Louis XVI – Tatiana Arevalo

Marc Sandoz, Antoine-François Callet, 1741-1823, Ed. Éditart – Quatre Chemins, Tours, 1985.

Death

“The life of one for the lives of millions”

I did everything I could that’s what I kept repeating to myself as we were escorted out of the palace and into the carriage, I didn’t care to know where we were going it was all the same to me I knew what was going to happen,

My heart beat racing, a fire burning much like the pitchforks that await me,

I close my eyes only to hold back the tears, I have tried to fix the mistakes of others that came before me, only to be left with the blame,

The memories flood my mind much like the tears I am holding back, they bring me to a simpler time when I could easily navigate my way through life, the tutors would teach me about math, science, physics, nautical explorations,

They told me that all I needed in life was these subjects and if I knew them through and through I would be a successful king,

The one thing they failed to teach me is how to understand the needs of the people, human emotion a lesson that cannot be learned from a book,

There is simply nothing I can do now because the people have made up their mind or should I say their hearts, once emotion suppresses the logic and rationality that a man has then there is nothing to be done to stop him,

I know what is they want for they seek my death so that they may establish a new form of government one where I am not present,

I’ve been trapped in a palace since birth unable to see what the life of a commoner was like, how could anyone learn from simply being a meer listener to the gossip that runs rampid in the streets,

I have failed my people, I have failed my wife, I have failed my children, I have failed myself, and most importantly I have failed France

Now there is only one split second remaining for the transition to occur from king to commoner.

Explanation: Louis XVI like most kings has been protected for most of his life from the outside world, everything he knows has either been taught to him through a book which has an altered perspective with concepts only certain people understand. This makes it very hard for him to comprehend his people, historians claim that he was often aloof, distant and reserved. It should be noted that during his upbringing with tutors they often advised him that in order to be king he must have a stern approach towards his people because if not they will disobey him. However, there are two ways in which power can be acquired the first is that you make people fear you and the second is that people give you respect. At this point in his life before he faces his execution he begins to understand how he could have avoided this situation had he been more vocal about what he was trying to fix within France. His predecessors have left him with a crumbling economy, which has left people out of work, without adequate housing, and without food. The burden was too much and since he is the person that is representing the state of France as a whole it would only make sense for the revolutionaries to kill this symbolic figure of power. As for death it is certain, no one is ever truly ready for it, not even kings as seen with this poem, he now understands what the commoner has to go through when they are sentenced to the guillotine. Now realizing how the citizens think, he starts to sympathize with them, he becomes humanized at a point where it’s already too late. Also towards the end of the poem I made it so that the last thing that he says failed is France because after all its the state above everything else even before oneself.

Historical Analysis: At this point the year is 1789 King Louis XVI can feel the power of the citizens growing, him and his family are brought to the Tuileries Palace. The safest option for his survival is to him to leave, but as a royal instead of escaping on a normal looking carriage that doesn’t call so much attention he decides to leave on a large royal carriage to Austria. This gold looking carriage calls the attention of the people in Varen which is a French city close to the Austrian border, and from here is he is found and brought back to Paris. Once he got back to Paris documentation was found that shows he was speaking to Austria about launching an attack on the revolutionaries which is why he was trying to go escape. All the nobles had already made it there, with him being the last one to go. It is difficult to plan a strategic attack when your own military cant even suppress the revolutionaries. He did the smartest thing he could do which was get the backing of a foreign power. Then in 1791 he tries to leave the city of Paris, but his plan is quickly found out and he is militarily forced to return back to the prison. Then in 1793, the National Assembly finally makes a decision regarding King Louis XVI and his family, the punishment is death by guillotine. During the time while him and his family were kept as prisoners, the National Assembly began to adopt some of the principles of the Declaration of the Rights Man, but this was all overshadowed by the problems that were plaguing the war at the time.

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Human Rights

The pursuit of human rights have been at the forefront of French ideology for centuries from the ideals that started in the enlightenment that would eventually lead to the American revolution and later the French one. In 1778 Louis XVI signed the Treaty of Alliance that promised the American revolutionaries military and economic backing if Great Britain formally issued a declaration of war. The expansion of human rights abroad, the French strategically lost more by siding with the revolutionaries, but it was mainly through a hatred of Great Britain that they decided to help. The Americans had broke away from the British, risked it all, and due to help from the French the underdogs were able to succeed. Around the time that Americans were writing up their constitution the French were starting their revolution, and the Americans were torn at the decision of helping the French. Many of them felt as though they had to repay the French for their assistance while others though that the United States should focus on domestic issues instead of focusing on an international scale. Many claimed the United States should not try to make alliances so early on since they were just starting out as an independent country.

Louis XIV had a distant mentality from the former Louis XIV who is known more famously by his quote “L’Etat, c’est moi” or “the state that’s me”. He had tried to institute policies that had been oppressive towards people such as abolishing torture confessions, he tried to get the nobles to pay more in taxes to help those commoners that were struggling to make their harvest (and of course the nobles refused), and abolished the death penalty for those that left the army. Although he did have good intentions for the people in time he took reactive measures to situations that were either beyond his control such as the crop failures of the 1780s which caused grain scarcity, or things that he could not get approved such as lowering of taxes. With the debt surrounding the 1763 Seven Years War instead of continuing to take from French Banks Louis XVI should looked for financial assistance abroad in order to lessen the burden on taxpayers. Although he did all these things in the name of human rights those that chose to join the revolution would preach that the government of France was corrupt, and that they joined in the name of creating this notion of fundamental human rights. This would then be a contradiction when Napoleon Bonaparte would commit crimes against the citizens in the countries he conquered.

