What were the principal causes of the French Revolution of 1789?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The causes of the French Revolution date back to the reign of Louis XIV. The "sun king" spent millions on building the palace of Versailles and other state projects. He taxed the people severely in order to pay for his lifestyle and buildings and passed those debts on to his heirs. By the time his grandson, Louis XVI became king, France was greatly in debt and could not tax the nobles, who could most afford to pay but were exempt from taxes. So, he had to tax the middle and lower classes who could least afford to keep the king in the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed. In addition, the American Revolution, which Louis had ironically supported, inspired the French revolutionaries to rebel from their king. Enlightenment ideas from Rousseau, John Locke, Montesque and others fueled the revolutionary fever. Things came to a headon July 14, 1789 when a group of soldiers and commoners attacked the the prison of Bastille. This eventually lead to the execution of the king, the French Revolutionary government and the eventual rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.