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The wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) online

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long at Weissenburg. Having arranged the winter-quarters
for his army, he went to Landau, where he made a last appeal
to the King of the Romans and the Austrian ministers on
behalf of the Duke of Savoy. "They gave me," he said,
" fair promises."^ On the 14th he started for Berlin. He
slept that night at Heidelberg, where he had a long confer-
ence with the Elector Palatine. Next day he came to Frank-
furt. At every stage he was greeted "with extraordinary
marks of respect."^ Passing by Cassel and Brandenburg,
he reached Berlin on the 22nd. The British ambassador,
Lord Raby, and the high officials of the Court of Prussia
met him outside the gates. The same evening he was
received by the King of Prussia " with great kindness."^
He was nobly lodged and splendidly entertained. The royal
family and the representatives of foreign states combined to
do him honour. Dinners, suppers, balls, and even " a
combat of wild beasts "■* were organised for his diversion.
" The King of Prussia," he wrote to the Duchess, " did me
all the honour he could. "^ But the Duke made it clear to
his courteous hosts that he was come to Berlin for business.
In several interviews with the King and the ministers he
exposed his project for the succour of Savoy, and discussed
the difficulties in the way of its realisation. Frederick,
whose aim was always to exalt the prestige of the new
monarchy of Prussia, had been very gratified by the eulogies
universally bestowed on that steadfast infantry, which had
served Eugene so loyally on the day of Blenheim. It
flattered his pride that the illustrious Englishman, who had
just saved the empire, should travel in person to his Court to
soUcit a fresh contingent of his fighting-men. Above aU, it
was a triumph for his policy that the coalised powers, not

^ Ibid., p. 538: Marlborough to Harley, November 13, 1704.

2 Lediard, vol. i., p. 463. ^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 244.

* Lediard, p. 463.

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 246: The Duke to the Duchess, December 2, 1704.

I. 17


excluding the haughty and jealous House of Hapsburg
itself, should turn in their necessity to a kingdom that was
only four years old. Marlborough understood the situation
to a nicety, and played his part to perfection. Frederick
was entirely captivated. But Prussian statesmen were
naturally afraid lest their country, denuded of its choicest
troops, should tempt the ambition of Charles XII, who
had already humiliated Denmark, Russia, and Poland. At
this very time a Polish envoy was seeking the assistance
of Frederick against the Swedish invader, and he even
addressed himself to Marlborough with a request for the
intervention of England. Marlborough replied that he
had no instructions, but that the Queen was very desirous
that peace should be kept in the North. England, indeed,
and all the members of the coalition against France were
directly concerned in isolating this quarrel. Marlborough
readily met the Prussian ministers with an undertaking on
behalf of Anne that she would use her best endeavours to
pacify the North ; and he announced that England, Holland,
and the Empire were prepared to guarantee by treaty the
integrity of Prussian soil. Satisfied on this vital point,
Frederick came speedily to terms. Eight thousand men
should be dispatched to Italy, if England would pay two-
thirds of their upkeep, and Holland one-third, and if the
Emperor would furnish them with bread. An agreement
on these lines was quickly framed. In certain details
Marlborough exceeded somewhat the instructions he had
received from Vienna; but his influence at that Court
sufficiently protected him. He also seized the opportunity
of arranging a dispute which had arisen between the King of
Prussia and the Dutch in regard to the estate of the late King
of England. These services to the common cause he per-
formed in a manner very pleasing to Frederick, who, though
he was never famous for liberality, presented the Duke on his
departure with " a hat, with a diamond button and loop, and a
diamond hat-band, valued at between twenty and thirty thou-
sand crowns, and two fine saddle horses with rich furniture,
besides other rich presents."-^ To M. Cardonnel and the rest
of the Duke's suite the King was proportionately generous.

