|About the Book|
The reign of Louis XVI, which ended with the guillotining of Louis followed by that of his wife Marie Antoinette in 1793, is a dramatic and crucial part of French history. Yet there have been few authoritative studies of the King, a result of theMoreThe reign of Louis XVI, which ended with the guillotining of Louis followed by that of his wife Marie Antoinette in 1793, is a dramatic and crucial part of French history. Yet there have been few authoritative studies of the King, a result of the paucity of personal documentary materials. John Hardman, who has spent many years tracking down the primary sources, now fills the gap with this engrossing and perceptive account of Louiss reign.Hardman divides his story into three periods. His account of the first twelve years of Louiss reign, from 1774 to 1786, reveals the secret workings of absolute monarchy in the last stage of its development. During this period, Hardman shows, the King was capable but also austere, enigmatic, and at times callous. The second part of the book, from 1787-89, opens with Louiss great personal reform initiative presented to the Assembly of Notables as a pivot of the reign. Here Hardman discusses the disintegration of the regime, the loss of Louiss personal composure, and the corresponding rise in the influence of Marie-Antoinette. The Kings often misunderstood attitude to the Estates-General in 1789, he argues, determined the whole character and course of the French Revolution.The main theme of the last section, from 1789-93, is the Kings attitude toward the Revolution as embodied in the Constitution of 1791. However, the political drama is also partially replaced by a human one: as Louiss political role declines, his character, tempered by suffering, becomes more sympathetic. In the end, Louis emerges as a ruler with clear ideas and a genuine concern for the French people, and the flight to Varennes and the Kings imprisonment and execution take on new poignancy.