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superiority of numbers with the element of surprise leads
straight to victory. And this combination is more easily
obtained for the purpose of attack, and more easily frus-
trated for the purpose of defence, by a power which, operating
on interior lines, can concentrate more quickly than its
enemy at a given point. But in 1701, the French enjoyed
other and special advantages, w^hich far exceeded in value
this general and permanent one.

In the first place, they held the entire command of the
Mediterranean and the Straits. In former wars the ports
of Spain had been open to the fleets of England and Holland.
Now even the harbours of Portugal were closed to the mari-
time powers. The entire peninsula was in fact a part of
France. Two results followed. On the one hand, the
squadrons of Toulon being free to unite with the squadrons
of Brest, the naval forces of the French were no longer
exposed to destruction in detail. And on the other, England
and Holland, being deprived of all bases in the Mediter-
ranean or adjacent to it, could not exert their preponderating
might upon the sea either to assist the Imperialist army
in Italy or to effect a diversion against the southern coast
of France. The improvident folly of the House of Com-
mons in forcing Charles II to abandon Tangier was now
apparent. The possession of Naples, Sicily, the Tuscan
Ports, and Finale, tightened the French hold upon those
waters, and strengthened the position of their forces in Italy.
Mistress of the Mediterranean and of the gates of the Mediter-
ranean, France was relieved of much embarrassment and
peril: and the alHes were robbed of the full use of their most
potent arm.

Secondly, the alliance with Savoy, while it completed
the picture of the Mediterranean Sea as a " Bourbon lake,"
ensured the communications of the French army in the
Milanese. And in the possible event of the withdrawal
of that army, it presented a buffer against any attempt
at invasion by a victorious enemy from Northern Italy.

Thirdly, the occupation of the Milanese had several
consequences of no little value. Like the alliance with


Savoy, it tended to confirm the French control of the
Mediterranean, while it created an additional buffer against
attacks upon the south-eastern frontier of France. But
for offensive purposes its importance was far greater. The
French army, established there, dominated the whole
peninsula of Italy. Above all, it threatened the heart of the
Empire through the passes of the Tyrol. Eugene had
already pressed back the forces of Catinat and Villeroi
beyond the Oglio. But Eugene's situation was precarious
at the best. At any moment, a determined advance, under
an able commander, and in overv/helming force, might
sweep him before it to the gates of Vienna.

Fourthly, the alliance with the Elector of Bavaria gave
France an army and a base in the very bowels of Germany.
The Elector was strong enough to bully the lesser German
princes, and to intimidate some of them into neutrality at
least. His position had indeed one grave defect. The
territories of Wiirttemberg and Baden, interposing between
Bavaria and the Upper Rhine, cut him off from the French
frontier. Unless he were properly supported from Alsace,
he might eventually be isolated and overwhelmed by the
combined forces of the Empire. But, assuming that he was
properly supported, the offensive possibilities of his situation
were of the highest order, for he controlled the course of the
Danube from Ulm to Passau, and the straight road from
Strasbourg to Vienna. In Germany, therefore, as well as
in Italy, Louis commanded a position which menaced the
capital of the Empire itself.

Fifthly, the alliance \vith the Elector of Cologne brought
the French troops to the Lower Rhine and established
them upon the left flank of the United Provinces. In the
fortresses of Rheinberg, Kaiserswerth, and Bonn, they lay
within striking distance of the Dutch frontier, while they
severed the natural line of communication between the
maritime powers and Southern Germany. The possession
of Spanish Guelderland gave them in any case partial
control of the Meuse; but the Elector of Cologne, by ad-
mitting them to the city and country of Liege, tightened
their grip upon that river, which, excepting only the fortress
of Maestriclit, became theirs as far as Venlo.


