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Loving the king, 1744-1789

Loving the King, 1744-1789, explores the emotional attachment to royalty of the French population in the 18th century.

Love for the king is the great lost emotion of French history. It has been expunged from the history books by the coming of the Revolution. Historians of the eighteenth century have focused on pornographic pamphlets, unsavoury rumours, and weak kings. Theories abound on the remoteness of monarchy and the rigidity of emotional regimes. The doom of the monarchy is repeatedly foretold in the detail of the histories we read. In this project (British Academy September 2015 to December 2016, £246,429) Dr Anne Byrne undertakes research to capture the lived experience of loving the king up to 1789.

Framed around celebrations of royal dynastic events, it will draw on little-used provincial archives to depict the diversity of real experiences of royalty. It will encompass testimony from the highest and the lowest social classes from all over France and will propose that love for the king was an 'emotional community' which bound French people of all sorts together. Loving the king was not a static state, however, the emotion ebbed and flowed like any other. Going beyond political theory, this study of France will show how, why, and when royalty worked.

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