1 Lediard, vol. i., p. 464.


Marlborough quitted Berlin on the 29th, and travelling
in the company of the Crown Prince of Prussia, came
on December 2 to Hanover, where the reigning family
received him as the greatest of their future subjects. " I
have so much respect shown me here that I have hardly
time to write, "■'^ he told the Duchess. At Hanover he learned
that Landau had fallen on the 26th of the preceding month.
Resuming his journey on the 5th, he turned aside by express
invitation to visit Amsterdam, where a magnificent reception
awaited him. On the 12th he arrived at the Hague. The
capital accorded him a fitting welcome. He was publicly
thanked by the States-General; and private citizens, no less
than the populace at large, took every occasion of displaying
their gratitude and joy. Marlborough held many interviews
with the principal persons in the government and the state.
The result of his negotiations at Berlin gave universal satis-
faction. But the Emperor's treatment of the Hungarian
question was freely censured. Knowing how deeply the
sensitive Austrians resented Republican and Whig criticism
of their domestic affairs, Marlborough laboured to persuade
the Dutch that the government of Vienna was entirely
sincere in its policy of pacification. He laboured also to
convince them of the decisive advantages that might be
expected from a vigorous offensive movement on the Moselle
in the ensuing spring. Those who in the past resisted the
departure of Dutch troops from the Netherlands, had now
been silenced by the logic of recent events. During Marl-
borough's absence in Germany nothing terrible had happened
at home. On the contrary, the French magazines at Namur
and Bruges had been partially destroyed by bombardment,
while the French army had remained quietly within its
lines, which Overkirk had threatened at various points.
Consequently Marlborough experienced no difficulty in pro-
curing the adoption of his plan. It depended largely for
success upon the prompt formation of adequate magazines
on the Meuse, the Rhine, and the Moselle. The Dutch govern-
ment embarked upon this work with energy and zeal. Their
activities were sensibly quickened by a pledge from Marl-
borough that Holland should be reimbursed her extra-

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 246: The Duke to the Duchess, December 2, 1704.


ordinary expenses out of the first requisitions levied upon
French soil.

All this time the Duke had never ceased to urge upon the
Emperor and the German princes the necessity of thorough
and rapid preparation for the invasion of France. From
the Hague, moreover, he wrote to both Harley and St. John,
deploring the fact that " nothing has been offered yet, nor
any care taken by the Parhament, for recruiting the army."^
He was resolved that the breathing-space, which he was
compelled by the miHtary system of that age to allow to the
enemy, should be as brief as possible. " An early campaign "
he declared to be absolutely essential. " Without it," he
said, " we may run the hazard of losing in a great measure
the fruits of the last."^ He had a right to command the
exertions of others, for he never spared himself. No detail
was too trivial for his personal supervision. To his advice
every minister resorted ; to his arbitrament every disputant
bowed. Very characteristic was his answer to Harley, who
had consulted him on a proposal to purchase horses at Ham-
burg for the British cavalry. " I should not think it for the
Queen's service," he wrote, "having always been of opinion
that English horses, as well as EngUsh men, are better than
what can be had anywhere else."^ Doubtless these Ham-
burg chargers were a little cheaper than the home-bred kind.
And they cost nothing for shipping. But in Marlborough's
day the gospel of cheapness had not been fully revealed.
Moreover, it is evident that, if, in his fifty-fifth year, with all
his accumulated experience of diplomacy and war, Marl-
borough could present these old-fashioned notions in the
form of considered advice to a minister of the Crown, he
was still as impenitent a ' jingo ' as when at Beaumont,
in 1691, he had suggested to the Count de Dohna that
English soldiers were invincible.

During his journey to Berlin the situation of the allied
forces, newly established on the Moselle, had caused the Duke
some uneasiness. But the enemy was too weak and too
depressed to attempt a raid from Thionville or Metz. On
December 20 Trarbach surrendered after a prolonged

1 Murray, vol. i., p. 556: Marlborough to Harley, December 16, 1704.

2 Ibid.

^ Ibid., p. 344: Marlborough to Harley, November 25, 1704.


defence. From Utrecht to Treves a clear passage by water
was now open to the commissariat and siege-train of the
invading army.

Thus terminated one of the most remarkable campaigns
in all history. In a few months Marlborough had destroyed
the prestige which France had enjoyed for forty years.
This is not the place in which to attempt an analysis of the
genius by which he accomplished such a result. But it is
necessary here to note one fact. The idea of transferring
an army from Flanders to Bavaria, though it passed for a
bold one in that epoch, was not, of itself, an evidence of
extraordinary powers. The execution of it was all in all.
And in the execution of it Marlborough showed that one of
the greatest of his resources was the surprise, both strate-
gical and tactical. He surprised the enemy, when, instead
of marching up the Moselle from Coblenz, he took the road to
Mainz. He surprised them again when, after crossing the
Neckar, he made for Bavaria instead of for Alsace. He
surprised them a third time when he assaulted the Schellen-
berg. He surprised them a fourth time when he countered
the arrival of Tallard by a juncture with Eugene. He sur-
prised them fifthly when he gave battle at Blenheim, and
sixthly when he selected the least accessible portion of their
line for his decisive stroke. And seventhly he surprised
them, when in the middle of the siege of Landau he made
his dash upon Treves and Trarbach.

