Death and the crown

Ritual and politics in France before the Revolution

Author: Anne Byrne

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.

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‘This is a brilliant addition to the historiography of ceremony, ancien régime politics and the court that will particularly interest scholars of politics, ceremony and ritual, and the French monarchy.'
Lynette White
Royal Studies Journal
June 2021

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