An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702

By Roger B. Manning | Go to book overview
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16
The Nine Years War

It is mightily to the honour of old England to hear what valiant sons she brings
forth, when all foreign nations expected her past bearing courageous men.

C. Jackson (ed.), The Diary of Abraham de la Pryme,
The Yorkshire Antiquarian, SS 54 (1870), 66.

The conduct of war thus became a true game, in which the cards were dealt
by time and accident. In its effect it was a somewhat stronger form of
diplomacy, a more forceful method of negotiation, in which battles and
sieges were the principal notes exchanged. Even the most ambitious ruler
had no greater aims than to gain a number of advantages that could be
exploited at the peace conference.

Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. and ed. M. Howard
and P. Paret (1976; repr. 1993), 713.

Abraham de la Pryme thought that participation in the Nine Years War restored England’s martial honour. Similar pride in military success could be found throughout the British Isles among supporters of William II and III, who viewed the war as a conflict fought in defence of Protestant liberties. By 1694 the combined armies of the Three Kingdoms were approximately five times larger than Charles IIs land forces had been ten years earlier. The integration of these land forces was promoted by the common experience of serving together in campaigns in Flanders and on the Rhine, and they made a substantial contribution to the victories of the armies of the Grand Alliance against King Louis XIV, such as the recapture of the fortress of Namur in 1695—the first time that a marshal of France had ever yielded territory. The English government’s participation in the Nine Years War signified that English diplomatic and military priorities had shifted from preventing mainland European powers from interfering in Ireland or Scotland to obstructing the ambitions of hostile major powers on the European mainland. The English navy, which had formerly concentrated on guarding the Narrow Seas and St George’s Channel, was now deployed under a blue-water strategy to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. This new strategy indicated that England had become a great power, but it required revolutionary methods of war finance and heavier taxation, caused a drain upon the economies

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