DBWI No Reign of King Louis XVII: The Sun King Come Again

King Louis XVII the son of the unfortunate King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antionette was one of the most consequential Kings in French history. His restoration of Absolutist Rule and heavy involvement in governmental affairs earned him the monicker the Sun King come again. King Louis who was imprisoned and neglected in horrible conditions was only saved by the efforts of a few daring monarchists who managed to storm the Temple Tower and rescue the Titualar King of France and his sister Maria Thérèse after the execution of their parents.

King Louis had apparently been beaten and starved while in captivity and had grown ill due to his filthy cell. It was not expected that he would live much longer, but he managed a miraculous recovery. It’s likely that had the escape attempt failed, he likely would have died in captivity. Louis XVII was greatly affected by this trauma and this developed him into a hardened man into his adulthood. His experience at the hands of the Revolutionaries made him despise the ideals of the Revolution which would later contribute to him ruling personally in matters of state once he took the throne. The influence of his uncles especially the Count of Provence helped him navigate through the challenges of a post-Revolutionary France.

While Louis was a reactionary, he still found use of the concepts and administrative ideas that gained popularity during the Revolution. He also promoted merit within the army and government, and greatly limited the power of the nobility much like his ancestor so that he would rule without opposition.

The military and civil reforms proposed by General Napoleon who defected to the Royalists after his career stalled under the Directory, helped France become a major power again.

But what would France end up like had Louis XVII died in prison? Louis XVII due to his background helped serve as a unifying symbol for French monarchists and the peasants in places like Vendee. Would someone like the Count of Provence have fared better? What would the Bourbon restoration look like without Louis XVII?
 
Louis XVII's uncles were much more conservative and reactionary than the king. At least Louis XVII allowed during his last years some form of parliament which helped France eventually adopt British style parliamentarist system. Not sure that his uncles would had managed make such reforms and they might had even faced new revolution. The king was too skilled diplomat who managed bring France midst of European politics and making his country becoming strong rival against Prussia.
 
While Louis was a reactionary, he still found use of the concepts and administrative ideas that gained popularity during the Revolution. He also promoted merit within the army and government, and greatly limited the power of the nobility much like his ancestor so that he would rule without opposition.
Well, his regime has been described as "proto-totalitarian" with how it combined the absolutism of his family line with the centralized and meritocratic state proposed by the French Revolution. Heck, even his allowance of some form of parliamentary governance in his last years of his reign and how he reached out to the bourgeoisie of France could be considered an antecedent of how totalitarian regimes seek to maintain power through a single mass party and use the sham of a democracy to provide the regime legitimacy. Even if the lack of a male son led to a succession crisis which led to his daughter being the first Queen of France and eventually to France adopting a democratic system of government, it must not be forgotten that King Louis XVII was possibly the first totalitarian dictator of the modern age or at the very least had policies which foreshadowed the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th Century.
 
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So, your thoughts on Louis XVII being described as "proto-totalitarian"? How accurate would such a label be?
I think that it is bit extravagant. Yes, him had secret police but he too allowed some freedom to people altough any republicanism wasn't accepted and even smallest hint about such was enough for jailing. And he probably helped transfer France towards constitutional monarchy on his last years.
 
I think that it is bit extravagant. Yes, him had secret police but he too allowed some freedom to people altough any republicanism wasn't accepted and even smallest hint about such was enough for jailing. And he probably helped transfer France towards constitutional monarchy on his last years.
Well, much of the administrative structure of his regime, with how it combined a centralized, bureaucratic, and meritocratic state with the absolute control of the monarch, has been argued by political scientists to be a forerunner to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
 
