This interesting set of twelve carved ivory roundels in the Carlton Hobbs collection depict the likenesses of twelve individuals taken from “Les Héros de la Ligue ou la Procession Monacale conduitte par Louis XIV pour la conversion des Protestants de son Royaume” (“Heroes of the League, or the Monastic Procession Led by Louis XIV for the Conversion of Protestants of his Kingdom”), a series of satirical engravings published in 1691 (figure 1). The entire series comprised twenty-four plates portraying some of the worst enforcers of Louis XIV’s anti-Huguenot policies, which included the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).
The Edict of Nantes was issued in 1598 by Henry IV and secured the civil liberties of Calvinist Protestants living in the Catholic nation of France. However, under Louis XIV, Henry’s grandson, it was revoked and replaced with the Edict of Fontainbleau, which declared Protestantism illegal. In response, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled the country for England and Holland, among other nations—an exodus that deprived France of many of its most skilled and industrious citizens.
In their new homelands, Huguenot refugees were free to express the hatred of their French oppressors in satires like Les Héros de la Ligue. The volume, which mocks members of the French Catholic League, is attributed to the artist Cornelis Dusart, a Dutch printmaker and painter. The British Museum has attributed the printing of the plates, which are unsigned, to Jacob Gole, himself a Huguenot that had to flee France circa 1684. The “grotesque faces [are] intended to represent the ministers and courtiers of the ‘grand roi’ most odious to the Calvinists.”1 Each portrait in Les Héros de la Ligue is headed by the name and title of the person, and accompanied below by appropriate quatrains describing their misdeeds. Of the twenty-four portraits, the following twelve are reproduced in the present roundels:
Guillaume de La Brunetière, Bishop of Saints
Michel Le Tellier, Chancellor of France
François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, French Secretary of State for War
Du Viger, Councillor of the Parlament of Bordeaux
Louis Maimbourg, French Jesuit and church historian
Nicolas Lamoignon of Baville, French magistrate and administrator
De la Rapine (d’Herapine), Governor of the prison-hospital of Valence
René de Marillac, Intendant of Poitou
Jean le Camus, Lieutenant-Civil of the Châtelet in Paris
Louis-Francois Duc de Boufflers, French general
Demevin, Intendant of Roehéfort
Le Père Petres, Jesuit confessor of England’s King James II
The portraits do not necessarily bear resemblance to the actual personages they are meant to represent, but are exaggerated and debauched caricatures, portrayed ironically as monks with some well below their social standing, for example as shopkeeper from Les Halles.2