The Coronation of Louis XIV

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After a childhood marked by his father’s death, the hunger, the cold and the civil war, on June 7, 1654 in Reims Cathedral, Louis Dieudonné de Bourbon is coronated King of France.

The city of Reims welcomes this major ceremony with the greatest splendor: streets are renovated, housings are prepared, bridges are restaured, all sorts of supplies, furniture, tapestries are brought… Reims will become for a few days the centre of a kingdom that is rebuilt around the young 16-year-old king.

The scenography is as spectacular as a theatre one.  Reims Cathedral is entirely refurbished with tapestries and carpets, grandstands are installed and a throne dominates from the jube; the greatest personalities of the French realm and Europe sovereigns are here, installed at their defined seats. They all have in mind the Ballet Royal de Nuit, which unbelievable splendour has consecrated «the greatest King in the world» in February 1653.  To this symbolic and profane coronation now echoes a true consecration before God: golds and machines are replaced by a decor made of the throne, the sumptuous crown, the ermine, the sceptre and justice hand; staging features processions of the most prestigious figures in the realm, as the bells ring out and oboes resonate in the church.

If nothing remains from the music that was precisely played at this occasion, we found some clues through a thorough investigation: the sequence of the ceremony, sung texts, the several music bands involved, the instruments, the number of musicians, their place in the cathedral and the different music types.

By combining this information, mostly from all narratives by the contemporaries, official or not, sometimes extremely detailed, with all musical sources of this time, especially the Deslauriers and the Tours manuscripts, we are able to propose, with the precious help of the musicologist Thomas Leconte, a musical coronation of Louis XIV, opening the ears of the XXIth century audience to treasures of past polyphonies.

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