During the reign of Louis XVI he saw the drafting of the 1789 Universal Declaration of the rights of mans and citizens which would then in 1948 become the model for the United Nations Universal Declaration of human rights. It came to be in 1789 and then in 1948 in Paris, France the birthplace of this document, it was ratified by 48 different countries and is a document that had become the pillar of the United Nations. As a student that participates in Model United Nations I find interesting that the original birthplace of human rights is where I am going to be this summer. Louis XVI could have taken advantage of the opportunity to be the one to commemorate this notion of human rights into the French Government, but he truly didn’t understand what it is they were fighting for, and his inability to do so made him pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. The culture that France embraces so much today came from the people not the state, even though in today’s society the state is the one that makes the decision on a larger scale. For a leader the dessivive, firm action should have been without hesitation, but this King often hesitated to approve anything, which was his downfall.  An avid lover of philosophy inspired by the ideals of the enlightenment, which said that a king exist independently of his subjects, missed the opportunity to be remembered for something truly extraordinary.

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Democracy  

“Universal Hope”

The time of the people has come, a long awaited moment that felt like it was only yesterday,

All faith has been lost in the king, for his power seems not to phase us,

We’ve stayed silent for far too long, felt the blows of the sticks as they beat whatever life we have left in us,

Before our bodies used to ache for food, now they ache for revenge a quenching thirst that can only be stratified by the fall of a head,

My crops have died by the cold frost, and our patience has been growing thin,

We seek to plant our voices into the government, to be heard, to have rights, to be treated as citizens instead of subjects,  

My body has been undergoing intense stress for months, or is it years,

For I can’t seem to recall,

Meticulous planning, marches, shouts, cries, protest, tears, pride, justice, then came the revolution,

As our blood boils it changes into a different color, so when I die on the battlefield I can bleed blue, white, and red,

The colors of change.

Democratic Theory: There are several factors that helped the French population in rising up to overthrow the government. When the movement first started it was supposed to be a peaceful movement then later on it  turned into a dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte. During this time they had been inspired by the Declaration of the Rights of Man which came as a direct result of the ideals proposed by the enlightenment. Fed up with the burden of taxes and an inability to find food many of them found it better to pick up arms rather than try and negotiate with King XVI who had shown that he had very little interest in them. The most successful democratic movements happen when there are more people involved in the movement than the military forces from the Authoritarian regime that try to suppress them. Also France’s climate is relatively good meaning that crops are able to flourish, according to Jones’s theory the reason why democratic transitions are more likely to occur in certain areas, is because they have an abundance of ……..Water. The reasoning being that the central authority cannot stop the rain from falling from the sky, as we know the more it rains the more crops grow meaning they are less likely to follow an authority when all they really need is given to them by nature. In some countries the main source of revenue might come about as a result of a resource that cannot be easily taken advantage of by everyone such as oil, diamonds, metals, etc.

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Philosopher King

Interestingly enough even though Louis XVI was a king, and I Tatiana Arevalo a mere student I found that him and I shared a love for academia. During his time at Versailles (Fun fact: he was the last king to live in this palace)  he had tutors from all of the world to come to teach him about philosophy, religion, chemistry, wood making, and physics he spent much of his time at the palace in these study areas. I too enjoy learning very much sometimes taking on more than I can handle, but I absorb knowledge like a sponge, and am fascinated by new information. Sometimes for me it’s easier to try and figure out a math problem, read a poem, or write an essay, than it is for me to figure a person out. Louis XVI found it fun to sit in his chambers away from all his problems and get lost in the knowledge, and often I found that when I do that I find myself being hostile towards people. He was intrigued by large problems, but often lacked the social awareness or understanding to help those that lived in France. For me as terrible as it sounds I prioritize school over everything which leads me to have less time to spend with people. Luckily for me unlike Louis XVI once I’m done with my school work I know how to relax, and I have the ability to do so because I’m just a commoner. Louis XVI must have had a perpetual stress, and he probably never got the chance to relax or the chance to be spoken to like a normal person because he was always king. Often he listened to the nobles never really exerting power for himself, which is something I face too, instead of listening to the options of others, I should have confidence in my own abilities to make decisions. He should have listened to them, but ultimately made the decision he thought was best for his subjects, and felt strong in his ruling.

A foreigner in your own country

Louis XVI was referred to as a poor king even before the people hated him, an attitude that still persists in France today, however people do acknowledge his efforts noting that he was just placed in a situation of misfortune. His wife Marie Antoinette was Austrian, to the French this was seen as someone occupying the position that should have been given to a French royal. Marie never cared for the French people, I mean why would she when that needed at the palace, and she was very occupied with fashion (she was a good trendsetter). The attitudes of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were both aloof, reserved, and distant towards the people of France which made for a deadly combination that would eventually lead to their demise. They acted this way towards each other, seeing as it took them seven years to finally be intimate with each other. They looked as if they were not in constant communication which could be easily seen by other people.

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