Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Carousel of 1662

The Carousel of 1662 was not held at Versailles but between the Louvre and the courtyard of the Tuileries - now called the Place de Carousel - on 5, 6 and 7 June. The event celebrated was the birth of the Dauphin and the 25-year old Louis XIV wanted to make the most of it. The news of the grand spectacle had spread like wildfire through Paris and 10-15.000 people were gathered to watch. Temporary stands had been erected for the people to sit on which made up an amphitheatre in the Roman style designed by Vigarani.

A view of the Carousel (French school)

The King's mother, Anne of Austria, the Queen Marie Thérèse and the other ladies of the court were placed on dais which had been built especially for the Carousel. It was decorated in purple velvet emblazoned with golden fleur-de-lis. Two other stands had been erected for the princes of the court and the visiting ambassadors. After all, the Carousel was not merely a celebration, it was a display of power.



The Carousel was a display of equestrian spectacle with riders wearing elaborate costumes. On the first day a parade went from the Hôtel de Vendôme to the courtyard of the Tuileries and along the way the people were awed by the 1297 participants of the parade - of which 655 were mounted on horseback.


The theme for this year was a tribute to the most exotic countries at the time - five was chosen - and each was represented by a quadrille. In turn each quadrille was headed by a member of the court and each quadrille had its' own colour scheme.

Louis XIV headed the Romans as their Emperor clad in red and black. The King's own costume was described by an album published on the Carousel in 1669:
"dressed like a Roman in a long coat embroidered with silver and gold ... a silver helmet covered with gold leafs ... from which there rises a plume of ostrich feathers..."
Even the King's horse was dressed to impress with a caparison covered in diamonds and red and gold tassels.

Louis XIV in the Grand Carrousel masque,1662 representing the roman emperor but dressed in 17th century style with a chiselled armour with gems and pearls, boots of silver brocade and a silver helmet with a golden crown of laurel and crimson feathers./ Louis XIV en el Grand Carrousel, 1662 representando el emperador romano pero a la moda del siglo 17 con armadura cincelada con gemas y perlas, botas de brocado plata y casco plateado con una corona de laurel dorada y cascada de plumas escarlata.
Louis XIV as the Emperor of the Romans

"Romans" in the Grand Carrousel 1662.
Pages following the King

Monsieur, headed the Persians and wore white and red. Most of his entourage were decked out in elaborate turbans.

Brother of Louis XIV, head of the "perses", Grand Carrousel in the Tuilleries,1662. He carried a device of the moon under the motto "uno sole minor" as a counterpart of Louis who carried the sun under the motto "ut vidi vinci" imposing himself as the centre of everything./ Hermano de Luis XIV, cabeza de los persas, Grand Carrousel, Tullerías. Llevó una luna bajo el lema "uno sole minor" en contrapartida del rey quien llevaba un sol bajo el lema "ut vidi vinci", imponiéndose como centro de todo.

The Prince de Condé was the figurehead of the Turks in blue and black.

Prince de Condé as the emperor of the turks in the Grand Carrousel in 1662. He carried the islamist crescent moon with the motto "Crescit ut Aspicitur". His costume was made of silver embroidered red satin with diamonds and turquoises and half moons hanging./ Príncipe de Condé como emperador de los turcos en el Grand Carrousel. Llevaba la media luna islamista con el lema "Crescit ut Aspicitur". Su traje era de satén rojo bordado en plata con diamantes y turquesas y medias lunas colgando.
The Prince de Condé

The "turks" driven by the Prince. De condé in the Grand Carrousel, 1662.
Riders in the quadrille of the Prince de Condé

The Duc d'Enghien (son of Monsieur) led the Indians in a display of yellow and "flesh colour".

Duc d'Enghien as the dirigent of the Indiens.
The Duc d'Enghien

Grand Carrousel 1662."Indian" drummer and trumpeter

The Duc de Guise headed the American Indians which were covered in brightly coloured feathers but had otherwise rather simple costumes. The Duc himself wore a silver helmet with a chimera on top.

Duc the Guise in the Grand Carrousel as the king of America, 1662
The Duc de Guise

"American" drummer and  in the Grand Carrousel of 1662. The bonnets of the horsemen were made of shell and Coral.
Musicians in the Duc de Guise's quadrille

If Voltaire is to be believed then this was the first occasion that Louis XIV wore the sun as his personal emblem.

Different sorts of competitions were planned including one in which the goal was to spear a head (not an actual head, don't worry) of a doll dressed as an Oriental warrior. Also, a ring tilt was prepared where the riders would take turns trying to pass a lance through a hanging ring.
The winners were the Marquis de Bellefonds - who won the head tilt on the first day - and the Comte de Sault, who won the ring tilt on the second day. The Comte de Sault was honoured by being presented with his trophy by Anne of Austria herself. The other winners were granted their prizes by the Queen. One of the prizes given out was an ornate box with a small portrait of the King framed with diamonds.

The five quadrilles would perform mock charges at each other where they fired small, scented balls in bright colours to amuse to spectators. Not only the courtiers were clad in lavish costumes. Their followers wore helmets shaped as dragons, fish and parrots. Others wore long capes in the style of tiger skins or like monkeys.

Carrousel devant le Palais des Tuileries : [estampe] - 1

This was to be Louis XIV's first show of splendour and would also prove to be the only one held in Paris.


  1. Learning about this for my art history class right now, and how later the Arch du Carousel was named this since the carousel took place here. Really interesting stuff! Thanks for posting this!

  2. A very nice and informative posting. Thank you!