x\nd sixthly, the occupation of the Spanish Netherlands
laid bare the southern frontier of the United Provinces.
Here there were no strong places to obstruct the march of
the invader. Only by the deliberate flooding of the country
could he be held at bay. England too was directly threat-
ened by the passing of Ostend, Nieuport, and Antwerp
into her enemy's hands. Whenever a hostile power, which
already possesses naval bases on one side of the Straits
of Dover, acquires them on the other as well, the danger
to the commerce and the safety of England is doubled,
and the task devolving on her fleet is doubled also. More-
over, for defensive purposes, the Spanish Netherlands
gave France what she had always lacked, an extension of
that north-eastern frontier which had always been perilously
close to Paris. It was true that on the side of Holland
the fortifications of Brussels, Louvain, and Tirlemont
were obsolete, and the country lay open to invasion. But
the French engineers were busily constructing a line of
works from the Schelde to the Meuse. These Vv^orks, which
were strong in themselves and were covered also by rivers,
inundations, and morasses, began at Antwerp at the mouth
of the Schelde, and passing south-eastward to Aerschot,
followed the course of the Demer, the Great Geete, and the
Little Geete, till they reached the Mehaigne, whence they
ran due south to the Meuse, at a point a little to the east
of Namur. The line was dangerously long; but if ever it
should be forced, the French had merely to fall back upon the
mighty barrier of Spanish fortresses, which could only be
penetrated after long and arduous campaigns.

Such was "the exorbitant power of France" at its highest
pitch ; and such was the strategical problem which William
transmitted for solution to Marlborough and Eugene and the
fleets and armies of the Grand Alliance.


The news of William's death fell like a thunderbolt upon the
members of the Grand Alliance. The controlling mind was
gone, and, for aught men knew, England herself would now
desert the common cause. The emissaries of France played
skilfully upon the terrors of the Dutch. But the panic was
only momentary. Those who yielded to it had little know-
ledge of the new Queen, or of the man on whom she leaned.
Anne was a High Churchwoman. The dominant motive
in her character was attachment to the faith of Andrewes,
Laud and Ken. To save the Church of England, she had
abandoned her own father in his time of need. To save the
Church of England, she considered herself justified in sup-
planting her own brother on the English throne. If her
devotion to her religion inclined her to the Tory party, it
also inclined her to the policy of war. Against that Popish
power which threatened to impose a Popish prince upon the
English people she deemed it her duty to stand forth as the
' Defender of the Faith.' In common too with many
Tories, who had in the past obstructed the foreign policy
of William, she bitterly resented the insolent recognition
of the Pretender by the French King. Anne was the grand-
daughter of a publican's^-widow of Westminster, and she
possessed a liberal share of that contemptuous hatred of the
foreigner which is, or at any rate was, ingrained in the masses
of the English people. Moreover, she was always popular
with all classes of her subjects. Her maternal sorrows, her
well-known piety, her solid virtues, and her commonplace
intellect Went straight to the nation's heart. Then too she
was English to the core; and she had been snubbed by
William, whom England had never forgiven for his Dutch
origin. Thus she was precisely the Sovereign to unite all
parties as they ought to be united, if a great war was to be
prosecuted to a successful issue. The English, externally



frigid and heavy, are at bottom a chivalrous race; and, in
time of crisis, as Elizabeth had discovered, they will rally
to a royal woman with such fervour of devotion as no king
can ever inspire.

And at the Queen's right hand stood Marlborough, the
pupil of William, certified with William's dying breath to
be " the fittest person in all her dominions to conduct her
armies and preside in her councils." She had long regarded
the Earl as an intimate friend. His political views were
similar to her own. No recommendation from the dead
King could raise him higher in her esteem than he already
stood. " His reversion," as Shrewsbury had said at the
time of his disgrace, was " very fair," And only less dearly
than she loved the Prince of Denmark, Anne loved the wife
of Marlborough. Sarah was saturated with Whiggery.
Her influence over the Queen was such that, as long as she
retained it, the Whigs were permanently in office, if not in
power. As long as she enjoyed the affection of the Sovereign,
Whig opinions never lacked a voice, a shrill, persistent,
diurnal voice in the royal ear. And the Whigs were all for
war. In the keeping of Anne and the Marlboroughs, the
policy of William was safe. Had the character and relation-
ship of these three persons been better understood upon the
continent, the loyalty of England to the obligations con-
tracted by the dead King would never have been questioned.

