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Author claims France’s last king Louis XVI was born with autism-spectrum disorder

Was Louis XVI autistic? Author claims France’s last king had condition that meant he struggled to be intimate with Marie Antoinette and left him vulnerable to influential courtiers

  • Louis XVI (1754 to 1793) was final ruler of France before the French Revolution
  • But US writer Nancy Goldstone said the monarch’s struggles started from birth 
  • Author claims monarch was born in 1754 with autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) 


An author has claimed France‘s last king Louis XVI was born with autism-spectrum disorder, leaving him vulnerable to the self-interests of ministers, struggling to be intimate with his wife Marie Antoinette and ‘unable to look anyone in the eye’.

Louis XVI was the final ruler of the European country before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution and was the only King of France ever to be executed, dying aged 38 in 1793.

But American writer Nancy Goldstone told AirMail that the monarch’s struggles started from birth, after he was born in 1754 with autism-spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition no one understood at the time.

It can cause a wide range of symptoms including problems with social interaction and communication, difficulty understanding other people’s emotions and restricted and repetitive patterns of thought or physical movement. 

An author has claimed France’s last king (pictured) was born with autism-spectrum disorder, leaving him vulnerable to the self-interests of ministers, struggling to be intimate with his wife Marie Antoinette and ‘unable to look anyone in the eye’

Making her claim, Nancy said: ‘So, although highly intelligent and in every other way a more compassionate, moral, honest, and better-intentioned ruler than his predecessor (Louis XV), the new King of France was unable to look anyone in the eye.

‘He could not read others’ expressions; spoke rarely and then in an odd, toneless voice; cried when under pressure; and, most importantly as it related to his young wife, did not understand the sex act until five years into their marriage, when Marie Antoinette’s older brother came for a visit and explained in a gentle, factual manner the mechanics of conception.’

The author also claims Marie Antoinette wasn’t as influential as citizens believed since Louis XVI’s ministers had ‘figured out early how to manage the king in order to get the policies they wanted passed’.

Louis XVI's wife Marie Antoinette with their three children, painted by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, in 1787

Louis XVI’s wife Marie Antoinette with their three children, painted by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, in 1787

Louis XVI became the heir to the throne on his father Louis, Dauphin of France’s death in 1765. 

What is autism? 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can cause a wide range of symptoms, which are often grouped into two main categories.

Firstly, problems with social interaction and communication.

This includes difficulty understanding and being aware of other people’s emotions and feelings and/or problems taking part in, or starting, conversations.

Patterns of thought are another key area, namely restricted and repetitive patterns of thought or physical movement, such as hand tapping or twisting, and becoming upset if these set routines are disrupted.

It’s estimated about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD. More boys are diagnosed with it than girls.

There is no cure for ASD, but a range of educational and behavioural support programmes can help people with the condition.

He married Marie Antoinette, daughter of Maria Theresa, empress of Austria, and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, when he was just 15 and she was 14.  

While he was introverted and shy, she was a social butterfly who loved gambling, partying and extravagant fashions.

Their marriage was used to seal the newfound alliance between Austria and France after the Seven Years’ War. 

During her teenage years Marie Antoinette was popular in France and when she made her first appearance in Paris a crowd of 50,000 came out to see her. It is thought at least 30 people were trampled to death in the crush to witness he.

But her popularity swiftly fell over her reign and she became a symbol of the excesses of the monarchy.    

Louis XVI succeeded the French throne on the death of his grandfather Louis XV,  whose ineffectual and self-serving rule contributed to the decline of royal authority that led to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.

But after an unsuccessful reign, which saw him continuedly distract himself by hunting and with his personal hobbies of making locks and doing masonry, he was guillotined in the Place de la Révolution (renamed Place de la Concorde in 1795) in Paris on January 21, 1793.

Nine months later his wife Marie Antoinette met the same fate, aged just 37.

Following their beheadings, their bodies were placed in unmarked graves but in 1815 they were exhumed and they were buried at the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis.   

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