So, your thoughts on Louis XVII being described as "proto-totalitarian"? How accurate would such a label be?
Honestly I don’t think that’s very fair to King Louis. His comparison to the Sun King stems from both his authoritative style of rule, and the fact that he was the most effective Kings from the House of Bourbon in a long time. Louis XV was a complete disaster for the monarchy while Louis XVI was simply unlucky and was too naive and gentle of a King to put his foot down when he needed to. Louis XVI tried to be popular and was easily impressionable enough to empower the noble dominated Parlements that refused to register any of the King's reform plans. Louis XVII however utilized the army to effectively put down any whiff of rebellion or suspected Revolutionary activity. He saw himself as a continuation of the Enlightened Absolutism that was practiced by his ancestor Louis XIV. Plus Louis XVII wasn't a tyrant. He ruled with a pretty light hand towards the peasantry and worked to improve living conditions for the poor. His reconstruction of Paris while also beautifying the city, was also shrewd in the sense that the streets and alleys were widened such that armed mobs could no longer barricade themselves, and soldiers would have easy access through the city should they entrap the King and the Royal family like what happened to the Prussian King . He also effectively utilized propaganda to paint himself as a champion of the poor while framing revolutionaries as dangerous anarchist seeking to create chaos in France. He shrewdly observed the French Republic in exile and learned from Napoleon's use of the masses as a power base for the monarchy. The peasants of Vendee for example received personal attention from the King due to it being a large Royalist bastion during the Revolution. The peasants that were massacred by the Revolutionary government were declared heroes by the King and he even built a memorial for the people who died there. Vendee is one of the most monarchist regions in France today.

Yes, him had secret police but he too allowed some freedom to people altough any republicanism wasn't accepted and even smallest hint about such was enough for jailing. And he probably helped transfer France towards constitutional monarchy on his last years.
While Louis XVII recognized that some reforms were needed I doubt that could really be called a Constitutional monarchy. He hated the word Constitution and framed the document as Royal Decree stemming from his diving powers as King. Louis XVII hated Constiutions since it reminded him of the Constitutional monarchy of 1791 which saw his father reduced to a figurehead and ultimately executed by the National Assembly. He created a rump Parliament which still is effectively a rubber stamp much like the Estates General of the Middle Ages was for the Kings of France. This is comparable to Metternich's Reichsrat that was implemented in the Austrian Empire which was effectively an advisory body to the Kaiser. The French Parliament functioned in a similar manner until the reign of King Louis XX where the Parliament was allowed to debate on Legislation that was drafted by the King and his ministers. It was only until recently that the Parliament was allowed to propose laws of its own, but the King retained the power of absolute veto, and he still dominated politics by playing the Upper and Lower Houses Against each other. Furthermore he guised it as a traditional structure of the French monarchy by calling the "Parliament" the Royal Diet rather than a National Assembly, or a Parliament to specifically avoid connotations of the British Parliament or the Dutch Parliament where the Monarch's powers were quite restricted. In the case of Britain, Parliament was the sovereign rather than the monarch.

To call it a Constitutional Monarchy is a misnomer. A Constitutionally Absolute Monarchy would be a more appropriate label since the Royal Ordinance of 1870 established a legal framework and codification of the monarch's powers and governmental structures. Louis XVII in his personal memoirs drew inspiration from the Danish Constitutional settlement of 1660 that established the monarchy as hereditary and established the King as an Absolute Monarch.

Well, much of the administrative structure of his regime, with how it combined a centralized, bureaucratic, and meritocratic state with the absolute control of the monarch, has been argued by political scientists to be a forerunner to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
That's a pretty skewed view of it since the Totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were radically opposed to monarchy in most instances. Plus most totalitarian regimes came to power via a military coup. With military actively involved in civil affairs they became more corrupt and less effective. Legionary Russia only benefited from army tradition and institutional knowledge of the Russian Imperial Army. They were the exception in most cases, and even with Legionary Russia, their economy was horribly mismanaged and reliant on plundering conquered territories.

Though I guess superficially it does somewhat compare to the totalitarian regimes. Since the darker aspects of Louis XVII's reign involved the censorship of the press and the activity of his secret police. Though unlike in most totalitarian regimes, Louis's secret police generally left most people alone as Louis wanted a form of controlled opposition and a way for people to air their grievances and petition for redress so that tensions that faced the nation didn't boil over into another revolution. This was why he established the Royal Ordinance of 1870 towards the end of his reign as he allowed for the Royal Diet to be established as a means for the people to air their grievances to the King and have a voice in the affairs of the King.