Steps were immediately taken to make plain the fact
that England would in nowise swerve from the line to which
she stood committed. On the day of William's death,
Anne assured her Privy Council of her " own opinion of the
importance of carrying on all the preparations — to oppose
the great power of France." Three days later she went in
state to the House of Lords, where, with that " softness of
voice and sweetness in the pronunciation" which Burnet^
declares to have characterised her elocution, she spoke of the
importance of encouraging the allies, while she assured the
delighted Tories that her " own heart " was " entirely
English." She had already dispatched letters to the
foreign governments, to announce her intention of maintain-
ing all alliances and adopting all such measures as might be

^ Buraet, History oj His Own Time (1818), vol. iii., book vii., p. 340.


" necessary for the preservation of the common liberty of
Europe " and the reduction of " the power of France within
due bounds." To convince the Dutch of the sincerity of her
professions, she conferred the Order of the Garter upon the
Earl of Marlborough, appointed him Captain-General of her
forces, and, within a fortnight of William's death, dispatched
him to the Hague as Ambassador Extraordinary and Pleni-
potentiary to the States-General. The Earl arrived on
March 28. Having conferred with Heinsius and other
ministers, he was received in audience by the States on the
31st. He assured them of the Queen's intention to maintain
the alliance, of her willingness to renew it, and of her desire
to strengthen it. He informed them that he was authorised
" to concert " with them " the necessary operations."^
And he referred in conclusion to his own zeal for their service.
Dykvelt, the president, expressed the thanks of the assembly
and its " resolution readily to concur with Her Majesty in a
vigorous prosecution of the common interest."^ He added
that the Earl's " person would be highly acceptable to them,
not only for the Queen's choice of him and for the sake of
King William, who first invested him with that character, but
for his own merit." It was evident that Marlborough's
capacity and charm had already impressed the stolid men
who controlled the destinies of the United Provinces.

Greatly comforted, the States returned a firm and dignified
answer to the threats and cajolery of Louis, who had seen in
William's death an opportunity for the exercise of diplo-
matic arts. Marlborough continued at the Hague, settling
the proportions of the allied contingents and advising on the
conduct of the coming campaign. With the concurrence
of the Austrian minister it was arranged that war should
be declared on one and the same day at London, Vienna and
the Hague. And on the Earl's advice it was decided to
undertake the siege of Kaiserswerth forthwith. Everything
which Marlborough proposed seemed certain of a favourable
reception from the Dutch. But in one particular he en-
countered their most stubborn resistance. The command
of their forces in the field was coveted by various princes,

1 Boyer, History of the Reign of Queen Anne, digested into Annals (1703),
vol. i., p. 13. ^ Ibid.


including the King of Prussia himself. Prince George of
Denmark was among the number ; and it was only natural
that his claims should be strongly supported by the Queen.
Marlborough was instructed to push this candidature to the
uttermost of his power. But the Dutch would have none of it.
They wanted a soldier of proved ability, and above all they
wanted a subject. In war the commander of the Dutch forces
was accompanied by agents of the government, who were
known as ' field-deputies,' and who watched and controlled
his conduct at every turn, A foreigner of royal blood might
be tempted to treat these functionaries with the contumely
which they too often deserved.

Marlborough arrived in England on April 16. He
attended the obsequies of William III, and was present with
his Countess at the coronation. He was one of the persons
whom the Queen appointed to examine William's papers for
evidence of an alleged design to exclude her from the throne.
But the principal business which occupied his mind at this
time was the formation of the new ministry. Anne's
acquaintance with the politicians of the day did not go far.
Though the Tories had affected to court her in her long
retirement, and though common attachment to the Church
of England disposed her favourably towards that party,
she deemed herself in no way fettered in the choice of her
advisers. Marlborough, who loathed domestic politics,
and who foresaw that the claims of war and diplomacy would
soon absorb the whole of his energy and time, had his own
conception of the kind of government which was necessary
to England at the present juncture. He believed that
an administration restrained in temper, representative in
character, and directed by a statesman whose personality
excited no special antagonisms, would inspire confidence
abroad, and maintain comparative harmony at home.
The statesman on whom he had set his heart was his own
friend and relative by marriage, Godolphin. And certainly
Godolphin possessed great qualifications. A Tory and a
Churchman, he was more famous for his skill as a financier
than for his zeal as a partisan. " With the exception of
Halifax," says Lecky, " he was the foremost financier of
his age; an old, wary, taciturn, plodding, unobtrusive,
1- 5


