Why Was Voltaire Exiled and Sent to Prison?

Voltaire was twice imprisoned during his lifetime. The second time, he was released on the condition that he would leave the country. Voltaire’s prison terms and exile were the results of his satire, which got him into trouble since he was a young man.

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Voltaire composed his first play at 18 years old. Two years later, he had already won the glory of the king of ridicule in Parisian salons. For this reason, some literary figures and famous people were afraid to find Voltaire’s publication exposing them in a bad light.

But in 1717, the poet had to pay for his mockery. After finishing his studies at the Jesuit college, Voltaire made friends with some aristocrats who praised his wit. He criticized the Duke d’Orleans (the regent who ruled France while Louis XV was underage). The regent did not get the humor and sent the poet to the Bastille for a year.

Contrary to the expectations, Voltaire set pen to paper with renewed vigor. He wrote an epic about King Henry IV (1553–1610), blaming the ruler of religious fanaticism and praising his tolerance. The worst was that he used only real figures, never relying on fictional characters. The work was highly controversial.

Eventually, such writing entailed an argument with one of the most powerful families in France. The conflict resulted in the second arrest and imprisonment in the Bastille). In 1726, he was released, providing that he would leave for England and never return.

Voltaire spent his last 20 years in Switzerland and returned to Paris just before his death.

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