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Home ›Studies› Louis XIV receives ambassadors from the thirteen Swiss cantons at the Louvre (November 11, 1663)
Interview of the ambassadors of the thirteen Swiss cantons with King Louis XIV
© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot
Publication date: September 2017
University of Evry-Val d'Essonne
Louis XIV, head of diplomacy
This painting is a reduced copy of one of the 17 cartoons drawn by Charles Le Brun, for the series of tapestries ordered from the Royal Manufacture of Goblins through Louis XIV and titled The King's Story. The 4epiece of 3e series refers to the interview in 1663 between Swiss diplomats and the young monarch whose personal reign began in 1661 with the death of Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661).
Born in 1632 in Brussels where he began his career as a painter, Adam-Francois Van der Meulen passes from the service of the Spanish to that of the French at the request of Colbert (1619-1683) and under the authority of Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), first painter to the king and director of the Manufacture des Gobelins. This painting was produced in 1664, immediately after the event it represents, showing that tapestries and their multiple artistic derivatives are propaganda tools and information instruments directly linked to political news.
The scene takes place on November 11, 1663 in the Dais room of the Louvre palace, seven days before the taking of the oath of alliance in Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, an episode depicted on another tapestry. On these two works, the staging used by the artists shows that the king is the master. The ambassadors of the Helvetic Corps are easily identifiable on the right, with their beards and black clothes with white ruffs. In total, thirteen cantons are represented in Paris: Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden / Nidwalden, Zug, Glarus, Basel, Friborg, Solothurn, Schaffhausen, Appenzell Ausserrhoden / Appenzell Lower Rhodes.
Louis XIV receives the delegation of the Helvetic Corps led by Johann Heinrich Waser (1600-1669), mayor of Zurich. The Grand Embassy has thirty-six ambassadors, of which a dozen appear here. Each canton is represented by two delegates, whose landamman, highest magistrate. We must add the representatives of the allies of the cantons forming the leagues, ie 36 ministers followed by secretaries, ushers or ambassadors bringing the delegation to 227 people. Le Brun and Van der Meulen describe the submissive homage paid to the King of France by the entire delegation. Dressed in a brocade jacket with gold thread, the king rises and uncovers himself to welcome the embassy, a sign of the prestige of the guests and of the highly strategic nature of the alliance.
An unbalanced alliance
This reception is part of the long history of relations between the Kingdom of France and the Helvetic Leagues, since the first alliance concluded in 1444 with Charles VII. This new agreement is the result of patient preparatory work over fifteen years, accompanied by extensive correspondence and memories. From 1648, during the negotiations of the Westphalian treaties ending the Thirty Years' War, France provided support to the cantons so that an article recognized their independence from the Empire. The same year, the alliance concluded in 1602 with Henry IV is renegotiated.
Discussions were extended and delayed until 1663, because of the internal difficulties of the Confederation and the size of the French debt resulting from the military support of the Swiss Guards. During diplomatic negotiations, France is represented by Ambassador Jean de la Barde (1602-1692) who fiercely negotiates the terms and takes advantage of France's position of strength on the international scene. On September 24, 1663, the agreement was concluded in Solothurn, before an oath in Paris scheduled two months later. Despite the marks of respect shown by Louis XIV on this occasion, the terms of the agreement are considered unfair by the Swiss. The Helvetic Corps is placed under the dependence of France which obtains the neutrality of Franche-Comté, a buffer territory allied to Switzerland, and imposes the military defense of Alsace. This diplomatic coup de force reveals the power acquired by the Sun King in Europe, with a policy of territorial expansion that arouses fears.
- Louis XIV
- Gobelins factory
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Edouard ROTT, History of the diplomatic representation of France to the Swiss cantons, their allies and their confederates, Berne, A. Benteli & Co, volume 6, 1917.
Claire-Marie LOMENECH, “The Swiss ambassadors in Paris in 1663. Protocol uses: between tradition and politics. ", Literature Studies, n ° 3, 2010, p. 155-162.
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Isabelle RICHEFORT, Adam-François Van der Meulen: Flemish painter in the service of Louis XIV, Rennes, Rennes University Press, 2004.
To cite this article
Stéphane BLOND, "Louis XIV receives at the Louvre the ambassadors of the thirteen Swiss cantons (November 11, 1663)"