How do you guys see France evolving if say Louis XVII died in captivity? What would the Restoration government look like under Louis-Stanlaus or Charles the Count of Artois? Do you think a Republican Coup could have been successful in France? What would domestic policy and foreign policy look like in this alternate French Kingdom or French Empire should a military strongman manage to declare himself Emperor? Would either government have been able to retake the Rhineland? Louis XVII managed to re-establish Bourbon hegemony in Europe with him working closely with the Spanish Bourbons, the Bourbons of Parma, the Bourbons of Two-Sicilies, etc to create a French aligned military alliance and later economic partnership that would come to dominate Europe much to the chagrin of the British, the Austrians, and the Russians.

Do you think the Spanish Empire would have collapsed here? Louis XVII helped to bring order to Spain under the tumultous reign of Ferdinand VII that allowed the Spanish to raise a large army to crush most of the rebellions in the Americas. As a result Spain kept its empire in a much more diminished fashion with dominion over New Spain, Central America, New Granada, and Peru maintained while La Plata declared independence.

but he too allowed some freedom to people altough any republicanism wasn't accepted and even smallest hint about such was enough for jailing.
Louis' hatred of the Revolution and Republicans stemmed from the fact that his parents were publicly executed by Revolutionaries, he was and his sister were imprisoned in the Temple Tower where he was beaten and nearly died from illness in his filthy cell. In his later years he developed Germophobia because of his experiences. Though Louis XVII later established a Bill of Rights for the French after

How do you see the Orleans fare in this scenario? Louis XVII and his sister developed an immense hatred of that branch of the family since Philippe d'Orleans Louis XVI's cousin, voted to execute his father. Louis XVI's execution was split down to one vote, and Louis XVII personally saw the Orleans as responsible for his family being deposed and the horrible conditions he had to endure. Louis XVII wanted to execute Louis-Philippe in his wroth, but was only stopped due to the influence of Charles X who managed to reconcile with the Orleans branch and wanted to present a united front for the Royal family. The Orleanists were pretty liberal in French politics though they maintained a low profile until Louis began to "liberalize" France later in his life. Do you see Louis-Phillipe somehow leading a Liberal Opposition movement? Could he muster enough support to become King?

Heck, even his allowance of some form of parliamentary governance in his last years of his reign and how he reached out to the bourgeoisie of France could be considered an antecedent of how totalitarian regimes seek to maintain power through a single mass party and use the sham of a democracy to provide the regime legitimacy. Even if the lack of a male son led to a succession crisis which led to his daughter being the first Queen of France and eventually to France adopting a democratic system of government, it must not be forgotten that King Louis XVII was possibly the first totalitarian dictator of the modern age or at the very least had policies which foreshadowed the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th Century.
I think you're confusing the wrong Branches of the Houses of Bourbon. The House of Bourbon-Artois nearly went extinct due to the premature death of Henri Charles's grandson and Louis the Duke of Berry's son. In this instance Louis allowed for a special exemption to for salic law to be overturned so that the House of Bourbon-Artois would continue. Louis was quite fond of his uncle Charles who headed the Ultra-Royalists and played an instrumental part in his education as King.

Louis XVII had many sons with his wife. He took a play out of the Habsburg's book and arranged for various diplomatic marriages in Europe to help strengthen Bourbon hegemony in Europe.

The "Democracy" he permitted was local elections for local town councils and municipal governments. Louis was quite lenient towards the rural peasants especially in places like Vendee and granted them some autonomy in a sort of carrot and stick approach to rally them around the King.

A better comparison for a monarchical dictator would be the Russian Tsars or the Austrian Kaiser Rudolph I who became a hard-line reactionary after the assassination of his father Kaiser Franz Ferdinand.
 
OOC: My idea of Louis XVII's regime being seen as "proto-totalitarian" by historians and political scientists was based on how many historians have argued Napoleon was the first modern dictator.
 
OOC: My idea of Louis XVII's regime being seen as "proto-totalitarian" by historians and political scientists was based on how many historians have argued Napoleon was the first modern dictator.
OOC: That's what I kind of figured. I was just presenting a defense from the French Monarchist perspective of historians more favorable to Louis XVII.
 
