Political communication did not wait for spin doctors nor the Internet to exist. The death of Louis XIV, three centuries ago, was the occasion of a staging and propaganda exercise that will remain as a model of its kind, long before the emergence of our hypermediatised societies. At the Palace of Versailles, the exhibition The king is dead brings back to life the great spectacle that presided over the death of the Sun King. From the autopsy to the grandiose funeral in the basilica of Saint-Denis, after a period of one week when the embalmed remains of the sovereign were exposed in Versailles, the official mourning is told through a host of objects, for many never shown public. The death certificate, the report of autopsy (elegantly called "minutes of the opening of Louis XIV") and even the saw that served this noble task, are to be discovered in the middle of official paintings, busts and other sculptures . The exhibition intends to put the event in perspective with other funerals of sovereigns of French and European courts. The king is both a man and an institution and the staging of his death takes on a triple dimension, personal, religious and political. The royal remains were, moreover, subject to the principle of tripartition: the body at Saint-Denis, the entrails at Notre-Dame and the heart at the Saint-Antoine church. If today our great men are no longer scattered like a puzzle, the grandiose staging organized for the funerary rites they are subject to - transfers of ashes to the Pantheon or national funerals broadcast live - are the direct legacy of these monarchical traditions.
"The King is Dead", Palace of Versailles, from October 27 to February 21. Information: www.leroiestmort.com