It was on this day in 1754 that the future Louis XVI was born.

His parents were Louis, Dauphin of France (1729-1765), and Marie-Josèphe, Dauphine of France, née princess of Saxony-Poland (1731-1767).  The infant prince was immediately named Duc de Berri by his grandfather, Louis XV, and was soon christened Louis-Auguste to distinguish him from his elder brother, Louis-Joseph.

Louis, Dauphin de France (1729-1765). I photographed this bust of him in his sister Victoire’s drawing room at Versailles in March, 2016.

Louis-Auguste was in fact the third child in the family.

There would eventually be 7 children altogether:

  1. Marie-Zéphyrine (1750-1755)
  2. Louis-Joseph, Duc de Bourgogne (1751-1761)
  3. Louis-Auguste, the future Louis XVI (1754-1793)
  4. Louis-Stanislas, the future Louis XVIII (1755-1824)
  5. Charles-Philippe, the future Charles X (1757-1836)
  6. Marie-Clothilde, the future consort of King Carlo Emmanuele of Sardinia (1759-1802)
  7. Élisabeth (1764-1793)

Louis-Auguste would have been too young to be affected by his elder sister’s early death, but his elder brother’s death when Louis-Auguste was 6 must have had as great an effect on his private feelings as it had on his public position.  Louis-Joseph’s demise at not quite 10 years of age moved Louis-Auguste directly into the line of succession behind his father.

Louis-Joseph de France, Duc de Bourgogne (1751-1761). Credit: Wikipedia.

One hopes that Louis-Auguste had a happy childhood, but it seems unlikely.  His parents favoured Louis-Joseph and were disconsolate when their cherished first-born son died.  They themselves died within a few years, orphaning their 5 youngest children.  Louis-Auguste was handed over to a governor, the Duc de la Vauguyon, at the age of 6, and remained in his care until 1770.  The duke was apparently a strict guardian whose old-fashioned educational methods and conservative outlook did the future king no service.

According to Wikipedia, Louis-Auguste, “a strong and healthy boy, but very shy, excelled at his studies and had a strong taste for Latin, history, geography, and astronomy, and became fluent in Italian and English.”

Louis-Auguste was freed from the Duc de la Vauguyon’s tutelage in 1770, when he married the Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, known to posterity as Marie-Antoinette, and was given his own household.  On the death of Louis XV in May, 1774, Louis-Auguste succeeded him and became Louis XVI.  The rest, as they say, is (tragic) history.