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Page 8
Sketch of Louis XIV dressed as Apollo for a ballet at court in which he often performed
Coronation of Louis XIV at Reins Cathedral in 1654
Here the kings of France were formally installed as rulers. Anoiting with oil said to date to the coronation of Clovis in the 5th century marked this rite of passage. The ceremonies also included the newly crowned king's gift of his curative powers through the touching of people who were afflicted by tuberculosis, then called scrofula.
Louis XIV Curing the Scrofula, by Jean Jouvenet, 1690 at the Abbey church of Saint-Riquier
A medieval tradition held that the kings of England and of France possessed a healing touch that could cure various diseases and especially "scrofula" which is a kind of tuberculosis. The monarchy exploited this belief as a way of elevating the power and sacred character of the king's person. Over the course of the reign, some 350,000 people received the royal touch from Louis XIV. Interestingly, the typical fee for receiving the touch was about 15 sous, not a lot but more than the very poor could manage. (For more details, see Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV.)