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recent combats with the enemy's cuirassiers, the brilliant
successes of the allied cavalry had been won in despite of
the fact that it carried no defensive armour. Marlborough
determined to relieve it of this disadvantage. He there-
fore supplied the English horse with breastplates ; with the
true instinct of a fighting general he omitted the back plates.
He also suggested to the Dutch and Hanoverian govern-
ments that they should follow his example. Overkirk
supported him strongly. Writing on March 11, Marl-

1 Murray, vol. iii., p. 245: Marlborough to Stepney, December 6, 1706.

2 Stepney Papers, vol. ii.: Stepney to Harley, December 28, 1706
(Brit. Mus. Add. MSB., 7059).


borough thanked him for his assistance, and added, " There
is nothing at this hour which we may not reasonably expect
from your people, who without that advantage have already
rendered themselves so formidable to the enemy. "^

But these were trivial matters in comparison with the
vital question of the strategy to be adopted by the Grand
Alliance in the forthcoming campaign. The plan which
Marlborough, had he possessed unfettered control of the
forces of the coalition, would have pursued from the outset
of the war, the plan of marching through Champagne to
Paris, and of extorting at Versailles the surrender of the
entire Spanish monarchy, had been steadily thwarted by
Dutch selfishness and German apath}^ Instead, the tedious,
uncertain, and expensive method of recovering piecemeal
those territories which the Bourbons had acquired under
the will of Charles II had been everywhere followed. And,
thanks to the genius of Marlborough and Eugene, it had
met with more success than it deserved. The Spanish
Netherlands were conquered; the Milanese, save for a few
French garrisons, were conquered too; and Naples, though
still occupied by PhiUp's troops, lay wholly at the mercy of
the Grand Alliance. Only Spain itself held out; and even
in Spain the armies of Charles had marched from end to
end of the country and had entered the capital itself.
Marlborough never shut his eyes to facts. He recognised
that the strategy of the coalition, inferior as it was to his
own, had achieved results. He recognised that he had
now only to accept it and to make the most of it. If the
Spanish Netherlands were won, if Italy was as good as
won, the ejection of Philip and the armies of France from
the Spanish Peninsula must, as it seemed to him, terminate
the war.

To this end it was essential that Charles should make
a supreme effort. The expedition, originally intended for
Guienne, was ordered from Lisbon to Alicante, where on
February 8, 1707, Lord Rivers landed with 7,500 men.
With this reinforcement, which should raise the army of
Charles to 30,000, and with the assistance of the Portuguese,
who were to be stiffened on their own frontier with four

1 Murray, vol. iii., p. 335: Marlborough to Overkirk, March 11, 1707.

1706-1707 445

British regiments, Marlborough conceived that the Im-
periahsts would be in a position to resume the offensive.
But realising that the issue would entirely depend upon the
degree of support which Berv/ick might receive from France,
he formulated a plan which would not only prevent the
French government from sending fresh troops to Spain, but
would probably oblige them to draw upon those which were
already there.

This plan was the climax of that Mediterranean policy
to which the Duke had steadily adhered. It was to begin
with the invasion of Provence by Eugene and Savoy,
supported by the navies of the maritime powers, and to
terminate with the siege and capture of Toulon with all
her dockyards, arsenals, merchantmen, and men-of-war.
The mere menace of so appalling a catastrophe was bound
to absorb the energies of the French government to the
uttermost, and might even of itself compel them to abandon
the Peninsula. Marlborough never doubted its efficacy for
a single moment. As early as December, 1706, he was
urging its adoption upon the Court of Vienna, And he
used the prospect of this " powerful diversion " as an
inducement to Charles and his bickering generals to forget
their miserable intrigues and jealousies and prepare for an
early and a decisive campaign.

The Duke knew well that, if this grand strategy succeeded,
France must sue for terms. He was therefore entirely
reconciled to that passive part which he anticipated that
he himself would be constrained to play in Belgium where
the troops would probably remain behind their lines and
fortresses, and where the Dutch, having conquered their
potential barrier, would assuredly refuse to take new risks.
But he was nervous for the safety of Germany. On
January 4, 1707, the Margrave of Baden died, " little
esteemed and little lamented, "■'• according to the judgment
of Burnet. He had treated Marlborough ill; but as orthodox
soldiers went, he was a good one, and his dying lamentation
that " the greatest misfortune that could befall a man
of honour was to command an Imperial Army "^ had some
foundation in fact. He was succeeded by the Margrave of

^ Burnet, vol. iv., p. 153. 2 Boyer, vol. v., p. 316.


