The Grand Condé: Rival of the Sun King?

A prince of arms and arts

Bust of Louis II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1621-1688) (1688) by Antoine CoysevoxChâteau de Chantilly

Louis II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé was not only the greatest warrior of his time, a true hero, but also a rebel. But did he compete against his cousin Louis XIV (1638–1715) in the political, military as well as the artistic and cultural fields?  

This virtual exhibition seeks to discover the history of one of the most fascinating characters of the French Grand Siècle 

Louis II of Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, as a child (Vers 1633) by Michel LasneChâteau de Chantilly

Louis II of Bourbon-Condé, fourth Prince of Condé (Paris 1621–Fontainebleau 1686) was a prince du sang (prince of blood) descended in male line from a sovereign. As members of the youngest branch of the House of Bourbon, the princes of Condé were in the order of succession to the throne.   

They were first princes du sang and thus participated in the royal blood.

The Illustrious Prince (vers 1645) by Grégoire HuretChâteau de Chantilly

The prince bore the title of duke of Enghien until the death of his father Henri II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1588–1686). At a very young age, he was introduced by his father to the government of Burgundy. 

In 1641, he married Clémence de Maillé-Brézé (1604–1694), niece of Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642). 

The Actions of Grand Condé (1686-1694) by Sauveur Le ConteChâteau de Chantilly

It was at the battle of Rocroi, in 1643, during which he triumphed over the Spaniards and saved the kingdom of his cousin Louis XIV, then four years old, that Grand Condé forged his legendary status. 

The battle of Rocroi was an important French victory, which marked the end of the Spanish military supremacy and the beginning of the reversal of the balance of power in Europe. 

Louis II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé known as the Grand Condé (1640-1667) by Michel Lasne and d’après Juste d’EgmontChâteau de Chantilly

After the victory of the battle of Rocroi, Grand Condé became the new Alexander. The bust of the prince is inserted here in a medallion formed by palms, itself taking place on a lion skin turned upside down, which refers to the herculean image associated with the young hero. 

The day after Rocroi's victory, the Grand Condé becomes the new Alexander.

Flag of Rocroi (1643) by Anonymous and AnonymousChâteau de Chantilly

In the 17th century, each regiment rallied to its flag. The capture of this flag was a strong sign and a source of prestige for the victor who, in France, came to drop it at Notre-Dame de Paris. 

The flag of Rocroi, taken by Grand Condé from the German troops, is one of the oldest preserved flags in France. 

Louis II of Bourbon, Duke of Enghien (Vers 1643) by Jacques StellaChâteau de Chantilly

After the battle of Rocroi, the Duke of Enghien did not stop there. He multiplied his victories against the Habsburgs. 

He particularly distinguished himself against the Habsburgs at Fribourg-en-Brigau (1644), Philippsbourg (1644), Nördlingen (1645) and Dunkirk (1646). 

The Actions of Grand Condé, the Blockade of Paris (1686-1694) by Sauveur Le ConteChâteau de Chantilly

In 1648, the Parliament and the people of Paris, as well as part of the aristocracy, expressed a head-on opposition to Mazarin's policies. Grand Condé was charged with the task of quelling this unrest. 

He organized a blockade of the city in 1649. Peace quickly returned.  

Cardinal Mazarin (1658-1660) by Pierre MignardChâteau de Chantilly

The prince, after having saved the Crown, sat in the Council of Regency. He demanded rewards for himself and his clan, which Mazarin instead distributed to the rebels in order to win them over. 

Having become a threat to the cardinal and regent Anne of Austria, the Prince of Condé was arrested on January 18, 1650 and spent a year in captivity. After the uprising of some provinces, Mazarin had to flee to Cologne. The prince was freed on February 6, 1651. 

Louis II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé, First Prince of the Blood (1643-1686) by Jean FrosneChâteau de Chantilly

The prince took up arms against Mazarin. The Fronde Condéenne was launched. He signed treaties with Spain, started an uprising in provinces and marched to Paris. Fierce battles took place at the gates of the city. 

The prince was saved by the Grande Mademoiselle, Anne-Marie-Louise of Orléans (1627–1693), who fired the cannons of the Bastille on the royal troops and let the Grand Condé enter the city.

Louis XIV overcoming the Fronde (1653) by Gilles GuérinChâteau de Chantilly

The prince then brought the Spaniards into the capital and created a climate of terror that made him odious to the Parisians. 

He had to leave Paris for the Spanish Netherlands and the king made a triumphal entry into Paris on October 21, 1652. 

Stripped of his rank of prince du sang, he became Supreme Commander of the armies of Spain in the Netherlands. 

The military failures and a difficult personal situation, added to the crushing defeat at the battle of the Dunes near Dunkirk (1658), precipitated the conclusion of peace between France and Spain. 

Cardinal Mazarin and Don Louis de Haro at the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, on Pheasant Island. (XVIIème siècle) by AnonymousChâteau de Chantilly

The Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed on November 7, 1659 between Cardinal Mazarin and Don Louis de Haro, the chief minister of Philip IV. 

In exchange for a total submission, Condé was restored to his property, honors and privileges; he got back his castle of Chantilly which had been confiscated during his rebellion. 