and moderate man,"-^ he was respected by everybody and
hated by none. The Queen, who had long regarded him as
a personal friend, welcomed the suggestion that he should
preside over her first ministry in the capacity of Lord
Treasurer. But Godolphin was very reluctant to assume
office. He dreaded the rage of disappointed rivals and the
virulence of contending factions. Marlborough was much
perturbed. He knew that the war would impose an extra-
ordinary burden on the national finances, but he was con-
vinced that, with Godolphin at the Treasury, they would
prove equal to the strain. He wanted to feel certain that
the armies which followed him in the field, and the contractors
who fed them, would be regularly and punctually paid;
and he even went so far as to declare that unless Godolphin
accepted the Queen's offer, he himself would resign his own
command. " This man," says Macaulay,^ referring to
Godolphin's appointment at the Treasury in William's
first ministry, " this man, taciturn, clear-minded, laborious,
inoffensive, zealous for no government and useful to every
government, had gradually become an almost indispensable
part of the machinery of state." H this was true in 1689,
it was still more true in 1702. Marlborough knew it, and
by dint of persuasion he got his way. Godolphin became
Lord Treasurer.

The Queen's affection for the Church was such that in
any ministry selected by her, in the free exercise of her own
discretion, the Tory element was certain to predominate.
The majority of situations, and all the most important ones,
were assigned to Tories. Nottingham and Hedges were
made Secretaries of State. Rochester was reappointed
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Wright Lord Chancellor.
Harcourt became Solicitor-General, and Seymour Comp-
troller of the Household. Halifax, Somers, and Orford were
removed from the Privy Council. Yet the party which
they led was by no means ostracised. The Duke of Devon-
shire was continued in the office of Lord Steward; and, as
Burnet says, " though no Whigs were put into employments,
yet many were kept in the posts they had been put into

^ Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. ., p. 39.
2 Macaulay, History of England (Popular Edition, 1895), vol. i., p. 665.


during the former reign. "•'^ Burnet, indeed, has stated less
than the truth. One very bitter and determined Whig
was installed in close and perpetual proximity to the Queen's
person. The v^dfe of Marlborough was made Groom of the
Stole, Mistress of the Robes, Keeper of the Privy Purse,
and Ranger of Windsor Forest.

The ministry, moreover, was in reality much less Tory
than it appeared. Every member of it was pledged to the
prosecution of William's foreign policy, which the Whigs
regarded as peculiarly their own. And its two most power-
ful personalities, Marlborough and Godolphin, though
nominally Tories, laboured consistently to unite both
factions in the public cause. " I am very little concerned,"
wrote Marlborough to his wife, " what any party thinks
of me; I know them both so well, that if my quiet depended
upon either of them, I should be most miserable." And
again, " You sometimes use the expression of my Tory
friends. I will have no friends but such as will support
the Queen and government." And again, " I will endeavour
to leave a good name behind me in countries that have hardly
any blessing but that of not knowing the detested names
of Whig or Tory. "2

A government which had just been appointed by a new
and popular Sovereign, which was seen to be controlled by
men so tolerant and tactful as Godolphin and Marlborough,
and which, while it was committed irrevocably to the dearest
policy of the Whigs, numbered in its ranks the most trusted
leaders of the Tories, was assured from the outset of over-
whelming support in the country at large. Its most danger-
ous foes were those of its own household. The Mistress of
the Robes and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who hated
one another with inextinguishable hatred, had this at any
rate in common, that they both condemned the system
which Godolphin and Marlborough had decided to pursue.

