The three prominent coats of arms have been identified, reading from left to right, as those of King Charles IX of France (1550-1574), his recently widowed brother-in-law, King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598), and Peter Ernst, Frst von Mansfeld (1517-1604).
The scene depicted is set against the historical backdrop of the wars of religion between the Protestant Huguenots and the Roman Catholic Holy League, that were to divide France into civil war for most of the second half of the 16th Century. In March 1569, the Huguenot leader, the Prince de Cond, had been taken prisoner at the battle of Jarnac, and subsequently assassinated at Montesquiou. The allied Catholic forces were initially able to follow up their victory, pressing on the Protestant forces, now under the sole leadership of the able Gaspard de Coligny (1519-1572).
Later in the year Moncontour was the site of the next major battle between de Coligny's Huguenots and the Catholic forces headed by the Duke of Anjou (1551-1589), younger brother of King Charles IX and himself the future King Henri III of France. Anjou's forces were bolstered by support from Spanish Netherlandish troops commanded by Peter Ernst, Frst von Mansfeld (1517-1604), sent by King Philip II. In the battle, Coligny himself was wounded and the area of Moncontour was seized from Protestant hands. However, the Catholics failed further to pursue their advantage, and de Coligny was able to push boldly towards Paris and, having reached Burgundy, defeated the Royal army at Arnay-le-Duc, forcing the Queen Mother, Catherine de' Medici, to sign the peace of St. Germain on 8 August 1570.
The artist, who is sometimes recorded as Hans Snellinck, is known more for his religious subjects and particularly crucifixion scenes. One other large, secular scene, depicting a ball in the courtyard of a palace seen from a high perspective, was sold at Phillips, London, 10 May 1983, lot 4. That painting, on canvas but sold as a five-sided screen, was of a similar size to the present painting (147 x 227 cm.).