Collection of Benjamin Weiss
CORONATION OF LOUIS XVI AT RHEIMS
DUVIVIER, Benjamin: France, 1775, Bronze, 42 mm
Born Louis Auguste, Louis XVI (1754 –1793) was the son of Louis, dauphin de France and Marie-Josèphe of Saxony. He was King of France from 1774 until 1792, taking over the throne from his grandfather Louis XV. Louis XV had only one son but he died at the age of 35 and never ascended the throne. Louis Auguste was the oldest living son out of 8 children, 3 of whom died young. His parents for the most part ignored him because they favored his older brother Louis, Duke of Burgundy, but he died at the age of 10 in 1761. His younger brothers were Louis, Comte Provence, the future king Louis XVIII, and Charles, Comte de Artois, the future king Charles X. Louis Auguste’s father died in 1765, which dealt his mother a devastating blow from which she never recovered, and sank into deep depression for the rest of her life. With his father dead, 11 year old Louis Auguste was now the dauphin of France and next in line to the French throne. In 1770, at the age of 15, Louis was married to the 14 year old Marie Antoinette, the daughter of Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Teresa of Austria. In 1774, King Louis XV died of smallpox at the age of sixty-four, and was succeeded by his twenty-year-old grandson, Louis Auguste, who became Louis XVI. The coronation took place in at the Cathedral at Rheims, the subject of this medal.
Louis XVI, far from being the ruthless tyrant of revolutionary oratory, was a humble, peaceful man and a rather reluctant king, who had the misfortune of being the absolute head of a state on the brink of revolution. He was arrested during the insurrection in 1792, tried by the National Convention, found guilty of treason, and executed 1793. His execution signaled the end of the absolutist monarchy in France and would eventually bring about the rise of Napoleon I.
LINK to contemporary article of The Coronation of Louis XVI from the Gazette of France (1775)
LINK to Portrait of Louis XVI by A.F. Callet