KING HENRY : What treasure, uncle?
EXETER : Tennis-balls, my liege.
KING HENRY : We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;
King Henry V, Act 1, Scene 2
One of the things I’ve enjoyed in this strange year of lockdowns and home-working has been finishing off half-completed figures, and half-baked ideas. Saving time on a long commute has allowed me to work on some things that I never could have hoped to have painted, otherwise.
One of these was a suitably frivolous, and thoroughly French, figure of Le Grand Dauphin - the eldest son of Louis XIV of France. A flick-through of the pages of French history books will come up fairly blank when it comes to Le Grand Dauphin’s achievements. A quiet, subdued man, he seems to have been over-awed by his remarkable father, and several dominating tutors. But that just serves to provide a perfect blank canvas for the alt-historical Dauphin of France, a character who I was hoping to create for my fictional campaign for the Free Flemish city of Laarden in 1688.
I wanted to model a command stand which was a little bit different for the Dauphin. Something which was very French, slightly whimsical and which echoed the unpleasantly sarcastic and arrogant Dauphin of Shakespeare's Henry V, as opposed to the placid historical heir to the French throne. One of the great scenes from the play is when the Dauphin sends the young King Henry a set of tennis balls as a coronation gift, suggesting Prince Hal's mis-spent youth. Which, naturally enough, gave me the idea of try and represent the Dauphin as a waspish, vain, and pampered tennis-playing prince, complete with a sycophantic courtier.
I know, I know, total and complete nonsense to float our late seventeeth century boats, Dear Readers!
Modelling the figures - essentially non-combatants - is a bit of a challenge in 28mm. I used a very versatile Dixon Miniatures officer for the Dauphin, and a Wargames Foundry civilian for the vacuous courtier. I converted them with the addition of green-stuff lace, elaborate wigs and some Hasslefree tennis racquets, which I 'strung' with some 1/1200th naval ratlines!
The tennis balls were created with green-stuff and dropped around the scene. No doubt, many were lost as a result of the Dauphin's questionable tennis skills. I also made a suitably-baroque bucket to fill with champagne bottles, and added a few goblets by the set of playing cards and the gold Louis d'Or wager on the surface of the drum.
I also added a scratch-built plinth for a bronze cherub from Wargames Foundry, adding a tiny bit of verdigris to the painting. I'm sure all French (and, maybe, Flemish) chateaus had such classical statues located in their formal gardens in the late seventeenth century. Hmmm... well, they do in my campaigns, anyway.
I finished the base with some tufts and some autumn-themed leaf scatter. Maybe a sign of the forthcoming autumn of the royal House of Bourbon in the Laarden campaign, perhaps...? Ah, that would be unlikely, but who know what the fates have in store for the French armies of the Dauphin and his father, Louis XIV?
I also added the Dauphin's favourite Dalmatian, sniffing at a stray tennis ball. I had fun finding that Dalmatians as a breed were popular in the seventeenth century among the noble classes.
And finally, in the ultimate act of historical sacrilege, I created the first of a new series of Laarden Character cards for the Dauphin. And why not - 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. What the world clearly needs is a very self-indulgent, history-distorting set of character cards for the "Enemies and Adversaries of Laarden, 1688". Of which I'll play the Dauphin's card as being the first of the "Enemies" suite of thirteen.
Stay tuned for more "Enemies and Adversaries" soon, and collect the others in the pack, Ladies and Gentlemen! And here's a reminder of the first thirteen in the playing card deck...