Bayreuth, an incompetent officer, incapable of raising the
German forces from the deplorable condition in which he
found them. Marlborough was not ignorant that so
enterprising a general as Villars could be trusted to make
the most of this opportunity. Nevertheless he had strongly
resisted a proposal to send Eugene to the Rhine. The
genius of Eugene was necessary to the success of the design
on Toulon. The Duke suggested that Starhemberg should
serve under Bayreuth. But Starhemberg was ordered to
Hungary. Germany therefore had everything to fear from
Villars. Yet nothing that Villars could accomplish would
really matter, if Marlborough's strategy were vigorously
pushed to a triumphant issue.

At any other time the Austrian government, counselled
as it was by so great a soldier as Eugene, would naturally
have entered into Marlborough's project with enthusiasm.
But the events which immediately ensued upon the battle
of Ramillies had not been forgotten at Vienna. The
refusal of the patent, the erection of the " condominium,"
and the maladministration of the Spanish Netherlands,
which was alienating the inhabitants from the common
cause, had made a deep and unpleasant impression on the
Emperor and his advisers, who considered that the Dutch,
with the acquiescence if not the connivance of England,
were playing a shameless game of grab. Everything which
was now proposed by the maritime powers was seen by the
Austrians with jaundiced eyes. It was natural that those
powers should desire by the capture of Toulon to cripple
a naval and mercantile competitor; it was natural that
Savoy should desire to annex some portion of Provence.
But Vienna did not propose to go out of the way to assist
in the gratification of these very human ambitions. If the
war was to be conducted as a game of grab, others besides
the Dutch could take a hand. The Emperor was resolved
to seize what he could, and while he could. Already he had
quarrelled with the Duke of Savoy over the fulfilment of the
treaty under which that Prince had joined the coalition,
and over the question of Charles' sovereignty in the
Milanese. In particular he would make it his first business
to secure Naples, which impudent peacemongers in France

1706-1707 447

and Holland had coolly proposed to bargain away to Philip
as compensation for the loss of Spain.

Between Marlborough, who was thinking solely of the
advantage of the common cause, and the Austrian ministers,
who were now altogether dominated by their bitter resent-
ment against the Dutch, a somewhat acrimonious corre-
spondence occurred in the opening months of 1707. Al-
though it was obvious that the pressure of the overwhelming
sea-power of the coalition ought to be applied to the enemy
wherever possible, the Austrians affected to consider that
the invasion of Dauphine would be preferable to the invasion
of Provence. And although the success of Marlborough's
strategy must largely depend upon its prompt and vigorous
execution, they insisted that Naples and Sicily must be
subjugated before any offensive movement whatsoever was
undertaken on the French frontier. They suggested that
the Duke of Savoy, whose daughter was the wife of Phihp,
was anxious to facilitate the cession of those territories to
his son-in-law. They insinuated that the favour of England
had been transferred from the Court of Vienna to the Court
of Turin, and that once the destruction of the naval power
of France in the Mediterranean had been accomplished at
Toulon, the English would be as eager as the Dutch to
conclude a peace detrimental to the interests of the House
of Hapsburg. They also complained of the slowness of Lord
Rivers' voyage to Alicante ; and they made it a grievance that
the English fleet had not wintered in the Mediterranean and
made a descent upon Naples.

Marlborough was indignant. Conscious that the policy
of England had been distinguished by its rectitude and
even by its generosity, he wrote strongly to Wratislaw.
" Permit me to tell you frankly," he said, " that I fail to see
with what particle of reason the Queen and her ministers
can be accused of partiality for the Duke of Savoy, seeing
that no monarchy has ever made such efforts or laboured
more disinterestedly than that of England throughout the
whole course of this war; it is a truth which everybody re-
cognizes. It is certain that Her Majesty seeks only the
good of the common cause. "•'^ A few weeks later he wrote

' Murray, vol. iii., p. 330: Marlborough to Wratislaw, March 7, 1707.


