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words by a subordinate, I commend the fascinating

pages that follow.


September, igoy.


Englishmen are pardonably apt to look at everything

from an English standpoint, therefore it may be well,

before embarking upon a study of certain events abroad,

to ascertain where we stand in relation to things in

England, at the starting-point of our story. Half a

dozen years had passed since the attempt to blow up

King and Parliament in a gunpowder explosion,

and James I. was now engaged in trying to raise

money by instituting a minor hereditary honour,

which he entitled a baronetcy and offered at the fixed

price of ^1,095. If ^i- literary landmark should also

be required, we may observe that we start five years

before the death of Shakespeare.

Meanwhile in France, with which we shall be much

more concerned than with England, a boy only ten

years old had been a year on the throne, with the

title of Louis XIH. His mother, Marie de' Medici,

the first of several women connected with politics

whom it will be necessary to notice, was Regent, and

she was so badly served by her ministers that some of

the orreatest Princes of France, includine the Prince of

Conde and the Dukes of Nevers, Mayenne, Longueville,

Vendome and Bouillon — the father of our hero — vvith-


drew from the Court and formed a league to protest
against the incompetence, maladministration, and uncon-
stitutional conduct of the Government. Soon after-
wards the Ministry was recast, and, five years later,
Richelieu was made Minister of State, with the port-
folios of War and Foreign Affairs. This League of
the Princes, so near the moment of our outset, deserves
special notice, because subsequent Leagues of French
Princes, some of whom bore the same names, led to
many of the complications and wars to be described in
these pages.

Another cause of warfare at that period was religion,
or at any rate what went by that name. Protestantism,
in the usual acceptation of the word, was scarcely a
century old, and it had become, to a large extent, a
political plaything ; nor were certain Catholics of high
rank, or high office, above taking a hand in the game
which was provided. During a great part of the second
half of the previous century, civil wars, undertaken in
the name of religion, had been waged in France between
the Catholics and the Huguenots ; and the King, who
was assassinated the year before our point of departure,
had fought as a Protestant against the Catholic King,
before he himself became King and Catholic. And
while the Christians, in Western and Central Europe,
were endeavouring to teach each other theolog}' with
the sword, the Turks, in Eastern Europe, were attempt-
ing to win their affections to the religion of Mahomet,
with the same persuasive instrument.

Literature, if it did not, like religion, lead to wars,


had considerable influence in France during the same
period ; and some of the characters to appear upon
our stage were contributors to it. At the time of our
opening Montaigne had not been dead twenty years ;
Malherbe was making a revolution in French poetry ;
and Jean Louis Guez de Balzac (a writer very different
from the Honore de Balzac of a later period), if some
one truly said of him "z7 dcrit pour dcrire,'' and not
because he had anything in particular to say, was on
the point of adding much to the lucidity, vivacity
and grace of a national literature which had hitherto
been too often diffuse, careless, obscure, clumsy and
ponderous. At the same time St. Francis of Sales,
if not in France yet in French, was writing in an
attractive style about religious subjects ; and, if there
were not very many famous authors at the moment,
a number of writers, subsequently very celebrated, were
either lately born or were about to be born.

The most famous general living at the time of the
birth of the celebrated marshal who will form the subject
of this book, was Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden,
who is considered by some authorities to have been
the greatest general that ever commanded an army.
Sweden, at that period, was one of the most important
powers in Europe ; the power of Spain, on the contrary,
was on the wane, while that of the Empire was dwind-
ling away altogether. The monarch, who bore the
title of Emperor, was powerful as a King, but not as
the representative of the Cassars ; and, if his kingdom
was large, his Empire beyond it was even less his own


than the property mortgaged beyond its value can be
called his own by a bankrupt country gentleman.

One more subject needs notice by way of prelude.
Much as the wars of the early part of the seventeenth
century did to hamper all civil industries, in some
districts bringing production and commerce almost to a
standstill, the middle classes, especially among the Dutch
burghers, the bourgeoisie of Paris, the citizens of Lon-
don, and still more those of Strasburg and the other
free cities of Germany, were gradually learning their
powers, asserting their rights, and endeavouring to hint
to their superiors in rank, that trade was as important
a factor in politics as nobility, if not royalty, and that
the shop demanded recognition, as well as the

Two little boys, apparently so hopelessly delicate
that their respective fathers despaired of their ever
being able to maintain the military traditions of their
families, were destined to become very celebrated
generals, to rank among the greatest military com-
manders of history, and to revolutionise the sciences of
strategy and tactics. These two officers were Henry,
Viscount of Turenne, and Louis, Prince of Cond^,
commonly called The Great Conde.

