Louis XVI, 1774-A

KM 556.1; Friedberg 469, PCGS graded AU-58

Influenced by the new ideas of the Enlightenment, Louis XVI attempted to abolish serfdom as well as the taille and corvée taxes that targeted the peasantry, followed liberal economic policies that deregulated the grain market, and supported the American Revolution. While these all sound like good things, they all came at great cost, which, in the end the people were unwilling to bear. The cost of bread shot up due to the new economic policies and the kingdom began to drown in debt due to the staggering costs of financing a major war in the New World. At the same time, the king, and especially his wife, the infamous Marie Antoinette, continued to live the opulent lifestyle that the French kings had been living since the time of Louis XIV. It all became too much, when bad harvests and rising prices led to bread riots and the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 as a sign of protest against Louis XVI and the absolutist Ancien Régime. On October 5, 1789, the king and his family were forced to leave Versailles to take up residence in Paris and his absolute authority was strongly curtailed by a new National Assembly. All might not have been lost, but when Louis XVI attempted to flee on June 21, 1791, he was considered to have betrayed his people. Despite the official declaration of a constitutional monarchy shortly thereafter, from this point no end was really possible for his reign save under the blade of the guillotine.

Paris. LUD · XVI · D · G · FR · ET NAV · REX ·, uniformed bust of Louis XVI left. Reverse: CHRS · REGN · VINC · IMPER (lyre) 1774, crowned arms of France within palms.

Ex Heritage (8 January 2007), 51087