Lit de justice held by Louis XV.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / All rights reserved
Publication date: October 2013
University of Evry-Val d'Essonne
The king is dead, long live the king !
Louis XIV died on the 1er September 1715 in Versailles. By virtue of the principles of the kingdom's succession, power reverts to his great-grandson, born February 15, 1710. The latter not having reached the age of thirteen required to govern by himself, Louis XIV organized his succession.
Defiant in regard to his nephew Philippe of Orleans, the sovereign formed a council of regency, of which he himself appointed the members. Louis XIV wanted to give the Duke of Maine, his legitimized bastard, the first place. In 1643, Louis XIII had already attempted to organize a council of regency, but the inaugural bed of justice ignored this decision to confer full powers on Anne of Austria.
The day after the death of Louis XIV, during a solemn sitting, the Duke of Orleans obtained from the Parliament of Paris the renunciation of certain provisions of the will and codicils of Louis XIV (August 2, 1714, April 13 and August 23 1715). He in turn received a "full and complete" regency and, in his negotiations with parliament, he reintroduced the right of admonition which allows comments to be made on a law before it is registered.
These various modifications are subject to the holding of a lit de justice, an official event painted here by Louis-Michel Dumesnil. This painting comes from the revolutionary seizure of the Montregard collection (1794), but its origin and the date of its creation are not known.
Member of the Saint-Luc Academy and resident of the City of Paris, Dumesnil is attached to the work of the Paris City Hall. It is perhaps in the course of his duties that he produced this painting.
The staging of power
The ceremony takes place on September 12, 1715 at the Parliament of Paris, the guardian institution of the fundamental laws that govern the kingdom. All of Dumesnil's virtuosity is due to the representation of the great political bodies of the state in a realistic and modestly sized painting. Thanks to a recessed and low-angle view, each character is identifiable, without the composition being weighed down.
The young king sits in an armchair in the right corner of the grand chamber. His bodyguards are on duty. The Duke of Orleans and the Princes of the Blood are seated immediately to his right. The king’s bodyguards provide order service. The Duke of Orleans and the Princes of the Blood are seated immediately to the right of the sovereign. Like many other figures, they wear the insignia and cordon bleu of the Order of the Holy Spirit, the most prestigious order of chivalry in the monarchy. The dukes and lay peers are seated before the princes of the blood. In the first row, in black robes, the masters of requests, the counselors of the grand chamber and the presidents of inquiries and requests. The dukes and ecclesiastical peers are to the left of the monarch, behind the marshals of France and the captains of the King's House. In the first row sit the presidents with mortars, magistrates of a sovereign court recognizable by their red hooded robes.
The only woman in the parterre is the Duchess Charlotte-Éléonore de Ventadour, the governess of the young sovereign. In front of the king, the Duke of Tresmes, first gentleman of the chamber, turns towards the regent and Marshal de Villeroy, governor of the king. Wearing the epitoge, a red velvet gown lined with satin, Chancellor Voysin de La Noiraye, first officer of the kingdom, leads the session. Two bailiffs are kneeling at his feet. Six heralds of State Councilors in a fleur-de-lis cloak are at the center of the scene, which is closed on the left by two Channel Guards. Dongois, chief clerk, records the meeting, while the other “King's people” are distributed in the stands.
An inaugural bed of justice
The participants dressed in black wear mourning for the previous ruler, but the session already inaugurates the new reign. This ceremony, which draws its organization from the traditions of the monarchy, exposes the power of royal majesty around the principle of dynastic continuity. Along with the coronation ceremony, this is the most important event of the beginning of the reign; that's why the big day crowds flock to the session. This act constitutes another symbol, because it is the first lit de justice since Louis XIV strictly limited the right of remonstrance of the parliaments, forty-two years ago.
The bed of justice owes its name to the large seat lined with cushions where the king sat when he met the parliament. The expression then referred to the encounter itself. The walls of the great room, including the fireplace mantel, are covered with blue velvet tapestries with golden lilies. Through his physical presence in Parliament, the young sovereign exercises his restraint and suspends the justice he delegates to his magistrates. In fact, all decisions of the monarch have the force of law.
The young Louis XV opened the session with a short speech: “Gentlemen, I have come here to assure you of my affection; my chancellor will tell you the rest. Several speeches then formalized the beginning of the regency. Philippe of Orleans is confirmed as regent of the kingdom, and the Duke of Maine is ousted from power. The regent also obtains the implementation of the polysynody system, an original mode of government which is based on various councils.
- Louis XIV
- Louis XV
- Great Century
- Orleans (d ') Philippe (The Regent)
- Bourbon Louis-Auguste (Duke of Maine)
Michel ANTOINE, Louis XV, Paris, Fayard, 1989.
Bernard BARBICHE, The Institutions of the French Monarchy in Modern Times. 16th-18th century, Paris, University Press of France, coll. "First cycle", 1999.
Pierre-Yves BEAUREPAIRE, The France of the Enlightenment. 1715-1789, Paris, Belin, coll. “History of France”, 2011.
Sarah HANLEY, The Lit de justice des rois de France: constitutional ideology in legend, ritual and discourse, Paris, Aubier, coll. "Historical", 1991.
To cite this article
Stéphane BLOND, "Lit de justice held by Louis XV"