It really shouldn't be surprising that Louis XVII was "lenient" on the peasantry. Peasants and aristocrats have always been natural allies, and their class interests have been aligned. The survival of monarchism as the dominant ideology in Europe can be explained as the result of the aristocratic-peasant alliance surviving while the urban poor and bourgeoisie split into Liberalism and Socialism, respectively. Louis XVII, I think, realized this dynamic moreso than any other ruler of the day, and it was he who pioneered the dynamic of a strong welfare state combined with local autonomy working in tandem with an absolutist government. I think it's wrong to compare his reign to the Russian and American Legionary Movements that the Bourbon Alliance fought against in the Third Great War; those movements sought to abolish local authority (indeed the American Legionaries pretty much directly blamed the federal model for the American defeat to the Spanish in the Texan War), while the Neo-Absolutist model worked alongside local rights.
 
So, your thoughts on Louis XVII being described as "proto-totalitarian"? How accurate would such a label be?
TBF I've never come across anyone describing the czar as proto-totalitarian for doing something similar to Louis. Then again, I guess Russia is a horse of a different colour to France.
 
Anyways, moving on from the debate that has raged for decades now amongst the academics of the world regarding whether Louis XVII was "proto-totalitarian" and/or foreshadowed the policies of 20th century dictatorships in his policies, what do you say would be the short-term implications of a lack of King Louis XVII have been in France and Europe as a whole?
 
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It really shouldn't be surprising that Louis XVII was "lenient" on the peasantry. Peasants and aristocrats have always been natural allies, and their class interests have been aligned. The survival of monarchism as the dominant ideology in Europe can be explained as the result of the aristocratic-peasant alliance surviving while the urban poor and bourgeoisie split into Liberalism and Socialism, respectively. Louis XVII, I think, realized this dynamic moreso than any other ruler of the day, and it was he who pioneered the dynamic of a strong welfare state combined with local autonomy working in tandem with an absolutist government.
That’s a good point. The French Revolution from the peasants’ perspective was a revolt in frustration about the lack of reform and anyone addressing their problems. The French State prior to the Revolution for better or for worse was a collection of various feudal estates each with their own laws and tax codes. In some places taxation was less than other which made man peasants angry. The Estates General was called to help pass the King’s financial plan for reform but they went overboard and declared themselves the true government of France. Nothing was ever done to help the financial government and the ineptitude of the Revolutionary government didn’t help. The massive revolts in Vendee, Toulouse, and rural France were largely peasant based against the Revolutionaries. They didn’t sign up for the execution of the King and Queen, nor did they want the crazy policies of Robespierre who tried to de-Christianize France. His cult of the Supreme Being he pushed was too far for many. And when news of how King Louis XVII was abused spread, he became a rallying cry for the Royalist armies being raised in the countryside.


Louis XVII, I think, realized this dynamic moreso than any other ruler of the day, and it was he who pioneered the dynamic of a strong welfare state combined with local autonomy working in tandem with an absolutist government.
The grain dole he started within Paris and expanded into other cities of the Kingdom provided relief and support for the monarchy. The collapse of the grain market in the 1830’s and 40’s sparked many revolts in Europe. Though in France things remained stable as mass famine was avoided.


think it's wrong to compare his reign to the Russian and American Legionary Movements that the Bourbon Alliance fought against in the Third Great War; those movements sought to abolish local authority (indeed the American Legionaries pretty much directly blamed the federal model for the American defeat to the Spanish in the Texan War), while the Neo-Absolutist model worked alongside local rights.
Honestly I’m surprised the American state even stood for so long since it was paralyzed between Federlists and the more radical factions inspired by the French Revolution. The Americans didn’t have a proper standing army for a long time, while nations like Spain reformed its army along French lines.

The French even got back their colony of Louisiana or New France during Louis XVII’s rule . Though it was a backwater for a long time and there was concern that the Americans or British would have seized it. How do you see New France developing without King Louis since he used it as a means to relieve population pressure by encouraging poor families to migrate there and seek out better opportunities there?

