Tourism Champagne / Grand Est region

The cathedral of Reims: place of the coronation of the king of France

For centuries, the kings of France came to be crowned in the Cathedral of Reims. A very ancient rite, which met a whole series of obligations and symbols, and which inspired the coronation of the kings of England. Charles III is moreover several times descended from kings who lived this ceremony that we tell you here by taking the coronation, very moving, of an orphan of 13 years: the young king Louis XV...


The cathedral of Reims 

La cathédrale de Reims Photo par monticello/ShutterstockLa cathédrale de Reims Photo par monticello/Shutterstock

Magnificent building, the Cathedral of Reims has known an eventful history. It has been rebuilt several times. Some coronations, such as that of Saint Louis, took place while it was in the middle of construction. Bombed during the First World War, it is a true phoenix which is really worth the detour... Discover here it history.

Louis XV: a 13 year old orphan 

Louis XV à l'âge de 11 ans.

Louis XV is 11 Yo


the day of the coronation

October 24, 1723. The bells are ringing joyfully. In the cathedral, the most beautiful tapestries of the crown were hung. The high altar is covered with gold and silver cloths. Everywhere, the golden fleur-de-lis sown on an azure background announce that here will be anointed and crowned the king of France. The great ones of the kingdom are already there, dressed in their most beautiful finery. 

Le palais du Tau à Reims Photo par Kiev.Victor/ShutterstockLe palais du Tau à Reims Photo par Kiev.Victor/Shutterstock

They await the child king. Louis XV is 13 years old. He is "as beautiful as love" as the women of the court say. Sporting, with long hair and big shining black eyes. King, he was very early, even before he could speak. Louis XV was an orphan in fact. He lost his father, his mother, his brother. Only his great-grandfather, Louis XIV, was able to look after him a few years before he died. It was his cousin, Philippe d'Orléans, who took over the regency and ruled France during the king's childhood. He is there too. 

Louis XIV leaves the Tau Palace to go to the Cathedral By Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742)

In the Palais du Tau, Louis XV is lying on the big bed. He has to pretend to sleep. It amuses him. He is still a child. But so is the tradition. Two bishops are on the other side of the door of his room. The chamberlain knocks on the wood of the door. He will do it three times. The first one, one will hear "who do you ask?". "Louis XV" will answer the bishops. "The king sleeps" will answer the chamberlain. The 2nd time, they will ask the same question and receive the same answer. The third time, to the question "who do you ask?" a bishop will answer "Louis XV whom God has given us for king" and the door will finally open. After all this, the king follows the bishops and enters the Cathedral of Reims to the sound of the great organs. 

In the cathedral, the king is first anointed.

He takes several oaths. Then he was given the golden spurs and "Joyeuse", Charlemagne's sword (which is in the Louvre Museum in Paris today). The king places it on the altar. The sacred anointing is applied to him, taken from the Holy Ampoule, a small vial which, according to legend, was brought by a dove during the baptism of Clovis. It is said that the interior of this vial has never dropped, despite the fact that it is taken from every coronation. It was brought from the Saint-Remi abbey on a white haquenée. It will be used for the 9 anointings, made with the thumb, in the shape of a cross, on the top of the head, on the chest, the right shoulder, the left shoulder, the joints of the arms, and on the palms of the hands. 

anointings of Charles V Par G.Garitan — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 4.0,Wikicommons

And he is sacred. 

Charles V is crowned =Par G.Garitan — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 4.0,Wikicommons

First, he is given the ring, sign of "the holy faith and integrity of the kingdom" which is passed to him on the fourth finger of the right hand. Then, the king is given the scepter with a fleur-de-lis, symbol of the command, then the hand of justice. Finally, the golden crown is placed on his head, closed to remind that no one reigns above the king, except God. The crown is decorated with 4 lily flowers. Stolen during the Revolution, the Crown of Louis XV was reconstituted and can be seen in the Louvre Museum. 

La couronne de Louis XV / Reconstitution / Musée du Louvre 

"Viva rex in aeternum" and the release of birds

When the coronation is over, the king is installed on his throne and he receives the tribute of the great figures of the monarchy and we shout "Viva rex in aeternum". Hundreds of birds are then released in the nave (700 or 800 for the coronation of Louis XIII) and prisoners are freed (6 000 for the coronation of Louis XV). There were at least 3,000 people in the cathedral, and tens of thousands of people came to Reims for the event. It was the 31st coronation of a French king. There will be only 2 more after him. His grandson, Louis XVI, in 1774, and his other grandson Charles X, on May 29, 1825, but that's another story... 

The Banquet of Louis XV after the coronation. By Pierre Denis MARTIN / 1724

This coronation of the kings of France has largely inspired the coronation of the kings of England, and we will find many similarities during the coronation of Charles III.

Louis XV représenté en costume de sacre vers l'âge de 20 ans par Hacinthe Rigaud (1730).

Louis XV représenté en costume de sacre vers l'âge de 20 ans par Hacinthe Rigaud (1730). Près de lui, la Couronne et la main de Justice. 

If you notice any translation errors, we apologize. The translator enjoyed his discovery of the champagne cellars a little too much


Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site. 

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.