King Louis XVI, Louisville's Namesake
Once known as the “Gateway to the South”, Louisville, Kentucky, is named after a French king (thus the silent “s” in the pronunciation)!
King Louis XVI is the namesake of Metro Louisville.
He was given this honor in recognition of his aid to the colonies during the American Revolution. He provided troops, supplies and naval support through a treaty he signed with American representative Benjamin Franklin.
However, King Louie’s help to America was not favorable in his native France and ultimately contributed to his country’s financial ruin.
The monarch was executed in 1793 for his role in the revolution of his own country.
Historically, King Louis XVI has been characterized as an incompetent ruler.
His wife was the infamous Marie Antoinette, whom he married as a teenager.
A statue of King Louis XVI was given to the city of Louisville from France in 1967. It was commissioned by the king’s daughter and only surviving child, Marie Thérèse-Charlotte, and sculpted in 1829.
According to "The Encyclopedia of Louisville," this marble memento of the monarch is the oldest outdoor work in the Metro area. It stands outside Louisville Metro Hall, formerly the Jefferson County Courthouse.
There are several other French influences important to Louisville history and culture.
The fleur-de-lis, the symbol of King Louis XVI, is represented in the official seal of Louisville Metro.
Montpellier, France, has been one of Louisville’s Sister Cities since 1956.
The Alliance Francaise of Louisville group helps teach French and offers cultural programs in the community.
- King Louis XVI was born Louis-Auguste on August 23, 1754, at Versailles, France. PBS.org states that the king became “known formally simply as ‘France’”. He was also known as duc de Berry.
- According to "The Encyclopedia of Louisville," naming the town of Louisville after King Louis XVI is seen as “the first official act in the genesis of the city of Louisville.” This occurred in April 1779. At the time, the land was part of Virginia territory.
- Louisville was officially chartered by the Virginia legislature in 1780.
- According to "Britannica Compton’s Encyclopedia Louisville," many of Louisville’s first settlers were French.
- The King Louis XVI statue at Louisville Metro Hall was sculpted by Achille-Joseph Valois and had to be hidden for protection during the Second French Revolution. It remained stored until 1966. The statue is 12 feet tall and weighs nine tons!
- Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. At the 2010 census the city’s population was 741,096. (Wiki)
- Fleur-de-lis is French for “lily flower’”. It depicts a stylized lily or iris.
- The Official Seal of the City of Louisville, which was used until the city and county governments consolidated in 2003, also featured the fleur-de-lis.
- There are eight other Louisvilles in the United States: Louisville, Ala.; Louisville, Ga.; Louisville, Ill.; Louisville, Miss.; Louisville, Neb.; Louisville, Ohio; and Louisville, Tenn. Kentucky's Louisville is the only one pronounced with a silent “s”.
- According to "Almanac of American Politics," by Michael Barone, Louisville is one of only two U.S. cities named for a man who was executed. The other is St. Paul, Minnesota.
- King Louis XVI is included among the figures featured on the infamous Louisville Clock.
- A rare albino American alligator at the Louisville Zoo is named King Louie, another nod to the late French monarch.
- Program 520
- "Louisville Life" features a young claymation artist, stops to smell the roses at Wallitsch Garden Center, learns about the Louisville's namesake and more. (#520)