The garrison of Ardres retreats to France

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The garrison of Ardres retreats to France
In this fourth tapestry in the series, we see the retreat of the troops from the fortress of Ardres, which had been attacked by Archduke Albert’s troops on the 9th May 1596. The night assault on the fortress is shown in the previous panel in the cycle, and is currently on display in the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Cardinal and Governor

In the foreground we see several French officials from the fortress at Ardres who greet the Archduke Albert with their hats in their hands and surrender to him. Albert, the Governor of the Low Countries, is dressed in red and mounted on a white horse. The nephew of Philip II, he had been appointed cardinal by Pope Gregory XIII in 1577. Only a few years later, in 1599, Archduke Albert renounced his cardinalate and married his cousin, the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, daughter of Philip II. The Spanish king appointed the couple as sovereigns of the Low Countries.

The French army surrenders

The upper part of the tapestry depicts the troops from the fortress of Ardres abandoning the city on foot and returning to France. They are watched over by the Archduke’s army amid trumpet music played by a group of men mounted on horses.

The border

The four corners of the border contain depictions of Medusa as in the other tapestries in the series. Elsewhere in the border, the same motifs related to military victories are repeated: weapons, armour, palm branches of victory and laurel wreaths. Three emblems are also included, which vary between each piece in the series, and a banner with a weaved Latin inscription telling us about the scene being depicted.


The upper banner, as in the rest of the tapestries, acts as a title for the scene being depicted: ARDA CASTRISQVE DEDITIS PRAESIDIARII IN GALLIAM SE RECIPIVNT [After surrendering Ardres and the encampment, the garrisons retreat to France].

The banner in the lower border shows an emblem which alludes to the great and victorious expansion of the Spanish Empire and the Habsburg Dynasty. We see Hercules, carrying two columns on his shoulders. Members of the Habsburg dynasty came to associate themselves with Hercules, the son of Zeus and hero known for the Twelve Labours, to such a point that Emperor Charles V was known as the “Spanish Hercules”. The inscription reads: CONFINIA NON HIC IMPERI [The limits of the Empire are not here].

Furthermore, the emblem in the left-hand side border alludes to the greatness of the Habsburg Empire and the divine support the dynasty received. We can see weapons and the dynasty’s red-white-red coat of arms coming out from the sky, accompanied by an angel. The inscription reads: DIVINA FABRICATA MANV [Constructed by divine hand].

In the right-hand border, the emblem alludes to the idea that good governance of states requires the quelling of any rebellions. To show this, a shepherd is depicted who, fearless, feeds his sheep since he has already yoked the two tigers. The inscription reads IVNCTAE SVBIBVNT [Yoked they shall submit].

Series Triumphs and battles of Archduke Albert

Fourth tapestry in the series

Model Otto van Veen and Hans I Snellinck

Manufacture Martin Reynbouts, Brussels, 1597-1599

Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool

Size 362 x 325 cm

Location Royal Palace of El Pardo

Origin Collection of Philip IV

On display Office of Francisco Franco

National Heritage Inv. n. 10072269


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