Dragonnade scene (Late XVIIe century)

Dragonnade scene (Late XVII<sup>e</sup> century)

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Title: Torture scenes

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Dimensions: Height 10.3 cm - Width 14.9 cm

Technique and other indications: Etching

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emilie Cambier Link to image:

Picture reference: 06-514266 / 2003.1.44

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emilie Cambier

Publication date: September 2019

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

Protestantism in hiding

In a genre very widespread in the XVIIe century, especially since the episode of the Sling, this small print uses the image to convey political discourse. Devoid of legend, this print bears on the back a printed and incomplete mention which describes the context "to force the Huguenots by any kind of voice to abjure heresy". On the same theme, it must be compared with the representations of Dutch engravers who harshly criticize the actions of the King of France.

On October 22, 1685, Louis XIV takes the edict of Fontainebleau revoking the edict of Nantes stopped by his grandfather Henri IV in April 1598. During the reign of Louis XIII, the first restrictions intervene, but it is with Louis XIV that the use of force and coercion spread.

Image Analysis

Forced conversions

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes is preceded and followed by a series of persecutions in which soldiers are engaged. This engraving probably represents a dragonnade, a term that evokes the atrocities perpetrated by the dragons that appeared in France in the 16th century.e century. They are soldiers assigned to a corps of royal troops whose name refers to the legendary creature renowned for its power and poise in battle. Since 1678, fourteen regiments of dragoons have been active in the kingdom, ie around 10,000 soldiers who move on horseback and fight on foot.

The first dragonnades intervened in Poitou in 1681, then spread to the provinces where many Protestants are attested, such as Normandy or the Cévennes. In this context, soldiers stay with individuals suspected of Protestantism in order to make them abjure brutally. In his Souvenirs on the court of Louis XIV, the Marquise de Caylus considers that the dragoons are attributable to the Secretary of State for War: "M. de Louvois asked the king for permission to send a regiment of dragoons through the most Huguenot towns, assuring him that the only sight of his troops, without them doing anything more to show themselves, would determine the spirits to listen more willingly to the voice of the pastors that one would send to them. "

In this engraving, the scene takes place in a dwelling or a public building, with three episodes of torture in progress. In the foreground on the right, a half-reclining figure, hands tied behind his back, is forced to swallow large amounts of water through a funnel. In the background, two sketches are played out. In front of the fireplace, a man is forced to put his right hand in a basin heated over high heat. He is directly flanked by two soldiers, one of whom holds a gun, while a third, seated, observes and smokes his pipe. In the center of the image, a final figure is held in a chair by a soldier, while another smokes him from his pipe.


Chase the Protestants

This engraving describes the difficult conversion of the Huguenots despite the injunctions of the state, as well as the ravages of such vectors of information which fortify public opinion. The goal of the engraver, whose work circulates secretly and in probably limited volumes, is to discredit the radical policies of Louis XIV. By opening the door, the torture scene continues into the street. A man is surrounded by soldiers, beaten and escorted, probably to be subjected in his turn to torture. Everything takes place near a church whose silhouette can be seen, a way of condemning the acts perpetrated in the name of God. Similar engravings are regularly produced in the United Provinces, always with the aim of sharply criticizing the action of the King of France. These pictorial behaviors shock public opinion, including Catholics and other European nations. In this sense, the War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697) is often described as a reaction by European states to the thirst for power of Louis XIV, also presented as a tyrant for his own people.

Despite the fear of dragons and the violent actions that result from them, dragonnades remain a poorly performing tool. Despite the so-called "Refuge" exile, religionists are numerous in the kingdom, especially in the southern half which forms the "Reformed Crescent". The rebellion of the Camisard Protestants from 1702 is one of the consequences of the persecutions suffered by Protestants for several decades. During the reign of Louis XV, the dragonnades were spaced out over time, but they lasted until the 1760s.

  • Protestantism
  • Sling
  • army
  • edict of Nantes
  • Louis XIV
  • Henry IV
  • Louis XIII
  • Louvois (marquis of)
  • Church
  • Catholicism
  • conversion
  • torture
  • soldiers


Jean-Paul CHABROL, Jacques MAUDUY, Atlas des Camisards, 1521-1789: the Huguenots, an obstinate resistance, Nîmes, Alcide, 2013.

Janine GARRISSON, The Edict of Nantes and its revocation: history of intolerance, Paris, Seuil, 1985.

Élisabeth LABROUSSE, Essay on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes: One Faith, One Law, One King?, Geneva, Labor and Fides / Paris, Payot, 1985.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, “Dragonnade scene (End of XVIIe century) "

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  1. Burkett

    all ?

  2. Brendon

    Brilliant sentence and on time

  3. Benoyce

    It seems to me the brilliant idea

  4. Seabrook

    Get me fired from this.

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