Photo: Versailles Palace
King Louis the XVI was kind and generous, but he had trouble making decisions. He was more interested in hunting than in the affairs of the country. France needed a strong leader and Louis XVI was shy and awkward. He was not suited for the job. He married Marie Antoinette at the age of 15 and became king at the age of 20 after his father, King Louis the XV, died of smallpox. Louis the XVI was misguided and persuaded by his wife's extravagance. The aristocrats manipulated King Louis the XVI with their loud voices resisting reform. They wanted the king to call a meeting of the Estates General hoping that they would be able to push through their own ideas. He did not realize that doing this was opening the door to revolution.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a successful military man at a young age and aspired to have political power. 11 years after the storming of the Bastille the French overwhelmingly approved the new constitution that gave the real ruling power to Napoleon. He became Consul for Life in 1802. From then on, he had the power of dictator.
One of Napoleon's most important reforms was his code of laws. Called the Napoleonic Code, the laws ensured several principles of the revolution, including equality of male citizens before the law, the end of the Three Estates, and the right to own property. People could practice the religion of their choice.
France was once again under an absolute ruler. Napoleon was powerful and victorious winning several wars over a decade increasing his empire. The French troops tried to battle Russia through their harsh winter. The French went into this war with over 600,00 soldiers and came home with only 30,000. Napoleon was exiled after this war, came back after a few months, tried to win another war in Waterloo and failed again. He was then exiled to the island of St. Helena where he died.
Source: History and Geography Pearson Learning Core Knowledge