It is with the first named, and by several years
the first-born, of these boys that we have to do. His
father, Henry de la Tour, Duke of Bouillon, was
sovereign of Sedan, one of those small sovereignties
which sometimes bring about great wars, especially
when they are situated, as is Sedan, between large and


i62i Mt. io] childhood 5

important countries. As it happens, Sedan never
acted as the match for enkindling a great military
conflagration ; but it served as the battlefield on which
a great nation was practically defeated rather more
than two and a half centuries later than the date at
which this story must begin, namely, on the 1 1 th of
September, 161 1, with the birth of Henry of Turenne.

The Duke of Bouillon was distinguished as a
soldier, as a diplomatist, as a student, and as the
leader of the Protestant party in France. Turenne's
mother, Elizabeth of Nassau, daughter of William of
Nassau, Prince of Orange, and of Charlotte Bourbon-
Montpensier, was also distinguished in her way, and
likewise a very staunch Calvinist.

In his infancy Turenne had a succession of severe
illnesses. He nearly died in teething, and he fore-
shadowed the reserved manner of his adult life by
remaining apparently dumb until he was four. He
continued to be fragile and delicate until he was
twelve years old, and his father frequently said, in his
hearing, that he would never be strong enough to bear
the fatigues of war. Irritated by this, the boy de-
termined to prove the contrary by spending a night
upon the ramparts of Sedan. One evening, when he
was at the age of ten, his tutor missed him, and, at the
end of a long and anxious search, he found the child
lying asleep upon the carriage of one of the guns of
the fortress.

This embryo general was exceedingly stupid and
equally lazy at his lessons. Indeed his masters com-


plained that he either could not, or would not, learn
anything- ; whereupon his father prescribed the invari-
able severeremedy of those days for juvenile headaches,
backward development, natural bad memory, and ner-
vousness in children. In the seventeenth century boys
were promoted to wearing- little swords almost as soon
as they are now promoted to wearing jackets and
trousers. Soon after Turenne had received this dignity,
his tutor was surprised, on approaching him with a rod,
to see the boy approaching him with a drawn sword.
Considering his weapon less suited for duelling purposes
than that of his opponent, the tutor fled to the Duke
of Bouillon and appealed for his protection, when the
Duke upheld the authority of the birch over the blade
by having the young swordsman whipped with unusual
severity. But the blade was yet to conquer. One
fine afternoon the boy found his tutor lying asleep on
the ground in a secluded part of the garden, and close
to him was a snake which seemed about to dart at him.
Drawing his sword, he killed the snake, an action
which woke the tutor, who, seeing his pupil sword in
hand, imagined that his last moment had arrived.
When the terrified pedagogue learned what had really
happened, he was fool enough to fall on his knees
and implore the lad's forgiveness for suspecting- him of
a murderous intention.^

Bewildered at finding that learning could not be

'^ La Vie (III Mcojnte de Turenne. Par M. du Buissoii (G. de
Courtliz de Sandras). A la Hague, chez Henri van Buldren,

1624 Mt. 13] DEATH OF HIS FATHER 7

flogged into the boy, the Duke tried the effect of banter-
ing him upon his ignorance, and of impressing upon
him that he would be even more incapacitated for
military command by his mental, than by his physical,
deficiencies. The result was as remarkable as it was
satisfactory. Although still refusing to trouble himself
about mathematics, the boy read most industriously at
such classics as described military campaigns, especially
the works of Caesar and Quintus Curtius.

The Duke of Bouillon died when Henry of Turenne
was twelve, and was succeeded by Henry's elder
brother. But Henry's education was not neglected
after the death of his father, as his mother was a
woman of strong character and considerable ambition.