TBF I've never come across anyone describing the czar as proto-totalitarian for doing something similar to Louis. Then again, I guess Russia is a horse of a different colour to France.
Tsar Alexander I and King Louis maintained quite close relations. He was inspired by the changes of Louis and worked to clamp down on the aristocracy by freeing the peasants. It was a shame that he was assassinated by the nobility since Russia’s subsequent Emperors became quite reactionary and became suspicious of the whole idea of Louis’ reinvented style of Neo-Enlightened Absolutism.


Anyways, moving on from the debate that has raged for decades now amongst the academics of the world regarding whether Louis XVII was "proto-totalitarian" and/or foreshadowed the policies of 20th century dictatorships in his policies, what do you say would be the short-term implications of a lack of King Louis XVII have been in France and Europe as a whole?
There were Louis’ uncles the Count of Provence and Artois. Though Louis-Stanislaus is not exactly the most inspiring or charismatic man. While he was intelligent, the man was a corpulent man to say the least. I doubt he would have rallied much support as the orphaned King Louis XVII. The tale of an orphaned child whose parents murdered was far more compelling than say restoring the King's brothers. While they were also driven from France, prior to the Revoltion Charles the Count of Artois was not exactly popular for his excessive spending habits in his youth. Louis XVI many times had to come in and pay his debts off. Even into Louis XVII's reign, Charles wasn't exactly popular, though Louis did hold a massive public funeral for the man he considered a second father figure.

Though there is the matter of figures like General and later Marquis Napoleon Bonaparte. His career rose in the service of the Royalists after he defected. Napoleon was one of the many figures within the Republican government that grew dissatisfied with the lack of advancement in his career under the Revolutionary government. But assuming Louis XVII dies in prison and the Royalists for some reason aren't able to retake France, what do you think he would do? The man was a veritable military genius and polymath with his overhaul of French administration as the King's Chief Minister. Do you see him pulling off a coup in France?

Could the French Republic have become moderate and somehow managed to defeat the forces of a Coalition against it? Some commanders within the Republican army showed promise though they were hampered by the Revolutionaries within Paris. Do you think they could have defeated the Austrians and British and somehow force a peace?
 
That hardly is matter is Louis XVII considered as dictator or not, his role for stabilising France was anyway important. Him had much of power but not much more than many other European monrchs on that time.
 
That hardly is matter is Louis XVII considered as dictator or not, his role for stabilising France was anyway important.
Well he certainly more powers than the Prussian King who conceded powers of taxation to the Reichstag. Austria continued with Neo-Absolutist rule with Franz Joseph under the Guidance of Schwarzenberg up until the death of Kaiser Rudolph. Rudolph died from pneumonia which left a young child on the throne. The government stagnated during the regency like it did under Ferdinand and unrest caused the Emperor to make a compromise with the Reichstag.

Britain under the Hanoverians saw the monarchy steadily lose its power and become figureheads.


That hardly is matter is Louis XVII considered as dictator or not, his role for stabilising France was anyway important.
The enlightenment reforms he espoused along with other concepts like central banking and universal citizenship helped unify the King’s disparate subjects under a common authority. This was considered very progressive and radical for the time. Though this was more out of pragmatism as Louis used the Alawite Christians in the French Kingdom of Syria as his power-base. Though citizenships was slowly granted to those who served within the French army regardless of religion. This was essentially a carrot and stick approach to gain the local elites as a part of the French administration.

Do you see another government pursuing such radical (for the time) policies. How do you see a Parliamentarh France develop assuming it developed the same way Britain did? Would it be stable, or would it be shaky with the King and Parliament fighting each other?
 
Louis XVII was the last Enlighted Despot, not the forst dictator.
Still, people have argued persuasively that whether he was "the last Enlightened Despot" or "the first modern dictator", his reign set many precedents for modern dictatorships to emulate with policies foreshadowing the actions of modern dictators.
 
