Louis: the King of the Third Estate (1789)


Written by a confidante of the Queen in mid-1789, Louis: King of the Third Estate is a defence of the old order and implies pity for Louis that he seems unwilling to maintain and defend absolutism. It also reflects the Queen’s influence and her own conservatism and political maneuvering.

“We [the Queen’s circle] never ceased telling the King that the Third Estate would ruin everything—and we were right. We begged him to keep them in line, to use sovereign authority to block party intrigue. The King told us: “But it is not clear that the Third Estate is wrong. Different procedures have been used each time the Estates have met, so why reject joint verification? I am for it.”

The King, it has to be admitted, numbered among the revolutionaries at that time — a strange twist of fate that can only be explained by admitting that the hand of Providence was involved. Meanwhile rumors spread in Paris and Versailles was only slightly more peaceful. The Comte d’Estaing, who was soon to be commander of Versailles’National Guard, was already playing an important role there. The King readily listened to him…

Deceived on the one hand by the Genevan [Necker] … the King paid no attention to the Queen’s fears. This well-informed princess knew all about the plots that were being hatched against the government. She brought them to the attention of Louis XVI, who told her: “But when all is said and done, is the Third Estate not also my children—and the greatest in number? And will I not still be their king even though the nobility may lose some of their privileges and the clergy a few snatches of their income?”