As the King Had Said
As the King Had Said
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During the Revolution of the eighteenth century France moved from cabinet policy to public one. Convening the Estates General, King Louis XVI created a new situation in which political actor required the ability to speak in public and oratorical skills. The article discusses the King’s speeches and their perceptions at the Old Regime and during the Revolution. In order to study the role of sounding words in the administration and representation of Royal power at the Old Regime, we use the texts of dictionaries and encyclopedias of the eighteenth century, the writings of theorists of Royal power (J.-B. Bossuet, F. Fénelon), the King's speeches, delivered during the state and court ceremonies (during the coronation, the Royal séances of the Paris Parlement — “les lits de justice”, in the plenary meetings of notables’ assemblies), and the reactions of the witnesses of these ceremonies. Comparison of various evidences shows that Louis XVI accumulated by 1789 sufficient experience in public speaking and was able to successfully fulfill his role within the prescribed ritual, but did not possess the ability to improvise. With the beginning of the Revolution, the quantity of King’s public speeches increased markedly. The article discusses his speech at the assemblies of the Estates General, Constituent and Legislative assemblies, at the festival of the Federation, and before the Tribunal. The behavior of the King in this period testifies to his ability to gradually adapt himself to the new political realities. His political discourse was inconsistent and contradictory and has evolved over time. Without abandoning the traditional image of the King-father of his subjects, Louis XVI showed some flexibility and willingness to take new position of partner in dialogue with the new political elite represented by the National Assembly. To the extent that the political process was developed in the Assembly walls, the King was able to participate in it.
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