The coronation of Louis XV

The coronation of Louis XV

  • Entrance to the second service at the royal feast given after the coronation of Louis XV

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

  • Cavalcade of Louis XV after the Coronation, October 26, 1722

    MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

Entrance to the second service at the royal feast given after the coronation of Louis XV

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

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Title: Cavalcade of Louis XV after the Coronation, October 26, 1722

Author : MARTIN Pierre-Denis, known as MARTIN the Younger (1663 - 1742)

Creation date : 1724

Date shown: October 26, 1722

Dimensions: Height 88 - Width 125

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Philipp Bernard

Picture reference: 87-000903-03 / MV178

Cavalcade of Louis XV after the Coronation, October 26, 1722

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Philipp Bernard

Publication date: September 2012

Professor of modern history at Blaise-Pascal University (Clermont 2) and director of the Center for History "Spaces and Cultures.

Historical context

The Coronation of Louis XV (October 1722)

Pierre-Denis Martin, known as "Martin le Jeune" (born in Paris, around 1663, and died in the same city in 1742), was, under the reign of Louis XIV, provided with pensions and the office of "ordinary painter of the King ". It is obvious that the ceremonies of the coronation of Louis XV, in October 1722, of which he is an active witness, inaugurate a new stage in his work and a form of personal consecration, if need be.

If the concern to bear witness is so great and the official command so obvious (it is necessary to establish in the eyes of all the mysterious overpower of a king elected from heaven, invested with an invincible and miraculous force), it is because, more than any other state ceremonial, the coronation is essential in the royal religion. Despite the immediacy of the succession conferred by heredity - "the king is dead, long live the king" - only this founding ceremony confers on the sovereign all of his power and might. The affair is important in the case of the minor heirs: Louis XV was only five years old in 1715, when Louis XIV died, and he was entrusted to the care of his great-uncle, the Duke of Orleans, "regent of the kingdom ”until February 15, 1723. The coronation precedes the entry into office of the young prince by a few months.

Celebrated in Reims, it takes place in several stages, over several days: a night of meditation, a day of solemnities (oaths, masses, enthronement, holy unction, homage), all combining rites of chivalry and Catholic ceremonial. It is as a "Most Christian King", that is to say as a universal defender of the faith, that Louis is crowned by twelve peers of the kingdom. Then come the time of the feast and, the next day or two, that of the cavalcade, the two key moments retained by the artist.

Image Analysis

A precise testimony on the immediate consequences of the enthronement

These events inspire two canvases in Martin, who in this case paints for posterity, in the manner of a historiographer: Entrance of the second service to the royal feast given after the coronation of Louis XV, at the archiepiscopal palace of Reims on October 25, 1722 and Cavalcade of Louis XV after the Coronation. October 26, 1722.

Entry of the second service takes us to the Tau Palace, under the gaze of the successive archbishops of Reims whose full-length portraits adorn the reception hall and who, over the reigns, have had to finance these feasts one after another. Alone at a table in the foreground, Louis XV dressed in the fleur-de-lis coat awaits the second service. The U-shaped table arrangement and the alignment of diners in a row along the walls are reminiscent of medieval feasts. Relegated to the role of spectators, the princesses took their places in a gallery, as tradition dictates. Like the king, lay peers keep their ornaments (ermine cloak, Holy Spirit collar), ecclesiastical peers their miter and cope. They are therefore distinguished by the costume of the other guests whom the king honors (princes of the blood, ambassadors, lords).

The Cavalcade stages the new sovereign who, the day after his coronation, from the square of the cathedral of Reims, mounted on a white horse and accompanied by the regent, sacrifices in the ritual of this great popular parade. He advances in the center of a long procession, followed by the great officers of his household, the Marshals of France and the officers of the Order of the Holy Spirit. The oboes, drums, trumpets march in front and announce the event, then come the bodyguards and their officers. They all went to two sacred places of the monarchy, Saint-Marcoul first, then Saint-Remi. The painting is remarkable in the rendering of religious architecture, the tapestries hung along the passage from the archbishopric to the cathedral, individuals forming a procession, prominent anecdotal elements.


Firstly a political testimony

In Entry of the second service, reality is undermined by the perspective, which makes one believe in a dense crowd, in which jostle musicians, jerkins in doublets and curious courtiers. Failing to be seated, the great officers are mobilized for service and entertainment, as etiquette dictates. However, these banquets bring together a hundred guests under Louis XIII, only thirty from Louis XIV - we are far from the original pantagruelic splendor. French-style service requires that multiple dishes, copiously supplied, be installed on the tables; everyone uses it at their leisure, and the remains, important and presentable, are served at the Town Hall, to the great officers, to the various actors of the coronation, to the local notables. The dishes are absent here since we are between two courses and the painter wants above all to mark the enthusiasm of the court and leave to posterity the portrait of the greats who legitimized Louis XV.

The second painting emphasizes popular approval. He partly forgets the religious dimension of the parade in favor of its more political aspects. Indeed, the cavalcade precedes the healing of scrofula (signs of tuberculosis) by the king. The holy anointing is believed to have conferred upon him an extraordinary thaumaturgical power by the sole imposition of his hands on the bodies of the sick. This very popular event (two thousand people were touched by Louis XV) originally took place at the priory of Saint-Marcoul de Corbeny - hence the obligatory passage of the cavalcade - then, from Louis XIV, in the cloister of Saint-Remi de Reims, after the sovereign had gathered in front of the shrine of the saint.

  • Louis XV
  • monarchical court
  • Sacred
  • Reims
  • absolute monarchy


Marc BLOCH, The miracle-workers, Paris, Gallimard, 1924.

Joël CORNETTE, The King of War. Essay on Sovereignty in Grand Siècle France, Paris, Payot, 1993.

Bernard HOURS, Louis XV. A portrait, Paris, Privat, 2009.

Thierry JORDAN (dir.), The Grace of a Cathedral. Reims, Strasbourg, The Blue Cloud, 2010.

To cite this article

Philippe BOURDIN, "The coronation of Louis XV"

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