1. Part One

  2. Part two

  3. Part three


Part One

The King’s day dawns…

In the bedchamber of Louis XIV by Paul Philippoteaux

"Your Majesty, it is time to rise!"

The King’s day commenced at seven in the morning. His head valet came up to the King’s bed to awake him. The public ritual of the Lever lasted almost two hours. Selected (male) courtiers hastened to the King’s apartments to attend.

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, a courtier known for his outspokenness. His "Mémoires" describe life at Louis XIV’s court and offer precious insight into the Sun King’s reign.

“The King missed Mass only once in his entire life - (and that was) with his Army on the day of the grand march.”

Duc de Saint‑Simon

Mémoires, 1675-1755

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Music was played throughout the King’s day, from morning to night. The King’s day round the clock, with harpsichordist and musicographer Olivier Baumont.


Part two

Musicians before the King


The music starts up

As soon as the Swiss Guards’ drums rolled, announcing the King’s arrival, the choirboys left to join the procession via the balcony. The ritual was meticulously detailed. A mat was rolled out over the gallery balustrade to indicate that the King had arrived. Standing on his left, the Master of the Music of the Royal Chapel presented the King with a book containing the words of the day’s motets. Opposite on the upper floor, the great organ and the musicians were ready and waiting for the Mass to start. The King listened to half an hour of motets for soloists, choirs and orchestra, composed and directed by the Master of Music and sung by adult and child singers and instrumentalists from the Music of the Royal Chapel, which was famous throughout Europe. The audience maintained a respectful silence.

The King only descended to take communion at the altar on grand occasions such as the highlights of the liturgical calendar - Easter, Christmas and Pentecost.

Louis XIV receiving the oath of the Marquis de Dangeau

Designated places in the chapel gallery

The musicians were placed on both sides of the grand organ in tiered rows to provide the best acoustics for the wind and string instruments.


"The Great and Good in the Kingdom assemble at a certain time every day in a Temple they called a Church. At the back of this Temple stands an altar dedicated to their God where a priest celebrates mysteries they call Saints, both sacred and formidable…”

La Bruyère

excerpt from "Caractères"

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During the King’s Mass music was thus played from the upper floor in the Chapel and the Music Masters’ compositions took this into account. In 2017, the CMBV took up the challenge of playing Michel-Richard de Lalande‘s motets from the chapel gallery.


Part three

A Musical Hive of Activity

Fervent productivity

The musical output of the Music Masters at the Royal Chapel in France was unusually prolific. People are (rightly) impressed by the amount of music produced by Johann Sebastian Bach, who some 40 years later composed a cantata per week while he was in Leipzig. But in Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, music was composed for Mass every single day!


To maintain the schedule, Music Masters sometimes recycled old motets or borrowed material from existing compositions. Louis XIV had his favourite motets and readily requested them.


The sculptors who produced the ornamentation in the Royal Chapel understood the importance of music in this hallowed place, and instruments and scores featured largely in the bas-reliefs.

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Relations between the various departments of the King’s Music could be stormy. Violinist Daniel Cuiller talks about the Te Deum war which inspired his album.