From the journal of Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688
Although I had met the Duque de Havré before, it had been some years earlier in El Escorial. I have a memory of a small plump child running through sunlit rooms, chasing the Meninas before being scolded loudly by one of the Palace equerries. Dark, moody, impish eyes in a pasty, fleshy child’s face was my lasting memory, before that face dissolved into a wail of tears, accompanied by a sulky frown.
The years had not changed the pallid complexion of his face. He bore the trappings of wealth, influence and power openly on the field of Sorée to the south east of Namur, a league away from where the advance formations of the Sun King’s army were forming.
He had exchanged the mischievous, childhood, carefree chase through the chambers of a palace for the forced-calm and assumed sang-froid of a leading nobleman of his House. But one glance into his eyes betrayed him. He was little more than a magnificent butterfly, swaggering and gasping by equal measures under the incarcerating bell-jar of expectation, trapped by a hidalgo’s obligations of honour in the autumn of his aristocratic House’s life-arc.
As I looked from his Serene Highness across the dusty, July fields, I could identify clearly the standards of the French Gendarmerie, floating as if gossamer light above the scarlet uniformed cavaliers of France.
Enemies to skewer your iridescent butterfly wings, my Lord, I thought.
But before I could caution him and suggest a way out of his breathless tomb of asphyxiating pride, he had spurred his Tobiano mare to the front of his Tercio of Horse. There was no lack of courage in the Duque de Havré, even if it was born of despair and an inability to escape the responsibilities of the glittering House of Croÿ.
Now long forgotten by history, the House of Croÿ was once a formidable force in the Hapsberg politics of late 17th Century Flanders, Burgundy and the Rhinelands. Members of the House of Croÿ were active in the complex politics of the Empire, holding impressive positions in the Imperial Court and ecclesiarchy. Members of the House were bishops of Cambrai, Arras, Ypres, Tournai; one was the tutor and Godfather to the Emperor Charles V; another was Grand Equerry to the King of Spain. Many were members of the prestigious Hapsberg Order of the Golden Fleece.
The members of the House of Croÿ who followed the colours and beat of the drum weave through the military narratives the 17th Century. They travelled and fought in Italy, Spain, Flanders, Russia, Germany and the New Spain. No doubt their influence, wealth and family connections opened many doors to military advancement and political influence.
It was therefore perhaps unsurprising that on the list of Tercios of Horse, entered on page 13 of the Pike & Shot Society’s book “The Spanish Armies in the War of the League of Augsberg: 1688-1697”, the final Tercio of Horse was that of Charles de Croÿ, Duque de Havré.
While not himself the Duque de Croÿ, Charles du Croÿ held the title of Duque de Havré, entitling him to the honorific title of ‘Principe’, and to be addressed with the predicate of “Serene Highness”. He held the award of nobility of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and I thought that both he, and his Tercio of Horse, would make good subjects for my Spanish army of Flanders for 1688.
The figures are a mixture of Dixons and Wargames Foundry. I added some arm swaps, and some green-stuff feathers. For Duque Charles, I added a small green-stuff Order of the Golden Fleece around his neck.
The Duque’s horse is a piebald, and specifically a Tobiano. These were popular in 17th Century Europe, as you can see from this study by Pieter Paul Rubens.
The standard for the Tercio of Horse was reconstructed from the fragments of information we know about late 17th Century Spanish and Flemish flags. “The Spanish Armies in the War of the League of Augsberg: 1688-1697” states that many of the flags for the Spanish and Flemish cavalry of the late 17th Century featured a Burgundian cross on a red field, but that other family symbols and religious images were reasonably common, often as the reverse of the standard. I opted for an image of the Virgin and Child, although I could (and might next time) have used the family crest of the House of Croÿ.
I also added tufts from Warbases and Mini-Natur (which I picked up at Salute, 2018)
As for weapons, this is another pistol-armed unit of Horse from the Spanish army of Flanders. Hopefully, in facing the French, the Spanish and Flemish pistol-bearing tactics will be an interesting contrast to more aggressive French swordpoints.