Still, people have argued persuasively that whether he was "the last Enlightened Despot" or "the first modern dictator", his reign set many precedents for modern dictatorships to emulate with policies foreshadowing the actions of modern dictators.
There are people who argues that Marquis Napoleon is actually the one teaching King Louis XVII to become the ruler we all love (or hate) today, seeing that it was him who was the Chief Minister of Royalist France during the early reign of the King (when the later is still a weakened, abused teenager that did not hold any kind of power at all).

Sure, it was a surprise that Napoleon actually steps down from being Regent and give power back when King Louis turned 20 years old, but it forever cemented the illustrious man as beacon of honesty and loyalty.
 
There are people who argues that Marquis Napoleon is actually the one teaching King Louis XVII to become the ruler we all love (or hate) today, seeing that it was him who was the Chief Minister of Royalist France during the early reign of the King (when the later is still a weakened, abused teenager that did not hold any kind of power at all).
That's true. But Napoleon had no legitimacy to keep holding power in the name of Louis XVII. Louis XVII while deeply traumatized by his experiences in the Temple Tower (he later had the building razed to the Ground) he hadn't lost his sanity like most people would have. Instead he became a hardened man who was resolved to put his foot down as France's divinely ordained King. The influence of both Louis's uncles greatly helped in this regard. Plus Charles was also the head of the Ultra-Royalist faction. He didn't really like Napoleon. Napoleon made the wise of choice of stepping down, for if he didn't, its likely that Louis uncles would have pressured him to launch a self-coup against Napoleon. Though Napoleon was quite popular within the army, and this might have caused some sort of civil conflict between the Ultra-Royalists and Bonapartist faction over the regency. Plus Napoleon also got what he wanted as he was allowed to keep his post and his son earned a marriage into the Royal family. Though Napoleon was an opportunist quite early in his career. His political evolution after switched from a Corsican nationalist, to an ardent French Republican until his defection to the Bourbons. Of all the people in world without King Louis XVII, I feel like Napoleon would have been a powerful player. Do you see Napoleon if he stayed a Republican, managing to take command of the Republican army? Imagine if he whipped a Republican Grand Armee instead of the Royalist one. All of Europe would have likely trembled before him. Napoleon under Louis XVII was instrumental to France's military success turning its armies into a formidable force not seen since the days of Louis XIV the Sun King himself.

Sure, it was a surprise that Napoleon actually steps down from being Regent and give power back when King Louis turned 20 years old, but it forever cemented the illustrious man as beacon of honesty and loyalty.
Napoleon to this day is revered as a French hero, and he was given a full state funeral after his death in 1840 at the age of 71. He's basically France's Suvarov. Heck Napoleon's victory against the British in the battle of Hannover which humiliated the British is still celebrated as a public holiday in France alongside the day of the Bourbon Restoration.

One thing I feel that likely would have happened is that Versailles might not have survived into the modern day since it was such a symbol of Royal Power. After it was looted and damaged by the Revolutionaries, it briefly fell into neglect until its restoration by the King in his later years. He also closed it off to the public after establishing a large wall of security rather than giving the public access to the palace which was the policy of French Kings since Louis XIV.

OOC: Why would Louis come to power at the age of 20. Typical French Kings achieved maturity at the age of 13/16.
 
One thing I feel that likely would have happened is that Versailles might not have survived into the modern day since it was such a symbol of Royal Power. After it was looted and damaged by the Revolutionaries, it briefly fell into neglect until its restoration by the King in his later years. He also closed it off to the public after establishing a large wall of security rather than giving the public access to the palace which was the policy of French Kings since Louis XIV.

OOC: Why would Louis come to power at the age of 20. Typical French Kings achieved maturity at the age of 13/16.
It was a sane measure that would be followed by almost all monarchs in the world. Opening their own palace meant that they are vulnerable to assassination/attacks, Louis XVII closing the Palace to most people is understandably unpopular, but as the Republican Assassination of Queen Victoria of Britain has shown everyone, that some sane security measures are indeed required.

Plus Napoleon's precedence would be made formal later on, people are treated as consenting adult at 14, but eligibility to hold formal office / position of command only bestowed once they reach a mature 20 years of age.

OOC: there might be more struggle of power behind the scene, considering he's THE frickin Napoleon. At least this time he knew when to call it quits with grace, of all things
 
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