L'Ambition de l'Espagnol: Fireworks and Frontiers in Early Bourbon Paris

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The Hapsburg and Bourbon dynasties were intertwined by marriage, offspring, and ambitions. This alliance rested on intricate diplomatic negotiation, and was celebrated extravagantly, notably by fireworks displays, organised in the capital cities of Paris and Madrid, by princes, merchant consuls, and by French and Spanish diplomats. Prints were made of these displays, which were circulated across Europe to propagate the diplomatic alliances between France and Spain, most acutely symbolised by the marriages.
However, for much of this time, diplomatic relations between the two realms remained fragile, resting on an instable legacy of political and religious interference, noble opposition to dynastic union, and rival claims to frontier lands. If once the border between France and Spain could be expressed by natural features such as the Bidasoa and Pyrenees, under Louis XIV one might also define it by the intrusive presence of the man-made fortresses of Vauban.
This paper will briefly survey representations of these Franco-Spanish alliances in fireworks displays, and in particular, consider depictions of the border within such performances and contemporary representations.
However, although there were displays around the Bourbon/Hapsburg marriage alliances c.1612-15, these do not seem to have explicitly included images of the frontier. Drawing on surviving pamphlets and prints, this paper will suggest that preoccupations with the frontier were present, if implicitly. While the ceremonial aspects of these events have been much dissected, notably in the recent volume edited by Margaret McGowan, Dynastic Marriages 1612/15, and the work of Jerome de la Gorce, this paper will briefly consider:
A)The border personified: how did these displays bring the symbolic fissure and point of debate – the border – to Paris in human form?
B)The border contested: how could fireworks and prints deal with awkward diplomatic moments, and how was this reflected in the rhetoric and images of geography and control?
C)The moral geography: how were these displays also an opportunity to speak of discontent with royal policy?
In particular, this will draw on the pamphlet L’ambition de l’Espagnol en son artifice par luy faict de la vueille de la S. Iean Baptiste (1614), and original print material from the Archives Nationales and Bibliotheque Mazarine.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFluctuating Alliances
Subtitle of host publicationArt, Politics and Diplomacy in the Modern Era
EditorsPilar Diez del Corral Corredoire
Place of PublicationBerlin/Boston
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-060641-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-060489-4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2021


  • Fireworks
  • Louis XIII
  • Frontiers
  • Borders


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