When Louis and Marie Antoinette were married, what was life like for many French people?

When Louis and Marie Antoinette were married, life was very hard for many French people. The vast majority of the French population lived in considerable poverty in the countryside. As well as being exploited by the aristocracy, they were also at the mercy of adverse weather conditions, which caused the failure of many harvests.

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For the vast majority of French people under the ancien regime, life was incredibly hard. And when King Louis XVI married Marie Antoinette in 1770, life was especially challenging for those without wealth and high social status. At that time, most people in France lived in the countryside, living and working on land owned by members of the Second Estate, the aristocracy. They paid disproportionately high rates of taxation and had little or no control over their lives.

As well as being under the thumb of the nobles, French country-dwellers were at the mercy of freak weather conditions, which could so easily destroy their crops. In the years leading up to the French Revolution, there were a number of bad harvests which caused considerable hardship among the rural poor, who were already struggling thanks to a punitive system of taxation.

French peasants were also exploited by the First Estate, the Catholic Church. They were expected to pay a hefty tax towards the Church called a tithe, which often represented a significant part of their already meager income. As one can imagine, tithes were widely loathed and resented and generated considerable social tensions that eventually led to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

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