On the 22nd Marlborough embarked for England. Tallard
and twenty-six French officers of high rank accompanied
him. He landed at London Bridge on the 25th. The
Duchess, who had gone as far as the Tower to meet him,
joined him at the " Old Swan " in Bishopsgate; and together
the triumphant lover and the mistress who, on this occasion
at any rate, was surely kind, proceeded to Whitehall. The
Queen and Prince George received him at St. James's. On
the following day he took his seat in the Upper House,
which complimented and thanked him in a very laudatory
address. His reply was short, but remarkable:

" I am extremely sensible of the great honour your
lordships are pleased to do me; I must beg, on this
occasion, to do right to all the officers and soldiers I had


the honour of having under my command; next to the
blessing of God, the good success of this campaign is
owing to their extraordinary courage. I am very sure,
it will be a great satisfaction, as well as encouragement
to the whole army, to find their services so favourably

The British soldier of the period was frequently a criminal;
he was commonly regarded as a blackguard. But when in
his foreign quarters at Breda or his favourite pot-house at
Westminster he heard some scholarly comrade read out the
words which this beautiful and gracious personage, the
darling of the proudest courts of Europe, had used of him
and his kind in the presence of the Peers of England, he rose
superior to himself and to the opinion of society. These
men had not the gift of tongues. But they could think and
feel; and for seven years they registered their gratitude in
deeds, the like of which are only done for generals who pos-
sess the key to the self-respect and pride of simple hearts.

A committee of the House of Commons having waited on
the Duke with an address of congratulation and thanks,
to them also he replied in a similar strain. " I beg leave,"
he said, " to take this opportunity of doing justice to a great
body of officers and soldiers, who accompanied me in this
expedition, and all behaved themselves with the greatest
bravery imaginable."^

For two nights Tallard and his comrades remained un-
heeded in their ship upon the Thames. It was considered
politic to offer this deliberate affront to the Marshal, because
in the course of certain negotiations he had declined to
recognise the Queen's title. The prisoners were subse-
quently conveyed by Churchill to Nottingham and Lich-
field, where they took up their residence under generous
conditions of liberty and comfort. On January 3 the
thirty-eight standards and one hundred and twenty-eight
colours, which represented Marlborough's share of the
trophies of Blenheim, and which had been deposited in the
Tower, were borne amid every circumstance of military
pomp and popular enthusiasm to Westminster Hall. On
the 17th Marlborough himself received a wonderful ovation

1 Lcdiard, vol. i., p. 470. 2 Jbid., p. 471.


when, followed by a numerous company of distinguished
guests, he rode in state to the City to dine with the Lord
Mayor and the Court of Aldermen. But national gratitude
was now to assume a more enduring form. By a unani-
mous vote the House of Commons resolved to address the
Queen in favour of " some proper means to perpetuate the
memory of the great services performed " by the Duke.
Anne was dehghted. A few days later she informed the
Commons that she proposed " to grant the interest of the
Crown in the Honour and Manor of Woodstock, and Hundred
of Wootton to him and to his heirs " ;^ and she requested the
assistance of the House in clearing the property of all in-
cumbrances. The transaction was completed by Act of
Parhament, " cheerfully and unanimously,"^ as the preamble
declared. The sole condition attached to the tenure was
that of " rendering to the Queen, her heirs, and successors,
on the second day of August, in every year, for ever, at the
Castle of Windsor, one standard or colours, with three
Flower de Luces painted thereon."^ But Anne herself went
farther. The ancient palace of Woodstock, associated with
memories of Rosamund, of Chaucer, and of Elizabeth was
now no more. The Queen commanded that a new palace
should be erected by the Board of Works at the royal
expense. She desired that it be called Blenheim after the
English distortion of the name of the little village on the
Danube, which IMarlborough had immortalised. Vanbrugh
was appointed architect, and was instructed to submit a
model of his design for Her Majesty's approval.

