When Marie-Therese, the Spanish wife of Louis XIV had died, the Sun King said the following famous words, “This is the first and only time she caused me any trouble.” And today walking through the Queen’s quarters I want to point out some unusual iconography selected by His Majesty to decorate Her Majesty’s Antechamber. Look at this picture of the Greek Queen Artemisia fighting her compatriots in the battle of Salamis!
Only Xerxes, who watched the battle off the Mount Aigaleos, could have an objective opinion about what was going on in the straits. And this is how he had summarized it, “My men fought like women, and women like men.” As for the Phoenicians complaining about the Ionian Greeks, he simply beheaded them. The consequence of the famous naval battle was the independence of Peloponnesus and the great honors bestowed upon Queen Artemisia entrusted with the mentoring of Xerxes’ sons.
Nevertheless the situation is ambiguous: The Greeks who fought in the Straits of Salamis on the Persian side had to be viewed as the traitors to the common Pan-Hellenic cause. By the same token, the loyalty of the Sun King’s Spanish wife could have been questioned when her husband went to fight for her dowry her expatriates in Holland. The Bourbon alliances across Europe demanded a continuous re-education effort for the newly arriving princesses. When the Duchess of Bourgogne (1) was making faces to imitate the scar-disfigured face of the king’s musketeer, Louis would straighten her out, “I find his face handsome, for this is the face of my bravest soldier.”
(1) Marie-Adelaide de Savoie, mother of Louis XV