again in the following terms: "Neither have I, if I may
mention myself, nor has England, ever shown more partiality
for any prince or ally than she has always done and con-
tinues to do for the Emperor. . . . The reproaches which
you make against us in this respect have no justification
whatever. I could give you proof; but I will content myself
by offering you one only, which ought to suffice to protect us
from such reproaches : it is the expense and the maintenance
of the 20,000 men for Italy, the greater part of which
burden is borne by England, under no treaty obligations, but
solely at the instance of the Emperor, made to me during
the siege of Landau. It is very certain that the Queen
could not give a greater mark of her friendship for His
Imperial Majesty; so that you will permit me to tell you, as
a friend, that considering the heavy expenditure we incur
for that body of troops that it seems to me a Httle hard that
you should be puzzled at Vienna just because we insist
on the invasion of France on that side in preference to every
other project. If we were asking the smallest acquisition
for ourselves, and if all Her Majesty's views did not tend
solely to the safety and aggrandisement of the august
House, than which nothing could be clearer, I should not
say so much to you upon the subject. Permit me, if you
please, to add that it appears to me that the jealousies
entertained among you in regard to the Treaty of Partition
are equally ill founded. You who know the bottom of my
heart as well as the sentiments of the entire nation, touching
that treaty, should be able, as it seems to me, to tranquillise
opinion somewhat upon that score. I have already told
you several times, and I reiterate the assurance, that pro-
vided the Emperor and the allies stand fast and do their
duty everywhere, the Queen will never consent to leave
any part of the Spanish monarchy, no matter how small,
to the House of Bourbon. Thus, it depends on yourselves
to get what you want; but to attain that end, I am bound
to remind you that it is convenient to take generous views
for the common good, and not to allow oneself to be wholly
bounded by particular interests. "■*"
The correspondence in the course of which these just

1 Murray, vol. iii., p. 340: Marlborough to Wratislaw, April 18, 1707.

1706-1707 449

rebukes occur, proves beyond all question how thorough
was the English soldier's comprehension of the meaning
and the uses of sea-power. He promised Eugene that the
fleet should remain throughout the summer in the Mediter-
ranean " to lend a hand to the operations." " It could
even winter there," he added, " if we were masters of Port
Mahon, or some other good port, where the ships and stores
could be safe; that would be much more convenient for us
and serviceable to the common cause, as holding the enemy
continually in check. "^ He promised Wratislaw that the
strength of the fleet should be raised from thirty ships of
the hne to forty. " You may rely upon it," he said, " that
we shall be careful to maintain our superiority in these
waters throughout the year, so that the enemy will not be
able, without excessive risk, to transport troops by sea to
Naples or Spain. "^ " After the expedition to Provence,"
he told Eugene, " which it is hoped will have succeeded
before the end of August, Your Highness can count on the
Queen giving all the orders you may then desire for the
fleet to act in concert with the troops that shall be employed
in the reduction of Naples."^ To Wratislaw again he wrote
in these terms: " As regards the expedition to Naples . . .
permit me to add that it is King Charles' interest alone
which makes us prefer the invasion of France, since unless
it takes place, and that at an early date, Spain may be
regarded as lost for ever to that Prince, notwithstanding
the Lord Rivers' reinforcements, and the 3,000 men whom
the Queen is embarking for Portugal. We are entirely
persuaded of this truth, so you cannot find it strange that
one should insist on postponing for a little while a project
which jeopardises everything, and which, if successful, is of
no consequence at all, in order to follow another on which
everything depends. The latter will oblige the enemy
to hasten with all his forces to the rescue, and will leave
the field open to His Christian Majesty to pursue his end;
and when he has happily attained it by driving the enemy
out of Spain, Naples and Sicily will yield of their own

^ Ibid., p. 268: Marlborough to the Prince of Savoy, December 27, 1706.

