Abstract: This article examines the ideological functions of seventeenth-century ceremonial oratory by distinguishing between two related rhetorical strategies: textual image and propaganda, defined as the promotion of a policy. This distinction helps characterize the particular nature of Louis XIV's régime, instead of anachronistically equating it with modem totalitarianism. If pursued in other contexts it can serve to illuminate the mechanisms of personality cult in general. Fashioning an image of the ruler with the help of an institutional apparatus which varies with the régime is a way to create public confidence in his/her ability. A well-established absolutist monarchy should not require propagandistic discourse; yet it was ubiquitous in Louis XIV's global design for government. This suggests a dialectical interpretation. When belief in the monarch's greatness fails to produce blind faith in his/her infallibility, propaganda may take over to bolster persuasion. When counterpropaganda, or facts, become insistently present, image may again appear as an expedient alternative.
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