That the nation as a whole endorsed the policy of the
war. was palpable enough. But the voice of discord was by
no means silenced. When Marlborough was marching to
the Danube, Rochester and Seymour had threatened him
with impeachment. In their capacity as military critics
they had denounced the battle of the Schellenberg as a
bloody and unprofitable holocaust. Stricken temporarily
dumb by the news of Blenheim, they and their like speedily
contrived to make themselves ridiculous by disparaging a
victory which astonished all Europe. They sagaciously
observed that " to the French king " the loss of 40,000

1 Ibid., p. 474. 2 Ibid., p. 47S. 2 Ibid.


soldiers was " no more than to take a bucket of water out
of a river. "^ The maUcious drivelHng of this vindictive
group was keenly resented by the Duke. " H," he remarked,
*' they will allow us to draw one or two such buckets more, I
should think we might then let the river run quietly, and not
much apprehend its overflowing and destroying its neigh-
bours."^ When Parliament met, the handiwork of these
malcontents was exhibited in the Commons' address to the
Queen, which eulogised Blenheim and Malaga in identical
terms. This device was too puerile to affect public opinion.
But it effectually advertised the silliness of its authors, and
it ruined the career of the Tory admiral, Rooke.

The necessary supplies for the war were unanimously
voted, and the Government were hopeful that the question
of Occasional Conformity would not be raised. But under
the terms of the Triennial Act a general election was now
imminent. H the Tories had abandoned a measure so
ardently desired by the mass of the parochial clergy, they
would never have dared to face their constituents. For a
third time, therefore, the bill was introduced. It was certain
to pass the Lower House, and equally certain to be rejected
in the Upper. To circumvent the opposition of the peers,
the promoters decided in secret conclave to adopt the
unconstitutional dodge of " tacking." The bill was to be
combined with the bill for the land-tax, the rejection of
which would render the prosecution of the war impossible.
But the Lords could not accept it in this form without for-
feiting their place in the constitution; and the power of
amending money-bills did not reside in them. A disagree-
able dilemma would result. Harley himself, it is alleged,
insidiously recommended this unpatriotic plan. Nothing
could have better served the ministry to which he belonged:
" the Tackers " played straight into Godolphin's hand.
Marlborough, who had conclud(}d his treaty with Prussia on
the credit of the land-tax, was furious. The Tory soldier,
Cutts, the Tory Secretary of State, Hedges, and the Tory
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Boyle, denounced the proposal
in the House. It meant, they protested, the ruin of Savoy
and the disgrace of England in the eyes of all Europe.

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 234: Mrs. Burnett to the Duchess, September 9, 1702.
2 Ibid.: The Duke to the Duchess, September 2, 1704.


More than a hundred Tories voted against " the tack,"
which was defeated by 251 to 134. The bill itself was
subsequently passed by the Commons, and rejected by the
Lords at the end of December by a majority of twenty-one,
Marlborough and Godolphin both voting against it. "If the
enemy give no quarter," said the Duke, " they should have
none given to them."^ The failure of " the tack," secured
as it was by a coalition of Whigs and moderate Tories, was
indeed a triumph for the policy of the " Triumvirate," and
more particularly for the peculiar talents of Harley, to whose
" prudent management and zeal for the public "^ Marl-
borough unreservedly ascribed it. But the price paid was a
heavy one. From this time onward the parochial priesthood
of the Church of England, by far the most influential body
of organised opinion in the country, became profoundly
and permanently hostile to the ministry of Godolphin.
And in the end they obtained their revenge.