Before he was thirteen, an officer to whom he had
been belaudino- his favourite author, Quintus Curtius,
had the effrontery to observe that the writings of that
biographer of Alexander the Great should be regarded
rather as romance than as veracious history, at which
Turenne fired up and stoutly asserted the contrary.
His mother, much amused, signalled to the officer to^
persist in the argument. Very soon the little champion
of Quintus Curtius left the room in a rage, sought a
second and sent by him a challenge to the officer. On
receiving it, the officer showed it to the Duchess.
Delighted to see so much spirit in a lad who had hither-
to been looked down upon as a nervous and useless
invalid, she asked the officer to accept the challenge
and to name as the scene of the duel a rendezvous
which she sueeested. When the little duellist, attended



by his second, reached it on the following morningr, he
found his adversary in readiness ; and, to his great
surprise, beside his foe stood his mother, who gravely
informed him that she had come to act as second to
his opponent. She then led both the duellists into a
wood where they found a table prepared with a sumptu-
ous breakfast and her courtiers waiting to join in it.
When breakfast was over, horses and hounds appeared,
and the two principals hunted together instead of
fighting about Ouintus Curtius. The young Turenne
was well fitted to ride to hounds, for, like many boys
who have been delicate, walking little he rode much,
and, if an indifferent pedestrian, he became a capital

One of his biographers, Monsieur de Ramsay, says
that his characteristics, as a boy, were scrupulous truth-
fulness, mildness of manner, a discretion beyond his
years, and extraordinary humanity.^ In the latter respect
he was a great contrast to Conde, whom Lenet "one day
saw cruelly whipped in the presence of M. le Prince (his
father) for having put out the eyes of a sparrow ".'
Another feature of Turenne's character was his gener-

1 The History of Henri de la Tour Viscou?ii of Turenne,
Marshal- Ge?ieral of France ; containing t/ie Authorities. In three
Farts. London : Frinted by J. Bettenham. Sold by Bettestvorih
&= Hitch, etc., 1735. ^^ ^^^^^ written by Ramsay for Turenne's
great-nephew, the Prince of Turenne. With it are Turenne's own
Memoirs, the Duke of York's Memoirs, and many papers bearing
upon Turenne's life. The French edition contains plans of battles,
several of which are given here in reduced size.

- Life of Louis, Frincc of Conde. By Lord Muhon.

i626 ^T. 15] FIRST CAMPAIGN 9

osity : most of his pocket-money found its way into
the hands of the poor ; nor did this characteristic end
with his boyhood, for he was noted for his liberality,
his self-denial, and his charity to the end of his life.

His health improved wonderfully when he was
between the ages of twelve and thirteen and, the next
year, his Spartan mother thought it time that his
military education should begin. Being a rigid Cal-
vinist, she would not send him into the French army,
because Richelieu was reported to be preparing an attack
on the HugTienots ; but her Protestant brother. Prince
Maurice of Nassau, President of the United Provinces,
was fighting against the Popish Spaniards, and such a
war was exactly suited to the tastes of the Duchess
and her son, who was as strict a Calvinist as his mother.
Turenne's brother, then Duke of Bouillon, had been
serving under their uncle. Prince Maurice, for some
little time.

Prince Maurice took a great fancy to his younger
nephew and conversed much and freely with him ; but
he made the boy begin his military duties by' carrying
a musket in the ranks- Three months later the Prince
died and was succeeded by his brother, Henry, who
by giving a company of infantry to Turenne made
him a captain when barely fifteen. The little captain
was accompanied by a tutor or governor, as he was
called ; for, at the siege of Bois-le-Duc, the Prince of
Orange thought it necessary to reprimand Henry for
unnecessarily exposing himself to danger, in disobedi-
ence to "his governor". Not long afterwards these


restrictions were relaxed and Turenne was allowed to
accompany his elder brother in intercepting a detach-
ment of Spaniards, who were coming to the relief of
Bois-le-Duc, when a sharp skirmish took place, in
which the two brothers distinguished themselves un-
hurt, while the nervous governor was wounded-

