Reaction Weekend

Il viaggio a Reims review – Rossini at his satirical best

BY Gerald Malone   /  19 December 2020

The coronation of Charles X of France in 1825 was choreographed meticulously. It set the seal of legitimacy on the restored Bourbon dynasty – whose assumption of the throne dated from Henri IV in 1589 – so rudely interrupted by the revolution of 1789, a Terror, a Consulate, an Empire, then resolved on the eventual enthronement of Louis XVIII in 1814.

Well, 1814 … ish. Boney swept back into town briefly in 1815, until Wellington delivered the order of his newly invented boot at Waterloo. The point in 1825 was, that to re-establish Bourbon legitimacy after Louis’ shaky reign, all the historical stops of flummery were to be pulled, foot pedals of ancient ritual pressed, and every pipe of pomp blasted for Charles’ coronation in the cathedral at Reims.

Well, coronation …. ish. The more important element of the ancient ceremony was the Sacre, the anointing of the monarch. Boy, was this steeped in history. It is worth a short explanation.

Ancient regalia, like the throne and sceptre of Merovingian King Dagobert 1 (624 – 639), and the crown and sword of Charlemagne, were kept in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, close to Paris. The God bit of legitimacy – Holy Ampulla and Chalice – were kept in Reims.

The Ampulla was the big bazooka. It was kept in a reliquary, in the form of a round gold plaque thickly set with jewels, in the centre of which was a white enamelled representation of the dove of the Holy Spirit, upright with the wings open and pointing down, of which the Holy Ampulla itself formed the body. The reliquary had a heavy chain by which it could be worn around the neck of the abbot of the Abbey of Saint- Remi, it’s keeper.


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