The celebration of the memory of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

The celebration of the memory of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

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Title: Anniversary service on January 21, 1816 in Saint Denis.

Author : DUGOURC Jean-Démosthène (1749 - 1825)

Creation date : 1816

Date shown: January 21, 1816

Dimensions: Height 32.4 - Width 45.8

Technique and other indications: Indian ink wash, pen (drawing), heightened with white.Full title: Anniversary service celebrated on January 21, 1816 in the royal church of Saint-Denis in memory of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux website

Picture reference: 00-023859 / MV5655; invdessins294

Anniversary service on January 21, 1816 in Saint Denis.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Publication date: October 2009

Historical context

When he solemnly returned to Paris on May 3, 1814, after long years of exile, Louis XVIII was a sovereign very ignorant of this France born of the Revolution and of the Empire over which he was called to reign. Returning to the ideology of a Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), he sees the Revolution as absolute evil, as he expresses it implicitly in the preamble to the Charter:

"By thus seeking to reconnect the chain of times, which disastrous gaps had interrupted, we have erased from our memory, as we would like to be able to erase them from History, all the evils which afflicted the Fatherland during our absence. . "

Nevertheless, he has not forgotten anything and invites the French to a painful repentance on the occasion of restorative religious ceremonies dedicated to the memory of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, these expiatory celebrations being intended to revive, even among the buyers of national goods, the double fervor towards the throne and the altar.

Image Analysis

A draftsman greatly appreciated by European courts, Jean Démosthène Dugourc covered all the significant events of the reign of Louis XVIII with his pen drawings. This represents the anniversary service celebrated on January 21, 1816 in the basilica of Saint-Denis in memory of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. For the occasion, the walls and columns of the church were covered with heavy mourning hangings adorned with the royal coat of arms and sprinkled with fleur-de-lis. On the left, with his back to the altar, a prelate dressed in episcopal ornaments is officiating on a platform with two assistants. Below, many clergymen surround the platform with a lighted candle in their hands. Opposite the choir, a monumental canopy dominates the gallery where the royal family sits. Seated in the transepts, high dignitaries, nobles and invited personalities attend this first ceremony commemorating the death of King Louis XVI, guillotined on January 21, 1793.


On January 18 and 19, 1815, at the request of the Duchess of Angoulême, the sole survivor of the children of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVIII had the remains of the guillotined sovereigns exhumed and transferred to the basilica of Saint-Denis. Like other victims of the Terror - Charlotte Corday, Madame Roland or the Comtesse du Barry - they had been buried in the Madeleine cemetery on rue d'Anjou. January 21 was then declared a national day of mourning, and the first restorative ceremony was celebrated in Saint-Denis on January 21, 1816.

On the site of the Madeleine cemetery, Louis XVIII had a neoclassical-style expiatory chapel built, the construction of which was entrusted to the royal architect Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853). The building was inaugurated in 1826 by Charles X who, in the same spirit, on 3 May 1826 on the Place de la Concorde laid the first stone of a monument in memory of Louis XVI. But the statue was never erected, and its plinth served as the base for the Obelisk of Louksor, erected in the square in 1836. In 1828, Charles X also inaugurated an equestrian statue of Louis XIV, the work of François Joseph Bosio (1768- 1845), on the Place des Victoires. Ten years earlier, Louis XVIII had installed a statue of King Henry IV on the Pont Neuf, a symbol of national reconciliation and legitimate monarchy.

All these monuments punctuating the Parisian landscape with memories of the old order, all these commemorative and expiatory ceremonies in memory of the tortured sovereign, were to remind public opinion of the legitimacy of the restored monarchy and the secular continuity of the Bourbon dynasty, a moment interrupted by the "fatal deviations" of the Revolution.

  • Saint-Denis basilica
  • Bourbons
  • Louis XVI
  • Louis XVIII
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Restoration


Guillaume BERTIER DE SAUVIGNY, La Restauration, Paris, Flammarion, 1955 Georges BORDONOVE, Louis XVIII: le Désiré, Paris, Pygmalion, 1989 Francis DEMIER, La France du XIXe siècle, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 2000.Évelyne LEVER, Louis XVIII, Paris, Fayard, 1988.Pierre ROSANVALLON, The Impossible Monarchy: the charters of 1814 and 1830, Paris, Fayard, 1994. Jean VIDALENC, La Restauration 1814-1830, Paris, PUF, coll. "What do I know? », 1983.Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL and Benoît YVERT, History of the Restoration. Birth of modern France, Paris, Perrin, 1996.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The celebration of the memory of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette"

Video: Marie Antoinettes Head