The Emperor's New Clothes: Courtiers, Favorites and Les Mignons

The fairy tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805 -1875) tells the story of a vain ruler. Two tailors promise him garments so rare and beautiful that only the enlightened can see them. The men are tricksters who manipulate the emperor’s vanity leaving him naked. He and his fawning court pretend to see the invisible robes rather than be viewed as obtuse. It is through the purity of a child’s vision that the truth is told. Opportunists seeking favors have long surrounded the powerful. Henry III of France (1551-1589), called chers yeux by his mother, insulated himself with a group of favorites known as Les Mignons. These young men received gifts by ingratiating themselves with the king; property, titles, jewels and the right to wear royal colors. Henry is shown wearing a Polish hat in a portrait painted in the manner of Etienne Dumonstier (1540-1603). Persian artist Mirza Abol-Hassan Khan (1814-1866) depicts the young Naser o-Din Shah being engulfed by his courtiers. The illustration from the Emperor’s New Clothes is by Irish artist Harry Clarke (1889–1931). Camel Productions' documentary on Clarke, Darkness in Light tells the story of a man who never compromised art or truth despite conflicts with a powerful State and Church.