The Actions of the Grand Condé, The Rhine Crossing (1686-1694) by Sauveur Le ConteChâteau de Chantilly


The first Prince of the Blood is indispensable for the monarchical system. The king surrounded himself with prestigious generals like the Grand Condé and Turenne (1611-1675).  


The War of Devolution (1667–1668) and the first part of the War of Holland (1672–1675), led by Louis XIV, were punctuated by brilliant victories obtained by Louis II of Bourbon. He left the battlefields for good in 1675. 

Elevation of one of the faces of the Staircase of the Hôtel de Condé (XVIIème siècle) by Jean MarotChâteau de Chantilly

Because of his rank, Grand Condé had a whole network of residences (Vallery, Saint-Maur). 

The Hôtel de Condé in Paris was first of all the nerve center of a political and social nebula at the service of the lineage. 

This Chantilly Country House (...) this Parterre invented by Mr Le Nautre, Chantilly, (...) (XVIIème siècle) by Adam PerelleChâteau de Chantilly

The prince progressively operated a change in the network and hierarchy of his residences. The center of gravity was transferred from Paris to Chantilly. 

There, he could indulge his passions and cultivate a more free and tolerant court life, in a sort of anti-Versailles.

General view of Chantilly from the Entrance side (1638-1695) by Adam PerelleChâteau de Chantilly

Under the impetus of Grand Condé, the estate became one of the most prestigious in the kingdom. 

The prince's ambition was to make it the showcase of his personal prestige and that of his House. 

General View of Chantilly (XVIIème siècle) by Adam PerelleChâteau de Chantilly

In 1659, Condé devoted himself to the embellishment of his estate by creating a vast park and splendid gardens. 

Around 1662, he summoned André Le Nôtre to entrust him with the layout of the premises. 

The Chantilly Waterfalls (1638-1695) by Adam PerelleChâteau de Chantilly

To the west of the castle, before the revolutionary destruction, a large part of Le Nôtre's park extended. 

It included, among others, sumptuous waterfalls. They were fed by the Pavillon de Manse (1677–1679). 

The Castle of Chantilly (1686) by Liévin CruylChâteau de Chantilly

After the park, the efforts of the prince and his architects were focused on the castle. The task was immense. The prince decided to restore the existing building. 

Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the king's first architect at the time, was tasked with designing a princely project. 

The Gallery of the Battles of Chantilly in its present state (2015) by Marc WalterChâteau de Chantilly

The Gallery of the Battles, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, is one of the main testimonies of Grand Condé's actions in the Château de Chantilly at the end of his life. It was a private gallery, devoted to relaxation and pageantry.  

The cycle of paintings that decorates it includes eleven panels painted by Sauveur Le Conte retracing the prince's entire military career.

Resurrected Jesus Christ surrounded by St. Peter and St. Paul (Vers 1556) by Anthonis MorChâteau de Chantilly

Less well-known is the fact that behind the warrior lies an esthete and a collector. The prince was particularly fond of Nordic and Italian paintings. 

He owned many paintings, some of which were very famous, such as that of Anthonis Mor known as Antonio Moro, the most famous Flemish portraitist of the 16th century. 

Portrait of Moliere (vers 1658) by Pierre MignardChâteau de Chantilly

Grand Condé loved and protected dissident thinkers, bold poets, rebellious spirits, but also more courtier writers. 

He was very cultured, curious about everything, a man of conversation, a great reader, and he was very interested in acquiring the latest literary works. 

The Rodogune, folio 2 (1647) by Pierre CorneilleChâteau de Chantilly

The prince appreciated the theater. All the great writers of Louis XIV's reign were connected to him, Molière of course, but also Corneille, Racine, Boileau and La Fontaine. 

Grand Condé's library kept rare editions of its works. 

The Camp of pain, design of the funerary apparatus for the solemn service given to Monseigneur le Prince de Condé, Louis de Bourbon the second of his name, the first prince of blood in the Nostre Dame Church in Paris on 10 March 1687. (1687) by Jean Dolivar and Based on Jean BérainChâteau de Chantilly

The prince died on December 11, 1686 at Fontainebleau's castle. On March 10, 1687, the most grandiose funeral of Louis XIV's reign was held at Notre-Dame de Paris in his honor.

 Bossuet pronounced his famous funeral oration, making the baroque decoration of the cathedral vibrate. 

Funeral decoration of the Chapelle de Condé in the Church of the professed house of the Jesuits of Paris for the burial of the heart of H.S.H. Monseigneur Louis de Bourbon, first prince of blood (1687) by Jean Dolivar and Based on Jean BérainChâteau de Chantilly

The last act of the funeral is dedicated to the heart of the prince. Seat of his virtues and passions, it was brought from Fontainebleau to the Jesuit convent of Paris on December 24, 1686 and placed next to that of his father. 

The aim here is to highlight the devotion of the House of Condé to order. 

Credits: Story

A virtual exhibition from the exhibition Le Grand Condé. The Rival of the Sun King, The Domaine de Chantilly, September 5, 2016–January 2, 2017. Curator: Mathieu Deldicque, heritage curator at the musée Conde.

The texts are inspired by those in the catalog of the exhibition Le Grand Condé. The Rival of the Sun King, edited by Mathieu Deldicque, Snoeck edition, 2016.
Virtual exhibition designed by Jérôme Leclaire.

Images ©RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly

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