Blenheim had saved the government. The nation had at
last got something to show for its money. x\ll men could
see and count the banners of France suspended in West-
minster Hall. All men were free to gaze upon the Marechal
Due de Tallard, the Marquis de Montpeyrout, Monsieur de
Hautefeuille, and the rest of the aristocratic captives with
the unpronounceable names. The opposition of Rochester
and Nottingham was discounted by the notorious fact that
each of them aspired to Godolphin 's place. They and their
associates in Parliament, in so far as they criticised and
obstructed the policy of the war, were an army of officers
with very few men save known or suspected Jacobites.
In so far as they represented the exasperated clergy, they
were more dangerous. But for the present nothing could
stand against the torrent of enthusiasm which Marlborough's
victories had unloosed. The majority of Englishmen,
though devoted to the Church, and firmly persuaded of the
justice of her case, saw clearly that the vigorous prosecution
of the war must now take precedence of all else. They were
not prepared, at the bidding of a handful of mortified place-
hunters, to overthrow a government which could point to
such dazzling results. They believed, moreover, that the

1 Ibid., p. 250: Marlborough to Godolphdn, April 14, 1705.

2 Ibid., p. 249: Marlborough to Harley, December 16, 1704.


crisis of the struggle was approaching, and that, as soon as an
honourable peace had been secured, the Church's grievance
would be remedied. " All people," says Burnet, " looked on
the affairs of France as reduced to such a state that the war
could not run beyond the period of the next Parliament."^
Public opinion was admirably expressed by that butcher of
Nottingham, who cried out, as Tallard's carriage rolled into
the town, " Welcome to England, sir; I hope to see your
master here next year."

Encouraged by the extraordinary popularity of the war,
Marlborough and Godolphin determined to maintain their
political system in its entirety. At the beginning of April,
1705, on the eve of the general election, they announced some
changes which showed that the Cabinet was conscious of its
power. By appointing Whigs to lord-lieutenancies, they
redressed the balance of local administration which Notting-
ham had spoiled. By admitting others to subordinate
offices and to the Privy Council, they broadened the basis
of the government without impairing its essential Toryism.
And by depriving Buckingham of the Privy Seal, they
relieved themselves of an obstructive colleague, who, but
for the Queen's friendship, would have been ejected a year
before with Jersey, Nottingham, and Seymour. Neverthe-
less, although they transferred the Seal to the Duke of
Newcastle, a prominent personality in Whig society, they
steadily persisted in ignoring the recognised leaders of that
party, Somers, HaUfax, Wharton, Orford, and Sunderland.
" Caress the fools of them most," said Defoe to Harley,
" there are enough among them. Buy them with here and
there a place. "^ These tactics were intended to divide the
Whigs, who were strongly suspected of a disposition to
coalesce with the Tory malcontents.

The government hoped that the general election would
result in such a deadlock of parties as would leave Godolphin
at liberty to choose his own men and to pursue his own
measures without regard to the dictates of organised faction.
The Queen's speech at the close of the session referred to the
excellent prospects of a glorious peace, "if we do not dis-

^ Burnet, vol. iv., p. 84.

2 Portland MSS.: Defoe to Harley, November 3, 1704 (Hist. MSS. Comm
15th Report, Appendix, part iv.. p. 148).


appoint it by our own unreasonable humour and animosity,"
and recommended everybody, especially " such as are in
public stations, to carry themselves with the greatest
prudence and moderation "^ in the forthcoming contest
in the country. But these, as can well be imagined, were
largely counsels of perfection. The clergy and the univer-
sities rushed furiously into the fray with the war-cry of
" The Church in Danger." They denounced the latitudi-
narian bishops as faithless shepherds. And they flooded the
kingdom with savage pamphlets, in which the Queen herself
was not always spared. They were strongly supported by
a class, very influential in rural England, the justices of the
peace. The Whigs responded with equal ardour. They
summoned to their aid the most trenchant of their scribes,
and they deluged the constituencies with black lists of " the
Tackers," who were held up to popular execration as
traitors, Jacobites, and hirelings of France. Ministers
stood aloof, surveying the combat, as Burnet sorrowfully
remarks, " hke indifferent spectators."^ But ministers
soon realised that their calculations had been somewhat at
fault. The Whigs, though still a minority, improved their
position to a marked degree. It was obvious that no long
time could elapse before Godolphin would be constrained to
admit still more of them to power.

The elections had not yet begun when Marlborough
quitted England, and after a bad passage reached the Hague
on April 13. The change in the European situation, since
he crossed twelve months before, was indeed remarkable.
What he had already achieved, and what he now purposed
to achieve, the inscription on the obelisk at Woodstock,
attributed to St. John, sets forth in language not unworthy
of the theme :

" The arms of France, favoured by the defection of
the Elector of Bavaria, had penetrated into the heart

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 44)