The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
"It is fine to be king of a free people"

FRANCE was happy to hear that the king had sworn to coöperate loyally with the new order, and in the prevailing optimism Louis reaped a full harvest of popularity. He was free to move about Paris, and everywhere he went the sovereign people greeted him with extreme warmth. The good citizens had forgotten their past grievances against their good king and hoped that he too had interred the past. It had all been a family quarrel; now all the brothers and parents could live in harmony. At the Théêtre Italien Louis shared honors with the bright actors of The Two Hunters and the Milkmaid and received as much applause as the Thespians who gave The Jealous Lover. Popularity could go no further. "At the moment," Madame Elizabeth confided to a friend, "the king is the object of public worship. But how long will it last?"

A revolution, however, could not be liquidated by a constitution, and as the promised golden age did not come quickly, the mood of the nation underwent a change. Many causes combined to dispel the current of optimism. Economic conditions continued to be bad. The country was still suffering from two years of disorder and uncertainty. Since business was handicapped by political instability, the unemployed could not be absorbed. The assignats, the government's paper money (which bore the face of the king), began to drop ca-

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