Turenne's military service in Holland lasted five
years, and during the greater part of that period he
was employed on sieges. The time thus spent proved
of great value to him, and he made the most of his
opportunities of learning all about forts and fortifica-
tions. " You might see him continually with a measur-
ing rod or a pencil in his hand," says Ramsay. "He
examined and considered everything that offered,
and made his remarks upon the answers he received
from the officers, engineers, pioneers and even the
meanest soldiers, to his questions." It was during
these experiences that he learned much about the
art of defending a besieged fort, knowledge which he
is said to have retailed to others in his "maxims " ; such
as " Lay on the parapet of your ramparts great beams,
stones, and fire-machines to crush or burn all who may
slip into your fosse. . . . Have ready ... all sorts
of combustible stuff as oil, lime, boiling pitch, tallow,
molten lead, burning sand, and everything your imagina-
tion can suggest for the annoyance of the enemy."

Much as he was interested in the arts of defending
and besieging fortresses, he began to wish for a wider
range of military experience ; and his chance ot obtain-
ing it soon came. Riclielieu was intriguing to abolish

1630 Mt. 19] FIRST VISIT TO PARIS 11

the sovereign independence of Sedan, and was pitting
his brains against those of the Duchess of Bouillon,
who was doing all she could to frustrate the attempts
of the cardinal. At one point of the proceedings, when
directly opposing a suggestion of Richelieu's, she sent
Turenne to Paris as a kind of hostage.

Very shortly before Turenne's arrival in Paris a
curious scene had been enacted. The King of France
was on his knees, beside him knelt Cardinal Richelieu,
and before them stood Marie de' Medici in a towering
passion. When Louis XIII. had been dangerously ill,
his mother had induced him to promise the dismissal
of Richelieu, whom she herself had raised to eminence,
but now wished to hurl from power. On her son's restora-
tion to health, she had called upon him to fulfil this
promise. By way of reply, he had brought Richelieu
into her presence ; and, kneeling side by side, the cardinal
had begged her forgiveness and the King had besought
her to grant it. Crying with rage, the Queen-Mother
gave vent to a torrent of abuse against Richelieu,
called him a traitor to his face, and, in answer to the
supplications of her son, told him that she would never
forgive him for being the author of this unpleasant
incident. Probably her pardon and good graces, if
granted, would have been accepted. As they were
refused the entire position was altered ; and she little
suspected that, while she looked scornfully down
upon them, she was in reality standing on her
own trial before her two judges upon their knees.
Richelieu had little trouble in persuading the King


that his mother was encouraging cabals which en-
dangered the throne, and she barely escaped arrest by
a hurried flight to Flanders. Richelieu then became
paramount ; and he had just attained to this position
when Turenne reached Paris.

Turenne, who was now nineteen, was very well re-
ceived at the French Court and Richelieu put him in
command of a regiment of infantry. Neither he nor his
mother had then any scruple about his serving under the
French banner, as the arms of France were at that time
allied to those of the United Provinces, and Turenne
took part in one or two campaigns in which both armies
were engaged. But the first opportunity he had of
obtaining great military glory was in a war brought
about through the medium of a woman ; and women
had a finger in most of the disputes which led to the
wars wherein Turenne distinguished himself during
the next few years.

Charles, Duke of Lorraine, had made a mar-
riage for political purposes only, or, to speak more
accurately, for purposes of personal aggrandisement.
He was shamefully and unconcealedly unfaithful to
his wife, who left him to implore the protection of
Louis XI I L of France. On the other hand, her
husband attached himself to the House of Austria,
which Richelieu made an excuse for seizing Nancy
and, afterwards, Lorraine.

In March, 1634, the French troops had taken
every place of importance in the enemy's country,
with the exception of La Mcjtte, a fortress situated at

i634 ^T. 23] SIEGE OF LA MOTTE 13

the summit of a very high rock, which was of so
hard a substance as to render sapping and mining
extremely difficult. After enormous labour, five mines
were made, a bastion was shattered, and the general
in command. Marshal de la Force, whose daughter
Turenne married some years later, sent his son to
attack it. He made a gallant effort but was obliged
to retire. The next day the marshal sent Turenne
with his regiment on a similar errand. The enemy
not only kept up a very heavy fire, but rolled enormous
stones over the top of the parapet. These stones,
falling upon points of rock, broke into many pieces and
killed or disabled numbers of Turenne's men, as they
tried to scale the heights. Nothing daunted, Turenne
pressed on at their head, and eventually he succeeded
in effecting an entrance into the fortress, which then
surrendered. A remarkable incident in this siege was
that, when the governor of the fortress was killed, his
brother, a Capuchin Friar, conducted the defence.
We have not yet done, however, with ecclesiastical
warriors. Two more will figure in the next chapter.
Marshal de la Force reported so highly of Turenne in
despatches that, at the age of twenty-three, he was
raised by Richelieu to the rank of marechal-de-camp,
or major-general.


