In May 1774, Louis XV died, triggering a sequence of rituals unseen in fifty-nine
years. This book explores how these one-in-a-reign rituals unfolded fifteen
years before the Revolution. From the deathbed of Louis XV, the book covers his
funeral, the lit de justice of November 1774, and the coronation of Louis XVI
and related ceremonies in June 1775, relating them all to the politics of the
day. Threads of continuity emerge from this closely woven narrative to form a
compelling picture of these ceremonies in the dynamic culture of 1770s France.
Light is shed on the place of monarchy, the recall of the parlements and the
conduct of the coronation. This study provides an overview of the current state
of the field of ritual studies in English and French, situating ritual in
relation to court studies as well as political history. It covers court life,
the relationship between the monarch and the parlement, the preparation of
large-scale rituals and the ways in which those outside the court engaged with
these events, providing rich detail on this under-researched period. Written in
a clear, lively style, this book is the ideal text for the non-specialist and,
as each chapter deals with one ritual, it lends itself readily to undergraduate
teaching of topics around monarchy, court society, ritual, and politics,
including the Maupeou coup. More advanced students and specialists on the period
will find new perspectives and information presented in an engaging manner.
The family has been central to Irish culture and society, evincing an anxious preoccupation with marital and familial relationships. This chapter examines two particular stories of single women, authored by men, to consider fictional stereotypes of singlehood and womanhood. William Trevor's short story 'The Ballroom of Romance', set in the 1950s, concerns a turning point in the life of Bridie, a single woman caring for her widowed father, labouring on the family farm, tending to cows and hens. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore begins with Judith, a woman in her early forties, settling into another, cheaper, boarding house in Belfast of the 1950s. Sociology is concerned with stories of people's lives and relationships. Sociological models of rural communities in the 1970s placed men at the centre of their analyses, married women and children at the outer perimeters, with unmarried women hovering at the limits of community.
The image of Louis XIV and his court overshadow our understanding of
eighteenth-century France. Rethinking the court society is a vital part of
revising our interpretations of absolutist government in this period: a new
understanding of royal ceremony is one part of this. This chapter challenges
the neo-ceremonialist understanding of French royal ritual in the light of
French scholarship questioning the relevance of the 'two bodies'
model to the French monarchy and highlighting Marc Bloch's idea of
'marvellous royalty'. The relationship between ceremony and power
lies at the heart of these questions.
Louis XV fell ill with smallpox at the end of April 1774. His deathbed
attracted crowds to Versailles and was followed through public announcements
and rituals in Paris. This chapter compares the king's conduct on two
previous occasions when he had thought he would die, at Metz in 1744 and
after the Damiens attack in 1757, and concludes that Louis XV – not
ill-defined factions – controlled the conduct of his deathbed in 1774.
The transition of power from Louis XV to Louis XVI took place against a
background of unresolved political tension over the Maupeou coup. The
funeral of Louis XV in July 1774 required the attendance of the parlement –
but which one? The unpopular appointees of the Maupeou parlement? Or the
exiled members of the old parlement? The princes of the blood threatened to
boycott the ceremony. Ceremony and politics were inextricably linked in the
first days of Louis XVI's reign.
This chapter provides a new insight into the recall of the parlement of
Paris, a key moment in the early reign of Louis XVI. Ceremonial
considerations played a significant part in the timing and handling of Louis
XVI's decision. The venerable ceremony of the lit de justice was
exploited by the monarchy to make clear political points on the conditions
of the recall and set the stage for the relationship between king and
parlement during the new reign.
The first of three chapters dealing with the coronation of Louis XVI, this
chapter considers the preparations required at Versailles and in Reims, and
the currents at work in imagining the monarch at this juncture in French
history. Sentimentalism and ideas of virtue are central themes. Louis
XVI's ceremonial entry into Reims prompted grand decorations offering a
commentary on contemporary political events, crowned by an arch of
The coronation of Louis XVI, which took place on 11 June 1775, is described
in detail in this chapter where it is considered as an amalgam of several
smaller rituals each with its own provenance and meaning. Apparently
transgressive gestures are granted positive meaning. The role of the queen
in the coronation is considered, as is the meaning of tales of the king
walking among the people after the ceremony.
The royal healing touch for scrofula was performed by Louis XVI after his
coronation for the first time in over thirty years. This chapter examines
how the ceremony was organised and by whom, drawing on the record left by a
Remois woman. It delves into the history of the ceremony and of healing by
touch more generally, situating this ritual in the context of contemporary
medicine in order to produce an explanation of the attractions of the
ritual, which drew over two thousand people to Reims to be touched by the
The conclusion reviews the findings of the main body of the book and sets
them in a wider frame. It addresses their meaning and the broader meaning of
monarchy in the context of the coming of the Revolution, recalling Louis
XVI's journey to Normandy in 1786 and the attitudes of the deputies of
the Estates General and the National Assembly towards the king. It brings
together themes running through the work to position this book as part of
the 'new court history' and of revisionist political history of
France more broadly.