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"I die perfectly innocent of the so-called crimes of which I am accused. I pardon those who are the cause of my misfortunes." - Louis XVI
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' French series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of France's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Louis XVI is one of the most famous kings of France, but for reasons he would have much rather avoided. Coming of age in the wake of the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, and his father, Louis XV, Louis XVI initially intended to be one of France's most enlightened kings. Instead, he was destined to be the only French king ever executed. Indeed, it is his death and his role in fomenting the French Revolution (along with his infamous queen, Marie Antoinette) that continue to play the central role in Louis XVI's legacy.
The abrupt demise of Louis XVI and his reign capped a tumultuous but important historical period for both France and the rest of the world. It was Louis XVI's wish to reform France in the mold of the Enlightenment and his failure to push those reforms against a reluctant aristocracy that emboldened and spurred those who would rebel against him. At the same time, his support for the American cause during the American Revolution in the 1770s was integral in securing that nation's freedom and further adding to France's financial woes.