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.
I could tell something was wrong immediately.
Over my months in the Free City of Laarden , Antoine de Gautier had been my near constant companion and commentator. No comment intended to praise his Flemish home, and slyly cast unfavourable comparisons on His Majesty’s Spanish Domains, had been missed. No opportunity had been neglected by him to introduce me to the frothy, childish, swaggering world of a Flemish aristocrat with more time and money than good sense would suggest is wise to grant to a young man of his age. And at no time had the grounds of good taste and discretion been evident in his personal tailoring as, day after day, he promenaded across the Grote Markt in my company, proudly inspecting the troops parading daily in Laarden's civic heart, dressed in a hundred shades of yellow and gold, his favourite colours.
So, when de Gautier’s excitable commentary of the deployment of the French enemy forces in the field before us came to an abrupt end in a very uncharacteristic silence, I immediately knew there was a problem.
At first, my instinct was to think there was actually a real problem. A swift outflanking manoeuvre by French hussars, or the deployment of the feared Gendamerie de France, perhaps? But after a moment, my panic subsided. This was Antoine de Gautier, Flemish cavalier, bravo and fop. No, I reassured myself, the problem was bound to be more intimate, more ... personal.
I glanced at him, moving my spyglass a fraction away from my eye, and followed his line of sight. The root of his concern, etched into his fashionably pale and rouge-tinted appearance, was not hard to identify.
Our Enemy's line was barely a quarter of a league away from our foremost battalions. Standing just a few yards in advance of the Regiment de Nettancourt were two gentlemen of the Court of Versailles. Their coats of pink and purple glowed incandescently in the fog-drenched morning gloom, the monstrous splash of vivid colour matched only by the shock of blossoming pantaloons and stockings of opalescent grey and lapis lazuli. They appeared to be discussing the field of battle, hands circling in endless circles of vacuous pleasantries, doubtless arguing over the order of precedence for the attack. Immensely long wigs of coiffured hair wobbled precariously on their heads as their discussion continued, oblivious to the ranks of drab-dressed veterans waiting in the regiment behind them. One of the chevaliers tiptoed around the field, perhaps tortured by the tightness of his impractical footwear, or merely carefully dancing around any patch of the muddy ground endangering the purple puff-balls stitched modishly to his shoes.
I was unable to resist a smile, calculating that the two French peacocks were likely to be the only two noblemen on the Field of Mars surpassing de Gautier in the exuberance and sheer idiocy of their clothing. My companion was visibly wounded, upset and distressed by this common realisation.
I waited longer then I should have done to speak to him. Everyone needs their wilder dreams dented a little, and no doubt the sight of the two French chevaliers had been a sobering experience for the young Flemish cavalier.
"Don't worry, my Lord", I commented, trying hard to keep any tone of conspiratorial collaboration from my voice.
"Just think of what wonderful plunder there might be in the Enemy's baggage train. They say some of the gentlemen from Versailles travel with a significant wardrobe. I mean, who on earth would wish to attend a field of battle with only a single set of riding clothes?"
And in return I was granted that most rare gift from my Flemish companion - a smile of genuine warmth.
The final 'themed round' in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge 2018 was the theme of "Monstrous". I was rather stumped for anything really 'monstrous' from the 17th Century which I could build and paint off this themed round. I'd sibmitted hussars and Croatian light horse on previous themed rounds, and I was a little reluctant to change track too much from a focus on the late 17th Century battlefield.
I did, for a while, think about trying to create one of my favourite characters from the 1690s, and English supernaturalist, alchemist and military field commander by the name of Goodwin Wharton, but even Sir Goodwin's faery obsessed, treasure seeking expeditions in the Inner Hebridies didn't really conjure up the ideas of a 'monstrosity'.
However, a look through some of the fashion from the Court of Versailles gave me the idea for some very monstrous clothing which could be brought to bear on the enemies of the Sun King in 1688 Flanders.
The figures are a mix of Dixons (the nobleman in purple), Old Glory (the nobleman in pink) and Foundry (the rather dour matchlock armed fantassin, who I painted rolling his eyes at the nonsense unfurling before him.
I added extra green-stuff wigs, orders of chivalry on chains, puff-ball shoes and other idiocies to the Chevaliers, but not the veteran. I tried to keep the veteran very plain, so there's not much shading or highlighting. With the French Chevaliers, however, I used a white undercoat to make the colours glow a bit more, and added a purple base to Vallejo Flesh for that oh-so-fashionable pallor!
As I draw towards the end of painting the Flemish, Spanish and Imperial forces for 1688 (ideally by the end of May 2018), my next painting task is to focus on the forces of the Sun King. I'm very excited by this opportunity, and it might well be that the white undercoat and purple face basecoat will be seen again, if only among the most refined echelons of the French commanders of Louis le Grand!