Louis’ poor leadership, extravagant spending and heavy taxation on the third estate contributed to the start of the French Revolution. King Louis’ failed leadership caused France’s economy to collapse. He was a passive ruler and often allowed his wife to get involved with the state affairs. Even though King Louis XVI was considered to be a poor leader he did allow the French parlements to restore their power in the government, something that his predecessor King Louis XV tried to prevent. This act that King Louis XVI passed allowed the pro-parlemente supporters to become much more prominent in states affairs and they assured Louis XVI that it was his objective (Rana, 2017). Royal power became easily swayed, but in turn this lead to King Louis XVI’s increase in popularity and the French Revolution. Unity within the court became non-existent and Louis’ distaste for formalities and public speaking underplayed the importance of the court, resulting in the lack of attendance among nobles. Issues Louis disagreed with were not taken seriously and he would refuse to acknowledge them through the use of silence and ignorance. He envisioned himself as a resolved ruler, but never took the responsibility to lead his country. Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, and Jacques Necker’s (a French physiocrat/reformer) attempts at reform were dismissed allowing for the a change within the French government. Turgot proposed, “It is this necessity then that calls upon Your Majesty to oblige each department to consult the Ministers of Finances (Alphahistory, 1774).” This shows how irresponsible Louis was, since he always acted on his own accord without the consultation of the Finance Minister or the rest of the court. Even with the help of Necker, Louis still failed to take a prominent role in his government and in appointing a prime minister to provide him with the support he needed in his weak leadership. As a result of Louis’ actions France became divided among factions, leading the state into chaos (Wilde, 2017). Extravagant spending was one of the main contributions toward the French Revolution. France was in debt long before King Louis XVI, from Louis XVI’s ancestors, Louis XIV and Louis XV. Louis XVI had previously participated in the Seven Years’ War dragging France into deeper deficit. Louis XV and Louis XVI both struggled to increase taxes for the wealthy members of government, nobles, and the clergy. Money was borrowed from France during the American War of Independence in 1776, but the economy started to deteriorate. Debt skyrocketed due to dangerous government spending, so King Louis XVI passed a new tax affecting the wealthy (Erenow, 2017). The financial crisis was not only King Louis XVI’s responsibility, his wife Marie-Antoinette also shared the blame for the extravagant spending. Marie-Antoinette had minimal duties as the queen of France spending her days gossiping in the Palace of Versailles. She developed an expensive and extravagant lifestyle. As the queen of France she spent most of the monarchies money on clothing. Along with her taxing fashion, she would spend ridiculous amounts of money on gambling. During one of her gambling expenditures she spent three consecutive days gambling with her friends, around her 21st birthday. While Marie-Antoinette and her family were living a lavish lifestyle many people were struggling to afford food and other basic necessities. Later on, she became known as “Madame Deficit” because of her outrageous spending (Pettinger, 2013). Marie-Antoinette expressed in a letter to her mother, “What was really affecting was the tenderness and earnestness of the poor people, who, in spite of the taxes with which they are overwhelmed, were transported with joy at seeing us.” This provides insight on Marie-Antoinette’s ideals and egotism at the sight of the cheering crowds, who were overjoyed to see their queen, even in the state of financial crisis that they were in. Marie-Antoinette also displays a sense of awareness of how dire the situation was for the poor people (third estate), but chose to be ignorant about helping them and lowering their taxes.The third estate was heavily taxed by King Louis XVI’s government leading to the rebellion against the French monarchy during the start of the French Revolution. During Louis XVI’s time the court favoured the wealthy while the middle class and peasants were considered to be obsolete. As a constitutional monarchy, France’s people were not allowed to voice their opinions in the government or the passing of laws allowing the upper class to take advantage of the situation. The third estate and middle class were forced to pay high taxes but got nothing in return. These people started to become divided and factions helped them to voice their opinions. The majority of citizens in France were starving after a long harsh winter and their main food source (bread) became scarce due to the bakers trying to profit from the citizens. High taxes, food shortages and ignorance towards the citizen’s basic needs became the factors leading to the French Revolution (eNotes, 2015). A Paris newspaper called the “L’Ami du Roi noted, “There was frequent bloodshed; food was snatched from the hand as the people came to blows.” Violence was a recurring event that took place and fights broke out during the time of the bread/food shortages. People were in a state of distress and could not pay for their next meal. The baker’s shops were crowded with starving people everyday waiting for their daily bread. Sometimes there were days when people would be waiting for the baker to open up the doors only to be disappointed without obtaining food for the day. The third estate was tired of King Louis’ oppression and decided to revolt through the formation of the National Assembly after Louis had rejected the petition for a one-man-one vote policy, on June 27, 1789. Louis made an attempt to disband the National Assembly on July 11 of the same year. A riot broke out against the Bastille prison on July 14 seeking weaponry and refuge from the kings’ army. The Bastille prison was conquered and started one of the most significant revolts in French history, the French Revolution. Peasants who lived in rural communities requested for the disassembly of the monarchy and violence broke out. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was published on August 27, 1789, stating that all French citizens had the freedom of speech, press, and religion, as well as a representative government and equality before the law. Unfortunately not all citizens were equal including women and slaves and property owners exclusively held the right to hold seats in legislation. Subsequently King Louis XVI was tried for treason, stripped of his birthright and executed by guillotine on January 21, 1793. Nine months later, Louis’ wife Marie-Antoinette was also tried for treason and executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793, ending the reign of the French monarchy. The backlash from King Louis XVI’s decisions and actions had a lasting and impactful effect on the French monarchy and society. His failed authority, ridiculous expenditures, and ignorance of the third estate’s financial crisis all lead to the upbringing of the French Revolution and eventually the downfall of the French monarchy at the time. Louis’ weak leadership skills pushed him into multiple undesirable situations and struggles for power in government leading to the collapse of the French economy and the division of the third estate into factions. Debt was rapidly catching up to France after supporting the Americans during the War of Independence, alongside the emergency government spending, and Louis’ lavish lifestyle with his family and wife Marie-Antoinette. Finally, Louis’ ignorance of the third estate’s basic needs caused people to starve from food shortages, created the National Assembly, and it provoked the storm of Bastille Prison. These factors all lead to Louis’ and the monarchy’s downfall, essentially starting the French Revolution. Through Louis’ mistakes hopefully society will look back on the bloodshed, hardships and corruption to provide a better future for society and to never repeat the mistakes of the past, allowing for development in human history.