A bottle of Champagne wine served at the coronation of Louis XV has been acquired by Maison Taittinger, which has donated it to the Palais du Tau Museum.
It is a simple blown-glass bottle from the beginning of the 18th century, but it has an incredible history. It is a unique specimen, the only remaining souvenir from the banquet that followed the coronation of the young Louis XV, in Reims, on 25 October 1722. That’s 299 years ago… The young king was just 12 years old. He was not declared of legal age until the following year, bringing the Regency of the Duke of Orléans to an end. In 1722, he spent almost a month in Reims, before and after an appropriately celebrated coronation at the cathedral. There, young Louis received the unction from the Holy Ampulla and the symbols of his nascent reign (crown, sceptre and so on) from the bishop of Reims.
The fragile delicate green anthracite bottle, so characteristic of its time, has a very long neck measuring 32 centimetres and was recently acquired at auction by Maison Taittinger. It is a very valuable piece, and came from the American Barbara Wirth’s collection of antique glass, which has now been split up.
For the coronation in 1722, the Council of the City of Reims was responsible for supplying wine for the young king’s guests. It is known that the Council purchased “ten casks of table wine for the workers and 45 casks from the Comte de Sillery” for the occasion. Furthermore, the archive text studied by the historian Patrick Demouy reveals that the best of these wines were in bottles. Some contained sparkling wine, others still wine. Louis XV is therefore the first King of France whose coronation was celebrated with champagne.
The origin of this bottle is indisputable. The coat of arms of the City of Reims can be found on the bottle, under the inscription “Sacre de Louis XV” (coronation of Louis XV) and the dove bringing the Holy Ampulla. According to Patrick Demouy, it was probably blown in Argonne. There were no glassworks in Reims until the production of Champagne wine was industrialised in the 19th century.
For the banquet held just after the coronation, in the banquet hall at the Palais du Tau, the City Council distributed the wines on the tables based on the prestige of the guests: twelve dozen bottles for the king in baskets, eight dozen for the regent, six dozen for the princes of royal blood, a dozen for the bishops…
The bottle – which, needless to say, is empty – has been given to the Palais du Tau, the former residence of the bishops of Reims adjoining the cathedral, by Maison Taittinger. It now takes pride of place in one of the display cases in its Treasury, which until now has been mainly dedicated to the ceremony given for Charles X, the last king to be crowned in Reims, a century after Louis XV. This fine bottle will then be showcased in the new museography of the Palais du Tau, which is due to be unveiled, following major works, in summer 2024. The actual journey taken by this bottle, which came to us without a chip or a scratch, is unknown. With no other known example at this time, it remains the final witness of the first royal coronation celebrated with champagne!