“Rheims, Saturday, the eve of the consecration. I saw the King enter. I saw pass the gilded coaches of the monarch who, a little while ago, had not a horse to mount; I saw rolling by, carriages full of courtiers who had not known how to defend their master. This herd went to the church to sing the Te Deum, and I went to visit a Roman ruin, and to walk alone in an elm grove called the Bois d’Amour. I heard from afar the jubilation of the bells; I contemplated the towers of the Cathedral, secular witnesses of this ceremony always the same and yet so different in history, time, ideas, morals, usages, and customs. The monarchy perished, and for a long time the Cathedral was changed to a stable. Does Charles X., when he sees it again to-day, recall that he saw Louis XVI. receive anointment in the same place where he in his turn is to receive it? Will he believe that a consecration shelters him from misfortune? There is no longer a hand with virtue enough to cure the king’s evil, no ampulla with holy power sufficient to render kings inviolable.”
Such was the disposition of the great writer, always content with himself, discontented with others. The crowd of royalists, far from showing themselves sceptical and morose, as he was, was about to attend the ceremony of the morrow in a wholly different mood. It had long been ready with its enthusiasm, and awaited with impatience mingled with respect the dawn of the day about to rise.
Sunday, the 29th of May, 1825, the city of Rheims presented, even before sunrise, an extraordinary animation. From four o’clock in the morning vehicles were circulating in the streets, and an hour after people with tickets were directing their steps toward the Cathedral, the men in uniform or court dress, the women in full dress. The sky was clear and the weather cool.
Let us listen to an eye-witness, the Count d’Haussonville, the future member of the French Academy:—
“Need I say that the competition had been ardent among women of the highest rank to obtain access to the galleries of the Cathedral, which, not having been reserved for the dignitaries, could receive a small number of happy chosen ones? Such was the eagerness of this feminine battalion to mount to the assault of the places whence they could see and be seen, that at six o’clock in the morning when I presented myself at the Gothic porch built of wood before the Cathedral, I found them already there and under arms. They were in court dress, with trains, all wearing, according to etiquette, uniform coiffures of lace passed through the hair (what they called barbes), and which fell about their necks and shoulders, conscientiously decolletes. For a cool May morning it was rather a light costume; they were shivering with cold. In vain they showed their tickets, and recited, in order to gain entrance, their titles and their rank; the grenadier of the royal guard, charged with maintaining order until the hour of the opening of the doors, marched unmoved before these pretty beggars, among whom I remember to have remarked the Countess of Choiseul, her sister, the Marchioness of Crillon, the Countess of Bourbon-Bosset, etc. He had his orders from his chief to let no one enter, and no one did.”