England in the Mediterranean: A Study of the Rise and Influence of British Power within the Straits 1603-1713 - Vol. 2

By Julian S. Corbett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIII
MINORCA

TOULON remained a thorn in the side of the allies. In spite of the destruction that had been caused by Shovell's bombardment and by the drastic measures that had been taken for the defence, its secondary possibilities remained untouched. Marlborough's great design, which ought to have lived as a worthy pendant to the immortal campaign of Blenheim, had failed, and he and every one saw that they must now fall back upon the minor expedient of masking the fortress, they could not destroy, with a naval force permanently on the spot.

Acutely conscious of the main source of their difficulties, the English generals in Spain, in conjunction with the Court of Barcelona, began urging the English Government to keep a strong squadron all the winter within the Straits. Marlborough, convinced that it was now the only possible cure, was backing the proposal, and had given Charles's agents to understand that the Queen would certainly consent, if a suitable port were provided for a base. This was the old difficulty. Spezzia was offered, but Marlborough assured the powers concerned that it was no good, for the British admirals considered it unfit to provide for the accommodation and requirements of ships of the line. Again he showed he was no man to force naval officers into action to which they objected on technical grounds, and the danger of overriding their opinions had just been emphasised in a way that could not be disguised.

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