Sarah considered that the Queen should have selected a
Whig ministry, or one at least in which the Whig element
predominated. In her judgment places should have been

1 Burnet, vol. iii., p. 346.

2 Coxe, Memoirs of the Duke of Marlboymigh, vol. i., p. 235: The Duke
to the Duchess, October 20, 1704; pp. 263, 264: The Duke to the Duchess,
August 3, 1705.


found for Whigs so eminent as Somers, and so rabid as her
own son-in-law, Sunderland. It was not alone that her
personal sympathies lay wholly with that party ; she could
also argue, in her downright, feminine fashion, that those
who have always been known as advocates of a particular
policy are presumably the most proper persons to execute
it. But luckily for England and for Europe her husband's
vision was both longer and clearer than hers. He had
regretted William's recent breach with the Tories, because
he knew that it is impossible for a clique to conduct a great
war in the name of a nation. The Whigs, as a party, were
better disciplined and better led than their rivals, but they
were already committed, heart and soul, to vigorous hos-
tilities with France, It was difficult to conceive of any
circumstances in which they would seek to embarrass any
ministry that was prepared to fight Louis to the death.
The Tories, on the other hand, though they now recognised
the necessity of war, were suspected by reason of their
past attitude towards the policy of William. But numeri-
cally and socially they were much more powerful than
the Wliigs, they included in their ranks the mass of the
rural gentry, whose influence was always formidable, and
they could command upon occasions the services of the
most efficient organisation in the country — the parochial
clergy of the English Church. If Marlborough's ideal of a
nation united in the face of the enemy was ever to be
realised, the true problem was not to gratify the Whigs,
but to conciliate the Tories. And the Tories could only be
conciliated by employing their leaders. The Whigs could
still be left undisturbed in minor posts ; but a Cabinet of oil
and water was impossible. To expect a Nottingham to
co-operate with a Sunderland was not practical politics.
It is surprising that a woman so intelligent as Sarah should
ever have thought otherwise. It is only less surprising that
she should have failed to comprehend the necessity of
subordinating her own views to those of Marlborough and
Godolphin, But her stubborn pride impelled her to follow
a separate and divergent course. " I resolved," she has
herself confessed, " from the very beginning of the Queen's
reign, to try whether I could not by degrees make impressions


in her mind more favourable to the Whigs. "^ This descrip-
tion of her policy sounds innocent enough. What part
could be more womanly than to heal the breach between
an amiable Sovereign and subjects so virtuous and so mis-
understood as the Whig junta ? As played by Sarah,
however, it assumed a more sinister aspect.

Rochester had two grievances, one personal, the other
political. He had always considered that his relationship
to Anne conferred on him a natural right to the foremost
place in her counsels. He looked upon the Marlboroughs as
supplanters, who now by an extreme abuse of the power
which they had so long usurped had foisted their creature,
Godolphin, into a position which was properly the per-
quisite of the Queen's uncle. But if Rochester was hurt in
his feelings as a man, he was equally offended in his preju-
dices as a Tory. In his judgment, no Tory government
was worthy of its name if it did not sweep its opponents from
every branch of the Queen's service, including the very
lowest. He considered that the judges, the ambassadors,
the lords lieutenants of counties, and even such subordinate
and local magistrates as sheriffs and justices of the peace,
should one and all be members of the ruling party. This
' root and branch ' theory of the constitutional system was
not peculiar to Rochester. It had its adherents among both
Whigs and Tories. Yet Sarah, of all people, affected to be
scandalised by the machinations of Rochester and his friends.
She wrote to Godolphin that it appeared to her "as if
everything were to be governed by faction and nonsense."^
Godolphin and Marlborough had no intention of permitting
their colleagues to indulge in an orgy of revenge. The duty
of the one was to finance a great war, and of the other to
conduct it to a happy issue. In these heavy tasks they
needed the support of all their countrymen without distinc-
tion of party. They knew that the Whigs were already the
enthusiastic advocates of a belligerent policy; and they
hoped that the responsibilities and the rewards of ofhce
would overcome the lingering scruples of the more fanatical
Tories. If their hopes were disappointed, it might become

^ Memoirs of the Life and Conduct of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
(1744), section ii., p. 135.
^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 82: The Countess to Godolphin, May 29, 1702.


necessary to call in more Whigs to the counsels of the Crown.
Meantime that party must not be bullied or oppressed.

In modern eyes the system pursued by Marlborough and

Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 44)