2 Ibid., p. 279: Marlborough to Wratislaw, January lo, 1707.

3 Ibid., p. 326: Marlborough to the Prince of Savoy, March 7, 1707.

I. 39


accord. But if there should be any difficulty about that,
the success which we have reason to anticipate in Provence
will greatly facilitate the means of leaving the fleet for the
whole winter in the Mediterranean. We have no objection
at all to that; on the contrary, I have told you we should
be very glad to do it, provided the fleet could remain in
security. But after all, if there should be too many difficulties
in the way, I do not see that that prevents the execution of
the other project, since we hope that the expedition to
Provence will produce its effect before August, and then
there will be time enough left for the fleet to act in concert
with the troops which will be destined for Naples."^ On
April i8 he wrote again to Wratislaw: " Nothing that you
can say will ever persuade England and Holland that the
invasion of France is not the essential thing, and that in
case of success, for which we may reasonably hope, it will
not involve all the rest. Why then make so much difficulty
about it ? For my own part, I should be delighted if the
kingdoms of Naples and Sicily were already conquered,
but you must agree that we cannot undertake it now without
going back, and perhaps ruining the other project, the conse-
quences of which would be fatal to King Charles, since
France would then be in a position to send such powerful
reinforcements into Spain that His Christian Majesty
would be indubitably obliged to retire. We should run the
risk of seeing our entire army in that country scattered,
and consequently of losing the fruit which is reasonably to be
expected for the immense sums which have been used to
establish that Prince on his throne. On the other hand,
if we could successfully penetrate into France, the enemy
will be obliged to withdraw the greater part of his troops
to come to the rescue, the King will march without opposi-
tion to Madrid, and all the rest will follow without diffi-

The argument was unanswerable. But the sullen and
vindictive Austrians persisted in their own course. They
certainly conceded that an attack upon Toulon by land
and sea should be a feature of the campaign of 1707; but

1 Murray, vol. iii., p. 329: Marlborough to Wratislaw, March 7,

2 Ibid., p. 340: Marlborough to Wratislaw, April 18, 1707.

1706-1707 451

they refused to recognise that unless this actack were
speedily and strongly delivered, it must fail of its principal
purpose — the relief of the allied forces in Spain. Justly
indignant that the Dutch should have consistently sub-
ordinated the common cause to the acquisition of the
" barrier fortresses," should have refused to hand over the
Spanish Netherlands to Charles, and should now apparently
have lost all further interest in the prosecution of the war,
the Emperor was resolved to pay their High Mightinesses
in their own coin. He was determined that if Holland and
France were eager to arrange a bargain, Naples at any rate
should not be used as the medium of exchange. Accord-
ingly, on March 13 he took a very serious step. Under the
terms of a so-called capitulation, which was in fact a treaty
of neutrality for Northern Italy, Milan, Cremona, Mirandola,
and the other fortresses of Lombardy were surrendered to
Eugene, and the French and Spanish garrisons were per-
mitted to evacuate the country. Technically, perhaps, this
document did not exceed the Emperor's powers; but in
effect it violated the spirit of the Grand Alliance, the
members of which were not even consulted. Moreover, it
presented the French government with 20,000 excellent
soldiers who must in the ordinary course have become
prisoners of war. On the other hand, it liberated the whole
of the alUed forces in those parts for immediate service
elsewhere. Had they been concentrated forthwith for the
invasion of Provence, no great harm would have been done .
But a large detachment of them was destined to be diverted
to Naples; and the conquest of that kingdom was given
the priority over the capture of Toulon. In short, Marl-
borough's strategy was accepted, but only in conditions
that were fatal to its efficacy.

The Duke was justifiably aggrieved that the Court of
Vienna should deUberately obstruct a design well calculated
to terminate the war in a single summer. He was also
alarmed lest something worse than a mere prolongation of
the struggle should result. All the news from Spain was
disquieting in the extreme. In January Charles had con-
vened a council of war at Valencia. All the generals (who
were far too many) assisted. Peterborough himself, having


