So it’s 1789, and you’re King Louis XVI of France. Up to this point, everything has been going pretty well for you: You have a hot Austrian wife who loves cake. You own enough palaces that if you stacked them all up towards the moon, you’d be like, a bunch of palaces closer to the moon. And even though nobody has invented Amazon Prime yet, you can still get pretty much anything you want in less than 2-4 business days thanks to your authority to chop people’s heads off. Then, all of a sudden these peasants, who up until now you have treated like chamber pots with very few consequences, decide to revolt and next thing you know you’re getting your head chopped off at the Where, oh where, did you go wrong? I’ll tell you where. You see, the other day I visited Versailles, where you were born and where you spent many years ruling France from a safe distance. While I was there, it became painfully clear to me why those peasants were so eager to take you downtown and make you a foot or so shorter.
First of all, you need sunglasses to approach the palace. We know, your predecessor Louis XIV liked to call himself the “Sun King” but that doesn’t mean that you had to gold-plate every single surface of the place like you just got a bedazzling machine for your birthday. While the peasants were out there eating mud and loading their dead family members onto wheelbarrows (sorry, my only reference for the life of peasants in this period is Monty Python and the Holy Grail), you sure were not shy about flippantly wasting precious scarce resources.
Next, who needs that many fountains?? I mean just from a logistical standpoint: by the time you go through your rising ritual (in which your courtiers crowd into your bedroom just to be blessed with a view of you pretending to wake up), eat a lavish breakfast, listen to some harpsichord music, eat a lavish lunch, force your courtiers to lose to you in a game of poker, and eat a lavish dinner there are only so many hours left in the day with which to look at your fountains. Combine that with the fact that we’re talking about the eighteenth-century and there’s just no way fountain technology was very efficient, and you end up with giant fountain expenses that just aren’t being put to good use.
There are countless other examples of your extravagant and superfluous lifestyle. Mirrors were rare and incredibly expensive at the time, but you had an entire hall full of them. Your clothing was of satin and silver while peasants wore dirty, reeking rags (again, citation goes to Monty Python). You even had a room in the palace called the Abundance Salon, for Christ’s sake.
So, I wouldn’t be so shocked if I were you, my satin-slipper wearing, wine-sipping, carriage-riding friend, that the peasants’ patience ran out. If you had been a better king, maybe they wouldn’t have gotten so tired of toiling in the fields and feeding their children rocks. But you weren’t, and so they chopped your head off. C’est la vie.