Un citoyen

Louis XVI was born on August 23, 1754. I’m sure you all know that he was executed following the French Revolution, but what don’t you know about him?

  • his real name was Louis-Auguste
  • he was his parents’ third son, and thus, was not originally the heir
  • he was good at learning languages, including proficiency in Italian and Latin
  • his hobby was locksmithing
  • he became the heir to the throne at age 11, having survived his father and two older
    English: Louis XVI of France when he was the D...

    English: Louis XVI of France when he was the Dauphin of France. Italiano: Luigi XVI di Francia quand’era Delfino di Francia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  • he married his second-cousin, Marie-Antoinette, when he was 15 and she was 14
  • although there are rumors of sexual problems that prohibited consummation of the marriage for many years, the couple did have four children – two girls and two boys, two of whom outlived their father
  • he became  the king of France at the age of 19
  • he sincerely wanted the people to love him and would go to lengths to explain his edicts, rather than ruling in an absolutist manner
  • the debts France incurred backing the American Revolution led to unpopular taxes that were the direct forerunners to the French Revolution
  • he promulgated the Edict of Tolerance in 1787 that gave Protestants and Jews rights equal to Catholics
  • he suffered from recurrent bouts of depression that made decision making almost impossible
  • in 1792, he was stripped of all titles and known hereafter as Citoyen (Citizen) Louis Capet, a reference to the Capetian monarchy, however, Louis was actually descended from the Bourbons
  • Français : Journée du 21 janvier 1793 la mort ...

    Français : Journée du 21 janvier 1793 la mort de Louis Capet sur la place de la Révolution : présentée à la Convention nationale le 30 germinal par Helman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    when he was guillotined on January 21, 1793, members of the watching crowd ran forward to soak their handkerchiefs in the royal blood as ghoulish souvenirs

  • he is the only King of France ever to be executed
  • his daughter, the Duchesse of Angoulême, petitioned unsuccessfully for his canonization
  • at least nine different US states have cities named Louisville after the hapless monarch who supported the American Revolution
  • he was not the last king of France; he was succeeded in theory by his son, Louis XVII, who was in prison and never crowned, and then there were various restorations of the Bourbon line under Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe who reigned until 1848
Louis XVI of France

Louis XVI of France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And for the idiom of day, un citoyen (sea-toy-ehn), as Louis XVI was known at the end of his life, is also a way of saying that someone is rather odd. Quel drôle de citoyen! I think, however, that I have never actually heard anyone use this phrase, so it might be quite out-dated. Can anyone out there confirm that theory? Poor Louis XVI is often portrayed as a bumbling odd duck, totally outmaneuvered by a scheming wife, but I hope that now you’ll have a fuller picture of the ill-fated King of France.

Louis XVI

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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6 Responses to Un citoyen

  1. I look forward to your posts everyday! Thank you for another great post. If it helps to confirm your theory, I’ve never heard someone use “Quel drôle de citoyen!”

    • Thanks for the positive feedback and the comment about the idiom. Language certainly is a living, and regional, creature. I worked in Paris this summer with a woman who was originally from Ohio and said, “shooty patooty” instead of another “s” word. I’d never heard of such a thing and thought it was pretty droll. My husband said it’s a fairly common expression among Midwesterners. I wonder if any of our French colleagues will now spread “shooty patooty” as American slang!

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