returned from Genoa, was present. Galway and Stanhope,
who knew the wishes of Marlborough and the EngHsh
government, urged the King to make a dash upon Madrid
with the entire army. They were supported by a majority.
Peterborough, however, advocated a defensive pohcy in
Catalonia and Valencia. Noyelles and the German ministers
agreed with Peterborough. Their influence prevailed with
Charles. Thereupon Stanhope told him that the Queen of
England did not spend money and raise soldiers for the
defence of towns in Catalonia and Valencia, but to make him
master of the Spanish monarchy. A violent quarrel between
Stanhope and Peterborough ensued. Whichever of the two
was right, the course ultimately adopted by Charles was un-
doubtedly wrong. Pretending that Catalonia was menaced
by a French army assembled under Noailles in Roussillon,
he quitted Valencia in the middle of March, and with two
regiments of foot and five squadrons of horse proceeded to
Barcelona. He was advised and accompanied by Noyelles,
who had been anxious from the outset to secure an inde-
pendent command where he was free from the control of
English generals. Rivers, who desired in his own interest
to discredit both Peterborough and Galway, had supported
Noyelles. Stanhope, in his capacity of envoy, was obliged
to follow Charles. Galway, whose resignation had been
offered to Godolphin but not accepted, continued at Valencia,
while Rivers and Peterborough were recalled by the English
government. Their departure cleared the air. But the
dangerous separation of the forces still remained. It excited
in the breast of Marlborough the gravest apprehensions, and
rendered the postponement of a " powerful diversion " in
Provence extremely perilous to the allied cause in Spain.

It was during this critical phase of the great contest,
when a favourable decision lay well within the reach of the
coahsed powers, that their attention was distracted and
their preparations embarrassed by the appearance of
Charles XII of Sweden at the head of 50,000 victorious
soldiers upon German soil. Charles had ascended the
throne in 1697, at the age of fifteen. Three years later,
Peter the Great of Russia, Augustus the Strong, Elector of
Saxony and King of Poland, and Frederick IV of Denmark,

1706-1707 453

imagining that the accession of a boy king was their oppor-
tunity, had combined together to rob Sweden of her posses-
sions on the mainland. A terrible surprise awaited them.
Charles was a mihtary genius of a rare kind. Assisted by
the fleets of England and Holland, he had Denmark at his
mercy in three months. She was saved only by the inter-
vention of the maritime powers. Turning next upon the
Russians, he inflicted upon their vastly superior forces the
astonishing defeat of Narwa. In the following year he
routed the Saxons on the Diina. Not content with the
overthrow of his three antagonists, he thirsted for revenge.
In 1702 he invaded Poland, occupied Warsaw, and destroyed
the army of Augustus at Klissow. Success continued to
attend his every action. In 1704 he compelled the Poles
to depose Augustus, and to elect Stanislaus in his stead.
In 1705 he drove the Russians from Lithuania. In 1706
his field-marshal, Renschild, defeated the combined army
of Russians, Poles, and Saxons at Frauenstadt. In
September of the same year he entered Saxony itself, laid
the hereditary dominions of Augustus under contribution,
and imposed upon the prince the humiliating treaty of
Alt-Ranstadt. To ensure the execution of the terms of the
treaty, he remained in the country, quartering his army on
the inhabitants, and seemingly content to Unger for an
indefinite period on German soil.

Although it was necessary that the Swedes should winter
somewhere, and natural enough that they should winter in
Saxony, their presence alarmed the neighbouring princes
and seriously perturbed the Grand Alliance. Charles,
however, made no declaration of his ultimate intentions
sufficiently explicit to tranquilhse the fears of Europe.
Apparently he was gratified by the apprehensions which he
created and regarded it as a tribute to his military prowess.
The general uncertainty gave birth to various conjectures.
It was rumoured that he contemplated an alUance with
the Hungarian insurgents, that he was projecting the
restoration of the Elector of Bavaria, and that he had
actually signed a compact with the King of France. It
was known that he took pleasure in posing as heir to the
tradition of Gustavus, " the Lion of the North." But the


tradition of Gustavus was an ambiguous phrase, which at
that time of day might mean much or Uttle. It might
mean no more than a sympathetic attitude towards Pro-
testant States and Protestant congregations in Germany
and elsewhere. Or it might mean active intervention in
the reUgious and poUtical differences of the Empire, coupled
with a war to the death against the House of Hapsburg.
It might conceivably embrace an offensive alliance with
that nation which, in the days of Gustavus, had been
guided by the genius of Richelieu. Nobody could foretell
with certainty what line of action might attract a young
and triumphant monarch, who was adored by his soldiery,
and who hungered insatiably for martial fame.

The statesmen of England and Holland were disinclined
to believe in the possibility of a quarrel between Sweden
and the maritime powers. But fearful lest the disquietude
of Austria and the German princes should paralyse the
preparations of the Grand Alliance for the next campaign,

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 42 of 44)