Tuesday 23 March 2021

Le Roi Soleil, Master of the World - Versailles, 1688


"He's coming...Yes, of course it's him. Why? Well, everything about him is glittering and golden, so that's a good guess. And, well... he's handsome. And tall. Apollo-esque maybe. No, no... I'm not having second thoughts. Pass the the poison, quickly. Don't drop it! Oh, for the blood of Sint Jacobus.... how on earth did you get recommended to me as an apprentice assassin? Quick, quick - flutter your fan in front of my hands while you pass the poison over. QUICK... Oh...OH! Your Majesty....what a surprise to see you here. We were just taking a stroll in your gardens. Monsieur Le Notre was kind enough to invite us. But you've quite trapped us here, almost as if you had intended it...."

Louise de Gisoreux, Founder of Le Lapin d'Or, and would-be assassin, 1688

Way back in late December 2020 and over the New Year, I prepared this vignette for the 11th Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  In some ways it bookends the other vignette I made last year featuring the Dauphin of France, although this one is perhaps a bit spikier, I hope!

In this vignette, we are a long way from the smoke-shrouded, war-torn battlefields of Flanders.  Instead, cast yourself into the royal gardens of the Palace of Versailles, in 1688.

One of the things which comes from reading about the courtly intrigues of Versailles, and the politics of Louis XIV's court, is the sheer sense of unease and danger experienced by its residents. Who was in favour, who was living on borrowed time (exile to Brittany being a terrible thing in 1688), and who was currently in the King's eye. A perfect place for traps and snares of all kinds (which was the theme of the relevant "Chamber" in the Painting Challenge).

So here we have a small cabal of would-be assassins, perhaps Flemish sympathisers or unusual allies for the beleaguered Spanish, plotting to ensnare Louis Le Grand in his own courtly gardens.

The scene is all set, as Louis' roving eye catches the sumptuous fabric of Louise de Gisoreux's dress. A tempting target for the infamous Royal Passion, no doubt. Unknown to the French King, however, the brave Louise de Gisoreux is the founder of the secret society of "Le Lapin d'Or", a league of wealthy nobles who despise the King (and wish to replace him with his easy-going brother, or the Man in the Iron Mask, or... well, almost anyone, really).

It's a scene which is almost foretold by the avaricious King's love of classical mythology; the statue on the plinth depicts the young, amorous Apollo being spurned by the river nymph, Daphne. 

Murder is clearly being planned among the slowly-turning, autumn leaves.

But wait ... just who has snared who in this strange, stately, baroque masque?

Behind the plinth, slyly creeping out of sight, the wily French fox has trapped a golden rabbit in its jaws, and is carrying away it's prize. What treacherous traps and snares does Louis, the Sun King himself, have in store for our brave heroine and her small cabal of (slightly hapless) co-conspirators...?

I've always loved those strange, baroque paintings in art galleries.  You know the sort - huge canvases, filled with things happening.  Almost like a code, or a message.  I'm not sure what my message is here - other than I'm slightly deranged!

And, talking of being deranged, I could not resist the temptation to prepare a couple of more of my ludicrous 'character cards' for this vignette - one for each of the competing traps and snares, French or Flemish (depending on whether you like the good guys, or the very bad guy).

For the figures, they're rather a disparate mixture.

Louis and Louise are from Wargames Foundry, Louise's accomplice is from Redoubt, while the Turkish servant is from Old Glory's Pirates range. The two classical characters on the plinth are a little smaller than 28mm and were really only dry-brushed bronze - 'Apollo' is a lovely Wargames Foundry cherub, and 'Daphne' being a diminutive, beautiful but (these days) politically incorrect Daemonette or Succubus from Games Workshop's range of Chaos Familiars.

I did some conversion work on Louise de Gisoreux - some extra lace and a silken bow on the back of her dress. The bottles and goblets littering the base of the plinth were from Scotia Grendell. The plinth was scratch-built by me, but the base is from Warbases, as is the fox and unlucky rabbit.

I added some autumn leaves to the base of the vignette.  Maybe there is also some foreshadowing there, dear readers.  There were similar softly turning leaves on the base of the Dauphin's vignette as well.  What does that foretell of the portents for the French campaign against the Flemish Free City of Laarden?  Or, do they foretell a most distant doom for the House of Bourbon?  Or, is it just October?

And here's the growing collection of cards for 2021 (and late 2020), focusing on the "Enemies and Adversaries of Laarden, 1688" (as promised, Andy, in an earlier comments thread).  This suite of "Enemies" is marked by a French fleur-de-lis in the top corner, partly to keep track of them!  

Stay tuned, dear readers, to collect the whole set of thirteen!!



  1. A delightful vignette Sidney...

    All the best. Aly

    1. Thank you very much for dropping by, Aly - very good to see you, Sir!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Scrivs. Especially as you've probably seen these Challenge XI entries before!

  3. Fantastic. A brilliant vignette the instantly conveys the story behind it. Great work.

  4. All quite superb! Great to see these additions to the Laarden card set. I look forward to picking up my Panini sticker album and introductory set of cards soon! The figures all look brilliant. I have the fox in my lead pile somewhere. There were some very hard questions about that fox, when he arrived from Warbases, from the rabbit ‘fans’ in the house. (We decided to agree that the fox was carrying a tired rabbit home after a busy day 😜.) I hope Louis is not counting rabbits before they are cooked? (Far too many metaphors being mixed here!)

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting, Andy!! Panini sticker albums will be provided in good time. You'll be able to swap the cards with friends, of course, in the time honoured way soon enough ;)

      The fox is a sly old casting. I did think that the rabbit looks almost to happy to be in the jaws of its species-nemesis, but hey - it's Versailles, not "Watership Down", right?

      Louis XIV. Rabbit. Cooking. Have we strayed into a seventeenth century episode of Masterchef?


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