Turmoil and Unrest in France
In 1774, Louis XVI, a 19-year-old prince, came to the throne as the King of France. His 18-year-old wife was named Marie Antoinette. King Louis XVI inherited a massive amount of debt from his predecessors. He further increased the debt of the French Government by supporting the American Revolution in its fight against France’s bitter rival, Great Britain. King Louis XVI became desperate to raise funds to pay off the debts of France.
In order to pay off these debts, he decided that he would tax the first and second estates, which had always been exempt from paying taxes before. These estates refused to pay the new taxes.
In 1789, King Louis XVI summoned a group known as the Estates-General to meet in Versailles to discuss the matter of taxes. The Estates-General was a body of people representing each of the three social estates in France. They had not been called together since 1610.
King Louis XVI hoped that by calling them together they could solve the problems of debt facing the nation. The Estates-General had other plans, however. They wanted to use the meeting to take power from the King and address the social ills that they felt were plaguing them.