It is a disputed question whether it is better to form
one's ideas of the personalities of the past exclusively
from the records of their doings, or to seek the help of
portraiture. Most people may have observed that the
representations of their own friends on canvas or in
marble have been very misleading in many instances.
Probably the chisel, the pencil and the brush have been
the mediums of as much mendacity as the pen.

In trying to imagine the appearance of Turenne,
we have the assistance of his portraits and his de-
scription by Ramsay. Unfortunately, neither enables
us to picture to our minds either a very imposing or a
very handsome personage. Of but medium height,
broad-shouldered, and rather short-necked, he was
near-sighted and he stammered. His hair was of a
dark chestnut, and his heavy eyebrows, according to
Ramsay, almost met, although this is not shown in all
his portraits. His forehead was high and prominent ;
his cheek-bones were high and wide ; wide, too, was his
mouth ; but his cheeks themselves were rather sunken,
and if his jaws were not very narrow, his chin, instead
of having the width said to be the characteristic of those
born to command, was inclined to be pointed. His


expression was a curious mixture of sternness and
amiability. No one could fairly call him handsome,
and his appearance was not improved by his trick of
carrying his head slightly on one side. Yet his con-
temporary, St. Evremond, said there "was something
in his countenance that discovered an inexpressible
greatness of soul and mind".

In ordinary conversation he was neither fluent
nor brilliant, he seemed to prefer silence to talking;
and, partly perhaps from this reason, he was a patient
listener. He was remarkable, we might even say
distinguished, for scarcely ever talking about himself.
In appearance, manner and disposition he seems to
have inherited more of the characteristics of his stolid
Dutch mother than those of his brilliant French father.

A most trustworthy friend and (in later years) a
faithful and devoted husband, he was, both in friendship
and in love, prosaically moderate. His affection took
the form of good services — sometimes splendid services
— to those whom he liked or loved, rather than that of
rapture or rhetoric. A skilful and most persevering
adversary, in warfare he felt little, if any, personal
hatred towards his enemies. He was as stolid and un-
emotional in military as in domestic matters. There was
more of cold common sense than of fervid enthusiasm
in his strategy, more of logical calculation than of fire
and dash in his tactics, and his calm, taciturn contempla- \
tion of the game of war was what might have been
expected from a grandson of William the Silent. His
social taciturnity, on the contrary, can hardly have been


a legacy from William, Prince of Orange, who was by
no means given to holding his tongue, and in fact
obtained the nickname of "the Silent" from his silence
on one particular occasion. It is more likely that
Turenne inherited from him his strength of character,
his love of justice, his dislike of luxury, and his personal

When serving under generals who treated him
with scant courtesy, Turenne was scrupulously obedient,
obliging, good-tempered and cheerful. When his
junior officers made mistakes, he reprimanded them
sharply in private, but endeavoured to conceal their
faults and their failures in public; and, whenever it
was possible, he gave a man who had lost his character
an opportunity of recovering it.

To private soldiers he was exceptionally considerate
and kind; he was constantly thinking and inquiring
about their wants and their comforts ; and they looked
up to him as to a father as well as a commander. He
possessed the happy power of talking familiarly to
those beneath him without the slightest loss of dignity.
His mere reproach was felt as a disgrace and as a

By his servants he was beloved. He always tried
to avoid giving them trouble ; his personal wants were
few ; he took an interest in all who served him ; nor
did he ever scold them without good cause. One
lovely morning having awakened earlier than usual, he
got up, went into his sitting-room, opened the window,
and leant out of it as far as he could reach to enjoy


the air and the scene. Only his legs remained in the

Online LibraryThomas LonguevilleMarshall Turenne → online text (page 2 of 26)